Inside Story: Why ADL Is Opposing Ground Zero Mosque

I don't know why it should be a surprise that the Anti-Defamation League joined the hate mongers in opposing the mosque at Ground Zero.

The fact is that neither the ADL or its twin, the American Jewish Committee (the other old, established Jewish anti-discrimination organization) has been about opposing bigotry or even anti-Semitism for at least a decade.

They now are entirely about defending Israel -- or, at least their right-wing version of Israel. That is why you are infinitely more likely to hear Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, or David Harris, chief of the American Jewish Committee talk about Ahmadedinejad, the Goldstone report, the Turkish flotilla, or the "campaign to discredit Israel" than about hate crimes against Americans (which is what they used to be about).

Even anti-Semitism is of little interest to them -- unless it is connected to Israel. In fact, Harris and Foxman have redefined anti-Semitism as opposition to Israeli policies (the Gaza war, the blockade, the occupation) rather than contempt and hatred of Jews for for simply being Jews. Check out this ad from the American Jewish Committee which is just neocon scaremongering on Iran or this recent statement by Abe Foxman denouncing Presbyterians for opposing Israeli policies on the West Bank.

And there is this -- the craziest of all. It's a video, an "Address to the Iranian People," by Malcolm Hoenlein, who is head of the Conference of Presidents of Jewish organizations, of which ADL and the AJC are members. In it, Hoenlein calls on the Iranian people to rise up and overthrow their oppressors. It's hilarious, especially since it comes from a guy whose constituent organizations are just dying to bomb the hell out of the very Iranians who he addresses with such presumptuous and unctuous compassion.

So what does this have to do with the mosque in New York? Simple. These organizations, and especially their leaders, hate and fear Muslims or, to use their term, "radical Islam." It is not because they are instinctive bigots. It is that they believe that the more acceptance there is of Muslims here at home, the less reflexive hatred there will be for Muslims abroad. And that, in their view, reduces America's sympathy for Israel.

Take this, for instance, David Harris of the AJC has made a specialty of trying to convince Americans that estimates of the number of Muslims this country are grossly inflated. His purpose is to prevent Americans from speaking about American Muslims -- as Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama routinely did -- as if they are central to America, part of the American fabric. Better that they be seen as a fringe group that can be ignored. Why else would the AJC even bother trying to discredit demographic data on Muslims? What, other than paranoia and racial animus, would even cause Harris to commission such a study: fear that one day Americans will speak of the religious makeup of their country as Protestant, Catholic, Jew...and Muslim. The fear is that such thinking could lead Congress, for instance, to start acting as if Muslims mattered too. And that Muslims who live and vote here are -- like Christians and Jews -- as American as apple pie.

Another reason for coming out against the mosque is to build relations with the American far-right. American Jews voted overwhelmingly for Obama -- and will again -- but these organizational types have not liked him from day one. And now they hate him and not because he has weakened the alliance with Israel. These guys just know that, left to his own devices, he would adopt the policy of "honest broker." They sense that, or, more precisely, fear it. They don't have to worry about that with any of the Republican likely candidates, for whom Islamophobia is in their DNA.

Bottom line. The ADL, AJC, Conference of Presidents, and the other "mainsteam" organizations are no longer Jewish organizations, let alone civil rights organizations. They are entirely about defending any and all Israeli policies and, to buttress that goal, demonizing Muslims.

That is why opposition to the mosque is a natural. The only reason that the other organizations aren't (yet) out there with Foxman is that they have better PR sense. But, who knows, they may not want Foxman to be out there as the lone Jewish Crusader.

Here's the good news. Most Jews are liberals. Only a tiny minority are members of these organizations. And even fewer are Israel-firsters. That, in fact, is why Foxman, Harris and Hoenlein are so hysterical. Their base is melting like the wicked witch in The Wizard Of Oz.

The real Israel-firsters have AIPAC which, to its credit, does not pretend to have any interest in domestic issues. These other organizations have nothing. Why not go with Islamophobia? Like its historic twin, old-fashioned Jew-hatred, it has real promise.