Abraham Foxman speaks during as he is honored by the Anti-Defamation League  (ADL) at its 2014 Annual Meeting at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California.

Abraham Foxman speaks during as he is honored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) at its 2014 Annual Meeting at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California.

For nearly 50 years, Abe Foxman has waged a battle against anti-Semitism around the world. As head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), he has shined a light on hate speech targeting Jews and other minority communities. Along the way, Foxman has become one of the most visible and influential leaders of the American Jewish community, at one point earning the nickname the “Jewish pope.” A holocaust survivor, Foxman has been a proponent of strong Israeli-American relations and a frequent confidante of leaders from both countries. Next week, Foxman plans to step down from his post. He talks about his life and lessons learned from 50 years of fighting anti-Semitism and hate speech.


  • Abraham Foxman National director, Anti-Defamation League


  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Abraham Foxman was born in Eastern Europe in 1940. The son of Polish Jews, he escaped persecution during the Holocaust when his Catholic nanny took him in. After the war, Foxman and his parents made their way to the U.S. where he received his degree in law and eventually joined the Anti-Defamation League, an organization created to combat anti-Semitism around the world.

  • 11:07:28

    MS. DIANE REHMAs the eventual head of the ADL, Foxman became a significant voice in the American Jewish community. Now, after three decades at the helm, he's stepping down. Abraham Foxman joins me in the studio. We'll welcome your calls, comments, 800-433-8850. Send an email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. It's good to meet you, sir.

  • 11:08:02

    MR. ABRAHAM FOXMANIt's good to be here. Good morning.

  • 11:08:03

    REHMThank you. Good morning to you.

  • 11:08:06

    FOXMANWe picked an exciting morning.

  • 11:08:07

    REHMI should say. And I'm interested in your own reaction to the agreement.

  • 11:08:14

    FOXMANWell, Diane, I haven't read it so my reaction is only based on what I heard the president say, the secretary of state, some comments on both sides. It is a historic day whether you agree, whether you disagree, whether you like it or not. I'm worried. I'm worried because we have crossed so many of our own red lines from the beginning of this process and I think we've given in too much.

  • 11:08:49

    FOXMANSo I am concerned. David Ignatius called it a cosmic gamble and I think it is a gamble. We're dealing -- and there's a lot of comparisons, Diane, being made to the Soviet Union. When, you know what, when we were negotiating with the Soviet Union, arms reduction agreement, they weren't burning American flags in the streets of Moscow. When we were negotiating with the Soviets, an arms agreement, the neighborhood was all in favor.

  • 11:09:23

    FOXMANI mean, all the countries surrounding Russia, either part of that empire, evil empire, or not, were all applauding us for reducing it. This situation is not the same in the sense that the neighbors of Iran are all aghast. They're all worried, whether it's the Gulf States or Israel, they think it's a historic mistake. So I am worried. I am concerned. I don't -- again, the devil will be in the details.

  • 11:09:56

    REHMOf course.

  • 11:09:57

    FOXMANAnd, Diane, I don't see yet, but I have to read it. We have to discuss it. What are the consequences when they do not abide by their agreement? What's the deterrent that we build in to make sure that they live up to it? So these are all questions Congress will have to examine. The American should pay attention. So while I begin being skeptical and disappointed, I'm ready to be convinced that this is a good historic deal.

  • 11:10:31

    REHMIsrael's Prime Minister has said that his country is not bound by the agreement and that Israel reserves the right to defend itself. How do you interpret that?

  • 11:10:50

    FOXMANWell, I think the Prime Minister, when he was here in March, put it very succinctly. He said to the U.S. and to some of the countries in Europe, this issue is a question of security. To Israel, it's a question of survival. And when it comes to survival as one country -- again, the day before the agreement was signed and on the day, today, the president of Iran vows to continue their hope of destruction of a member state of the United Nations.

  • 11:11:22

    FOXMANSo as long as -- and that's not part of the agreement. As long as they proclaim that they will remove the Jewish state from the map of the world, I think Israel has the right to say, we will defend our right to exist. And I believe, Diane, what I mentioned earlier, deterrence is very important. When you're dealing with a country that has a pretty lousy record of living up to its commitments and words and promises, then what works is deterrence.

