It’s hard to think of a more prominent anti-Semite in American public life over the last 30 years than the Rev. Al Sharpton. Louis Farrakhan may give him a run for his money, but the leader of the so called Nation of Islam remains a pariah—Barack Obama was photographed with him once, in 2005, and never made that mistake again.
Sharpton is a different story. He has never apologized for leading a pogrom against the Jews of Brooklyn that marked the worst outburst of anti-Semitic violence in modern American history, but despite all that, or perhaps because of it, has laundered himself into an elder statesman and star television host whose endorsement ambitious Democratic politicians must now seek.
Look no further than MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who personally introduced a resolution condemning Sharpton’s "racist and anti-Semitic views" in his previous life as a Republican congressman. In his present life as a Trump-hating MSNBC host who has toyed with a presidential run, Scarborough celebrates Sharpton’s moral clarity about Facebook.
We never thought we’d see Sharpton embraced by Jews, but that’s what’s transpiring now as the Anti-Defamation League strays onto the Reverend’s turf—leading a boycott campaign against one of the most successful Jewish-owned businesses in the world. Its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, has tapped Sharpton as a partner in a political project to police objectionable speech that both are trying to cast as a modern civil rights issue.
Sharpton has come a long way. So has the ADL.
As Crown Heights burned, the organization had no trouble identifying Sharpton as an enemy of the Jewish people. "Anti-Semitism is all over the place in Crown Heights," the ADL’s then-director, Abraham Foxman, told the New York Times in August 1991. "It is ugly, it is crude, it is classical and it is deadly. And the fact that it is American and it is black should not make it invisible or tolerable."
Sharpton, then as now, "denied the charges of anti-Semitism," telling the paper "this is a classical example of trying to turn the victim into the victimizer."
Later that year, like any victim would, Sharpton traveled to Israel for a publicity stunt to "hunt down" the Jew who had provided the pretext for his riots. Upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, he was heckled by an Israeli who told him to "go to hell." Sharpton’s response: "I am in hell already. I am in Israel."
Since then, Sharpton has had ample opportunity to apologize, to make amends. He has been steadfast in his refusal to do so. So how does this man end up in cahoots with the Anti-Defamation League?
Look no further than Greenblatt, who has led the ADL since 2014. Since the winter, Greenblatt, a professional do-gooder whose resume is littered with self-promotional schemes that have culminated in payouts from Fortune 500 companies, has been blaming the anti-Semitic violence that has convulsed New York City on Facebook and other social media giants.
He and Sharpton may not agree on the Jews, but that is less important, in this case, than their pursuit of the same political end. It is from that vantage point alone that the current campaign makes sense.
The Greenblatt-Sharpton campaign is a left-wing power grab disguised as a civil rights mission. They and their allies are calling on Facebook to massively expand moderation of harassment based on "specific identity characteristics" like race or religion. That process "must include experts on various forms of identity-based hate"—doubtless appointed from groups like the ADL and Sharpton’s National Action Network, and with those organizations very well compensated for the service.
The result will be the systematic silencing of voices that dissent from the increasingly rigid orthodoxy of the Democratic Party. It is already clear that under that system, the anti-Semites like Sharpton will continue to get a pass and that "hate" will be sniffed out and silenced only when it doesn’t align with progressive goals.
If the goal is to force corporations to buckle to left-wing demands, Greenblatt has found the perfect partner. Sharpton has plenty of experience stoking hatred and resentment against Jewish business owners, just ask Fred Harari.
On the other hand, Sharpton has incited precisely the sort of anti-Semitic violence, and in precisely the same places, that Greenblatt now blames on Facebook. Awkward.