At a New York summit on the state of anti-Semitism today, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said he would sign up if Muslims in the United States are ever forced to put their names on a registry.
According to a Reuters report, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an adviser to President-elect Donald Trump and member of his transition team, said that the working group on immigration was talking about potential executive orders “so that Trump and the Department of Homeland Security hit the ground running.” That could include, Reuters reported, a reinstatement of a national registry of immigrants and visitors from countries where Islamic extremist groups are active.
On Fox News this week, former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie, a spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC, said there was precedent for a registry in the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “We’ve done it based on race, we’ve done it based on religion, we’ve done it based on region,” he said. “We’ve done it with Iran back — back a while ago. We did it during World War II with Japanese.”
In his opening remarks at the daylong “Never Is Now” ADL summit on anti-Semitism, the first such conference held by the ADL in the group’s 100-year history, Greenblatt stressed that “by and large, America and American life have been remarkably tolerant and welcoming.”
“The Jewish community lives here in this country with historic privilege and has achieved unprecedented success,” he said. “And yet, today, I think all of us fear that something has changed. There are troubling signs. Now they may be subtle, they may go unnoticed by the vast majority of Americans, but we see them. We know.”
That includes anti-Semitism and anti-Israel policies and sentiment on college campuses, a platform from some in the Black Lives Matter movement that slandered Israel, “and then of course there is what we have seen this election season.”
“The harassment and hate that bubbled up around the campaigns was unlike anything we have seen in recent history,” Greenblatt said. “This was an election where a presidential candidate criticized Israel in a manner that evoked a blood libel; where another unapologetically tweeted a sinister Star of David meme that had been created by white supremacists; it promoted a campaign slogan that evoked the phrase most associated with notorious Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh, and sponsored a closing television ad that echoed anti-Semitic conspiracies that have been used to justify anti-Jewish persecution for centuries.”
“During this political season, we saw white supremacists use a triple parentheses to target Jews online and simultaneously, relentlessly harass and intimidate Jewish journalists on social media with anti-Semitic tropes and horrific images of the Holocaust. In short, the American Jewish community has not seen this level of anti-Semitism in mainstream political and public discourse since the 1930s.”
Greenblatt noted “it is only being matched with escalating levels of hate toward other minorities, too, including Latinos, the disabled, Muslims, African-Americans, and the LGBT community.”
“We need to wrap our heads around the threats from the radical left that seek to de-legitimize Jewish peoplehood and an extreme right that is embracing white nationalism and other racialist ideas that are anti-Semitic to their core,” he said. “…We need to speak out when we see anti-Semitism and bigotry — no matter the source, whether it’s a publicly traded company or a high-ranking public official, whether it’s what you hear from a progressive street protester or a conservative radio host. No one has an excuse for excusing intolerance.”
The ADL director said that mission must extend to standing with “our fellow Americans who may be singled out for how they look, who they love, where they’re from or how they pray.”
“And let me say this. There recently have been reports that the new administration plans to force Muslim-Americans to register for some sort of master government list,” Greenblatt said. “Look, Islamic extremism is a threat to us all. But as Jews, we know what it means to be registered and tagged, held out as different from our fellow citizens.”
“As Jews, we know the righteous and just response. All of us have heard the story of the Danish king who said if his country’s Jews had to wear a gold star, all of Denmark would too,” he added. “So I pledge to you right here and now, because I care about the fight against anti-Semitism, that if one day in these United States, if one day Muslim-Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.”
“Because fighting prejudice against the marginalized is not just the fight of those minorities. It’s our fight. Just as the fight against anti-Semitism is not only the fight of us Jews. It’s everyone’s fight.”
Greenblatt predicted that “no doubt” the ADL would make enemies if such a scenario came to pass.
“Just like we made enemies when we took on the KKK in the 1930s, just like when we spoke out against Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, and just like when we marched for Soviet Jewry in the 1970s,” he said. “But making powerful enemies is the price one sometimes must pay when speaking truth to power.”