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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview With Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Interview with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired September 12, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): On today's show, 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, 28 days since the fall of Kabul. We will look at the legacy of Islamic terror and the war that followed 9/11. Has Osama bin Laden's dream to destroy the myth of American invincibility come true? I'll talk to Tony Blair who was prime minister of the United Kingdom on 9/11, and oversaw Britain's entry into those wars alongside its closest ally, the United States.
Then an exclusive interview with the president of Ukraine. In the Oval Office just last week, President Biden assured him that the U.S. opposes Russian aggression.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States remains firmly committed to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
ZAKARIA: But after what the world witnessed in Kabul, is President Zelensky still confident that America will have Ukraine's back in case of further Russian aggression? I'll ask him about that and his role in that scandal that caused Donald Trump to be impeached.
ZAKARIA: But first here's my take. If you want to understand what Islamic militancy is really about, pay attention to this statement last week by the Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid. "China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us."
Let that sink in and let me remind you that China is credibly accused of massive and pervasive persecution of its small population of Muslims, including mass incarceration, systematic reeducation, 24/7 surveillance, and in some cases forced sterilization. In other words, the world's most ideologically committed Islamic government has said its closest ally will be a nation engaged in what many observers call cultural genocide against its Muslims. Lesson -- the Islamic militant movement has always been more about
power than about religion. 20 years after 9/11, we are still not clear on how to think about radical Islam. It is real. It is evil. But it has lost the ideological argument.
The real clash of civilizations was never between the West and Islam, it was within the world of Islam, between the existing regimes and their Islamic opposition movements, and more broadly between moderates and radical religious groups.
Recall that in Osama bin Laden's original fatwah of 1996, his explained that the reason to go after the far enemy, the United States, was that it's supporting governments like Egypt and Saudi Arabia which were the near enemy and the true focus of bin Laden's strategy. The goal was to sweep out dictators which would then bring Islamic movements to power that would rule like the Muslim world like the caliphate of old.
But bin Laden's strategy was built on a fantasy, that hundreds of millions of Muslims were pining for Sharia rule, that their dislike of dictators like Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad translated into support for the mullahs who opposed their regimes. In fact, while much of the Arab world was ruled by unpopular tyrants, what the people really wanted, it turned out, was greater openness, more democracy and an accommodation with modern life, not a rejection of it.
We saw this in the massive demonstrations of 2011, the Arab spring, which is now 10 years old. We've seen it in the many elections in the Muslim world, in Iraq, Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, where even when Islamic parties win, it is parties that worked within the democratic framework, are reasonably moderate, and have rarely advocated strict Sharia. Public opinion polls have long established this pattern.
In 2009, the scholar Fawaz Gerges found that polls conducted in dozens of Muslim countries showed the same trend -- a collapse of support for Islamic militancy and terrorism.
He pointed out that just 29 percent of Jordanian thought suicide attacks were often or sometimes justified, down from 57 percent in 2005. In Indonesia, 74 percent agreed that terrorist attacks are never justified, up from 41 percent in 2004. Even in Pakistan, nearly 90 percent opposed any terrorism, up from 43 percent in 2002.
Subsequent Pew surveys have confirmed this broader version to Islamic militancy. To give these numbers some context, Gerges noted that 24 percent of Americans believed bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians were often or sometimes justified. Only 46 percent of Americans said these kinds of attacks were never justified.
Consider the changing role of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. For decades before 9/11, Saudi Arabia had been the ideological, political and financial heart of Islamic fundamentalism. It had exported mullahs, money, mosques and madrasas across the Muslim world all imbued with an intolerant and puritanical brand of Islam. Then came 9/11, and more importantly for the Saudis, the terror attacks of 2003 and 2004 in Saudi Arabia itself.
Soon the monarchy began reversing course, a process that General David Petraeus described to me as one of the most important, least reported, positive developments in the war on terror. That development has continued. Whatever his other flaws, Saudi Arabia's crown prince has been even tougher on radical preachers and ideologists. In 2017 he said in Riyadh, we will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas. We will destroy them today.
