Founded in October 1913 by B'nai B'rith with Sigmund Livingston as its first leader, the ADL's charter states,
The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.
The Anti-Defamation League was founded by B'nai B'rith as a response to attacks on Jews; the Leo Frank affair was mentioned by Adolf Kraus when he announced the creation of the ADL.
The stated purpose of the ADL is to fight:
anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry (in the United States) and abroad, combat international terrorism, probe the roots of hatred, advocate before the United States Congress, come to the aid of victims of bigotry, develop educational programs, and serve as a public resource for government, media, law enforcement, and the public, all towards the goal of countering and reducing hatred.
Historically, the ADL has opposed groups and individuals it considered to be anti-Semitic and/or racist, including: Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin (leader of the Christian Front), the Christian Identity movement, the German-American Bund, neo-Nazis, the American militia movement and white power skinheads (although the ADL acknowledges that there are also non-racist skinheads). The ADL publishes reports on a variety of countries, regarding alleged incidents of anti-Jewish attacks and propaganda.
The ADL maintains that some forms of anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel cross the line into anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League states:
Criticism of particular Israeli actions or policies in and of itself does not constitute anti-Semitism. Certainly the sovereign State of Israel can be legitimately criticized just like any other country in the world. However, it is undeniable that there are those whose criticism of Israel or of "Zionism" is used to mask anti-Semitism.
The ADL gives out its Courage to Care Award to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era.
Since 2010 the ADL has published a list of the "ten leading organizations responsible for maligning Israel in the US," which has included ANSWER, the International Solidarity Movement, and Jewish Voice for Peace for its call for BDS.
In October 2010, the ADL condemned remarks by Haham Ovadia Yosef that the sole purpose of non-Jews was to serve the Jews.
When the anti-Mormon film The God Makers was produced, Rhonda M. Abrams, Central Pacific (San Francisco) Regional Director for the ADL wrote a critical review, including the following statement:
Had a similar movie been made with either Judaism or Catholicism as its target, it would be immediately denounced for the scurrilous piece that it is. I sincerely hope that people of all faiths will similarly repudiate "The Godmakers" as defamatory and untrue, and recognize it for what it truly represents—a challenge to the religious liberty of all.
One of the ADL's major focuses is religious freedom for people of all faiths. In the context of public schools, the ADL has taken the position that because creationism and intelligent design are religious beliefs, and the government is prohibited from endorsing the beliefs of any particular religion, they should not be taught in science classrooms: "The U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to believe the religious theories of creation (as well as other theories) but it does not permit them to be taught in public school science classes." Similarly, the ADL supports the legal precedent that it is unconstitutional for the government to post the Ten Commandments in courthouses, schools, and other public places: "True religious liberty means freedom from having the government impose the religion of the majority on all citizens." The ADL has also condemned the public school Bible curriculum published by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, saying that it raises "serious constitutional problems" and "advocates the acceptance of one faith tradition's interpretation of the Bible over another." The ADL opposed Proposition 8 and supported the Matthew Shepard Act.
The ADL keeps track of the activities of various extremist groups and movements. According to ADL Director Abe Foxman, "Our mission is to monitor and expose those who are anti-Jewish, racist, anti-democratic, and violence-prone, and we monitor them primarily by reading publications and attending public meetings …. Because extremist organizations are highly secretive, sometimes ADL can learn of their activities only by using undercover sources … [who] function in a manner directly analogous to investigative journalists. Some have performed great service to the American people—for example, by uncovering the existence of right-wing extremist paramilitary training camps—with no recognition and at considerable personal risk." A person apprehended in connection to the 2002 white supremacist terror plot had drawn a cartoon of himself blowing up the Boston offices of the ADL.
The ADL regularly releases reports on anti-Semitism and extremist activities on the far left and the far right. For instance, as part of its Law Enforcement Agency Resource Network (L.E.A.R.N.), the ADL has published information about the Militia Movement in America and a guide for law enforcement officials titled Officer Safety and Extremists. An archive of "The Militia Watchdog" research on U.S. right-wing extremism (including groups not specifically cited as anti-Semitic) from 1995 to 2000 is also available on the ADL website.
