Marin doctor quits ADL after clash with leadership

San Rafael dermatologist Dr. Michael Franzblau has opted to disassociate himself forevermore with the Anti-Defamation League and wants to reclaim thousands of dollars he has donated to the organization.

After reading a March 26 New York Times article in which ADL National Director Abraham Foxman refers to Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, as an "attack dog of the Jewish thought police," Franzblau realized he could no longer serve as a lifetime commissioner for the ADL.

"As long as Abe Foxman is national director, there's no way I can return; that's simply my position," said Franzblau, a longtime member of both the ADL and ZOA. "I've been in public life 40-some years, and I've never attacked anyone in this manner, even if I hated them."

Even when Franzblau learned, to his surprise, that the critical remark was made seven years ago, he would not rescind his resignation.

Foxman's November 1996 quote came after Klein criticized the ADL for honoring New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In addition to using the "attack dog" line, Foxman added, "I am going after Mort Klein because I think this kind of behavior should be ostracized in the [American Jewish] community." The right-wing Klein demanded an apology at the time, and he got one.

Klein said Foxman has used that line several times and felt the 1996 apology was not heartfelt.

"I can understand why someone who is involved with the Anti-Defamation League could become disappointed when the leader of that organization defames other Jews. He's doing the opposite of what his organization is supposed to be doing," said Klein.

"Let me tell you, I'm at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington this week. I've seen Abe Foxman here about five or six different times. We pass each other, we say hello. Not once has he come over to me and said, 'I'm sorry that quote was used in that article about you. I'm sorry I said it then and I'm sorry it was used last week.' Don't you think he should have come over and said it?"

Foxman did not return phone calls by press time.

Franzblau estimates that over a 15-year period, he has donated $200,000 to the ADL — $50,000 of which went to a fund used to pursue the prosecution of former Nazi and alleged war criminal Dr. Hans Joachim Sewering

of Bavaria, whom Franzblau has pursued for a decade. He believes more than $10,000 remains in that fund.

"I'm going to lay my cards on the table. I've been thinking of resigning for a long time, and in my view, even though [Foxman] apologized, the fact that this appeared in The New York Times, the newspaper of record in the United States…colors the attitude of anyone reading about Klein," Franzblau said.

He added that he has had differences with Foxman in the past. Most recently, he was angered by the ADL national director's active lobbying of President Clinton for the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich in 2000.

In 1997, Franzblau alleged that the Israeli government was not pressuring Germany over the Sewering matter because of a tacit agreement to not embarrass Germany by exposing its well-placed former Nazis. At the time, Foxman said the ADL did not share Franzblau's "conspiratorial views," though the doctor now claims information has come to light in recent years proving his allegations to be true.

Overall, Franzblau criticized what he perceives as Foxman's autocratic nature and the lack of input by an ADL governing board.

"I am troubled by Mr. Foxman's management style and that there's absolutely no oversight to any action he takes. I'm troubled by that. He serves, theoretically, at the pleasure of the membership of the ADL. No one in the organization seems troubled by the fact he's made some decisions that are an embarrassment to the organization," he said.

"Going back t

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.