  • 11:11:51

    FOXMANThe U.S. deterrent has been lessened and so therefore, I believe it's important for the Iranians to understand, you know what, you may fool the French, you may fool the British, you may even acquiesce with the Russians, but the neighborhood, you can't fool. And the neighborhood will fight for its liberty and its freedom. And I think if you listen to the king of Saudi Arabia or to the emir of Bahrain or the sheikh of Abu Dhabi, they will say exactly the same thing.

  • 11:12:28

    REHMAbraham Foxman, he is the current director of the Anti-Defamation League. He will retire on July 20. And I certainly want to congratulate you on your many years of really extraordinarily dedicated work. I am fascinated by your early beginnings. Tell us about how you survived the Holocaust.

  • 11:13:03

    FOXMANWell, by miracles, by providence. I don't know. By the fortune of being placed with a woman who had courage, extraordinary courage, compassion, passion, love, faith. So I was born in a bad place for -- bad time and a bad place for a Jewish kid to be born, which is Poland in 1940, occupied Poland. My parents had a little bit of vision, a little bit of understanding. Most people did not. And realized that they had to move and so they moved from Warsaw to a place, Baranovich, where I was born, which today is Belarus.

  • 11:13:50

    FOXMANAnd then, they realized the Germans were continuing to move east so they moved east and we traveled as a family unit, my parents and my nanny, (unintelligible) The Germans caught up with us in the city of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. The order went out for Jews to be assembled in a ghetto and my parents made a decision they could, Diane, never really explain to me, never rationalize how -- the rationale of how they decided to separate.

  • 11:14:20

    FOXMANAnd yet, it was the most fateful decision of our lives because a family unit of three with an infant, the chances of survival were minus, minus, minus zero. Now, nobody believed it was going to be four years. Nobody really understood the brutality, bestiality, the ugly -- what was out there, what the Holocaust was about. And so my nanny said, it'll be a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks. I'll take care of him.

  • 11:14:50

    REHMAnd she was Roman Catholic.

  • 11:14:52

    FOXMANShe was Roman Catholic. The couple of days and a couple weeks round up into four years. She baptized me, gave me her name, her identity.

  • 11:15:02

    REHMWhere did she take you?

  • 11:15:04

    FOXMANShe took me, you know, I've been trying, Diane, I've been trying to find that priest. I don't know if he's alive. I was trying to identifying him because he, too, had a great deal of courage because to, you know, to baptize, to save a Jewish child, the first bullet would be to me and the next one to anybody who harbored a Jew. I have not been able to find the records. I will continue to search because, you know, she found this priest who was ready to do it.

  • 11:15:34

    REHMBut you're saying that she stayed in the town your parents fled.

  • 11:15:41

    FOXMANYeah, well, no. My parents were assembled into the ghetto. There was nowhere to flee. It was already a situation where Jews couldn't move that freely so they went to the ghetto where all the Jews were assembled and sealed and closed. Now, my mother escaped from the ghetto, established a false identity, an Aryan non-Jewish identity, and she had contact with me and I got to know her as my aunt. And so it's a competition between my mother and my aunt, my mother and my real mother.

  • 11:16:12

    REHMAnd the nanny.

  • 11:16:12

    FOXMANSo I got to know my mother as my aunt. My father was sent to various concentration camps, eventually escaped into the forest. He came back looking for me, found my mother and we were reunited and so there was a miracle.

  • 11:16:26

    REHMFour years later.

  • 11:16:27

    FOXMANBut there was, Diane, there was a sad part to it.

  • 11:16:29


  • 11:16:30

    FOXMANMy nanny, who risked her life, then said, I saved him. He belongs to me and the Catholic Church and, unfortunately, there was a custody battle. And yet, she saved my life. She saved my parents' life and I, you know, my love and dedication to her, she's not alive anymore, you know, will be with me to the last moment of my breath.

  • 11:16:52

    REHMDid you continue to see her even though your parents...

  • 11:16:56

    FOXMANNo, no.

  • 11:16:57

    REHM...won custody?

  • 11:16:57

    FOXMANNo. It was very tragic. She tried to have my father arrested by the Soviets. We, after the trial -- before the trial, the trial she lost, we were repatriated to Poland, she followed in Poland. She had me kidnapped. My parents kidnapped me back. We smuggled the borders till we got to the American zone. So the tragedy was that I never said thank you to her. I never embraced her and said how much I loved her.

