For Abe Foxman’s ADL, “interfaith dialogue” means Christian leaders must shut up about Israeli crimes

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman

Justin Hoch Wikimedia Commons

Leading pro-Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has angrily pulled out of a national “interfaith” dialogue scheduled for later this month, because some of the Protestant faith leaders who planned to attend had the temerity to write a letter to Congress asking that US aid to Israel be reviewed for compliance with the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act in light of Israel’s extensively documented human rights violations.

In a statement announcing its withdrawal, the ADL claimed:

Some of the Protestant leaders who were scheduled to be dialogue participants sent an outrageous and biased letter to members of Congress on October 5, accusing Israel of human rights violations against Palestinians and calling for a re-evaluation of U.S. foreign aid to Israel.  By failing to alert Jewish dialogue participants beforehand, ADL said the mainline Protestant leaders who signed on to the letter had shown a “blatant lack of sensitivity” and “seriously damaged the foundation for mutual respect.”

The letter was signed by the current head of the National Council of Churches, as well as leaders of the Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ churches and was issued without notifying any of the churches’ longtime Jewish dialogue partners, including ADL.

“In light of the failure of any of the church leaders to reach out to us, we have decided not to attend this interfaith meeting,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “The blatant lack of sensitivity by the Protestant dialogue partners we had been planning to meet with has seriously damaged the foundation for mutual respect, which is essential for meaningful interfaith dialogue.”

It would appear that these faith leaders are not entitled to express their opinions without clearing them first with the ADL.

Does aid to Israel violate US law?

The letter itself (PDF) begins:

We write to you as Christian leaders representing US churches and religious organizations committed to seeking a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Our organizations have been deeply involved in this pursuit for decades, inspired by the call and promise of Jesus Christ who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

The letter attempts to be scrupulously “balanced” laying blame on Israel and Palestinians as if occupier and occupied were in equal positions:

we have witnessed the pain and suffering of Israelis as a result of Palestinian actions and of Palestinians as a result of Israeli actions. In addition to the horror and loss of life from rocket attacks from Gaza and past suicide bombings, we have witnessed the broad impact that a sense of insecurity and fear has had on Israeli society. We have also witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement, among others. We recognize that each party—Israeli and Palestinian—bears responsibilities for its actions and we therefore continue to stand against all violence regardless of its source. Our stand against violence is complemented by our commitment to the rights of all Israelis, as well as all Palestinians, to live in peace and security.

Yet it continues:

Unfortunately, unconditional US military assistance to Israel has contributed to this deterioration, sustaining the conflict and undermining the long-term security interests of both Israelis and Palestinians. This is made clear in the most recent 2011 State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, which details widespread Israeli human rights violations committed against Palestinian civilians, many of which involve the misuse of US-supplied weapons.

Accordingly, we urge an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.” More broadly, we urge Congress to undertake careful scrutiny to ensure that our aid is not supporting actions by the government of Israel that undermine prospects for peace.

In its conclusion, the letter demands:

We request, therefore, that Congress hold Israel accountable to these standards by making the disbursement of U.S. military assistance to Israel contingent on the Israeli government’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and policies. As Israel is the single largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since World War II, it is especially critical for Israel to comply with the specific U.S. laws that regulate the use of U.S.-supplied weapons.

Another case of interfaith bullying

Perhaps because the reasoning of the letter is solid and its factual claims well-documented, the ADL did not attempt to refute the contents of the letter itself, but instead chose to sulk over the alleged claim that faith leaders have to clear their views with Abe Foxman – one of the most uncompromising and shameless apologists for Israeli human rights abuses and crimes.

Unable to answer the claims in the letter, Foxman resorts, in the ADL statement, to the Iran card:

It is outrageous that mere days after the Iranian president repeated his call for Israel’s elimination, these American Protestant leaders would launch a biased attack against the Jewish state by calling on Congress to investigate Israel’s use of foreign aid. 

The cynicism of Foxman’s definition of “interfaith dialogue” can perhaps best be understood by reviewing his role in promoting and legitimizing the anti-Semitic and Islamophobic Christian Zionist Pastor John Hagee in recent years.

Foxman’s latest stance is an example of what Rev. Don Wagner, National Program Director of Friends of Sabeel – North America, recently termed “interfaith bullying.”




