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ADL Under Fire

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To the editor:

I am writing to express my thanks that Grant Pick's article, "Fanning the Flames" [October 18] did not suggest that an international Islamic conspiracy lurked behind the acts of violence depicted in the story. On the other hand there wasn't much to like in the article.

Pick's article rightfully expresses concern over violence directed against synagogues and black churches, but is inexcusably silent on hate crimes against America's growing Muslim community.

The article attempts to provide support for (director of the Jewish Community Relations Council) Michael Kotzin's suggestion that "segments who didn't support the [Palestinian-Israeli] peace process" might be inclined to "act out" violently to vent their frustrations over the ongoing negotiations. It's bad enough the Reader decided to highlight segments of Pick's story supportive of this nonsense; the author fails to provide Kotzin's suggestion with any concrete evidence.

While the quote from a 17-year-old Palestinian boy involved in the Kollel fire is suggestive, he didn't say anything like "Gosh, I hate section eight paragraph five of the Oslo Agreement so much I thought I should go out and torch some synagogues." And the paid culprits in the Mikro Kodesh fire can hardly be accused of being motivated by political sympathies alone.

But if Kotzin's suggestion had any veracity then observers might expect the ADL to report an increase in episodes this year, particularly after Israel's elections returned a Likud-led government to power. Benjamin Netanyahu's government has stepped up Israel's bulldozing of Palestinian homes, increased funding to illegal Jewish-only settlement activity, opened the Hasmonean Tunnel, which led to violent clashes across the Palestinian territories, and is waffling on the IDF's overdue withdrawal from Hebron. Kotzin's suggestion has had several chances to be tested out in recent months but it doesn't appear to hold up under the reality check.

Pick's article informs us near the end that the ADL reports no increase in the amount of anti-Semitic incidents this year, which represents a healthy decline in occurrences (even by ADL standards) of such activities two years running. So why isn't anybody cheering??

Pick does his audience a disservice by relying on the ADL's anti-Semitism report. The ADL has become so aggressive in drumming up possible episodes of anti-Semitism that the report has come under fire from several Jewish leaders; for example, Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, politely suggests the ADL does "too much counting of swastikas in bathrooms."

There is not enough space to go into the story of how, in the pursuit of anti-Semitism, the ADL got caught stealing police files and had its spy operations against Arab and Muslim American individuals and organizations exposed in California. Let's note that in a recent out-of-court settlement the ADL paid $175,000 to organizations that accused them of spying on their members, $25,000 to improve relations between Jews and other minority groups, in addition to $75,000 two years ago to the county of San Francisco after the district attorney decided to drop related criminal charges.

But what is truly tragic is this: instead of selecting a topic that would positively reflect on Rogers Park and the Chicago area's vibrant Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities, Pick chose to write a perfunctory report concerning hatred, bigotry, and violence.

Mr. Pick might be a Pulitzer winner with a future article revealing the thankless efforts of Arab, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Americans here in Chicago who are working to bring about the recognition of the state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to improving relations between Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Arabs here in America.

Marc Safman

W. Melrose

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