  • 11:17:29

    FOXMANAnd -- but my parents sent her money and packages and, which she had to sign for. It was return receipt requested, otherwise she couldn't get it. And so that's the only communication we had for years. And in 1958, we got a letter from the (unintelligible) saying she passed away. So that, you know, never had an opportunity. My parents smuggled out pictures just to make sure and I said to my father, I don't need pictures. The image of who and what she was will be with me forever.

  • 11:18:05

    REHMAbraham Foxman, outgoing head of the Anti-Defamation League. You can join us, questions, comments. I look forward to speaking with you.

  • 11:20:02

    REHMIf you've just joined us, Abraham Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League is here with me. That organization is dedicated to countering anti-Semitism wherever it is found in this world. You began your career with the ADL 50 years ago. You are planning to step down after 30 years at the helm later this month. Tell me the differences that you see now from what you saw when you first began.

  • 11:20:49

    FOXMANLet me just make one adjustment, Diane, in terms of your setting forth what the Anti-Defamation League is. Yes, it fights anti-Semitism. But there are two pillars. The Anti-Defamation League, which was established in 1913 in Chicago by a group of lawyers, Jewish lawyers, set a mission then -- when you think in terms of the vision -- a dual mission. It was then called to fight the defamation of the Jewish people, which was a euphemistic, even anachronistic way of talking about anti-Semitism. But it also said, to fight the defamation and to fight for equal opportunity for all citizens alike. And so that, since the beginning, the mission has been a dual mission, with an understanding that according to Jewish tradition you cannot just fight for yourself.

  • 11:21:43

    FOXMANAnd so we're taught by our rabbis and scholars, "If I'm not for myself, who will be? But if I'm only for myself, what am I?" And so, it's that dual mission that has carried the Anti-Defamation League throughout the years.

  • 11:22:00

    REHMSo for other minorities...

  • 11:22:03


  • 11:22:03

    REHM...throughout the world.

  • 11:22:05

    FOXMANAbsolutely. So, and we've made an adjustment actually, recently. Because we found that the mission statement which says, "for all citizens alike" today was limiting. And we removed the word "citizen." Because if we were limited to citizens, then we could not stand up and fight for the rights of illegals or people who are here. So we removed the word "citizen" so it shouldn't be limiting. Now, to your question. Before I started, I did a lot of research in terms of what to expect. And interestingly enough, the prognosticators, the sociologists, 50 years ago prophesied that in 50 years the American Jewish community will be insignificant.

  • 11:22:54

    FOXMANIn fact, Look Magazine, 50 years ago, wrote about the vanishing American Jewish community. So here I was going into a profession, into a field to protect the rights of a community, which everybody was saying is going to disappear. Two, they also predicted that anti-Semitism would be gone. After the Holocaust, it would become a fact of history. And, three, when it came to the State of Israel 50 years ago, they said, "Oh, the State of Israel will become a natural fact in the international community like any other nation." Ironically, they were wrong on all three counts. A. the Jewish community is not disappearing. Yeah, we've got issues. We've got challenges. We've got problems. But it's dynamic, it's creative, it's active, it's -- okay.

  • 11:23:42

    FOXMANTwo, anti-Semitism, I wish it was a fact of history.

  • 11:23:45


  • 11:23:46

    FOXMANIt isn't. It is today at a higher level than it's been since World War II.

  • 11:23:52

    REHMHow do you account for that?

  • 11:23:54

    FOXMANWell, because we've never, Diane, we've never really developed a vaccine. We've never developed an antidote. And the only antidote we have is education. The trouble is, you can be infected much quicker. You know, you can be taught to hate much quicker than you're taught to un-hate. It's a much more difficult process. The Internet has a lot to do with it. The Internet, which has already destroyed privacy, is destroying civility. And when people stop talking to each other, they respect each other less. And so, today, hatred, bigotry, prejudice, racism, anti-Semitism, can travel in nanoseconds around the globe. It never dies. It's like a tsunami out there.

  • 11:24:43

    FOXMANAnd it gives it a certain credibility, a certain legitimacy, which it never had before. And so that accounts for some of it. But basically, Diane, we never really, you know, after Auschwitz, one would have thought that the world's scientists, engineers, philosophers, would all come together to develop an antidote. They developed the U.N. Well, you know, the U.N. is only a reflection of the reality and nothing more than that. But we didn't develop that vaccine. So it's still there.