In the 1990s, some details of the ADL's monitoring activities became public and controversial, including the fact that the ADL had gathered information about some non-extremist groups.
In October 2008 the ADL reportedly assisted the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) by providing, on request, information on Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and their associates and contacts, and on their ties to the Supreme White Alliance. Shortly thereafter the two men were arrested on charges of plotting to murder dozens of African Americans and plotting to assassinate US President-elect Barack Obama.
The ADL holds that it is important to remember the Holocaust, in order to prevent such an event from reoccurring. Along with sponsoring events and fighting Holocaust deniers and revisionists, the ADL has been active in urging action to stop modern-day ethnic cleansing and genocide in places such as Bosnia, Darfur, and Sudan.
The ADL spoke out against an advertising campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) beginning in 2003 that equated meat-eating with the Holocaust. A press release from the ADL stated that "PETA's effort to seek 'approval' for their 'Holocaust on Your Plate' campaign is outrageous, offensive and takes chutzpah to new heights. Rather than deepen our revulsion against what the Nazis did to the Jews, the project will undermine the struggle to understand the Holocaust and to find ways to make sure such catastrophes never happen again." In May 2005 PETA apologized for its campaign, with PETA President Ingrid Newkirk stating that causing pain "was never our intention, and we are deeply sorry."
The national ADL issued a "Statement on the Armenian Genocide" on August 21, 2007. The statement declared, "The consequences of those actions were indeed tantamount to genocide." Activists felt that the statement was not a full, unequivocal acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide, because the use of the qualifier "tantamount" was seen as inappropriate, and the use of the word "consequences" was seen as an attempt to circumvent the international legal definition of genocide by avoiding any language that would imply intent, a crucial aspect of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention definition. The ADL convened its national meeting in New York City in early November 2007 at which time the issue of the Armenian Genocide was discussed. Upon conclusion, a one sentence press statement was issued that "The National Commission of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today, at its annual meeting, decided to take no further action on the issue of the Armenian genocide."
The ADL supports the Jewish state and has vociferously opposed resolutions such as the 1975 United Nations resolution (revoked in 1991) which equated Zionism with racism, and attempts to revive that formulation at the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. The ADL also has expressed concern over Israeli legislative proposals that would stifle freedom of expression and undermine Israeli democracy.
The ADL honors individuals throughout the year for various reasons. On September 23, 2003, at its Tribute to Italy Dinner, the ADL awarded Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi the ADL's distinguished statesman award, an honor "conferred on world leaders who exhibit a commitment to furthering the achievement of regional and world peace, and who possess a special commitment to promoting human and civil rights." Berlusconi is also known for his staunch pro-Israel stance.
The ADL has spoken out against red-baiting and McCarthyism.
In 2006 the ADL condemned Senate Republicans in the United States for attempting to ban same-sex marriage with the Federal Marriage Amendment and praised its demise, calling it "discrimination." That same year the ADL warned that the debate over illegal immigration was drawing neo-nazis and anti-Semites into the ranks of the Minutemen Project.
In 1974 ADL national leaders Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein published a book called The New Anti-Semitism (New York, 1974), arguing that a new kind of anti-Semitism is on the rise. In 1982, ADL national leader Nathan Perlmutter and his wife, Ruth Ann Perlmutter, released a book entitled The Real Anti-Semitism in America (New York, 1982). In 2003, ADL's national director Abraham Foxman published Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (San Francisco, 2003), where on page 4 he states: "We currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s—if not a greater one."
In 2010, during a hearing for Florida House Bill 11 (Crimes Against Homeless Persons) which was to revise the list of offenses judged to be hate crimes in Florida by adding a person's homeless status, the League lobbied against the bill, which subsequently passed in the House by a vote of 80 to 28 and was sent to the Senate, taking the position that adding more categories to the list would dilute the effectiveness of the law, which already includes race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and age.
The ADL supports Comprehensive and DREAM Act legislation that would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal aliens of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment.
