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.