The announced retirement of the head of the Anti-Defamation League drew tributes from both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday despite Abe Foxman’s recent criticism of recent Kerry comments on Israel and concern over the Iran nuclear deal.
Foxman, 73, who will step down in July 2015, said his 27-year tenure at the helm of the ADL “could not have been more rewarding.”
“We have never lost sight of the fact that we are an organization whose first priority is to fight anti-Semitism and protect the Jewish people,” said Foxman, a Holocaust survivor hidden as a child by a Catholic woman. “I’m proud of all that we have accomplished.”
“For decades, Abe Foxman has been a tireless voice against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all of its forms, always calling us to reject hatred and embrace our common humanity,” President Obama said in a statement. “Michelle and I wish him well as he prepares to leave the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League – an organization that he built, and led with such passion and persistence. Abe is irreplaceable, but the causes that he has dedicated his life to will continue to inspire people in the United States, Israel, and around the world.”
Kerry called Foxman “an institution.”
“When I was a freshman Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee, getting more and more involved in the Middle East, mentors told me, ‘go see Abe.’ I’m glad I did. This is a guy who spent his entire life fighting hatred and advocating for justice around the country and across the globe. He’s got a moral compass and a clarity of purpose that has remained rock solid for the almost three decades I worked with him. He’s this great Jeremiah-like figure — always on watch and never afraid to speak his mind. And the cause of peace and the security of the state of Israel is stronger for his service,” Kerry said.
Foxman recently issued an open letter to Kerry after the secretary of State made comments about the prices Israel would pay if it didn’t acquiesce to the U.S. peace process.
“In speaking about the price Israel will pay if the peace talks break down and Israel is blamed, you may have thought you were merely describing reality. But as the key player in the process, the impact of your comments was to create a reality of its own,” Foxman wrote. “…What is particularly troubling about your comments is the absence of similar tough talk about the consequences for Palestinians should the talks fail… its absence suggests a historical amnesia about why there has been no peace and no solution all these years.”
The ADL leader also praised Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who has angered Obama and Kerry with his Iran sanctions bill.
“We are deeply concerned that Iran’s nuclear program has progressed to a point where a final agreement must result in it being significantly rolled back,” Foxman said.
Last week the ADL presented President George W. Bush with its highest honor, the America’s Democratic Legacy Award, which is given to “those precious few individuals who have helped make our nation a place where freedom, equality and democracy are cherished rights forever.”
“You led a united American people through the trauma of an attack that in one day redefined our sense of security and our domestic and foreign policy,” Foxman told Bush at the ceremony. “When you were called on to respond to unspeakable terror, hate and violence, you refused to let America give into stereotypes.”