The Antisemite Defense League

To Elon Musk's rescue rides the ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt. When you conflate Anti-Zionism and antisemitism, it's a short step to saying only Anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

The Antisemite Defense League
Picture by the New America Foundation. Used under CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Edited by David Klion

ONE OF THE INTERCHANGEABLE CHUDS ON X posted some bog-standard antisemitism on Nov. 15. Per the chud, we Jews puppet-master the replacement of the valiant, ennobling white race with our sponsored "hordes of minorities." He expressed glee that "the exact kind of dialectical hatred that [Jews push] against whites" is coming for us. The chud was playing the hits: our cabalistic power is what squares the delusional circle of how the subhumans can triumph over their betters. To this unambiguous recitation of modern antisemitism, the exact argument that prompted the worst antisemitic attack on American soil in history, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world, X owner Elon Musk, replied, "You have said the actual truth." 

X immediately reaped its latest advertiser exodus. Apple, IBM, Disney, and Lionsgate paused spending, figuring that it wasn't a good look for their products to appear a few scrolls down from someone effectively reciting the Fourteen Words. Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League initially and correctly called Musk's post "indisputably dangerous."  Musk, characteristically, flailed. He attacked the lying press for "hundreds of bogus media stories claiming that I am antisemitic," all of them concocted by quoting him accurately.

Then, two days into the contretemps, Musk pledged to suspend X users who call for "decolonization" or post "From The River To The Sea," the standard rallying cry for the freedom of Palestine. That, not white-genocide antisemitism, sounds genocidal to Musk, a man who grew up wealthy and privileged in apartheid South Africa. It is true that some really do mean that as a call for a reverse nakba. As a youth, my Zionist education taught me that was the only meaning of FTRTTS. But when I began speaking with Palestinians and their allies, I learned that in most cases, it's an aspiration for an oppressed people's freedom, sometimes with the details not filled in, but usually as a call for binationalism: the replacement of Israel with a state accountable to all its citizens, not the replacement of the seven million Israeli Jews. (Peter Beinart is less comfortable with this phrase than I am and you ought to read his perspective as well.) 

But litigating the "real" meaning of the phrase is less important than the impact of suspending those who use it, which is the removal from the platform of accounts supporting Palestine while Israel destroys Gaza and assaults the West Bank. And once Musk floated that, the ADL's Greenblatt, who just a day earlier recognized the danger of what Musk was up to, rode to his defense. "An important and welcome move," Greenblatt quote-tweeted, praising the "leadership in fighting hate" shown by a man who just days earlier had affirmed that Jews like Greenblatt demographically manipulate the West for our nefarious purposes. I don't really post on Twitter/X anymore, but when I do, I ratio the head of the ADL

This was only the latest disgrace from the ADL, which was recently seen demanding that Palestinian college students face the potentially life-shattering experience of being investigated for material support for terrorism. It's a particularly abject one. Just two months ago, Musk was threatening to sue the ADL, because, he posted, "all that is needed for ADL to crush our U.S. & European ad revenue is to make unfounded accusations" of antisemitism. But Greenblatt's embrace of Musk follows a certain unseemly logic, one that exposes the difference between Zionism's defense of Israel and its alleged interest in defending Jews

IN MAY 2022, Greenblatt gave a speech insisting that Anti-Zionism, which he likened to white supremacy, is antisemitism. My friend Adam Serwer recently filleted that argument with his signature precision, so I don't need to do any additional work to refute it on the merits. Suffice it to say that in defending Musk, Greenblatt followed in a lineage of diaspora Zionists who at least sometimes consider the interests of Israel to necessitate the embrace of antisemites. Neoconservative eminence Irving Kristol argued that strategic depth for Israel could be found by cultivating a Christian right in America whose ultimate goal is to see the Holy Land rapturously free of Jews from, well, the River to the Sea. "[W]hat do such theological abstractions matter as against the mundane fact that this same preacher is vigorously pro-Israel?" wrote Kristol in a seminal 1984 Commentary essay. 

