What keeps Abraham Foxman, the national direct of the Anti-Defamation League, up at night?
Primarily concerns about Israel, under existential threat from Iran and finding itself in an increasingly chaotic and dangerous neighborhood, he explained in a conversation with Jewish Week editor and publisher Gary Rosenblatt last Tuesday evening. The forum was sponsored by The Jewish Week in partnership with the ADL and held at The Jewish Center on the Upper West Side.
Foxman noted that Israel’s neighbor to the north, Syria, is in the midst of a horrific civil war, and Egypt, to the south, is still experiencing violent clashes between the military government and supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, while more than 10,000 rockets are aimed at Israeli cities from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. And there is persistent worry about whether the U.S., under pressure at home to stay out of further Mideast conflicts, will flex its muscle to counteract these dangerous situations.
The prime focus of the evening, though, was Foxman’s latest book, “Viral Hate,” co-written with Christopher Wolf, which explores the dark side of the Internet. Foxman asserted that for all the good the Internet accomplishes, it has led to “the end of privacy.” The Web has also damaged civility in our society, making it easy for cowards to express their hatred, racism and bigotry anonymously, Foxman said. He noted that legislation banning such expressions, while common in European countries, goes against the grain of the U.S. and its reverence for the First Amendment. But he said more needs to be done by all of us to report abuses of the Internet and to continue to teach young people about the myths anti-Semites and other haters and bigots seek to proliferate.
“Education is at the core of what we do,” Foxman said, referring to the ADL, and the defense organization continues to offer programs combating racism in the U.S. and around the world as it marks its centennial this year.