Anti-Semitism Becoming More Acceptable

  • November 23, 2009
Remarks by Abraham H. Foxman
ADL National Director
(as prepared)
ADL Man of Achievement Award Dinner
Honoring Indiana Governor Mitchell E. Daniels
Indianapolis, November 23, 2009

As we gather here tonight, I must report to you that we face immense challenges, some of the kind that we haven't encountered for decades.

First, for us as a Jewish community, is the challenge of global anti-Semitism, reaching a peak this year that we haven't seen since the tragic days of World War II.

Some of it is camouflaged behind the usual anti-Israel rhetoric. But when Jewish institutions are firebombed in Paris or Jewish individuals attacked in London--there were 113 anti-Semitic incidents in France and 220 in England during the three weeks of the Gaza war -- that's simply Jew hatred. No capital in the world was without attacks on Jews and Israel -- and the U.S. was not immune.

When Jews are blamed for the world financial crisis as happened all over the Internet and at the United Nations when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks, that's simply classical Jew hatred.

And when ancient conspiracy theories about Jews are modernized to blame Jews for everything from the war in Iraq to the turmoil in Honduras to the 9-11 terrorist tragedy, we know that hatred of Jews is with us once again.

Of course, Israel is again under attack from the international community as seen by the vote only two weeks ago in Geneva at the Human Rights Council to endorse a report, born in bias, on the war in Gaza.

Anti-Israel activity may not necessarily be anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, when a country like Israel is bombarded for years by terrorists launching thousands of rockets targeting Israel's civilians and then it does what any responsible government would do--act to protect its citizens--only then to be accused by the international community of war crimes for doing so, that's obscene. And you know what, that's anti-Semitism.

Let me tell you what my real concern is about all these developments. Sixty years after the Holocaust, we are watching one layer after another of the constraints against anti-Semitism, which arose as a result of the murder of six million, being peeled away. The world is losing its shame about anti-Semitism.

As a result, anti-Semitism is becoming more acceptable in more and more circles.

The good news is we have ways to fight back. Our friends in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, are ready to work with us to fight this evil.

The administration showed leadership in Geneva in opposing the Council's adoption of the Goldstone Report. And the American public is with us.

That is why the voice of ADL in exposing the haters, in calling the anti-Israel biases for what they are, in assessing where anti-Semitism is worsening and where it's diminishing, is even more vital in our changing world.

As you know, ADL is not only committed to fight for the safety and security of the Jewish people. We also are committed, as our charter stated way back in 1913, to secure equal justice for all peoples. So the challenges of a changing world encompass other themes.

On the positive side, we finally achieved our goal of expanded federal hate crime legislation. ADL has led this fight from the start. We developed the model legislation which is the basis for hate crime laws in 45 states and now we finally have a federal law. We believe it will help make America a better country and a safer one for potential victims of hate crimes. Some day soon, even including Indiana.

Then there's the challenge of Cyberhate. The Internet has changed our lives. One of the ways is that it made hateful ideas and institutions much more accessible, particularly for our young people.

Extremist groups are recruiting kids on the Internet. Bullies are tormenting fellow students. And terrorists are using this modern technology.

As a firm believer in the value of free speech, ADL's historic way of fighting hate is not to censor but to fight bad speech with good speech. In the wild, wild west that is the Internet, that approach is limited in its applicability.

The marketplace is so spread out and diverse, one can never be sure when our voice is being heard. So we struggle to find new ways to fight hate on the Internet. We work with Microsoft and Google. We have professionals monitoring the net 24/7. And we provide educational tools and training for parents and teachers.

I am especially proud to be able to report to you about several programs here in the Midwest that provide examples of how we carry out our mission on the local and regional level.

ADL conducted the Indianapolis public schools mission, an opportunity for students from your local public schools to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and meet Holocaust survivors and one of the first U.S. liberators of Buchenwald.

Additionally, the students visited Howard University, the university integral to the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education. Through the lessons of the Holocaust and the civil rights movements, the students learned the importance of standing up to hate and bias whenever it occurs.

I am also pleased to report that ADL is fighting hate in Indianapolis. ADL's Midwest investigative researcher and our Midwest area counsel have trained members of the local FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Indiana State Police, and others.

The training focused on domestic terrorism, extremist groups, extremist use of the Internet, hate crimes, and a discussion on state and federal hate crime laws. ADL continues to provide hate crimes response training to the cadet class of the Indiana State Police Academy.

Holocaust Education - ADL conducted a well-attended Echoes and Reflections training program in Terre Haute. Rich with visual testimony integrated into 10 multi-part lessons, Echoes and Reflections provides curriculum connections between issues of diversity, prejudice, bigotry, and modern-day genocide.

Separation of Church and State – just a few weeks ago, ADL held an educational session for Indianapolis principals and educators about the proper role of religion in public schools. This training focused on making children of all backgrounds feel comfortable in their schools.

As you can see we are not only a national agency but are also working on the ground day-in and day-out in the communities we serve. And we thank all of you who helped us carry out these important programs.

While others will present our Man of Achievement Award to Governor Daniels tonight, I could not be here without saying a few words about your Governor and our friend Mitch Daniels.

As busy as he with the budget and other critical fiscal issues affecting the state, the Governor has always been willing to listen to all viewpoints on issues of concern to the ADL and other civil rights organizations.

He has been a strong friend of the State of Israel and the Indianapolis Jewish community and he has spoken to our forums and been available to counsel with us on issues of concern. And he has also been a courageous voice against hatred and bigotry no matter the source.

I have news for you Indiana, your secret is out. The nation is rapidly becoming aware of your Governor's effectiveness and ability to broach differences to get the job done for benefit of the residents of your state. I know you are proud of him, as are we.

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this special event.