Recently, the Anti-Defamation League came out with a strong statement in regards to the “Otzma Yehudit” political party that is participating in the upcoming elections in Israel. These are the words of their statement:
"We're disturbed by reports that efforts have been made to assist radical parties to make it into the Knesset. Helping them become part of the mainstream in Israel sets a dangerous precedent that may allow racism to become an everyday aspect of in the Knesset and Israeli society as a whole."
While I regret that they are disturbed by a political party in a sovereign state exercising their democratic rights in running for political office, I am curious to understand the logical underpinnings of their argument. Lets consider where they are coming from.
Perhaps the ADL believes that democracy needs to be limited. If a country is a pure democracy, any individual or party, regardless of their political views should be allowed to run for office. In a pure democracy, majority rules regardless of how cruel, primitive, racist or anti-democratic that majority is. A democratic system has allowed for both a Hitler and Hamas to come to power. Given that is the case, its doubtful that the ADL would support a pure democracy. My guess is that they are in favor of a limited form of democracy.
Perhaps they believe that in an ideal form of limited democracy, any citizen or group can run for public office, but only on the condition that this group or individual does not embrace hateful or threatening views. If that is the case, would the ADL encourage disqualifying members of “The Squad” from running for public office because of their widely known racist, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish views?
I have not heard any calls from the ADL to disqualify members of “the squad” from Congress or preventing them from running. While the ADL can be commended for calling out squad member Ilhan Omar as anti-Semitic in the past, there was never any discussion of barring her or any of her squad members from Congress- in contrast to their recent statement against Otzma Yehudit.
Furthermore, only a few weeks ago an openly anti-Semitic Pastor from Georgia was elected to the Senate. Given the ADL’s strong stance against racist politicians and political parties, I was curious to see how the ADL responded to Raphael Warnocks campaign for Senate. I assumed that they would condemn or at least bring to light some of the horrific anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tropes that this Senator had made as recently as last year (in which he compared Israel to Nazi’s and accused the Jewish state of apartheid.)
When I googled the ADL and Raphael Warnock, the only public statement I found from the ADL in regards to this anti-Semite was actually a letter of apology from the ADL to the pastor in 2015 for an incident in which confederate flags were placed in front of his church. No condemnation of the Pastor’s anti-Semitic statements- only an apology to the anti-Semite for the hurtful actions taken by anonymous vandals against him.
If the ADL’s choice of interfering in politics is purely reserved for the extreme cases in which a candidate or party is known for racist views, they do not seem to be upholding their policy consistently and across political party lines. It sounds like the ADL believes that in a proper limited democracy, any citizen has the right to run for public office- with one caveat- that their political views align with those of the Anti-Defamation League.
As a non profit organization, the ADL should stick to the spirit of the law and refrain from participating in politics through opposition to individual politicians and political parties, at least until they can formulate a way to do so in a way that demonstrates that their condemnation of racism is unequivocal and not tainted by political ideology.
Avraham Shusteris is an accountant in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He made aliyah from Monsey with his family in 2018.