Eleven years ago, the Anti-Defamation League surprised many by opposing an Islamic centre planned for Lower Manhattan, blocks from the World Trade centre site the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, even as its leader denounced anti-Muslim bigotry.
Now, the ADL’s CEO says the position, taken four years before he joined the civil rights organisation, was a mistake.
“We were wrong, plain and simple,” Jonathan Greenblatt wrote in an op-ed published Saturday morning on CNN.
Greenblatt said the group had tried to offer a compromise by supporting the ideas behind Cordoba House, described by its leaders as a prayer space that would facilitate healing and cross-cultural understanding, but recommending that it not be located near Ground Zero. But that compromise hurt Muslims, he said, and ultimately contributed to the project yielding a condo building with little from the original proposal in place.
The apology comes days before the 20th anniversary of the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania It also comes in the days before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, holidays that ask Jews to take stock of their misdeeds and commit to improved behaviour.
Greenblatt noted the timing in his piece, which he said he wrote in a spirit of teshuvah, or repentance, and also linked it to what he said was a rising tide of Islamophobia in the United States.
“We can’t change the past,” he wrote. “But we accept responsibility for our unwise stance on Cordoba House, apologise without caveat and commit to doing our utmost going forward to use our expertise to fight anti-Muslim bias as allies.”
Greenblatt’s apology is notable because he has largely refrained from undercutting his predecessor, longtime ADL chief Abraham Foxman. It is not the first time, though, that he has openly criticised a choice Foxman made: Earlier this year, he said he would not give an award to Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate who owns Fox News, because he said that network has given a platform to far-right ideas.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.