In 2001, the United Arab Emirates was, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the only three governments on the planet to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Today the UAE has not yet recognized the Taliban but it has established diplomatic relations with Israel and has building stronger economic and social ties with that country every day, with no great fallout in the Muslim world.
While countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE remained autocracies, of course, they're increasingly embracing openness and diversity. Five years ago the UAE created a Ministry of Tolerance and more than a quarter of that country's cabinet is now female.
It is not surprising that the Taliban is seeking out China as its most important partner. It certainly will not find many easy allies in the Muslim world.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is not a battle between the United States of America and terrorism, but between the free and democratic world and terrorism. We therefore here in Britain stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our American friends in this hour of tragedy.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: That was Tony Blair, then the British prime minister, on September 11th, 2001. Blair made good on his promise to stand with America, sending his nation's men and women into war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Tony Blair joins me now.
Welcome. That day, and the few days after, what was the dominant thing in your mind after that horrible event took place?
BLAIR: To keep our people safe. This was an event where just in the recent weeks as people have gone back over it again, and they've seen the footage and some sense of the immensity of the tragedy and the shock, the trauma of it has come across, I think. But for us in positions of leadership, this was obviously a devastating attack and we thought there could be further attacks. We needed to prepare our countries. The world had stopped, effectively. Everything was dominated by this and nothing else. ZAKARIA: And did it also, do you think, bring to the world face to
face with this phenomenon of radical Islam that, you know, many experts had paid attention to, and there had been terrorist attacks before in Kenya and Tanzania, but this was, it seems to me, the first time the whole world said, oh, my god, there is this force out there. What was your thinking about it then?
BLAIR: Yes. Exactly that. I mean, I'd watched various terrorist instance happen over the previous years. You know, you were aware of the fact that al Qaeda and other groups were operating, but nothing had happened on this scale and in this way. And this is -- you know, this was an attack in New York and in America, you know, thousands of people dying. So, yes, of course, this brought it home to everybody that there was this movement there.
Now, I think at the time knowledge of it was much more limited, even with the experience we'd had. But it was the first time people, certainly in the broader public and in the broader world of politics, realized that this was a threat of a completely different kind, with the capability of doing immense damage. Because the point I always make to people is they killed 3,000 people, but if they could have killed 30,000 or 300,000, they would have.
ZAKARIA: And so now let's come to the present. Now, 20 years later, what do you think you understand about the sort of fundamental source of this threat, which is this ideology of radical militant Islam?
BLAIR: So my view is that -- and in the research my chiefs done, we'd tried to show how the roots of this radical Islam are deep, that they're linked to the ideology of Islamism, which is the turning of the religion of Islam into a political ideology of a totalitarian sort, and that the roots of it stretch back many, many decades. So this has been a long time growing.
Of course, not all Islamists engage in violence. Many Islamists condemn violence. But the ideology is an ideology based on religious conviction. It's extensive in the sense that it has a global footprint.
It's in many different parts of the world. It's grown over a long period of time, and in its most radical form, it espouses this violent jihadism which justifies the killing of people, Muslims who don't agree with them, those of us who live under different systems in pursuit of a cause which is basically to turn society, a country, its economy, its politics into a religious state that's governed by religious laws according to their view of those laws.
ZAKARIA: Now, I'm just trying to put myself in their shoes or articulate what I think bin Laden's view was. So you're exactly right, they want the caliphate for Muslim countries. They're attacking the West because they see the West, at least again bin Laden did, as supporting what they saw as insufficiently religious, godless, corrupt regimes. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, this was the import of the fatwah. Does that strike you as an important distinction that they were really
trying to create caliphates in the Muslim world and that the West was in a sense incidental roadkill?
BLAIR: You can look at it like that, but it comes to the same factual outcome in the end, which is they want to kill us and they want to kill the Muslims who don't agree with them. I mean, if you look over the last 20 years, the vast majority of those Muslims who have lost their life have been killed by other Muslims, and this is part of the tragedy.
Now as I always say to people there is some good news in all of this because there is a real fight back within the Muslim world, and one of the lessons I've certainly learned in the last 20 years is that this will only be defeated by an alliance with those strong voices now within Islam who want to retrieve their religion from extremism, and our job should be to help them and to support them and to make it clear that this is not any actions to be taken not directed at the religion of Islam but had its perversion through Islamism.
