2011 Annual Meeting: ADL Calls on Internet Providers to Take Stand Against Bigotry

New York, NY, November 21, 2011 … The National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) believes that Internet providers must take a more proactive stand against bigotry by creating industry standards, educating users, responding directly to complaints and working with experts in hate.

 "In other words, they should find more ways to show they care, and to be responsible corporate citizens," said Abraham H. Foxman in his keynote address to hundreds of ADL leaders from across the country gathered in New York City for the League's Annual Meeting. "We know the Internet is here to stay, so let's use it creatively and effectively, and continue to work together to find ways to counteract the dark side."

Mr. Foxman's speech, "Hate on the Internet: A Call for Transparency and Leadership" was among the highlights of ADL's 2011 Annual Meeting, which convened November 3-5. The meeting, which was led by Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, included presentations and remarks from government officials, religious leaders, policymakers and experts who spoke about the future of Jewish–Catholic relations, diplomacy in the Middle East, the impact of hate crimes, the need to eliminate hate speech on college campuses, and results from a survey on anti-Semitic attitudes in America.

The Present and Future of Jewish–Catholic Relations

Rabbi Cosgrove agreed with Archbishop Dolan that the relationship has advanced. Catholics and Jews "need to continue to respect each other and have a willingness to understand each other," he said.New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, discussing the state of Jewish–Catholic Relations with Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue, said that both groups "must continue to rejoice in how far we've come but cannot take for granted the progress that has been made" over the past five decades. He said the relationship remains solid due to sensitivity among Catholics regarding anti-Semitism, growth in Jewish–Catholic education, and an ability for the groups to be candid with each other about tense issues.

Archbishop Dolan said that because Catholics and Jews have been on the receiving end of religious bigotry, they must work together for religious freedom and a return to civility in religious discourse. "All believers are in the crosshairs of fanatics around the world," said Archbishop Dolan. "Somewhere, someplace, somebody's being persecuted to the point of blood because of their faith and we need to stand together in defense of those people."

Diplomacy in the Middle East

Antony J. Blinken, National Security Advisor to Vice President Joseph  

"For more than 60 years since Israel's founding — during periods of war and peace, calm and crisis — U.S. administrations of all stripes have worked to safeguard Israel's security," said Mr. Blinken. "But I would maintain that no administration, and no president, has done as much as ours with Israel and for Israel's security."Biden, discussed the issues facing the security of Israel, and the work the Obama Administration has done to help advance U.S. interests in a changing Middle East.

He said the administration works with Israel on joint military exercises and projects, is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and remains "vigilant against attempts to delegitimize Israel in the international arena."

ADL leaders also heard from Elliot Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who spoke about challenges and opportunities in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Abrams discussed the recent unrest in Syria that has threatened to bring down the Assad regime. He said the fall of the regime in Syria would be “a terrific thing for Syria, first of all, for Israel, and for the United States.  Syria is Iran’s only Arab ally.  Syria is Iran’s Mediterranean ports.  Syria is Iran’s border with Israel really through Hezbollah.  Syria is where Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups are headquartered.  That will all change if the regime falls.” 

But Elliot added that there are potential down sides to the Arab spring as well.  The Arab Spring has led to instability in Jordan, a key U.S. ally, and has transformed the political landscape in Egypt, where fundamentalist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking to play a leadership role in the new government.

Ambassador Ron Prosor, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, discussed the challenges confronting Israel at the international body.

He addressed the Palestinian Authority's refusal to engage in direct negotiations with Israel, and its pursuit of U.N. membership and international recognition of a Palestinian state in circumvention of these necessary negotiations. Ambassador Prosor pointed to the path of the newest member of the United Nations, South Sudan, which reached an agreement with North Sudan before requesting admittance to the international body.

The ambassador said that despite attempts by some to focus on Israel's settlements as an impediment to peace, the true barrier to Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation is the Palestinian insistence on the so-called "right of return" to Israel of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendants to Israel. Prosor called on the international community to make clear to the Palestinian leadership and people that this will not happen, and that these individuals will rightly be settled in a Palestinian state, established through negotiations with Israel.

Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Discussed

Ms. Shepard said that her personal experience with this "incomprehensible" act of cruelty led her to create the Matthew Shepard Foundation with her husband, Dennis, to "encourage acceptance and embrace diversity." In 2009, after ADL had led a broad-based national coalition of civil rights, religious, law enforcement and civic organizations for over a decade working toward enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, it became law, expanding federal hate-crimes legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity.Judy Shepard, mother of the late Matthew Shepard, spoke about how losing her son after he had been violently assaulted in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming led to advocacy efforts to end violent bigotry nationwide. "I remember thinking, how could anyone feel so threatened by this tiny, sweet child that they would do this to him? How could anyone act with such disregard for another human being?," she recalled.

She believes that hate is a "systematic issue" and that the crime against Matthew was an example of "what happens when hate and bigotry goes unchecked." In order to make further progress, Ms. Shepard stressed the need to address these hate crimes universally.

"For all who ask what they can for Matt and other victims of hate, and hate crime, my answer is to educate, educate, educate," said Ms. Shepard. "Bring understanding where you see hate and ignorance. Bring light where you see darkness. Bring freedom where you see fear, and begin to heal."

Mark Yudof, President of the University of California, discussed the balance between free speech and hate speech on college campuses. He said that university officials, professors and students must help to maintain hate-free environments on campuses.

"Bad speech can and will be condemned, especially anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speech" said Mr. Yudof. "We must fight bad speech with good speech. If we are not taking a stand, then we are acting in an immoral way."

The University of California, which has ten campuses, has hotlines to report incidents of intimidation, conflict resolution centers and will be launching a study soon that will be "essential" to understanding whether bigotry is present on college campuses.

New Survey on Anti-Semitic Attitudes

A nationwide survey on the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes in America was presented by John Marttila, President of Marttila Strategies, and ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. According to a telephone survey conducted in October of 1,754 adults, 15 percent of Americans – nearly 35 million adults – hold deeply anti-Semitic views, an increase of 3 percent from 2009. The ADL survey also found that at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty, age-old myths about Jews and money and Jewish power in business endure.

"It is disturbing that with all of the strides we have made in becoming a more tolerant society, anti-Semitic beliefs continue to hold a vice grip on a small but not insubstantial segment of the American public," said Mr. Foxman.

Honors and Commendations

The following awards and commendations were presented during ADL's 2011 Annual Meeting in New York City:

  • New York Police Department (NYPD) Commander Thomas P. Galati received the ADL William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award, which salutes outstanding achievements in combatting terrorism, extremism and injustice. The award was presented by Alan Gerry, who with ADL created the William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute on Terrorism and Extremism in memory of his parents.
  • Count János Esterházy, a Hungarian aristocrat and member of the Slovak Parliament, was honored with theADL Jan Karski Courage to Care Award for his efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust by helping Polish refugees, many of whom were Jews, and Slovak Jews flee to Hungary. The award was accepted by his grandson, Giovanni Malfatti.
  • The League bestowed its Distinguished Leadership Awardupon Erwin and Sandra Pearl, who helped create the ADL Bearing Witness Program™ to provide Catholic school educators with training and resources to teach their students about the Holocaust and the relationship between Jewish and Catholic communities.
  • Meyer Eisenberg was presented with the Barbara B. Balser ADL Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his service to ADL for more than five decades, including his tenure as Chair of the Law Committee, the Civil Rights Committee and the International Affairs Committee.

Resolutions

The following resolutions were adopted by the ADL National Commission:

  • Voter ID: ADL resolved to oppose efforts to restrict voting requirements without compelling evidence of voter fraud, and oppose voting requirements that will disproportionately impact a group of voters, or lead to harassment and intimidation of voters at polls. 
  • Hate Speech on the Internet: In order to minimize the potential for hate speech on the Internet, ADL urges Internet providers that permit postings by others to require real-name identification, or at the very least, registration with real names of the people that are posting through their services.

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