On June 18, 2004 the ADL issued a news release about the University of California Irvine (UCI) Muslim Students Union in which the student group had invited speakers to campus who made public declarations of support for Hamas, advocated suicide bombings and called for the destruction of Israel. For graduation, Muslim Students Union members chose to wear green (the traditional colour of Islam) graduation stoles bearing the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith. The ADL's press release explained that the Shahada is a declaration of faith that has been closely identified with Palestinian terrorists, and said that suicide bombers connected to the Palestinian group Hamas wear green armbands and headbands inscribed with the Shahada as a symbol of their movement, and stated, "We are troubled that members of the (UCI) Muslim Students Union have chosen to display symbolism that is closely identified with Palestinian terrorist groups and that can be especially offensive to Jewish students."
The ADL has publicly opposed anti-Islamic organizations like Stop Islamization of America and Stop Islamization of Europe and activists like Pamela Geller and David Yerushalmi, describing them as "anti-Muslim bigots."
In 1997, the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations of Dillard University, a historically black university in New Orleans awarded the director of the ADL, Abraham H. Foxman, with the first Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. – Donald R. Mintz Freedom and Justice Award.
In 2004, the ADL became the lead partner in the Peace and Diversity Academy, a new New York City public high school with predominantly black and Hispanic students.
In celebration of Black History Month, the ADL created and distributed lesson plans to middle and high school teachers about Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005), the first black woman elected to the US Congress, and an important civil rights leader.
The ADL has also publicly charged certain African Americans with anti-Semitism:The ADL has catalogued a three-decade history of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's espousal of anti-Semitic rhetoric such as claims that certain Jews are "not real Jews" and that they are "wicked deceivers of the American people" who "sucked [Americans'] blood", and that powerful Jews promote homosexuality and control black leadership. Farrakhan first attracted the attention of the ADL with comments in a March 11, 1984 radio broadcast saying that "Hitler was a very great man." Farrakhan insists that he was using the word 'great' in the sense of 'Great Depression' or 'great white shark'. and on June 24, 1984 he described the Jewish state as "structured on injustice, thievery, lying and deceit and using the name of God to shield your dirty religion under His holy and righteous name." The ADL has urged various groups including the NAACP (whose leader Benjamin Chavis developed a working relationship with Farrakhan in 1994) to dissociate themselves from Farrakhan and his views.
In 1984 The Boston Globe reported that then ADL national director, Nathan Perlmutter, said that Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. was anti-Semitic, after Jackson referred to New York City as "Hymietown." However, the ADL later reconciled with Jackson and has worked with him on the issue of the Iranian Jewish community.
Film Director Spike Lee was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for his portrayal of Jewish nightclub owners Moe and Josh Flatbush in his 1990 film Mo' Better Blues. The Anti-Defamation League claimed that the characterizations of the nightclub owners "dredge up an age-old and highly dangerous form of anti-Semitic stereotyping," and "...disappointed that Spike Lee – whose success is largely due to his efforts to break down racial stereotypes and prejudice – has employed the same kind of tactics that he supposedly deplores." Lee's portrayal also angered the B'nai B'rith and other such Jewish organizations causing Lee to apologize via an Opinion-Editorial article in The New York Times.
During the 2002 election cycle, the ADL, in a letter to The New York Times, harshly criticized Congressional Black Caucus member Cynthia McKinney of Georgia for launching attacks perceived as racial against her Jewish opponent. According to an August 19, 2002 article in The New York Times ADL Director Abraham Foxman said, "it made sense that Jewish Americans would want to contribute to efforts to replace Ms. McKinney."
In February 2005, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman called it hypocritical for hip-hop producer Russell Simmons to lead an ad campaign against anti-Semitism while also, according to Foxman's view, defending or excusing Louis Farrakhan's anti-Semitic statements. Later that year the ADL urged prominent black leaders including Simmons to reconsider their support for Farrakhan and Malik Zulu Shabazz organizing the Millions More Movement and to "stand up" against black anti-Semitism. Simmons, responding to ADL Director Abraham Foxman, said "simply put, you are misguided, arrogant, and very disrespectful of African Americans and most importantly your statements will unintentionally or intentionally lead to a negative impression of Jews in the minds of millions of African Americans." Foxman replied, "If there were a Jewish event which was led by an out-and-out racist, I would expect Black leaders to say to me that ADL should have nothing to do with it. And I would agree with them, rather than condemn them for their action."