ZAKARIA: Stay with us. Next on GPS, after 9/11 America went to war in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban from power. Now of course they are back in power. Tony Blair has slammed what he calls the abandonment of the Afghan people. I will ask him about that when we come back.
ZAKARIA: We are back with more GPS and more of my conversation with former British prime minister, Tony Blair.
You've been critical of the decision to leave Afghanistan. I think nobody doubts it was done in a fairly tragic and sloppy way. But I want to ask you about the kind of larger -- the error of the way we got out and could we have held onto the Bagram Base and things like that. But the larger question, the larger error it seems to me is, did we delude ourselves into thinking that this was a stable situation?
So, you know, you had an Afghanistan 10 years of warfare, two surges, one big surge. You had inspector generals' reports from the United States saying, guys, you're saying that 300,000 Afghan troops, there are actually only half that many, the rest are ghost soldiers.
We had set up a government where 80 percent of the government's revenues came from foreign assistance, whether the country's GDP -- the Defense budget was larger than its GDP. Was this -- I mean, that surely is not the model that's sustainable, and maybe it wasn't so surprising that it collapsed so quickly.
BLAIR: It's a great point, and I think it's really important we go into it in details. So I put all these points to someone who until very recently was actually fighting as part of the Afghan forces in Afghanistan. And I put exactly these points to him a few days back. And what he said to me is there is a lot of truth in all of that, but there is another truth, which is that there was real progress in that Kabul is a transformed city.
And yes, the Taliban had significant parts of territory, but actually, up until 2019, they had no major cities or occasionally they would take one city but then lose it again. People were getting educated. He gave me several stories of his own acquaintance and how people in their families had developed over time. You know, you had a vibrant media and culture, as we can see now. So I think the picture is probably mixed.
Here's the point I want to make, because I think this is the toughest thing for us to come to terms with. The people that we're fighting are prepared to die, they're prepared to visit death and destruction at whatever scale they can, they're prepared to kill wholly innocent people. If we're trying to build a road, they're trying to blow it up. If we're trying to get people to vote as in Afghanistan, they're trying to kill them on the way to the polling booths.
And here's my worry about what's happened over our 20 years. Number one, these people don't have our time scale. We have electoral time scales of four years, five years. And this is why, you know, I objected to these forever wars. These guys think 20 years is not a long time. And the lesson they've taken from what's happened is we wait them out.
OK. The second thing is what they realized is the more death and destruction they inflict, the more they kill our troops, the more they kill the innocent people, the more they destabilize the situation, the more inclined we are to say, you know, the whole thing is a failure, we should just get out.
But the problem with that is, the message you're sending to them is basically, hang on and carry on doing the maximum damage you can, because in the end, these guys haven't got the staying power.
ZAKARIA: The question, I suppose, is where was the way we were handling this helping or hurting? You said we tried to build a bridge, they tried to blow them up. There is an anecdote in -- again, this inspector general's report in Afghanistan, this is in the Afghanistan papers, which is I think a kind of metaphor.
So there is a guy allied to the Americans who would build the bridges. They would get blown up and the Americans would say, what should we do to make sure these bridges don't get blown up?
He says, well, my brother is the Taliban, in the village next door, he's the guy blowing them up. If we pay him off, he won't blow up the bridge. And so the United States government was paying this man to build the bridge and then paying the Taliban not to blow it up. It just seems as though we were in a kind of a never-ending loop where the West was not winning that.
BLAIR: No, and I think that's an absolutely fair point, and I think you can look back on all of this and think of the things that we could have done differently. For example, I think there was an early stage of this where we probably should have reached out to parts of the Taliban. So I think you learn a whole lot of lessons from how you deal with this.
My view very strongly, looking at this where my institute was today, these groups that are causing this damage, they divide into two. The genuine fanatics and the people that, for all sorts of reasons, you know, good and bad, have associated with them, sometimes it's to do with money, sometimes it's to do with tribal issues. So I think we can develop a much more sophisticated strategy in the light of what we've learned.
