Jonathan Greenblatt's Testimony Before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the Ongoing Battle Against Hate

Remarks by Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO, ADL

January 29, 2020

Good morning, Chairwoman Maloney, Ranking Member Jordan and distinguished Members of the Committee: On behalf of ADL, thank you for the opportunity to testify here today and share our perspective.

I am feeling inspired because I just returned from the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem where more than 45 world leaders recommitted themselves to addressing hate. 

I want to give a special thank you to Chairwoman Maloney for passing the Never Again Education Act in the House this week. ADL already is working to build upon the 11 states that mandate Holocaust and genocide education in their public-school curricula and will support your bill as it moves to the Senate.

I also want to thank Nat Shaffir for being here today and for his courage in sharing his moving stories. Unfortunately, we will reach the point soon when those who have firsthand memories of this horrific event will no longer be with us.

When I was a boy, I could ask my grandfather – a refugee from Nazi Germany – what it was like. I could speak to people in my synagogue…in my community…who survived.

No longer.

As time passes, memory fades. A Pew study released last week indicates that Millennials know less about the Holocaust than previous generations. ADL’s Global 100 poll determined that only an estimated 54% of the entire world population has even heard of the Holocaust. And others think that it’s not important anymore: a survey released by ADL today reports that 19 percent of American adults say, “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”

This comes at a time when hate crimes and violence against minorities and marginalized communities are up across the country.

From a college football coach in Michigan defending Hitler to state trooper cadets in Wisconsin snapping Nazi salutes to queer activists in Chicago getting booted out of a pride march because they carried a flag bearing a Jewish symbol to visibly identifiable Jews harassed on a subway in Manhattan or assaulted in broad daylight in Brooklyn, incidents of anti-Semitism are up.

Indeed, ADL’s most recent Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents recorded more than 1,800 anti-Jewish acts in 2018, the third highest total we’ve ever tracked in 40 years.

And hate is getting more violent too: from Charlottesville to Pittsburgh, Poway to El Paso, Jersey City to Monsey. Extremists feel emboldened to act out their hate against Jews and other groups.

Now, what may surprise you is that this increase in incidents is happening against a backdrop of steady, relatively low levels of anti-Semitic attitudes among the general population here in the United States. A fact we confirmed in our latest study.

So why is that?

First, we have leading voices in our nation who are normalizing anti-Semitism and hate. They are using anti-Semitic tropes about “globalists” controlling government, about bankers trying to destroy our borders, accusing Jewish citizens of having dual loyalty, or attacking the Jewish state with the same dangerous myths used throughout history to demonize the Jewish people... And all of this destigmatizes anti-Semitism and renders it routine.

Second, the Internet, social media, and online game environments spawn and spread hate, particularly anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denialism – which, by the way, is the original “fake news”.

With 2.45 billion members, Facebook is the largest and most established of these offenders – its policies still don’t classify Holocaust Denial as hate speech. YouTube has made some progress, but not nearly enough.

But just as these market leaders used ingenuity and innovation to reinvent media and build billion-dollar brands, they now need to apply those same capabilities to remove malice and hate from their platforms and build better, stronger societies.

I will conclude with some key recommendations: 

  1. Leaders must speak out against hate at every opportunity;
  2. Social media platforms must act more responsibly to ban Holocaust denial for what it is: unacceptable;
  3. The Never Again Education Act must become law;
  4. Congress should pass the NO HATE Act of 2019, to spark improved local and state hate crime training and prevention;
  5. Congress should fully fund the non-profit security grant program to protect at-risk nonprofits and specifically faith-based institutions; AND
  6. Congress should pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act to ensure that the federal government is allocating resources to the threat of white supremacy and extremism today.

I applaud the leadership of this Committee.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here, and I look forward to your questions.