Beliefnet
Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Criticism of the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition
to Cordoba House, the Islamic center proposed to be built two blocks
from the site of the World Trade Center, has been widespread and
well-deserved. Stephen Prothero has a sharp essay over at CNN’s Belief blog, as does
Peter Beinart on the Daily Beast. Beinart makes the important point
that for some time now the ADL has maintained a bifurcated stance on
what constitutes “defamation.” In the United States, the organization
has more or less consistently maintained its original universalist
commitment to opposing bigotry regardless of race, creed, or color. In
Israel, however, its only interest is in anti-Jewish bigotry. Anti-Arab
bigotry, by its lights, don’t rate.

What’s happened now is that the ADL is playing by Israel rules in New
York. Never mind that it has joined with those who associate Muslims
everywhere with the perpetrators of 9/11. As ADL national director Abe
Foxman told
the NYT, the “anguish” of those who lost loved ones “entitles them to
positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”

Let’s try putting the shoe on the other foot, and imagine a comparable
Israel case. An irenic Jewish group proposes building a community center
devoted to peace and understanding a couple of blocks from the Cave of
the Patriarchs, where on February 25, 1994, the Orthodox Jewish zealot Baruch Goldstein opened
fire in a room being used as a mosque, killing 29 worshipers and
wounding 150. Would the ADL oppose construction, out of deference to the
anguish of the victims’ families, or would it attack the opponents as
irrational bigots? I think I know the answer.

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