My point is a very simple one. Let's agree to that strategy, or if we simply say, look, these are just not our fights. When it comes to our shores, we'll deal with it, but otherwise we want out and we're going to default back to counterterrorism, which is where we were, by the way, on 9/11, 2001. My point is let's decide it.
ZAKARIA: Tony Blair, a pleasure to have a serious, intellectual conversation about this subject. Very important and thank you.
BLAIR: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, what do vulnerable nations around the world make of America's withdrawal from Afghanistan amidst the Taliban's lighting fast advance?
Well, I will ask the president of Ukraine who faces serious threats from his big neighbor to the east, Russia, and wants American guarantees and Western guarantees for his security.
ZAKARIA: In the aftermath of America's exit from Afghanistan, governments around the world are reexamining their relationship with the United States and reassessing the level of protection they can expect from the world's key superpower.
Top of that list is almost certainly Taiwan, but let us not forget about Ukraine, which continues to be embroiled in conflict with Russia. Moscow, of course, annexed Crimea by force from Ukraine in 2014. And Russia's President Putin doesn't hide his obsession with his neighbor. He published a long essay this summer casting doubt on Ukraine's right to be a sovereign, independent nation.
Just last week, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky was in Washington for meetings with President Biden and other top U.S. officials.
President Zelensky joins me now.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Thank you so much, sir. Thank you.
ZAKARIA: So let me ask you, looking from the outside, it feels like you're in a very difficult situation. You have Russia having annexed Crimea, parts of eastern Ukraine, with forces there, 100,000 troops, Russian troops, have been gathered on your border.
Putin writes this long essay which basically says Ukraine may not really exist as an independent nation historically.
We now get news from Gazprom that the Nord Stream pipeline has been completed, which is a way that Russia can bypass Ukraine, get energy to Europe. So you lose your one leverage that you had with the Russians.
And then you get this news from Afghanistan. You watch what happened in Afghanistan, as the United States withdrew its troops and essentially abandoned the government of Kabul.
Do you worry that America will abandon Ukraine?
ZELENSKY (TRANSLATED): First of all, we have to clearly understand that Ukraine, when compared to Afghanistan, I believe it's not an accurate comparison. I don't think we can compare that, Ukraine to Afghanistan, being that Ukraine is not so dependent on the United States like Afghanistan was.
And I really believe that, in four or five or seven days, you can't take such a big country geographically as Ukraine with such a quite big population and simply occupy it like that.
ZAKARIA: You're very diplomatic, but you're not answering the question.
ZAKARIA: Let me put it to you a different way, which is the secretary of Russia's...
ZAKARIA: ... Security Council, you know, Nikolai Patrushev -- he said explicitly Ukraine should look at what Washington did in Kabul. Just as they abandoned Kabul, they will abandon Kiev.
ZELENSKY (TRANSLATED): In 2014 -- and, partners from the U.S. and E.U., forgive us -- in 2014, at first we ended up where we ended up. There was Russian escalation. Our territories were occupied. No one was hand in hand with us. There was no military equipment other than what we had available at that time. There were no other troops, just the citizens of Ukraine. And therefore we had the wave of volunteers, volunteer battalions, people who were -- who came together as a citizen effort to protect their own country. There was no one else. So in four days, even in eight years, Russia didn't manage to take
over -- Russia. It's not the Taliban army. This is one of the most powerful armies in the world.
That's why we, I think, we stood for our statehood. And this is why, I think, we are as independent as possible from any economy.
As I said to President Biden, and partially this is about concerning the possible exit from Ukraine, what does it mean to leave Ukraine? I mean, it's the other way around. The U.S. should enhance their presence in Ukraine.
I'm very glad that we had a very powerful meeting on a high level in the U.S., and we have been looking forward very much to this. And the fact that we are in the priority list of the countries that President Biden met with, it means that we are a priority for the U.S., and we are thankful for that. That's a big signal. But behind the signal, we are also expecting actions.
ZAKARIA: You asked President Biden when you were in the Oval Office with him for Ukraine to become a member of NATO. Did he say yes?