  • 11:25:14


  • 11:25:15

    FOXMANAnd then the last prognosis about Israel being accepted as a normal state -- you know what? They're wrong there, too, unfortunately. You know, what state, of all the 200 nations, has to defend its right to name its capital? None. You know? Every state decides, this is what's going to be my capital and the rest of the world respects it. What state has to defend its right to defend itself? So it's still an abnormal. And to some extent, Diane, Israel has become the Jew amongst the nations.

  • 11:25:46

    FOXMANAnd we see it when Muslims are killing Muslims, Muslims are killing Christians, Muslims are killing Jews. What are the institutions in the world dealing with? Israel and Gaza, which is painful, which is tragic. But there is this disproportionate distortion of what it's all about. And that's still, unfortunately, because Jews are being viewed differently.

  • 11:26:13

    REHMI want to take you back to the question of the Jews -- especially in this country -- to what extent is intermarriage or marriage outside the Jewish tradition taking place? And to what extent is that perhaps weakening the sense of Jewishness in this country?

  • 11:26:44

    FOXMANWell, there -- the challenge to the Jewish future is both external and internal. And the debate is, what's the greater challenge? What's the greater threat? And there, you know, I've spent my life worrying about the external threat. And, yeah, I'm concerned about the internal threat. But it's somebody else's job. That's the job of the rabbis, of the sociologists. My job is to make sure -- at least I've spent my life trying to make sure that the environment is as user-friendly to Jews as I can possibly make it. So that every Jew has the right to decide whether he or she wants to be Jewish -- not because they won't be accepted or they won't get a job or they'll be discriminating but because that's what it's all about. Now that's another challenge.

  • 11:27:30

    FOXMANAnd so the sociologists will say that we're in trouble because of intermarriage, because our society is so open. And, you know, there was a survey done by -- a Pew survey two years ago, which analyzed the Jewish community. And it was like the Oracle of Delphi, you read it as you want. I read it positively. I saw, you know, that 80 -- 94 percent of the Jewish community felt a sense of pride. Well, if you have a sense of pride in your Jewishness, it's a lot different than it was 50 years ago when Jews changed their names, when Jews hid their identity, where they changed their physiology.

  • 11:28:10

    FOXMANSo, yeah, if 94 percent of the Jews, married or intermarried, assimilated or not, say that the essence of their identity is a sense of pride of their Jewishness and 84 percent of American Jews felt a sense of identity through the Holocaust. And we're saying, oh, Holocaust is ancient history. Well, it seems to the American Jewish community, it's real. It's still part of an understanding of history. So, yes, Diane, I think intermarriage is something that is a challenge. But intermarriage can bring Jews back. My son is married to a young man who converted to Judaism. And so, you know, it can work either way. And they -- when and if they have children, they will raise them Jewish.

  • 11:29:02

    FOXMANSo, you know, it's a challenge. I am an optimist. Diane, I am an optimist in life. Having survived the Holocaust, I don't have the luxury to be a pessimist. Golda Meir once said that Jews don't have the luxury to be pessimists. But, Diane, a million and a half Jewish children perished because of the crime of being Jews and I survived. So for me to be pessimistic about the Jewish future -- no way, no how. We got to work at it.

  • 11:29:31

    REHMYet, last year, I understand that the Anti-Defamation League did its first global survey of anti-Semitism. What did you find?

  • 11:29:46

    FOXMANWe found disturbing findings. We found -- I wouldn't say to our shock -- but we were disturbed to find that one out of four adults in this world -- actually 26 percent of the adults in this world were infected with serious stereotypic views of the Jews.

  • 11:30:07

    REHMSuch as?

  • 11:30:08

    FOXMANThat Jews -- that their number one was, which was 43 percent -- almost one out of two adults in the world believed the Jews are not loyal to their country, can't be trusted. Thirty-five percent believe the Jews control finance. That they only care about themselves. That they control media. That they control governments. These are ancient, historic canards and stereotypes which had paved the way to Auschwitz. I mean, if, you know, if Jews can't be trusted, if Jews aren't loyal, if Jews only care about themselves, so who cares? So these were foundations which permitted the persecution and the prejudice. So the scary part is that in the year 2014, all over the world, it's -- anti-Semitism is alive and well.

  • 11:31:06

    REHMSo are you saying that those ideas of anti-Jewishness, anti-Semitism, go back to World War II and the very reasons that Germany began its whole campaign? Or is it new? Is it different now?

