Did the head of ADL Jonathan Greenblatt call Gen Zers useful idiots for propaganda?

By November 23, 2023 International Politics

We came across the following report and accompanying video clip on multiple platforms, including web sources, Reddit, X/Twitter and YouTube:

A ‘Leaked Recording’ Makes the Rounds

The clip purports to contain audio of the head of the Anti Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt. ADL is a US-based non-governmental organisation that aims to combat antisemitism and defamation of the Jewish people. In addition, the group also aims to combat other forms of extremism and advocate for civil rights.

On each platform, the same audio clip was used in a video set to a slideshow of pro-Palestinian protests and Greenblatt himself.

In the audio, a man suggested to be Greenblatt says that they (assumed to be groups that support Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza) have a ‘major generational problem’, which he later elaborates to be ‘a TikTok problem, a Gen-Z problem’.

The man goes on to say that the issue of US support for Israel was not a ‘left and right’ issue, but one of ‘young and old’. ‘The number of young people who think that Hamas’s massacre was justified is shockingly and terrifyingly high’, he adds.

The ‘useful idiots in the West’ are ‘falling in line’ with Hamas and their accomplices, the man suggests. As examples, the man cites activist groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) who he says changed their language to reflect Iranian propaganda by referencing Zionism when discussing Israel.

Zionism is a Jewish nationalist movement that sought to establish and support a Jewish national state in Palestine, which roughly corresponds to the Land of Israel in Jewish tradition.

Made in Tehran

A check across the audio recordings on all sources revealed that the recording was identical, though they were spliced to different lengths in some sources. The origin of the audio clip appears to be an article titled ‘American youth break free from Zionist yokes’ in the Tehran Times, an Iranian state-controlled newspaper.

The article suggests that the audio clip was recorded during a private meeting between Greenblatt and ‘a group of Zionist propagandists’, where Greenblatt ‘sounded the alarm bells about Israel losing the messaging battlespace in the US’.

A web search revealed that the story was later picked up on social media platforms, and some small US-based websites. These sites, such as National File and USSA News, have been found by the independent media bias resource Media Bias/Fact Check to have a record of biased reporting promoting conspiracies and propaganda, and having failed several fact checks.

Insufficient Evidence, Caution Advised

We found no evidence that Greenblatt had responded to the release of the recording. However, we noted that Greenblatt and the ADL have been outspoken in support of Israel and Zionism throughout the military campaign in Gaza, creating rifts between Jewish groups and within the ADL itself.

An ADL spokesperson affirmed to the Daily Beast that they considered anti-Zionism to be antisemitism, and the organisation recently categorised the Jewish-led groups advocating for Palestinians, SJP and JVP, as hate groups, alongside a neo-Nazi group.

Greenblatt has also advocated for the banning of JVP and SJP, alleging (without evidence) that the groups materially supported foreign terrorist organisations.

While these recent events correspond with the statements made by the man in the audio clip, there is still insufficient evidence to prove that the recording is authentic. With the current sources available. there is no way to corroborate that the man speaking in the clip is Greenblatt, and Tehran Times has not provided details about when and where it was recorded.

Moreover, the sources republishing the story are either social media sources or sources with poor records of factual publishing. The Tehran Times has a record of promoting Iranian government propaganda and conspiracy theories. They also have a vested interest in the details of the recording as it discusses the nature and reach of Iranian propaganda.

Given the lack of corroboration from more authoritative sources and the lack of a response from Greenblatt and the ADL, we find that the claim that Greenblatt had called youths useful idiots for propaganda to be unproven.

However, we would also advise scepticism of the audio clip due to the poor quality of sources and the ease with which such a recording can be falsified.

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