ZELENSKY: Very directly, I asked President Biden, very directly, what about NATO? What about Ukraine in NATO? What about our membership in NATO, and very directly, when it can be?
ZAKARIA: And what did he say?
ZELENSKY: He said that -- I think you have -- as far as I remember, I mean, not all the words will be correct, yes, but the -- the main meaning of his speech -- it was a speech; it's not one phrase, because we spoke about it, I think, during -- during 20 solid minutes about, just about the alliance, about the membership in NATO.
He said, "I think that you -- you have to be there, but it's not only my decision."
I think I -- I had heard this rhetoric from him before my meeting, so I -- and I'm sure that it's true for today; it's true. I think it's (inaudible) a good position for power for USA. It's my my mind -- I'm sorry, that's just my mind. But it's true that it includes suggestions and (inaudible) of -- of some leaders of European, big European countries.
But I know, and I said to him, "I know, yes, you're right, Mr. President, but I think, from your decision, from your decision, this way to NATO will be shorter, will be more transparency; it will be more clear for us, for Ukraine. I know it."
ZAKARIA: So you think that...
ZELENSKY: He will -- he, USA always gives message and signal, I think, to Europe, and if we -- we don't see where he -- you know, where he directed, this, you know, that, yes, tomorrow, or yes, the day after tomorrow, so I'm in that -- and it -- that's why it goes such a way.
ZAKARIA: Next up, I was supposed to interview President Zelensky two years ago this month. Why didn't it happen then?
Well, it had a lot to do with then President Trump. I will talk to Ukraine's leader about exactly what happened, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Tomorrow will mark two years since I first met Volodymyr Zelensky right here in Kiev. A former actor and comedian, Zelensky had only been president a few months at the time.
After that meeting, my team and his team ramped up discussions about the two of us meeting again, this time for an interview that would air right here on "GPS."
In the ensuing days, though, suddenly the lines of communication went silent. What happened? Well, parts of it came out in Donald Trump's first impeachment trial. But let us hear President Zelensky explain what kind of pressure he was under.
ZAKARIA: I didn't realize at the time, when we were talking to your team, that you were under a lot of pressure from then President Trump to announce on television that you were investigating Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.
Did you -- did you ever think you would have to? Did you ever feel the pressure from Trump was so great that you would have to come on a show like this and announce an investigation?
ZELENSKY: Yeah, I...
ZELENSKY (TRANSLATED): Yeah, no. Maybe that was because I wasn't in politics before. And I was looking at life, and I still look at it just the way I do. I have to work a lot, a whole lot. I have to pay taxes. And I want to go down in history and gain success. That was my credo before I became president.
And I was always happy when there was a victory and the Ukrainian flag would come up, but also when America would win TV awards and outplay us, or in sports when they would outperform. I never thought that there was any pressure on us. I thought there's room to improve. So that's ambitious. I always thought that we are an independent country, and I feel like an ambitious, independent person who has to learn every day from the best.
So that's why my conversation with President Trump was along the same lines. I knew that we needed to have good relations with the United States, that they support us, and we must get more from the United States. This was my objective.
ZAKARIA: That's why you needed -- you wanted the White House meeting?
ZELENSKY (TRANSLATED): Yes. This is exactly why we wanted the meeting. It wasn't just about having a picture hanging over the fireplace. I mean, I'm very at ease with this. I'm very easygoing with these things. He is the president of the United States. This is not Robert DeNiro. To me, Robert DeNiro was my idol, you know. With him I would talk casually, regardless of whether there would be assistance or not, before I became president. And here, this is serious stuff. This is at the level of the person on which the stability of our country depends and the assistance to my country. We need a relationship.
ZAKARIA: Did it strike you as odd or disappointing that here's the United States telling Ukraine to clean up its corruption, and then the president of the United States is asking you to do something that was not very straightforward. He was asking you to do something to help his re-election campaign.
ZELENSKY (TRANSLATED): Yeah, I didn't feel that he was making me do something. And I was telling the truth then. I didn't feel such pressure. As I said, quite ambitiously, I'm the president of my country. No one can pressure us. So this wasn't just my diplomacy and public position. I didn't feel it. Even if it was in someone's head and someone had those plans, I wasn't ready to feel this, and I am not ready. I don't feel that.