  • 11:31:29

    FOXMANNo. It goes way back. It goes the other way. And I remember, somewhere once I read that, first they came and they said, "You cannot live amongst us as Jews." Which means the inquisition. You have to convert. Then came noblemen and kinds and said, "You cannot live amongst us." And so there were the expulsions of Jews from England, from France, from the Pale. And so Hitler then came and even shortened that phrase and said, "You cannot live." And, Diane, had it not been for the history that the world accepted, permitted, acted out. First the inquisition, the conversion that, you know, Jews cannot abide by their faith.

  • 11:32:14

    FOXMANAnd then that they couldn't be citizens. They couldn't own land. They couldn't do certain things. Then Hitler came and, based on that -- the lessons of history, the acceptance of history or anti-Semitism -- he was able to shorten it and said, "You cannot live." You know, but even Hitler -- Hitler didn't start on the issues of Aryan supremacy. He talked about the Jews and money. He talked about the Jews controlling the finances. That, Diane, goes back -- it goes back to Jesus and Judaism.

  • 11:32:49

    REHMThe Bible.

  • 11:32:50

    FOXMANYou know, the Bible. That goes back to the Jews sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And that we've just seen in Argentina, when the president of Argentina goes to a school and tells the kids to read "The Merchant of Venice" and not to read "Romeo and Juliet" to find out what's going on in the world. This is in 2015 by a head of state of a democratic country. We're seeing in South Korea, there's a debate about control of a company, Samsung, and we see the crudest expressions of anti-Semitism -- how the Jews control money and finances. So it goes all the way back 2,000 years ago. And what's so disturbing and scary is that it has vibrancy and vitality to this day.

  • 11:33:38

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." How much of the animosity, if you can call it that, towards Jews and specifically Israel today, do you believe has to do with -- you mentioned, a country cannot even choose its own capital -- but how much of it goes back to the treatment, the negotiations, if you will, or lack thereof with the Palestinians?

  • 11:34:20

    FOXMANI think it's an excuse. I think, I've always believed anti-Semites don't need facts. You know, they create their own facts. If they call you a dirty Jew and you show them how clean you are, it makes no difference. So I think the Arab-Israel conflict -- I know, there are conflicts in the world to this day -- there are more refuges today and created in the last five years than the Arab-Israel conflict and wars have created in 67 years. And yet nobody really cares. Nobody really focuses. And so there is a focus on the Arab-Israel conflict. I think it's being used.

  • 11:34:54

    FOXMANNow criticism of Israel, Diane, your -- people are not anti-Semites if they criticize Israel. There's more criticism of Israel within the State of Israel per square kilometer, per square Jew, than anywhere else in the world. So it's not a question of criticism. It's a question of what is it -- if you criticize Israel for "X," do you criticize anybody else? And so if the only country that you criticize for a certain standard that you believe countries should have is Israel and you ignore Saudi Arabia and China and Cuba, et cetera, then you're an anti -- then your criticism isn't legitimate. It's only to find some fault -- to undermine and criticize Israel's existence.

  • 11:35:36

    FOXMANIf you ask the pope recently -- the pope recently wrote in a letter that for those who delegitimize Israel, which means question Israel's existence, that's anti-Semitism. Because these same people don't question the legitimacy of any other country. Also, when we talk about Zionism, you know what? Is anti-Zionism anti-Semitism. My answer is probably yes because, Diane, what is anti-Zionism? If anti-Zionism says that the Jewish Peoples' National Liberation Movement is racist, okay -- well, every national liberation movement, if you will, is racist because it says, "me," my country, my borders, my flag, my song, my colors, my laws of citizenship.

  • 11:36:26

    FOXMANSo there are these few unique individuals in the world who are opposed to nationalism. But if you're opposed to Zionism, you better be opposed to Palestinian nationalism or French nationalism. And if you're not, if the only nationalism that you don't like is Zionism, Jewish, you're an anti-Semite. So what I find now is it doesn't always start with anti-Semitism. That means you can question and be critical. But I've found, very frequently, that it morphs and metastasizes into anti-Semitism.

  • 11:37:01

    FOXMANFinally, just to say what's happening on the college campus. We recently saw in two universities -- UCLA and Stanford -- the question was asked of a student -- a Jewish student who was running for public office. And they asked them about BDS, which is Boycott Delegitimization (sic) and Sanctions. And that question bothers me. How would you vote on an issue? So it started on the Israel issue. And then it morphed into anti-Semitism because saying, "Your Jewish. You can't have an objective view." That's anti-Semitism.

