Know Your Enemy is a podcast about the American right co-hosted by Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell. Read more about it here. You can subscribe to, rate, and review the show on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and receive bonus content by supporting the podcast on Patreon.
A few weeks ago, the richest man in the world, Elon Musk, eagerly joined in a campaign that originated on the far right to demonize the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a century-old Jewish civil rights organization whose leaders have criticized Musk for allowing anti-semitic and white-supremacist hate speech to proliferate on Twitter/X. To many progressives, it might sound like a simple story of good vs. evil—the righteous vs. the hateful—especially for those who have experienced the palpable flourishing of Nazi and Nazi-adjacent sentiment on Twitter/X since Musk purchased the platform.
But for our guests—Mari Cohen, Alex Kane, and Peter Beinart of Jewish Currents—the story is more complicated. Over the past five years, Jewish Currents has been perhaps the only outlet on the left aggressively reporting on the ADL, exposing its complicity with the Trump presidency, its attacks on pro-Palestinian activism, and its fraying relationships with Muslim and black-led civil rights groups. In this episode, we explore the central tension animating the ADL’s erratic politics: can an organization officially dedicated to securing “justice and fair treatment to all” simultaneously forbid criticism of a state—the state of Israel—whose ethnonationalist social order is an inspiration to right-wing movements the world over? And if that contradiction can’t be reconciled, how should we respond to Musk’s attacks on the organization? Is the ADL salvageable? And does it deserve to be saved?
Sources and further reading:
Emmaia Gelman, The Anti-Democratic Origins of the ADL and AJC, Jewish Currents (2021)
Peter Beinart, Has the Fight Against Antisemitism Lost Its Way?, New York Times (2022)
Mari Cohen, The ADL’s Antisemitism Findings, Explained, Jewish Currents (2023)
Mari Cohen and Isaac Scher, The ADL Doubles Down on Opposing the Anti-Zionist Left, Jewish Currents (2022)
Alex Kane and Jacob Hutt, How the ADL’s Israel Advocacy Undermines Its Civil Rights Work (2021)
Noah Kulwin, The Unbearable Ignorance of the ADL, Jewish Currents (2022)
Mari Cohen and Alex Kane, ADL Staffers Dissented After CEO Compared Palestinian Rights Groups to Right-Wing Extremists, Leaked Audio Reveals, Jewish Currents (2023)
Alex Kane and Sam Levin, Internal ADL Memo Recommended Ending Police Delegations to Israel Amid Backlash, Jewish Currents (2022)
Eric Alterman, What Does the ADL Stand for Today? The New Republic (2023)
James Traub, Does Abe Foxman Have an Anti-Anti-Semite Problem? New York Times (2007)
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