Anti-Defamation League Criticized for Entering Partisan Kavanaugh Confirmation Fight

Group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism immediately opposed Kavanaugh nomination

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02: Director of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt / Getty Images
July 26, 2018

The Anti-Defamation League was criticized in the pages of Tuesday's Wall Street Journal for stepping away from its mission of fighting anti-Semitism to focus on partisan issues such as fighting the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Liel Leibovitz, a senior writer at Tablet Magazine, put the blame on ADL's CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, a former staffer in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, who Leibovitz says has "has frequently steered the ADL into the murky waters of party politics" since he took the helm in 2015. He points to the ADL's recent complaint that Kavanaugh has "demonstrated hostility to reproductive freedom" as proof it "lost sight of its mission."

"With nearly 2,000 hate crimes against Jews last year, the most in more than two decades, the group could—sadly—still have its hands full with the challenges of its original mission," Leibovitz wrote in his piece, "Is Brett Kavanaugh Bad for the Jews?"

"Which is why it was so dismaying to see the ADL release a statement denouncing Judge Brett Kavanaugh minutes after President Trump announced his nomination to the Supreme Court," he wrote. "Why would a group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism engage in this sort of partisan warfare?"

The ADL released its statement opposing Kavanaugh on the night President Donald Trump nominated him. The statement made no mention of anti-Semitism or the Jewish people, but rather focused on his "demonstrated hostility to reproductive freedom and his past support for greatly expanded and unchecked executive power."

"At a time where hard-fought progress in LGBT rights, voting rights, and women's rights are threatened, and immigrants and vulnerable communities in our country are under attack, the role of an independent Supreme Court—and one that protects the Constitutional rights of all Americans—is more important than ever," Greenblatt's statement read.

Leibovitz argues the group should stop letting the "battles of the Democratic Party" push it away from its "traditional mandate."

"By focusing increasingly on the battles of the Democratic Party, and by weighing in on matters far removed from its traditional mandate, the ADL is leaving American Jews behind," Leibovitz concludes. "The dangers we face these days are real, as the ADL itself is quick to report. We need a principled organization committed to meeting threats wherever they arise and practically positioned to do so, not another feeble voice in the hallelujah chorus of progressive dogma."

The ADL strongly disputes Leibovitz's contention that its mission has changed since Greenblatt became CEO, saying its call for special scrutiny of Kavanaugh is based on ADL policies formulated before 2015.

"In the case of Judge Kavanaugh, we respect his distinguished record of public service and his tenure on the U.S. Court of Appeals for more than a decade," said an ADL spokesperson. "At the same time, his jurisprudence on issues related to church-state separation, voting rights, and immigration issues give us pause because his perspective has conflicted with long-standing ADL policies and our current priorities."

The ADL also argues it has long been concerned about the Supreme Court.

"As a civil rights organization, ADL carefully tracks developments related to the Supreme Court," the spokesperson said. "We do so because it is core to our mission that as written more than 100 years ago—'to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment to all.'"

"The Justices who decide cases brought to the Supreme Court have a significant impact on the lives of all Americans. And so, as we have done in connection with the nominations of every Justice currently sitting on the Court, ADL will provide questions for the Senate to consider during the upcoming hearings when they consider Judge Kavanaugh's nomination."