Interfaith dialogue pre-suppositions include a reciprocal, respectful acceptance of participants' entitlement to expression of their divergent views, even when those views do not accommodate the comfort level of all parties present. With his intemperate, angry, disrespectful withdrawal from the scheduled national interfaith dialogue, Abe Foxman unwittingly has re-inforced the age-old anti-Semitic stereotype: " We, alone, are G_d's darlings. We, alone, write the laws and rules. We, alone, get to choose which laws and rules we decide to obey or follow." In mental health circles, this is known as narcissistic personality disorder. It has has everything to do with the ideology of Zionism. It has nothing to do with prophetic, ethical, Scriptural Judaism. It appears that the Protestant ministers spend more time reading the inspired words of the G_d of justice than those who react vociferously to a call for justice on behalf of the oppressed.


Interfaith dialogue is often confused with and substituted for social justice advocacy and is one of the main tactics promoted to undermine solidarity with the Palestinian human rights-based BDS campaign. It also functions to subdue an unwanted population - those Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian Americans who might otherwise stridently oppose US policies in the Middle East including and especially Israel.

Some trip over themselves to prove to white Americans that they are "good" Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians and won't cause trouble here as privileged, mostly white Americans are bombarded with images in msn of what appears to be irrational behavior by those who do not look like us, do not have the same religion as us, and who live very...far...away. Those Arab, Muslim, Palestinian Americans who participate in this effort to "normalize" relations are often promoted as the community's "moderate" voice while those promoting Palestinian human rights and the speakers they host are marginalized as creating conflict and division in the community.

I expose, without hesitation, the elephant in the room. One of the greatest obstacles to the US Palestinian human rights movement is the token Arab, Muslim, Palestinian who helps neutralize the activist community and who effectively rubber stamps the Zionist agenda by refusing to publicly oppose it.


Recommend the film "Defamation" by a young Israeli director, an irreverant and sometimes heartbreaking examination of alleged antisemitism and indoctrination of young people in Israel. The Anti-Defamation League play a role.


Interfaith Dialogue can mean many things. Some consider it interfaith dialogue for more than one Christian, Jewish or Muslim denomination to meet. If you add in the topic of Israel/Palestine and Peace the conversation can quickly become heated and virtually untenable unless it is carefully and professionally facilitated. I have been involved in coordinating positive interfaith conversations and educational dialogue on Middle East peace for a number of years. It's easy to get angry, defensive and to fear what you don't know. For Christians, Muslims, Jews and those of other faiths to enter a house of worship for the first time and join the congregation in respectful prayer and positive dialogue is a wonderful and challenging occurrence..


In essence, Foxman is trying to blackmail faith communities into silence over the real issue: a land grab. And why is ADL, a political lobby group, a legitimate partner in inter-faith dialogue?


Pulitzer Prize-winner Alice Walker, civil rights icon Angela Davis and the rest of the jury of international figures of note for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine presented their findings today to a committee of the UN General Assembly, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

After two days of expert testimony by notables such as public intellectual Noam Chomsky and Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, ....included actors Harry Belafonte and Wallace Shawn ... “Israel’s ongoing colonial settlement expansion, its racial separatist policies, as well as its violent militarism would not be possible without the US’s economic, military, and diplomatic support.”

Juror Angela Davis stated at this morning’s press conference that “people are shocked to discover that conditions in Palestine not only replicate apartheid in South Africa, they are far worse” and urged civil society to take action in supporting and spreading the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Israel.



In March, 2009, our Jewish Federation bragged, that “Our local JCRC engaged in respectful dialogue with leaders of a local Presbyterian church when its General Assembly was considering divestment in companies that do business with Israel. This effort contributed to the church rescinding its pro-divestment resolution."
Also, director of Hillel at the time wrote:
"...We are also currently collaborating with the Jewish, Muslim and Arab Students' Union to hold a series of informal encounters and explore ways in which we can engage in respectful and meaningful dialogue with one another and actually collaborate on local (and international) service projects."

This "respectful dialogue" and distraction into "service projects" was promoted in the wake of Israel's murderous assault on Gaza, identified as indictable war crimes by several investigating legal organizations. Students might instead have been educating each other and the public and mobilizing in support of international justice and Palestinian Human Rights.

Some 1300 Rabbis signed a letter in opposition to the recent Methodist and Presbyterian divestment initiative including the two in our community who have participated in the monthly Interfaith Service. One nominated the high profile token Arab/Muslim/Palestinian participant - the "moderate" voice here (see my comment above) for the community's 2010"Peace Builder Award" in a well-attended ceremony at the synagogue. These rabbis once demonstrated against our Palestinian human rights informational display distributing a sheet with a link to a website that included (no surprise here) this information:

During the Q/A period a few years ago with speakers Eitan Bronstein (Zochrot) and Mohammed Jaradat (Badil) - who advocate the right of return and a one democratic state - someone asked them about the value of dialogue groups. Bronstein stated the Israelis love and promote them because they put no pressure on Israel to change.