ADL's New England Regional Office has also established a faith-based initiative called "The Interfaith Youth Leadership Program," better known as "Camp If," or Camp Interfaith. Involving teenagers of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths, the camp brings the teens together for a week at camp where the teens bond and learn about each other's cultures. The camp has emerged as a new attempt to foster good relations between younger members of the Abrahamic faiths.
Since the 1930s the ADL has been gathering information and publishing reports on whatever it identifies as anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, and on anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, racist, anti-democratic, violent, and extremist individuals and groups. As a result, the organization amassed what it once called a "famous storehouse of accurate, detailed, unassailable information on extremist individuals and organizations." Over the decades the ADL has assembled thousands of files.
One of its sources for the 1980s and 1990s was Roy Bullock, an intelligence gatherer for the South African apartheid regime, a private collector of information. He amassed files on 10,000-12,000 individuals and 600 organizations and provided them to the ADL as a secretly paid independent contractor for over 32 years. Bullock often wrote letters to various groups and forwarded copies of their replies to the ADL, clipped articles from newspapers and magazines, and maintained files on his computer. He also used less orthodox, and possibly illegal, methods such as combing through trash and tapping into White Aryan Resistance's phone message system in order to find evidence of hate crimes. Some of the information he obtained and then passed on to the ADL came from confidential documents (including intelligence files on various Nazi groups and driver's license records and other personal information on nearly 1,400 people) that were given to him by San Francisco police officer Tom Gerard.
On April 8, 1993, police seized Bullock's computer and raided the ADL offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. A search of Bullock's computer revealed that he had compiled files on 9,876 individuals and more than 950 groups across the political spectrum. Many of Bullock's files concerned groups that did not fit the mold of extremist groups, hate groups, and organizations hostile to Jews or Israel that the ADL would usually be interested in. Along with files on the Ku Klux Klan, White Aryan Resistance, Islamic Jihad and the Jewish Defense League were data on the NAACP, the African National Congress (ANC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the United Auto Workers, the AIDS activist group ACT UP, Mother Jones magazine, the TASS Soviet/Russian news agency, Greenpeace, Jews for Jesus and the National Lawyers Guild; there were also files on politicians including Democratic U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, former Republican U.S. Representative Pete McCloskey, and activist Lyndon LaRouche. Bullock told investigators that many of those were his own private files, not information he was passing on to the ADL. An attorney for the ADL stated that "We knew nothing about the vast extent of the files. Those are not ADL's files. … That is all [Bullock's] doing." As for its own records, the ADL indicated that just because it had a file on a group, that did not mean that the ADL opposed the group. The San Francisco district attorney at the time accused the ADL of conducting a national "spy network," but dropped all accusations a few months later, judging it to be a force for good. The ADL then offered the district attorney's office a sum of $75,000 to fight bigotry, which was duly accepted.
In the weeks following the raids, twelve civil rights groups led by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the National Lawyers Guild, filed a lawsuit demanding that the ADL release its surveillance information and end its investigations, as well as ordering it to pay punitive damages. The plaintiffs' attorney, former Representative McCloskey, claimed that the information the ADL gathered constituted an invasion of privacy. The ADL, while distancing itself from Bullock, countered that it is entitled like any researcher or journalist to research organizations and individuals. Richard Cohen, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, stated that like journalists, the ADL's researchers "gather information however they can" and welcome disclosures from confidential sources, saying "they probably rely on their sources to draw the line" on how much can legally be divulged. Bullock admitted that he was overzealous, and that some of the ways in which he gathered information may have been illegal.
The lawsuit was settled out of court in 1999. The ADL agreed to pay $175,000 for the court costs of the groups, two of them Jewish, that sued it, promised that it would not seek information from sources it knew could not legally disclose such information, consented to remove sensitive information like criminal records or Social Security numbers from its files, and spent $25,000 in order to further relations between the Jewish, Arab and black communities. When the case was settled, Hussein Ibish, director of communications for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), claimed that the ADL had gathered data "systematically in a program whose clear intent was to undermine civil rights and Arab-American organizations." ADL national director Abraham Foxman called the ADC's claims "absolutely untrue," saying that "if it were true, they would have won their case" and noted that no court found the ADL guilty of any wrongdoing. The ADL released a statement saying that the settlement "explicitly recognizes ADL's right to gather information in any lawful and constitutionally protected manner, which we have always done and will continue to do." John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argue that the organization, rather than defending Jews from bigotry, was targeting individuals critical of Israel or of U.S. support for Israel.
A case which has been compared to the Bullock case was that of James Mitchell Rosenberg, aka Jim Anderson. Rosenberg/Anderson was an undercover operative of the ADL who acted as an agent provocateur, posing as a racist right-wing paramilitary extremist. He appeared in this role as part of a TV documentary entitled Armies of the Right which premiered in 1981. Rosenberg was arrested that same year in New York for carrying an unregistered firearm in public view. In 1984, ADL fact-finding director Irwin Suall identified Rosenberg as an ADL operative in a court deposition.
In 2007, Abraham Foxman came under criticism for his stance on the Armenian Genocide. The ADL had previously described it as a "massacre" and an "atrocity," but not as a "genocide." Foxman had earlier opposed calls for the U.S. Government to recognise it as a "genocide." "I don't think congressional action will help reconcile the issue. The resolution takes a position; it comes to a judgment," said Foxman in a statement issued to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn't be the arbiter of that history, nor should the U.S. Congress, and "a Congressional resolution on such matters is a counterproductive diversion and will not foster reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community and the important multilateral relationship between Turkey, Israel and the United States."
In early August 2007, complaints about the Anti-Defamation League's refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide led to the Watertown, Massachusetts unanimous town council decision to end its participation in the ADL's "No Place for Hate" campaign. (Watertown is known for its Armenian population.) Also in August 2007, an editorial in The Boston Globe criticized the ADL by saying that "as an organization concerned about human rights, it ought to acknowledge the genocide against the Armenian people during World War I, and criticize Turkish attempts to repress the memory of this historical reality." Then on August 17, 2007, the ADL fired its regional New England director, Andrew H. Tarsy, for breaking ranks with the main organization and for saying that the ADL should recognize the genocide. In an August 21, 2007 press release, the ADL changed its position and acknowledged the genocide but maintained its opposition to congressional resolutions aimed at recognizing it. Foxman wrote, "the consequences of those actions," by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians, "were indeed tantamount to genocide." The Turkish government condemned the league's statement. Andrew H. Tarsy was rehired by the league on August 27, though he has since chosen to step down from his position.
The ADL was criticized by many in the Armenian community including The Armenian Weekly newspaper, in which writer Michael Mensoian stated:
The belated backtracking of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in acknowledging the planned, systematic massacre of 1,500,000 Armenian men, women and children as "…tantamount to genocide…" is discouraging. Tantamount means something is equivalent. If it's equivalent, why avoid using the term? For the ADL to justify its newly adopted statement because the word genocide did not exist at the time indicates a halfhearted attempt to placate Armenians while not offending Turkey. Historians use the term genocide simply because it is the proper term to describe the horrific events that the Ottoman Turkish government unleashed on the Armenian people.
After Foxman's capitulation, the New England ADL pressed the organization's national leadership to support a congressional resolution acknowledging the genocide. After hours of closed-door debate at the annual national meeting in New York, the proposal was ultimately withdrawn. The organization issued a statement saying it would "take no further action on the issue of the Armenian genocide." The ADL had earlier received direct pressure from the Turkish Foreign ministry. Tarsy submitted his resignation on December 4.
Since August, some human rights commissions in other Massachusetts communities decided to follow Watertown's lead and withdraw from the ADL's No Place for Hate anti-discrimination program.
The famous linguist and left-wing commentator and activist Noam Chomsky has characterized the ADL as having lost entirely its focus on civil rights issues in order to become solely an advocate for Israeli policy; he holds that the ADL casts all left-wing opposition to Israeli interests as antisemitism.
