Did ADL Director Lobby Against Interfaith Trip To Concentration Camps?

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August 23, 2010 2:17 p.m.

Earlier this month, several imams joined U.S. officials to visit the Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps, a trip which resulted in the clerics issuing a statement condemning anti-Semitism and vowing “to make real the commitment of ‘never again.'”

The eight Muslim-American clerics were joined by Hannah Rosenthal, the presidential special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, and a handful of other officials from the Obama, Bush and Reagan administrations.

But according to Politico, “Organizers of the trip say they were dismayed that the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman lobbied U.S. officials against participating.”Rosenthal described the trip thusly: “These Muslim leaders were experiencing something they knew nothing about … I can’t believe anyone walks into Auschwitz and leaves the same person. I watched them break down.”

We called the ADL this morning to see if it was true and Foxman had endeavored to end the trip. They denied that Foxman opposed the trip — but said he “raised the question” of Rosenthal’s presence.

“Mr. Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League are not opposed to imams visiting Auschwitz. Indeed, we are delighted a group of imams recently visited two camps in which the Nazis implemented their final solution for the extermination of European Jewry,” the ADL said in a statement.

“Mr. Foxman raised the question of the appropriateness of the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism to accompany individually and privately sponsored trips. Given that there are many places in the world where anti-Semitism remains a problem, we believe that her leadership role in fighting anti-Semitism is best done government to government,” the statement reads.

The ADL, which describes its mission as fighting “all forms of bigotry,” has recently come out against the Islamic community center and mosque proposed for lower Manhattan.

One of the trip’s organizers, Rabbi Jack Bemporad, told TPMmuckraker through a spokeswoman that Foxman didn’t contact him about the trip.

A “person familiar with the trip,” however, told Justin Elliott at Salon that Foxman called Rosenthal and the White House to voice his objections, and went so far as to urge a Polish rabbi, scheduled to meet the imams, to cancel.

You can read the imams’ full statement here (PDF).

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