27 Sep 2023

a lot of jewish currents reporting spotlights the problem of the adl

I was very impacted by reading Emmaia’s piece about the history of the organization, and also just thinking about these long tenures in which the ADL has been really fundamentally opposed to the left. And I’m just not convinced, like, the organization has it in its DNA to become a very politically vibrant and just organization that could fight antisemitism and fight for civil rights and fight bigotry more broadly. What’s complicated, then, when we regard this Musk stuff, is that it’s just kind of an exercise in holding tension for a lot of people, right? Like, if you’re a reporter and you’re writing something about this, it’s complicated, ’cause what context can you give? Can we say, okay, yes, this right wing is insidious and the way they’re going after the ADL, and that Musk is abetting it, is actually bad and problematic and is relying on these antisemitic tropes, but also, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to suddenly pump up the ADL and support these other actions that they take or, like, go to them as an automatically unbiased leading voice on antisemitism in other situations?

I started listening to Know Your Enemy while still living in NYC, where I was (without secure social footing) in social circles that overlapped with the hosts’. I had no occasion to cross paths with Sitman or Adler-Bell. I have, on the other hand, met Mari Cohen — still in Chicago when I moved here in the couple of years after New York, then doing some work with South Side Weekly among other things. (She was organizer for a comics journalism one-day workshop I managed to attend. The paper did a corresponding special issue that summer.)

Now it’s Cohen who’s in New York — and more power to her. She’s part of a crew doing important stuff at Jewish Currents for the era of Trump and an increasingly aggressive, ever more ethically-degraded global right. Above, part of her reply to the focal question of the KYE episode below.

I’m not Jewish. My background’s a lot like Matt Sitman’s, rather (though more Southern, more overtly Lost-Cause-inflected than his). I’ve come all too gradually to a grasp of the impact of struggle over the telling of Jewish history on accounts of Christianity like those Sitman and I were brought up with.

But if you follow me here at all, you already know how much the subject weighs on my mind.

[UPDATE (17 Oct ’23): KYE has a new conversation with John Ganz up, about Buckley’s 1992 In Search of Anti-Semitism. A bit disheartening, frankly, especially if your personal path begins on the right as mine does, but interesting contrastive companion to the one on the ADL nevertheless. Link added below.]

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