Throughout September, Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of X—the social media platform formerly known as Twitter—has targeted the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in response to the group’s attempts, along with several other advocacy organizations, to encourage an advertiser boycott of X. The ADL’s proposed ad boycott was an effort to curb hate speech on the platform, which has grown since Musk’s purchase of the site.
Many observers viewed Musk’s singling out of the ADL, which located the source of his financial troubles in one of the most prominent Jewish groups in the country, as a repurposing of an age-old antisemitic conspiracy theory. And his tweeting spree whipped up anti-ADL sentiment on the far right, with some antisemitic activists calling to “#BanTheADL” from X. Yet in responding to these attacks, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has conflated far-right attacks with criticisms of his organization from the left, recently comparing the white nationalist #BantheADL tweets to the #DroptheADL campaign, a progressive push to discourage partnership with the ADL.
This week, Jewish Currents associate editor Mari Cohen, senior reporter Alex Kane, and editor-at-large Peter Beinart joined contributor Sam Adler Bell on the Know Your Enemy podcast to untangle the contradictions of an organization that has faced unjust attacks from the right-wing, but has also allied itself with the right in its effort to protect the State of Israel from criticism or protest. Drawing on several years of Jewish Currents reporting, the conversation touched on the ADL’s political history, explored whether the organization’s commitment to Israel advocacy impedes its ability to take on the right, and asked how leftists should respond to Musk’s attacks. Know Your Enemy, produced in partnership with Dissent Magazine and co-hosted by Adler Bell and Matthew Sitman, investigates the history and politics of the American right wing from a leftist perspective.
Thanks to Jesse Brenneman for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”
Articles Mentioned and Further Reading:
“The Anti-Democratic Origins of the ADL and AJC,” Emmaia Gelman, Jewish Currents
“Has the Fight Against Antisemitism Lost Its Way?,” Peter Beinart, New York Times
“The ADL’s Antisemitism Findings, Explained,” Mari Cohen, Jewish Currents
“The ADL Doubles Down on Opposing the Anti-Zionist Left,” Mari Cohen and Isaac Scher, Jewish Currents
“How the ADL’s Israel Advocacy Undermines Its Civil Rights Work,” Alex Kane and Jacob Hutt, Jewish Currents
“The Unbearable Ignorance of the ADL,” Noah Kulwin, Jewish Currents
“ADL Staffers Dissented After CEO Compared Palestinian Rights Groups to Right-Wing Extremists, Leaked Audio Reveals,” Mari Cohen and Alex Kane, Jewish Currents (2023)
“Internal ADL Memo Recommended Ending Police Delegations to Israel Amid Backlash,” Alex Kane and Sam Levin, Jewish Currents
“Does Abe Foxman Have an Anti-Anti-Semite Problem?,” James Traub, New York Times