In the fight between Elon Musk and the Anti-Defamation League, Americans are the biggest losers. Antisemitism and woke politics are both cancers eating away at our civil society. We should be intolerant of both—and of those who ask us to pick a side.
For starters, America has seen a saddening trend of civil rights organizations taken over by partisan figures willing to misuse and tarnish institutional reputations for political benefit. These groups are so well-known that acronyms suffice: SPLC, ACLU, and, of course, ADL.
And because these American institutions are so prominent and respected, their recent, woke leaders presume that the credibility of their pronouncements will go unquestioned and that their targets quickly will quail.
ADL has drawn fire from Elon Musk and his X social media platform (formerly known as Twitter) because the organization’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, attacked Musk first by calling his decisions alarming and a “threat to democracy.” Beyond that, ADL pressed X to censor political speech and went after its advertisers when Musk refused.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, was for decades the go-to address to combat antisemitism and promote civil rights for all Americans. In recent years, though, the ADL has made itself the poster child for once-great organizations gone woke.
Though the slide to the Left began earlier, it gathered momentum when Greenblatt took over in 2015. Greenblatt sported a long resume of work for progressive causes, culminating in a stint as director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation during the Obama administration. However, he had no previous experience serving Jewish organizations or combating antisemitism.
But at the same time, Greenblatt has taken a distinctly partisan approach to the problem, condemning conservatives who are innocent of real bias while giving a free pass to progressives who clearly are motivated by hate.
The ADL associates the Conservative Political Action Conference with bigotry and white supremacy—thus alienating millions of fair-minded Americans. CPAC is an annual gathering of conservative activists that offers an aligned “Shabbat at CPAC” program to facilitate attendance by observant Jews.
Only in 2021, on the other hand, did Greenblatt finally admit that “the Left has an antisemitism problem,” although that was obvious to impartial observers at least a decade earlier.
Antisemitism on Twitter (now X) didn’t start under Musk, but the ADL did little while the platform was controlled by progressives. Twitter stunned Israelis in 2020 when it placed warnings on tweets by then-President Donald Trump while Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was calling Israel “a cancerous growth” to be “uprooted and destroyed.”
Trump, Twitter representatives intoned, engaged in “glorification of violence,” whereas calling for yet another genocide against Jews qualified as “comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on military and economic issues.”
At least publicly, the ADL said nothing when pre-Musk Twitter claimed that classic Jew-hatred is a legitimate political position. On the contrary: Greenblatt asked “is it time for Twitter to go?” in response to Musk’s reinstating Trump’s account, picking the fight playing out today.
The problem with Musk’s pushback, though, is that he built it upon #BantheADL, a hashtag created by Keith Woods, a white nationalist and self-proclaimed “raging antisemite.” Musk gave a “like” to the tweet in which Woods first used the hashtag, and the entrepreneur has continued to employ it in his own statements.
Perhaps Musk first thought “ban” was an exaggeration, similar to Greenblatt’s “is it time for Twitter to go?” But it is abundantly clear by now that Woods is not interested in free speech for all; on the contrary, he hopes to silence efforts to combat antisemitism.
Although Musk declared that “I’m pro-free speech, but against anti-Semitism of any kind,” a statement explicitly dissociating himself from the hatred expressed by Woods and the original fans of his hashtag is long overdue.
X has exploded with clearly hateful tweets favoring Musk while demonizing Jews, and Musk has yet to object to the enthusiastic support he now is receiving from both neo-Nazis and adherents of radical Islamist terror groups.
Beyond noting that it is grievously counterproductive to conflate opposing censorship with antisemitism, the rest of us must keep sight of the big picture. Wokeism opposes classic biblical values taught by Abraham and embraced by the Founding Fathers; so, of course, do antisemites. It is not merely possible, but crucial, that we reject both.
Advancing the idea that people are oppressed or privileged due to the color of their skin, in particular, provides an opening for hatred against Jews. Indeed, the woke claim that Arab Muslim immigrants are “of color” and therefore oppressed, while Jewish refugees ethnically cleansed from those same Arab states are “white” and therefore privileged. This is abhorrent.
Ultimately, it is our obligation to embrace equality of opportunity, the root and branch of American freedoms. No group in America should be treated differently than others, celebrated or demonized due to ethnic bias. We need neutral social media platforms where we can share ideas and argue policy freely, and honest, responsible civil society organizations that advance equality without political bias.
We can have all of those things, of course, without elevating the rantings of an antisemite. Choosing sides between the Anti-Defamation League and Elon Musk is the wrong approach; we must expect better from both.
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