  • 11:37:37

    REHMAbraham Foxman. He's the outgoing director of the Anti-Defamation League. When we come back, your calls, your comments. I look forward to being with you.

  • 11:40:00

    REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us, Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League is with me. After 50 years with that organization, 30 years at the leadership position, he is stepping down next week. So we are delighted to have him with us, to hear about the ADL's history, about what is happening in the world regarding anti-Semitism and what can be done to combat it.

  • 11:40:46

    REHMWe have a number of people on the lines. Let's go first to Cincinnati, Ohio, Marcelenas, you're on the air.

  • 11:40:57

    MARCELENASGood morning, Diane, a great show as always. I have a question for your guest. I'm a convert to Judaism because my mom converted to Catholicism before I was born, but my concern is with the African-American community, is this new phenomena called (unintelligible) replacement theology, the so-called Rastafari and Israelites who have no concept or any connection to Judaism. And I don't think it's really racial. I think the statement is. But how do you combat that?

  • 11:41:35

    FOXMANHonestly, I am very far from an expert, Rastafarians, et cetera. Look, we live in a society, thank God, that tolerates difference, that respects difference, and you know what? You said you're a convert. God bless you. You made a decision. You made a choice. Follow that, believe in it, advocate it. You know, I wouldn't worry about what other people believe, as long as they respect your right to be who you are and what you are and what you believe.

  • 11:42:06

    FOXMANAnd that's what we fought for. You know, you can have differences, you can have different points of view, whether it's in faith or in politics. So whoever they are, whatever they believe in, as long as they don't challenge your God-given right to be who you are and believe in what you believe, you know what, move on.

  • 11:42:26

    REHMLet's go to William in Concord, New Hampshire. You're on the air.

  • 11:42:32

    WILLIAMThank you for taking my call, Diane.

  • 11:42:34


  • 11:42:35

    WILLIAMI just -- I know your guest has spoken about it to some extent, but I would appreciate if he would just explore a little more for me because I simply never understood why people hate the Jews. I just don't understand. To me it's almost senseless.

  • 11:42:56

    FOXMANWilliam, it's a great question, and if we knew the answer, we'd put ourselves out of business. Mark Twain I'll recommend to you. Mark Twain wrote an essay, "Concerning the Jews." In 1894, he traveled the world, and he lectured, because he got himself into some financial trouble here, and he tried to make up some money, and so he traveled Europe.

  • 11:43:18

    FOXMANAnd he found, you know, your question. Wherever he went, he found anti-Semitism, and he tried to find an answer to it. Why is it? He came to one place, and they hated the Jews because of religion. He went to another place, atheists hated the Jews. Rich people hated the Jews. Poor people hated the Jews. Intelligent people hated the Jews. Ignorant people hated the Jews.

  • 11:43:39

    FOXMANSo he came up with his own answer, and that was jealousy, that jealous because the Jews succeeded, the Jews worked harder, the Jews venerated education and, you know, and if they didn't succeed, they were jealous, you know, it's not me, it's because, you know, they're achieving at my cost. Look, there are some who say it's because the Jews brought morality, the 10 Commandments. And so a lot of people say who needed that, who needed you to give the world these, you know, so I can't do this, and I can't do this, and I shouldn't do this.

  • 11:44:21

    FOXMANSo William, it's a great question. We don't know the answer, but we don't have the luxury to spend time philosophizing in terms of why. We have to fight it, and fighting it is with education and by explaining and saying this a stereotype, this is not true, this is nonsense, this is ignorant, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So, you know, ponder the question, but take every opportunity to stand up and say hey, this is ridiculous, this is bigoted, this is un-American, this is immoral, this is un-Christian or un-Muslim.

  • 11:44:59

    REHMAll right, here is an email from Fidel who says, I think it's critical to qualify, sorry, to clarify that the problem is not Zionism, but occupation of the indigenous Palestinian people. Does Mr. Foxman support the occupation? If so, then how can we appreciate or value any of his contentions toward this historic peace deal?

  • 11:45:35

    FOXMANWell, whoever your -- I commend you to read a little bit of history. The United Nations set up two states and set up a Jewish Palestine and an Arab Palestine. In fact, the parameters and the size in 1947 of the Arab Palestine was two or three times the size of Jewish Palestine. The Jewish people declared themselves Israel, the Jewish state, and the Arab people, unfortunately, the Palestinian people, went to war, and they lost the war.

