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Abraham Foxman

Abraham Foxman is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a position he has held since 1987.  He has worked for the organization since 1965. In 2006, he was awarded[…]
Question: How has the nature of anti-Semitism during your tenure at rnthe ADL?

Abraham Foxman: It’s not an exact science, rnbut when we take attitudes of polling and we check attitudes from when Irn started which was 45 years ago, about one out of three Americans was rninfected, seriously infected, with anti-Semitism.  Today, 45 years rnlater, not all to my doing or even the ADL, but changing society and rnenvironment, some litigation, legislation, education, it’s gone down to rnabout 12, 14 percent of the American public.  Twelve, fourteen percent rnis still 40 million Americans, which is still quite serious, and we’re rntalking about somebody that’s seriously infected.  And I’m sure there’s rnanother 40 million who may believe Jews are too powerful in finance, or rnthey control the government, or Hollywood, or killed Christ, or aren’t rnloyal, and these are all stereotypes of anti-Semitism that still exist. rn But on the whole, it has changed because at least it’s unacceptable; rnit’s not PC to be anti-Semitic, and so from that perspective I think rnfewer people engage in it. 

The greatest challenge, the new rnchallenge we face is what we’re engaged in now, and that’s the Internet,rn the web, the World Wide Web.  On one hand... on one hand it’s a rnmagnificent boom to education, to interaction, to communication in all rnkinds of ways, but it also has provided a dark underbelly of a rnsuperhighway for bigotry.  These are the unintended consequences of thisrn magnificent creation, invention, and expansion of dialogue and rninformation.  But, you could today, anonymously communicate bigotry in rnnanoseconds across the globe. 

In the 50s the Anti-Defamation rnLeague helped model and advocate a law called the Anti-Masking Law whichrn we helped it act in the state of Georgia of all people.  And what that rnlaw said is if you want to be a bigot, if you want to demonstrate and rnprotest as a bigot that’s your right under the Constitution, but you rncan’t have your head covered.  You can’t hide your identity.  You can’t rnwear a white mask, or a black mask, or a purple mask; you have to take rnresponsibility for your bigotry.  And in fact, that was the law that hadrn the greatest impact to break the back of the Ku Klux Klan because all rnthese bigots who were all ready to do their bigotry hiding their rnidentity, who happen to be lawyers, and store keepers, and judges, and rnwhatever, all of a sudden lost their courage.  Fast forward 50 years rnlater, and that mask has been put back through the internet.  And so rntoday you can be a bigot.  You could be a bigot anonymously, you could rnenter somebody’s home, invade their privacy, and we see it... we see it rnso dramatic in cyber-bullying.

Recorded on June 11, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman