AUGUST 5, 2005
(Part Five on ADL director Foxman and the Bloomberg-Independence Party alliance)
The ADL's role in running political interference for the Bloomberg-Independence Party alliance is best understood as reflecting Abe Foxman's longstanding focus on opportunistic fund-raising rather than any kind of principled fight against anti-Semitism. In this context, Foxman's artful effort on behalf of New York's billionaire Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg, bears comparison with his role in winning a presidential pardon for billionaire tax cheat Marc Rich in 2001. The pardon, which was signed by Bill Clinton on his last day in office at the request of Foxman, triggered a storm of Congressional and media protest.
Advocates for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence while spies for America's enemies have usually received much lighter sentences, charged that Foxman had sold out Pollard (by presenting the Rich pardon to Clinton as an easy choice that would be a favor to the ADL and would enable the President to avoid making a decision on the much more controversial Pollard case). Rich, a fugitive living in Switzerland, paid back Foxman by making donations totalling $250,000 to the ADL.
Some in the Jewish community called for Foxman to be fired, but there was no one to do the deed--he had already purged his critics from the ADL regional directorships and the ADL national commission.
After the initial public outrage over his role in the pardon had died down, Foxman said of the incident to Forward reporter Rachel Donadio,"I'm not 100% sure that it's so terrible as it's made out to be." Donadio wrote that when she asked Foxman if the ADL would accept money from Rich in the future, he refused to comment.
Meanwhile Mr. Rich, a sociopathic swindler with no loyalty to the United States or Israel, went on to help the Saddam Hussein regime manipulate the UN's oil-for-food program, generating cash that U.S. investigators believe was used in part to reward the families of intifada suicide bombers. He is now, again, under federal investigation.
Next there was the ADL dinner Foxman organized for Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian media billionaire turned prime minister, at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel in September 2003. Three weeks before the dinner, Berlusconi indiscreetly praised fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, Hitler's closest ally in World War Two, saying that "Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini sent people away on vacation, in internal exile."
When challenged on this, Berlusconi (whose 1994 government had been the first since Mussolini's day to include former fascists, and whose current government has included them on its highest levels since 2001) said that he had merely meant to say that Il Duce was not in the same league with Saddam Hussein.
This excuse was absurd on the face of it: If you add up all the people Mussolini's regime slaughtered in Libya during two decades of colonial genocide; Ethiopia, where his pilots used poison gas Chemical Ali-style during the infamous invasion of 1935-36; Spain, where his troops fought for Franco; Russia, where Italian divisions participated in the 1941 Nazi invasion; Albania, which Italy grabbed in 1939; and Greece, invaded in 1940--plus all the Italians who died during the Allied invasion and later at the hands of German occupiers--Mussolini was without a doubt a Hussein-class murderer if not quite in Hitler or Stalin's Superbowl category.
The Italian Jewish community was especially appalled by Berlusconi's statement because of the 7,000 Italian Jews deported as a result of Il Duce's policies to "vacations" in Hitler's death camps. The Forward (Sept. 26, 2003) quoted Tullia Zevi, past president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities: "I suggested that he [Foxman] postpone it [the dinner]. To celebrate a man who has said such things is insulting the memory of these people who suffered under these times."
Foxman not only went ahead with the dinner (having induced not-quite-billionaire Leonard Riggio of Barnes & Noble to chair it) but also rewarded Berlusconi with the ADL's "Distinguished Statesman" award. The ADL director justified this by saying Berlusconi was more friendly to Israel than were other European leaders. (Note: Abe Foxman is not the foreign minister of Israel; he is the director of an American nonprofit with the purported mission of combating extremists--including hate groups and Holocaust deniers who doubtless applauded Berlusconi's remarks. Foxman had no business organizing the Berlusconi dinner in the first place, and once the Italian leader's offensive remarks were made public, the ADL should have canceled the event because of the conflict of interest it created with the ADL's primary mission.)
A fitting footnote to Berlusconi's receipt of the ADL distinguished statesman award was his appointment of Gianfranco Fini, leader of the former fascist National Alliance, as his foreign minister in 2004. This is the same Fini who claimed in 1994 that Mussolini was "the greatest statesman of the 20th century."
Now we see a replay of the Rich scandal and the Berlusconi embarrassment in Foxman's attempts to be useful to Mayor Bloomberg. To suggest what may be motivating Foxman, we quote from a New York Post article ("Sweet Charity: Mayor Mike plans to offload media empire," Jan. 11, 2005):
Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be getting ready to sell his financial information giant to fund a mammoth philanthropic effort after he quits public office.
Bloomberg L.P.--the media and financial information company that is the source of much of his wealth--will be sold to finance the charitable binge, he said recently....
Bloomberg said he views the charitable giving of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and wife Melinda as a model he'd like to emulate.
"I've watched the Gateses. Some of my priorities aren't exactly the same as theirs, but they've really gotten involved in philanthropy on a scale the world has never seen before."
Is it any surprise that Foxman wrote to Bloomberg in April to tell him he was the "best of the best" and to offer, in effect, to go to bat for the mayor at a moment when the latter was under attack for his close involvement with the anti-Semitic Newman-Fulani organization? In the months since then, the ADL has avoided any criticism of the mayor's Independence Party ties whatsoever, either direct or indirect, and has fallen into line with the mayor's campaign spin doctors to suggest that Fulani is only one person in a party of basically good people.
The ADL has thus become complicit in the Bloomberg-IP alliance--a sordid deal that has bestowed great political influence on Newman and Fulani as well as providing them with the financial resources to indoctrinate New York's kids on a significant scale (Newman and Fulani leveraged their $8.7 million All Stars loan from the Bloomberg administration into tens of millions of dollars in private donations).
The loan to All Stars could have been easily stopped in 2002 if the ADL leadership had been on its toes and Foxman had himself gone to public hearings of the city's Industrial Development Agency to denounce the proposal. But Foxman, whose organization receives roughly $40 million a year from Jews who expect it to handle this type of problem, ignored the All Stars bond proposal even after the media warned of its provisional (first stage) approval in December 2001.
Although it is true than no other major Jewish organization stepped into the breach at that time, some of these groups are now trying to force the mayor to sever his ties to the Independence Party, All Stars and the entire Newman-Fulani network.
The ADL, however, is playing no visible role in such efforts. Clearly it needs a new national director who will reorder its priorities away from begging money from billionaires and back to its original mission of waging a principled fight against bigotry and extremism.