In 2006, the ADL, in addition to the American Jewish Committee, was criticized by academic Tony Judt for allegedly pressuring the Polish Consulate-General in New York to cancel a scheduled appearance by Judt at Network 20/20, a non-profit organization that rents space from the consulate. In an interview with the New York Sun, Foxman claimed that the group "had nothing to do with the cancellation," insisting that the ADL only called to ask if the event was being sponsored by the Polish government. Polish Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk suggested in an interview with The Washington Post that calls by the ADL and the American Jewish Committee were "exercising a delicate pressure." In reference to the role of the ADL and the American Jewish Committee in organizing the cancellations, Judt told The Washington Post: "This is serious and frightening, and only in America—not in Israel—is this a problem. These are Jewish organizations that believe they should keep people who disagree with them on the Middle East away from anyone who might listen." The ADL denied the charges. According to Foxman, "I think they made the right decision... He's taken the position that Israel shouldn't exist. That puts him on our radar."
In 1994, the ADL became embroiled in a dispute between neighbors in Denver, Colorado. Upon the involvement of the ADL, the petty quarreling of next door neighbors, initially about garden plants and pets, quickly escalated into both civil and criminal court cases involving charges of anti-Semitism, and counter charges of defamation.
Candace and Mitchell Aronson, Jewish next door neighbors of William and Dorothy Quigley, used a Radio Shack police scanner to listen in on the cordless telephone conversations of Mr.& Mrs. Quigley. When the Aronsons heard the Quigleys discuss a campaign to drive them from the neighborhood with "Nazi scare tactics," the Aronsons contacted the Denver office of the ADL. Upon the advice of the ADL, the Aronsons then recorded the Quigley's private telephone conversations. The conversations included discussions of putting pictures of oven doors on the Aronsons' home (a reference to the Holocaust), burning one of the Aronson children, and wishing that the Aronsons had been killed in a suicide bombing. (The Quigleys later indicated that these remarks were not anti-Semitic, and were only intended to be sick humor.) Neither the Aronsons nor the ADL were aware that Congress had amended federal wiretap law which made it illegal to record conversations from a cordless telephone, to transcribe the material and to use the transcriptions for any purpose.
Not knowing about the new federal law, the Aronsons used the tapes as the basis for a federal civil lawsuit against the Quigleys in December 1994. A day later, Saul Rosenthal, Regional Director of the ADL, appeared at a news conference with the Aronsons in which he described their encounter with the Quigleys as "a vicious anti-Semitic campaign", based solely on conversations he and associates had with the Aronsons. Later that day, Mr. Rosenthal expanded on his remarks in an interview on a Denver radio talk show.
Two days later, Jefferson County prosecutors used the tapes as the basis for filing criminal charges against the Quigleys.
The Quigleys became the target of scorn and ridicule. They received threats, and were forced to hire security guards for their home. A package of dog feces was mailed to their house. When they attended church, their priest openly chastised them in his sermon. The family was forced to shop in other towns, to avoid being recognized. Mr. Quigley's career with United Artists suffered serious damage.
Upon investigation, and after assistant district attorney Steven Jensen heard on the tapes the context of Mrs. Quigley's remarks, all charges but one, a misdemeanor traffic violation against Mr. Quigley, were dropped. The district attorney issued two letters of apology to the Quigleys, saying he found no evidence that either had engaged in "anti-Semitic conduct or harassment."
The Quigleys brought a lawsuit against the ADL, Rosenthal, the Aronsons, and two ADL volunteer attorneys. The two attorneys agreed to pay $350,000 to the Quigleys in settlement of their claims. The Quigley settlement with the Aronsons did not involve a cash payment. The Quigleys maintained their action against the ADL and Rosenthal, which was heard in federal court. A federal jury returned a verdict of $10 million in favor of the Quigleys. The ADL appealed.
According to an April 13, 2001 article in The Forward, upon hearing the appeal, a federal judge "lambasted the ADL for labeling a nasty neighborhood feud as an anti-Semitic event" and upheld most of Quigley's $10 million lawsuit for defamation. According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, with accrued interest, the judgment amounted to more than $12 million.
