ADL: “a false veneer of moral authority”

American Jewish Life magazine, which seeks to be the “Jewish Rolling Stone”, printed Bradley Pilcher’s extraordinary take-down of Abe Foxman for turning the ADL away from the important work of fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry, and into a group that deploys Holocaust remembrance and Armenian genocide denial in its overarching quest to “support” Israel. In The Day the Holocaust Died, Pilcher writes that the well-documented fact of Armenian genocide

…hasn’t stopped Foxman – and other Jewish leaders – from acting like nothing ever happened. When he was asked in July if the Armenian slaughter was genocide, his answer was a short, “I don’t know.” The ADL has joined other Jewish groups, such as the American Jewish Committee, in opposing efforts at recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Stop for a moment and think about the reaction of the Jewish community to Holocaust deniers. Every time the Iranian president spouts off about the “myth” of the Holocaust, Jewish groups – the Anti-Defamation League at the front of the line – roundly condemns him. So why would an organization that fights so hard against those who would deny the Holocaust, become an adamant denier of another genocide? The answer is simple, if ugly. They didn’t want to offend Turkey, a major ally of Israel in the Middle East.

Pilcher, former editor of the Jewish book blog TribeWrite, is done with Holocaust remembrance and the immoral use of moral authority by Foxman et al.

This is why the Holocaust no longer matters to me, why I’d just as soon we forget about it, if this is what we’re going to do with it. By this, I mean put it in museums, memorialize it to the point of irrelevance, and use it as a platform for moral authoritarianism. By this, I mean use it as a cudgel to silence critics we don’t want to hear from, all the while ignoring the crimes of people who support us – or support Israel, which isn’t necessarily the same as supporting us. By this, I mean render the Holocaust from a disaster of human action and inaction to be learned from into some kind of memorial flame, too hot to touch and too fragile to light the way to a better tomorrow.

I’m not hopeless about this. Abe Foxman and his ilk can’t occupy the stage forever. At the very least, perhaps he could get laryngitis. But I’m not particularly hopeful either. We’ve made a civic religion, eagerly adopted by plenty of Jews who can’t be bothered to meander into a synagogue more than a couple times a year, out of Holocaust remembrance. We’ve replaced a wandering Diaspora of Torah scholars with an affluent American populace of Jews holding up the flame for the Holocaust without bothering to ask ourselves what moral imperatives that memory requires of us.

If we’re not going to ask those questions, and listen to the difficult answers, then we’re probably better off not remembering at all. After all, a false veneer of moral authority in the absence of moral action may be the most immoral thing of all.

Over at Jewschool, where he observes that he’s only gotten positive feedback for his piece, he asks:

Now, what does that [fighting bigotry] have to do with Israel? Seriously. Iím asking. Exactly what in the ADLís mandate or organizational mission gives it a reason to speak up as a proponent of Israel?