  • 11:46:09

    FOXMANAnd so that was the beginning, if you will, of occupation because it was not one war, there were five wars to try to eliminate the Jewish state. So do I support it? I support peace. If there is peace, then there is no occupation. But you need to understand that the reason for occupation in '67 was an attack by five Arab countries to try in '67 what they failed to do in '48. So it's an occupation as a result of defending themselves.

  • 11:46:39

    FOXMANIsrael was in Gaza not because it went to Gaza because it needed Gaza. It was in Gaza because it was attacked from Gaza. Now it gave it up again, and it's still being attacked. So yeah, nobody is for occupation. Occupation isn't good for the occupier, it's not good for the occupy-ee. So no, but the only way you're going to eliminate it is by respect, by reconciliation, by peace, by compromise and by acceptance of each other. I hope it will happen in my lifetime and in yours.

  • 11:47:09

    REHMIs there a way to better deal with the question of these settlements and the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu keeps calling for more and more settlements, which -- against which the Palestinians are railing?

  • 11:47:31

    FOXMANWell first, Diane, he's not calling for more and more. He's talking about settlements in certain areas, which, if and when, in our lifetime, there's going to be peace. It's an exchange of territory. And people who are living there will continue there. But let's also not forget something. There wasn't one settlement until '67, and there was no peace. So settlements are not -- settlements are an excuse. I believe it's an incentive because if the Arabs realize that the longer they wait from recognizing Israel's right to exist and making peace with it, there'll be no settlements.

  • 11:48:05

    FOXMANBut Diane, from '47 to '67, there wasn't one single settlement, and you had no peace. You had no Arab country, you know, vie for peace. The fact is Egypt made peace with Israel while there were settlements. Israel removed settlements. Menachem Begin, the great terrorist warrior, he removed cities for peace. Between Israel and Jordan, peace was made with settlements. There were agreements. So first and foremost, there needs to be recognition of each other's existence and respect for each other.

  • 11:48:45

    FOXMANAnd settlements then become part of a settlement. It's not an obstacle, it's not a precondition, and it shouldn't be.

  • 11:48:52

    REHMAll right, and here's a caller in Durham, North Carolina. Sandy, you're on the air.

  • 11:48:58

    SANDYHi, I'm a 35-year-old American Jew, and I've always felt really in touch with my Judaism because I knew, as I was learning my environmental values and social values, I always really knew that they were inherently Jewish values. And I'm very concerned about injustice towards all minorities and especially as a Jew in the South these days, when the U.S. is confronting its own racism.

  • 11:49:20

    SANDYI'm constantly remembering and researching the Jews who were not only active in the civil rights movement as humans, but really as Jews, and I'm wondering if the speaker has any advice about someone -- how someone like me, who doesn't really look like a minority, but want to make sure that my voice is heard as a Jewish voice, how I can not only be an ally, but a Jewish ally?

  • 11:49:41

    FOXMANWell, Sandy, you're doing it right now. I mean, you're not sitting back. You're not waiting for Chaim to do it or Sarah to do it. You're doing it. So that's the way to do it is to stand up. When, you know, the atrocity happened in Charleston, I think there was a Jewish presence like there was a Jewish -- clear Jewish presence in Selma. You know, people forget history. We need to remind ourselves where we were, who we are. You know, I guess the African-American community care to hear. There would have been no NAACP if not for Kivie Kaplan, you know.

  • 11:50:17

    FOXMANSo okay, but there -- unfortunately there's enough bigotry, there's enough prejudice, there's enough discrimination, whether it's against Hispanics, whether it's against other minorities, and you're right, Sandy. We have an obligation, a prophetic obligation of pursuing justice but also historic obligation because we have been persecuted, we have been the victims of prejudice, and I think a debt to this country because this country, while it's not immune from prejudice in terms of anti-Semitism, it is a unique, unique element of Jewish history.

  • 11:50:58

    FOXMANThere is no other country that has received its Jews as openly. You know, we fought it. We had to fight for immigration. We had to fight, you know, hate crimes legislation. We had to fight quotas. It didn't happen by itself. So I think we also owe it to this country to find and to use every opportunity to stand up because, again, Sandy, I think what you're saying to me is, again, what I said earlier, (speaks foreign language), if it's not for myself, who will be? If I'm only for myself, what am I?