In 1974, ADL national leaders Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein published a book called The New Anti-Semitism (New York, 1974), arguing that a new kind of anti-Semitism is on the rise. In 1982, ADL national leader Nathan Perlmutter and his wife, Ruth Ann Perlmutter, released a book entitled The Real Anti-Semitism in America (New York, 1982). In 2003, ADL's national director Abraham Foxman published Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (San Francisco, 2003), where on page 4 he states: "We currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s—if not a greater one."
Reviewing Forster and Epstein's work in Commentary, Earl Raab, founding director of the Nathan Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University, argued that a "new anti-Semitism" was indeed emerging in America, in the form of opposition to the collective rights of the Jewish people, but he criticized Forster and Epstein for conflating it with anti-Israel bias. Allan Brownfeld writes that Forster and Epstein's new definition of antisemitism trivialized the concept by turning it into "a form of political blackmail" and "a weapon with which to silence any criticism of either Israel or U.S. policy in the Middle East," while Edward S. Shapiro, in "A Time for Healing: American Jewry Since World War II," has written that "Forster and Epstein implied that the new anti-Semitism was the inability of Gentiles to love Jews and Israel enough."
Norman Finkelstein argues that organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League have brought forward charges of new antisemitism at various intervals since the 1970s, "not to fight antisemitism but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism".
ADL is an advocate for gun control legislation. The ADL supported the District of Columbia before the US Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller which argued that the city's ban on the possession of handguns and any functional firearms, even for self-defense in the home is not prohibited by the Second Amendment. The League urged the Court to ensure that states retain the ability to keep guns out of the hands of "violent bigots."
Gun rights group Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) has been highly critical of the Anti-Defamation League. In pamphlets such as "Why Does the ADL Support Nazi-Based Laws?" and "JPFO Facts vs. ADL Lies," the JPFO has accused the ADL of undermining the welfare of the Jewish people by promoting gun control. In a 2007 handbill the JPFO accused ADL Director Abraham Foxman of knowingly supporting the "use of Nazi gun control laws in America." Foxman has written about the JPFO: "Anti-Semitism has a long and painful history, and the linkage to gun control is a tactic by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership to manipulate the fear of anti-Semitism toward their own end."
On July 28, 2010 the ADL issued a statement in which it expressed opposition to the Park51 Community Center, which sponsors planned to build near the World Trade Center site in New York. The ADL stated, "The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of a Community Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found." The ADL denounced what it saw as bigoted attacks on the project. Foxman opined that some of those who oppose the mosque are "bigots," and that the plan's proponents may have every right to build the mosque at that location. Nevertheless, he said that building the mosque at that site would unnecessarily cause more pain for families of some victims of 9/11.
This opposition to the Community Center led to criticism of the statement from various parties, including one ADL board member, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Rabbi Irwin Kula, columnists Jeffrey Goldberg and Peter Beinart, the Interfaith Alliance, and the Shalom Center. In an interview with the New York Times Abe Foxman published a statement in reaction to criticism. In protest of ADL's stance, CNN host Fareed Zakaria returned the Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize the ADL awarded him in 2005. ADL chair Robert G. Sugarman responded to a critical New York Times editorial writing, "we have publicly taken on those who criticized the mosque in ways that reflected anti-Muslim bigotry or used the controversy for that purpose" and stating that the ADL has combated Islamophobia.
Mark Arax, a former LA Times writer and current Salon writer of Armenian descent, strongly criticized the role of the ADL in American Armenian Genocide denial. In 2007, he spoke with Abraham Foxman, who said:
Our focus is Israel. If helping Turkey helps Israel, then that's what we're in the business of doing. Was it genocide? It was wartime. Things get messy. The Turks and Armenians need to revisit their past. The Jewish community shouldn't be the arbiter of that history. And I don't think the U.S. Congress should be the arbiter, either.
Arax later wrote on this: "I almost had to revisit his website to make sure that the ADL was still in the business of fighting not only anti-Semitism but "bigotry and extremism" and "securing justice and fair treatment to all."
When Arax pointed out that the genocide had been documented as a fact by many prominent historians, and that Congress recognizes all sorts of people's history, including resolutions commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, Foxman replied: "You're not suggesting that an Armenian Genocide is the same as the Holocaust, are you?"