The Anti-Defamation League sparked outrage on Saturday after announcing one day earlier its opposition to a plan to erect an Islamic religious center near the site of Ground Zero in New York City.
The ADL added its support on Friday to those opposing the building of a mosque close to the site of the September 11, 2001, terror attack, and inflamed the public debate that is splitting popular opinion in New York.
The debate has been ongoing ever since the plan became known weeks ago. The plan is to establish a large Islamic religious center in an area that abuts the site where nearly 3,000 of residents of the city were killed as a result of the most lethal terror attack in the history of the United States, perpetrated by Muslim terrorists.
The league is thought to be one of the largest and most influential Jewish organizations in North America and has garnered a world-wide reputation as a leader in the battle against discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnicity and an advocate of tolerance and equal rights for all religions and nationalities.
The announcement marked the first time that a large Jewish organization publicly took part in the passionate public debate that is taking place in New York City between supporters of and objectors to the building of a mosque at the site of Ground Zero.
There are those that see the building of a mosque at the site of Ground Zero in a flattering light, proof of the openness and tolerance that uniquely characterizes metropolitan New Yorkers, and the strengthening of pluralism in New York society.
There are others that maintain that any Muslim religious activity at a site where a group of Muslim terrorists killed thousands of Americans is an insult to the memory of the victims and an affront to their families.
In the ADL press release, the organization discredits the opposition to the building of the mosque based on prejudiced arguments. However, they state, "some legitimate questions have been raised" about funding and possible ties with "groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values."
The New York Times quoted the ADL Executive Director Abraham Foxman as saying, "It's not a question of their right [to build the mosque], but a question of what are rights?" Foxman added "in our opinion, to build an Islamic center in the shadow of what was the World Trade Center will cause grief to the families of the victims, and therefore it is wrong."
Foxman's words drew a wave of furious criticism in New York. Rabbi Irwin Kula, President of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, responded "The ADL should be ashamed of itself."
Referring to the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who is behind the plan to build the mosque, Kula said "Here, we ask the moderate leaders of the Muslim community to step forward, and when one of them does, he is treated with suspicion."
Among the public supporters of the plans to establish the mosque at the Ground Zero site is the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.
"What is great about America and particularly New York is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?"
Joe Klein, renowned columnist at Time Magazine, attacked the ADL with harsh words. He said that the Anti-Defamation League has gone "from beacon of tolerance to slightly potty geyser of toxic foolishness."