  • 11:51:32

    FOXMANSandy, go do it. Go out there. Let your voice be heard. God bless you.

  • 11:51:39

    REHMAnd here is an email from Carol, who says, I believe much of the criticism of Israel in this country is rooted in the fact that we have such a close relationship with Israel and have poured so much support into the creation and maintenance of the state of Israel. We often tend to be most critical of our own family members, and Israel is part of our family. We expect the same standards of it as we expect of ourselves. This means liberty and equality for all who live in the holy land, including Palestinians.

  • 11:52:31

    FOXMANI have no quarrel with that. Just be careful when you spout all these wonderful phrases. You know, we in this country live in great freedom. Our neighbors don't threaten us. Our neighborhood is fine. Okay, it's fine. I don't disagree with one word, but you need to understand, when you are surrounded by enemies who use local populations, et cetera.

  • 11:52:55

    FOXMANSo it's not as simple, it's not as 100 percent altruistic, but yeah, absolutely, America expects its allies to live up to its, you know, its standards and its values. And the reason that our two countries, Israel and the United States, are so close is not only interests, but it is values. We share values. And it is, sadly and unfortunately even to this day, the only democracy. So God willing, there'll be other democracies, maybe a Palestinian democracy, or go back to Lebanon with a free democracy. Then it'll be much easier to live up to the standards and values that you preach and promote.

  • 11:53:36

    REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Here's an email from John. He says, I would like to suggest that what is so often a disagreement about Israel policy is immediately condemned as anti-Semitism. How do you separate the two?

  • 11:53:59

    FOXMANWell, and I try to say it, I try to say it in I don't know how many ways. No, the answer is not. And I said, there's more criticism of Israel in Israel by Israelis. Read the Israeli press. They criticize the government, its policies, issues on the Palestinians, occupation. So it's not a question of criticism. But I ask the question, when you criticize Israel, fine. Do you also, when you find the same lack of whatever, do you criticize it when you see it in China, in Saudi Arabia and in the rest of the world?

  • 11:54:30

    FOXMANIf the only country that you find a blemish or a fault in values is the Jewish state, you know what, you're an anti-Semite. I also ask the question, when there are journalists who carp about Israel this, that's fine. But I say, in their 20 years of writing, have they found anything worthwhile to emulate, anything worthwhile to praise? And when I don't find it, then my answer is hello, this is not legitimate criticism, this is a euphemism for anti-Semitism.

  • 11:54:57

    FOXMANAnd anybody who today questions the legitimacy or the right of the Jewish state to exist, I quote to the Holy Father Pope Francis, who said, you know what, nobody asked -- nobody challenges the existence of any country, but if you do it to Israel, that's anti-Semitism.

  • 11:55:17

    REHMNow give me a sense of how you believe we as individuals can counter what you believe, call, identify as anti-Semitism.

  • 11:55:32

    FOXMANStand up, speak out, challenge, don't, you know, don't let stuff like Jew me down or -- these are classic canards. That legitimizes prejudice. When you hear a prejudiced joke, say it isn't funny. When you hear somebody say something that is prejudiced not only about Jews, about any what we call the other, and the other can be gay, and the other can be black, and the other can be Hispanic, and the other can be Muslim, it doesn't matter. The only way to fight prejudice is to have I would say even courage.

  • 11:56:12

    FOXMANIt isn't that easy, especially for young kids when they're being bullied. You can stop bullying, Diane, by one kid standing up and saying don't say that, don't -- that's not funny. And yet it takes a lot of courage. So I think each one of us has the God-given ability to stand up to say no in whatever situation. But it's not that easy. Diane, I sit here because this woman we talked about, Branislava Kirpy (PH), who wasn't that sophisticated, who wasn't that educated, she stood up to say no. She said this is horrendous.

  • 11:56:49

    FOXMANWhen we watch the movie the "Schindler's List," he was not such a nice guy, but he had no tolerance for evil, and he stood up and said no, and he saved 1,200 lives. Each one of us can stand up to hate and say no.

  • 11:57:03

    REHMAbraham Foxman, next week he steps down as head of the Anti-Defamation League. I want to thank you for all your years of striving, and good luck to you.

  • 11:57:23

    FOXMANI was privileged. Thank you very much.

  • 11:57:26

    REHMThank you, and thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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