The ADL is America's preeminent Jewish civil rights organization.
That position comes with an inevitable share of gripes. Jews who think the ADL is misusing its position. Non-Jews who don't like the idea of a "preeminent Jewish" (or "civil rights") anything. The day where somebody isn't complaining about something the ADL is doing is a day that doesn't end in "y".
That said, the inevitability and ubiquity of complaints faced by the ADL doesn't mean none of them have merit. Moreover, said inevitability and ubiquity doesn't mean there aren't things to be gleaned from patterns -- who is complaining, how they're complaining, and what they're complaining about.
The latest ADL related flare-up came when chieftain Jonathan Greenblatt seemed to laud Elon Musk's potential takeover of Twitter and compared Musk (positively!) to Henry Ford in the process. Using Henry Ford -- one of America's most notorious antisemites -- as a compliment was bad enough. But Musk's prime motivator for buying Twitter, by his own admission, is that he thinks Twitter has been too heavy-handed in "censoring" or tamping down on hate speech on the platform. This flies in the face of the ADL's social media policy, which has been to this point aggressive in demanding that social media platforms do more to combat hateful speech and conspiracies proliferating on their sites. So why on earth would Greenblatt think Musk's purchase of Twitter is a cause for optimism? The impression many got was that, in an effort to curry favor with the right's new fair-haired plutocrat, Greenblatt was selling out his organization's stated committed to fight extremism and hate online. The right-wing loves Musk, so Greenblatt felt obliged to love him too.
Greenblatt has since apologized for the Henry Ford comparison. He also suggested that what he was really doing was "laying down a gauntlet about what we expect Elon Musk to do," which -- talk about don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining. Greenblatt was not "laying down a gauntlet," he was very clearly trying to butter up Musk now that Musk has become a right-wing hero. I'd be delighted if he changed course on that. But don't patronize me by pretending you weren't doing what was obvious to all of our eyes.
Again, it must be stressed that Musk has become a right-wing hero because he's sworn to make it easier for the far-right to spread extremism and hate on a major social media platform. The reason this is such a scandal isn't solely or even primarily because of an ill-advised comparison; it is because it seemed as if Greenblatt either no longer had the stomach or no longer had the desire to stand against a truly dangerous development for the safety of Jews online if it meant standing up to a powerful and popular figure on the American right. That failure -- whether of nerve, of will, or of interest -- represents a serious problem for the ADL's credibility.
- In July, Greenblatt retweeted a truly unhinged rant by fringe congressional candidate Brian Robinson accusing several liberal Jewish groups (generally those affiliated with JFREJ) being "LARPers" and otherwise masquerading as Jews. The retweet was eventually removed; and the ADL backtracked by saying that "the RT was not meant to imply agreement with all aspects of the thread" and that "we reject any attacks on the Jewish identity of people we have disagreements with."
- In August, Greenblatt said a cartoon which called out AIPAC for backing Republican insurrectionists was "stoking the flames of antisemitism" (the cartoon in question, which was a mashup of a meme featuring Steve Buscemi and a 1/6 insurrectionist, was certainly a very sharp elbow, but it was not antisemitic -- it hit hard because AIPAC made a morally bankrupt decision which they can be hit hard over).
- Last month, Greenblatt sided with groups attacking the New York Times coverage of educational failures in Orthodox private schools, including suggesting without any evidence that the article might contribute to antisemitic violence against Orthodox Jews.
- Also in September, the ADL agreed to "launch a thorough review" of its educational materials in response to complaints by Fox News -- an organization the ADL has often expressly called out for being prime purveyors of hate and bigotry -- that the organization was "far-left" (other organizations which the ADL deems to be vectors of antisemitic extremism tend not to receive such accommodating responses!).