I was thinking about my country, about the assistance. I didn't want to jeopardize the military aid, and I wanted to have another meeting at the White House because my country needed this.
ZAKARIA: President Zelensky, a pleasure, honor to have you on.
ZELENSKY: Thank you so much.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," how and why the great Jewish tradition of Teshuva, meaning self-examination, or repentance, has been resonating with me this weekend, as we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and all that flowed from that terrible day.
ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. The phrase "lessons of the past" is usually an empty cliche, because what we are describing is what we hope people will learn. In fact, people are often defensive and fail to learn from their previous mistakes, and thus, in Santayana's famous dictum, are condemned to repeat them. But there are exceptions, and we have seen an extraordinary example
just in the last week. The Anti-Defamation League, one of the important organizations battling prejudice and discrimination, has repudiated one of the most noxious decisions it ever made in its long and otherwise distinguished history.
In an opinion piece on CNN.com, Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and national director of the ADL, apologized for the group's opposition to the Park 51 Islamic Community Center and Mosque.
For those who don't recall, this was a proposed institution modeled on the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, with the goal of promoting interfaith dialogue and inter-religious harmony.
It was originally called Cordoba House, to recall Islam's great period of tolerance in Spain, and was led by an imam who had long preached that Islam is totally compatible with democracy and human rights.
But the project quickly became a target of demagogues like Newt Gingrich, who used its location, a few blocks from the World Trade Center Towers, to brand it "the Ground Zero mosque," and fan the flames of fear and bigotry.
There were genuine statesmen like then Mayor Michael Bloomberg who delivered a memorable address on religious freedom in America in support of the Islamic center.
But, sadly, emotion and prejudice won out and the project was abandoned in a frenzy of Islamophobia. I reacted to the controversy on this show in August 2010, explaining why the basic idea behind Cordoba House was so important and so broadly admired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: You know that, ever since 9/11, the United States has been trying to engage in a battle of ideas against radical Islam. Now, America can't really get involved in a -- in a debate within Islam, so that means finding and supporting moderate Muslims.
This is a cultural struggle that has been warmly supported by liberals and conservatives. In fact, many conservatives have argued that we should be engaged in a much more extensive and expensive effort to fund moderates and de-legitimize radical and violent Islam. Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, there have been active efforts worldwide to support Muslims who are trying to rescue their religion from extremists, fundamentalists and jihadis.
And this has meant funding mosques, Islamic centers, imams and community leaders who share a peaceful and pluralistic vision of Islam -- except, it turns out, if they are in our own backyard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: I then noted the ADL's opposition to Cordoba House and explained why that had a special significance for me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: The director of the ADL, Abraham Foxman, explained that the victims of 9/11 had feelings on this matter that should be respected even if they were irrational.
First of all, there were many dozens of victims of 9/11 who were Muslim. Do their feelings count?
More important, are irrational feelings, prejudices, hatreds, OK because those expressing them are victims or see themselves as victims? Will the ADL defend the rights of Palestinian victims to be anti-Semites?
I have to say I was personally deeply saddened by the ADL's stand, because five years ago the organization honored me with its Hubert Humphrey award for first amendment freedoms.
Given the position that they have taken on a core issue of religious freedom in America, I cannot in good conscience keep that award. So this week I'm going to return to the ADL the handsome medal and the generous honorarium that came with it. I hope this might spur them to see that they have made a mistake and to return to their historic robust defense of freedom of religion in America, something they have subscribed to for decades and which I honor them for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: It took 11 years, but it is still remarkable that the ADL leadership has taken a serious look at its past, learned from it, and then had the courage to publicly acknowledge its mistake.
Greenblatt pointed out that he was writing his apology in the period that Jews were celebrating High Holy days, and that he did it in the spirit of the Jewish concept of the Teshuva, or self-examination, and repentance.
I wish we could all learn from the ADL's example, and as we look back over 20 years of the war on terror, genuinely ask ourselves, where did we go wrong? How did we overreact? Can we reckon with that past? And what actions could we take today to make up for our own mistakes?
Let us all be brave enough to engage in Teshuva.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.