The Anti-Defamation League’s National Director Abraham Foxman gives President Barack Obama an "F" – a failing “report card” grade after his first year in office for his “accomplishments” in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an exclusive Newsmax interview, Foxman also criticized the Obama administration for failing to show leadership in supporting reformers in Iran in the wake of their recent presidential election. He also warns about the growing threat posed by homegrown Islamic terrorists and sleeper cells in the United States.
Editor's Note: See Newsmax.TV video with Abraham Foxman below
The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, the nation’s premier civil rights organization, was founded in 1913 to battle defamation and discrimination against Jews, but its scope has broadened and today it is at the forefront fighting against bigotry of all kinds.
Foxman has led the ADL for 23 years and is known around the world as one the United States' most respected Jewish-American leaders. He is the recipient of many awards, including the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian award.
In a sit-down interview with Foxman conducted this weekend, Newsmax.TV’s Kathleen Walter asked Foxman how he would rate Obama’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
“I would give him an A for effort, a C-minus for strategy, and an F for accomplishment,” Foxman responded without hesitation.
“I think the intentions were good. I think the strategy to put pressure on Israel, to put forward the settlement issue as a litmus test, not to put pressure on the Arab countries, not to put pressure on the Palestinians, not only failed but it set the peace process back.
“In the past administration, under Bush, [the November 2007 peace conference at] Annapolis brought the two parties together. They talked about all kinds of issues while settlements were being built. And now for us to get to where we were before will take a great deal of effort.”
Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to restart negotiations with Israel unless certain preconditions are met, including a complete halt to Jewish settlement construction. Walter asked Foxman what the Obama administration can do to move the process along.
“I think the president and his administration should put more pressure on the Palestinians, embarrass them a little bit,” he said. “Why are they making preconditions? If peace is important, why is there a need to set all these preconditions which didn’t exist before?
“I would like to see the administration also move a little more directly on the Arab states, on the moderate Arab states, on the Saudis, on the Egyptians, on the UAE, for them to put pressure on the Palestinians to go back to the table. There’s also the issue of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“I believe the president has a bully pulpit. He has a very clear moral voice. I haven’t heard it in terms of the world community singling out Israel. It would be nice to hear it publicly. I think that may bring back the balance and maybe move the peace process closer.”
Foxman’s impatience and disappointment in Obama seems to reflect a growing unease among American Jews about the president’s Middle East policies.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, expressed concern about Obama in a June interview with Newsmaxs Chief Washington Correspondent Ronald Kessler.
“There’s a lot of questioning going on about what he really believes and what does he really stand for,” Hoenlein said.
“[Jews] are genuinely very concerned,” he added.
On the homefront, the ADL has grown increasingly concerned about domestic terrorism. A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League’s magazine, ADL on the Frontline, warned of a growing threat from American Muslim extremists.
In the past two years, the report noted, more than 30 of these extremists have been arrested on various terror-related charges including providing material support to terrorists and plotting to plant bombs in the United States.
When Newsmax's Walter asked about this worrisome threat, Foxman said, “There‘s no question that there are sleeper cells in this country.”
“There’s no question that fundamentalist Islam has targeted the U.S. The 9/11 [attacks] on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did not begin with flying planes and box cutters. It began with hate, hateful words, teachings of hate.
“And we know throughout the world, including the United States, there are individuals who have been taught to hate, who have been inspired to hate, who have been taught to do violence, and we know they have been placed in various places around the United States to act at certain moments.
“It is a clear and present danger which I think we are finally becoming aware of, that we need to focus on and take seriously.”
Turning to Iran, Walter referred to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to wipe Israel “off the map,” and asked Foxman what options Obama has in dealing with the Islamic Republic and its nuclear development program.
“One of the options that needs to be on the table, as long as a sovereign state is threatening the destruction of another state time and time again, is a military option,” Foxman said.
“It should be the last option, but I don’t think anything else will work unless the Iranians understand how serious would be their consequences.”
When violence broke out in Iran following disputed elections, “the United States hesitated,” Foxman added. “We weren’t out there very clearly in support of the reformers and all those who were ready to risk their lives.
“I think the United States needs to show leadership. Secretary of State Clinton said we need crippling sanctions. Whether we get Russia or China with us or not, the United States should push forward aggressively in the United Nations. And if they can’t get the United Nations, then bring together those who are willing to stand up and say to Iran, this is not the way.
“Other courses of action may succeed if there is a military option. If there is no military option, why should the Iranians even bother to listen to all kinds of verbal threats?
“World peace is being threatened. It’s not only Israel. Israel is the first calling card. It’s the moderate Arab states. It’s the Persian Gulf. It’s Saudi Arabia. It’s Europe. And eventually, it’s the United States and its relationship to the world.”
Walter referred to the June 2009 incident at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., when anti-Semite James von Brunn shot and killed a security guard, and asked if there is growing anti-Semitism in the U.S.
“The United States is probably the least of all countries that suffer anti-Semitism, but we’re not immune,” Foxman responded.
“We have measured attitudes in this country, and the attitude 40 years ago was that 30 percent of the American people were infected with anti-Semitism. Today we’re about 12 to 14 percent. It’s an improvement, but that still means 30 or 40 million Americans are infected with the disease of anti-Semitism.
“Most people don’t act on it. What we saw at the Holocaust Museum are manifestations where there’s anger, there’s hatred that moves to the surface. So far what we’ve seen are lone wolves, people acting on their own. But it’s there. The infection is there.
“What the trigger is for these individuals who have harbored this bigotry, this prejudice, to act out violently, we don’t know. Whether it’s unemployment, whether it’s blaming the government, whether it’s because they’re angry because there’s an African-American president, we don’t know what it is.
“But it may trigger and therefore we’re a lot more concerned about the safety of synagogues and Jewish institutions than we have been in a long time.”
Foxman also said the “greatest threat to freedom, to democracy, to our values, is fundamentalist, extremist Islam.”
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