Forty years later, Kristol's preacher manifested as John Hagee addressing last week's high-profile Washington D.C. rally for Israel, to the horror of some liberal Zionists. Hagee, in the 2008 words of Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the functional head of Reform Judaism, has "been quoted as suggesting that the Holocaust was part of God’s plan to force the Jews to go to Israel and that the Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves by defying [Theodor] Herzl’s Zionist dream to have all Jews go to and settle in the land of Israel." A variant of this realpolitik logic was on display in 2018 when Benjamin Netanyahu embraced Hungary's Viktor Orban while the Israeli embassy in Budapest raised objections to Orban's antisemitic invocations of George Soros as a Muslim-horde puppetmaster. Soros, you see, funds Israeli groups that seek to uproot Israeli apartheid. Similarly, however Musk feels about Jews, and for that matter however he feels about Israel, to Greenblatt the important thing about Musk is that he can censor Palestinians. 

Calling the likes of Elon Musk a leader in fighting hate displays not merely a conflation of Anti-Zionism and antisemitism, but an assertion that Anti-Zionism is the only antisemitism, or at least the most important. In such absurd fashion did Columbia University recently suspend the Anti-Zionist organization Jewish Voice for Peace from its campus in the name of fighting antisemitism. In pursuit of Anti-Zionism, Anti-Zionist Jews, in Israel as in the diaspora, are readily jettisoned. Greenblatt's speech contemptuously remarked that JVP's "name is not intended to be ironic." In a far more inflammatory piece, the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post recently wrote that Anti-Zionist Jews, however "technically" Jewish we are, are "no longer part of us." To this strain of Zionism, one that prevails within powerful institutions like the ADL and the Jerusalem Post, not all Jewish lives actually matter. 

It's convenient to write out of the family the sorts of Jews who get arrested under banners reading NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE while Israel makes Gaza look like Mariupol and Bakhmut. I would observe that such sweaty purge fantasies testify to who is truly interested in protecting actually-existing Jews, and who is interested in cultivating purveyors of antisemitism-at-scale so Israel's narrative of Gaza dominates. Robert Bowers, the antisemite who massacred 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue after being exposed to the kinds of theories Musk approves of and promotes, did not stop to find out what his victims thought of Israel. (For that matter, neither did Hamas.)

Since the Hamas massacre and Israel's collective punishment began 45 days ago – Israel has killed more than four times more children than the total number of Israelis of all ages Hamas killed on Oct. 7– I've been writing here and at The Nation that the assault on Gaza must end; the hostages must be released; and a supremely difficult political process for the liberation of Palestine must begin, because if not, this can get so much worse in Gaza and beyond. Among those who have sought to get us out of the abyss are Anti-Zionist Jews who, in occupying Grand Central Station and the Statue of Liberty in the defense of Palestine, are applying the lessons of Jewish history. They may earn the contempt of the ADL, but when the ADL's leadership sidles up to antisemites, its contempt doesn't sting, it validates. Anti-Zionist Jews are also the Children of Israel, also the heirs to a righteous tradition thousands of years in persistence, and we are not going anywhere – not from Brighton Beach to Riverdale, nor from the Atlantic to the Pacific, nor from the River to the Sea. 

THANKS TO MY FRIEND AND NEIGHBOR DAVID KLION for stepping in to edit this one. David, as I hope all of you already know, is a tremendous and fearless journalist, and his work during Israel's war on Gaza has really showcased that. He's @DavidKlion on X, and you can find his work at The Nation, Jewish Currents, n+1, The Baffler, The New Republic and elsewhere. It's no insult to Sam to say that I thought this one needed a Jewish editor, as here I'm engaging in some inter-Jewish dialogue. Sam Thielman will return to FOREVER WARS after Thanksgiving. 

DELL CAMERON AT WIRED, making use of human warrant canary Ron Wyden, has a huge scoop in confirming the persistence of the drug-centric Hemisphere bulk domestic phone-records collection program, now rebranded as "Data Analytical Services." Wyden's letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland is here.

MARISA KABAS was on a similar wavelength as this piece, so check hers out at her newsletter. She beat mine to publication! 

JACK MIRKINSON had a moving piece noticing Joe Biden's sudden outbreak of the passive voice when discussing dead Palestinians in a Washington Post op-ed on Saturday

HOPEFULLY BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS there will be an IDF pause and hostage release. I keep refreshing the al-Jazeera and Haaretz liveblogs to see if it's happening. It will just be the first step, but do we ever need to take that first step.