One of America’s oldest organizations meant to combat anti-Semitism has joined an Obama administration campaign to discredit former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, whose new memoir documents how the White House fought behind the scenes to undermine the historically close U.S.-Israel alliance.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Sunday surprised many observers when it attacked Oren amid a broader campaign by White House supporters to discredit Oren’s soon-to-be-released memoir, Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide.
The organization, whose incoming leader is a former Obama administration official, has come under increasing criticism in the last five years for repeatedly running interference as the administration worked to undermine the U.S.-Israel relationship, sources said.
In his memoir, Oren recounts being intimidated and threatened by senior White House officials at many times during his tenure as Israel’s ambassador and documents how the administration explicitly sought to weaken the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The allegations have triggered a campaign of retaliation, as the White House has sought to stem criticism.
The ADL—a non-profit organization that once shunned overtly partisan political causes—joined the Obama administration’s campaign to discredit Oren on Sunday.
"In the days leading up to the forthcoming release of a memoir of his experiences as Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren appears to be using the very legitimate and sharp policy disagreements between Israel and the U.S. as an insensitive and unjustified attack on the president," outgoing ADL national director Abraham Foxman said in a statement.
"Ambassador Oren revives the meme of the president’s ‘Muslim heritage’ to make the case that American foreign policy in the Middle East is primarily being promoted and dictated by the president’s early upbringing in the Muslim faith and in Muslim traditions," added Foxman, who will soon be replaced at the ADL by former Obama administration official Jonathan Greenblatt.
Oren’s book "veers into the realm of conspiracy theories, and with an element of amateur psychoanalysis he links U.S. policies in the Middle East to the president’s personal history of having a Muslim father," Foxman wrote.
"This results in borderline stereotyping and insensitivity," Foxman said. "We hope that Ambassador Oren will walk back these unjustified attacks."
Observers linked Foxman’s comments to what many view as a pattern of partisan-driven defenses of the administration as it pursued controversial Middle East policies.
One senior official with a D.C.-based Jewish organization expressed concern that the ADL is transforming into a Democratic public relations shop.
"The ADL's current director, Abe Foxman, spent half a decade telling American Jews that Obama wasn't anti-Israel and that he wouldn't give Iran a nuke," the source said. "Its next leader, Jonathan Greenblatt, worked in Obama's White House while the administration attacked Israel and pursued an agreement that will give Iran a nuke. Now they're trying to do the administration's dirty work in the Jewish community one last time. It's disgraceful."
The ADL has come under fire at several junctures during the Obama administration for engaging in campaigns that critics saw an attempt to insulate the White House from criticism over its Israel policy.
In 2011, the ADL spearheaded a campaign pressuring Jewish groups to sign a "pledge" promising to withhold criticism of Obama’s record in Israel.
The pro-Israel Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) condemned the pledge, describing it as a partisan attempt to quiet dissent with the administration’s Israel policy.
"You must be kidding," ECI said in a statement released at the time.
"Indeed, this attempt to silence those of us who have ‘questioned the current administration's foreign policy approach vis-a-vis Israel’ will re-energize us," the group said.
"Nor, incidentally, should those who support the administration's approach to Israel be bashful about making their case."
The ADL’s "effort to stifle discussion and debate is unworthy of the best traditions of America, and of Israel," ECI said.
ECI executive director Noah Pollak said the ADL is veering into dangerous territory with its most recent criticism of Oren.
"This is a new low for the ADL, which in recent years has often appeared more concerned with defending the Obama administration than with combating anti-Semitism," Pollak said. "It's hard to think of a less appropriate target for this group's criticism than Michael Oren, or a less appropriate person for the ADL to defend than a president who is attempting to legitimize the nuclear program of an anti-Semitic regime with genocidal aspirations."
Asked to respond to criticism on Monday, an ADL official told the Washington Free Beacon that Foxman’s statement "speaks for itself."