Anti-Defamation League smears peace groups, Jewish Voice for Peace on top 10

Under Abraham Foxman’s leadership, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an embarrassment. It calls itself the “nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency,” dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry and protecting the civil rights for all. But there’s a critical exception– “all” does not include those it considers a threat to the Israeli government.

This is a terrible shame, in part, because the ADL  (especially in local offices) does so many good things- speaking out against bullying, criticizing a lawmaker’s “shoot to kill” attitude towards immigrants, supporting the right of gays and lesbian to serve their country. But all of these things, and likely the caring staff-members behind them, are undermined by Foxman and company’s cynical attitudes when it comes to protecting Israel’s right to infinitely expand into Palestinian territory. (Elegantly achieved by simply crying anti-Semitism when anyone says enough already!)

The examples of Israel politics trumping the struggle against bigotry are numerous and appalling. Most notoriously, Foxman and the ADL actually lobbied the US Congress against the recognition of the Armenian genocide when they felt it threatened Israel’s special relationship with Turkey, a country that has worked hard to erase any acknowledgment of its heinous history. Foxman fired a regional ADL head who publicly criticized this particularly craven stand for a Jewish organization that hunts down even a hint of Holocaust denial. (With the Turkish-Israeli relationship on the skids, the ADL and friends have taken a humorous 180, just to underscore the lack of moral compass.)

As Michelle Goldberg writes today in The Daily Beast:

In the 1980s, at a time when Israel maintained close ties with South Africa, the ADL went on the attack against Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress. As Sasha Polakow-Suransky reported in his recent book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, ADL National Director Nathan Perlmutter co-authored an article implying that the ANC was “totalitarian, anti-humane, anti-democratic, anti-Israel and anti-American.” The ADL sent spies into the American anti-apartheid movement, as well as other movements critical of right-wing American foreign policy. Eventually, the organization was surveilling much of the American left. In 1993, a California police raid on the offices of the ADL and one of its investigators yielded files on Greenpeace, the NAACP, Act Up, New Jewish Agenda, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and several Democratic politicians, among hundreds of others. The ADL eventually settled a class-action lawsuit brought by several of its targets.

Foxman also advocated for the censorship of Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Tutu and President Jimmy Carter  and went after Bill Moyers because they dared talk openly about Israel’s human rights abuses. And there was Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison for invoking the Reichstag and so on and so on.

Most recently Foxman, the head of an organization dedicated to civil rights for all fueled growing anti-Muslim hysteria by condemning the Park 51 Muslim Cultural Center. (Because, as MJ Rosenberg observed, keeping the fires of  anti-Muslim hatred and suspicion burning is seen as good for preserving the US-Israel special relationship. Special as in entirely unconditional, and destructive for both parties.)

Stepping into it yet again, at the very same time that the ADL gave its highest honor to none other than Rupert Murdoch (see Media Matters’ report on Fox News and anti-semitism),  Foxman and his staff couldn’t resist issuing what they humorously call a “report”naming the country’s top 10 “anti-Israel” organizations.

Jewish Voice for Peace, my group, is on the list. (So is CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and Students for Justice in Palestine and other groups.) It’s rather stunning to see what passes for a thorough report at the ADL- they seemed to have signed up on our email lists and scanned the internet a few times. Filled largely with unsubstantiated insinuations, it would barely pass muster in a high school social studies class. Much of what they say about us is dead wrong – we seek a suspension of military aid, not an end. We actually have well over 20 chapters and growing. We are not an anti-Zionist organization nor are we anti-Israel (unless, of course, the ADL’s idea of either Zionism or Israel is in any way threatened by the concept of universal democratic rights, which says a great deal more about the ADL than Jewish Voice for Peace.)

But it’s the ADL, and for reasons I can’t really explain, people still listen to Foxman,  so now the top 10 list is in Haaretz, and the Jerusalem Post, and Ynet.

Here are critiques of the list in Salon, Meretz USA, New Voices (the Jewish student magazine) and The Daily Beast and below is our official response to this absurd blacklist:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is at it again.

Jewish Voice for Peace statement on making it on the Anti-Defamation League’s list of top ten “anti-Israel” groups

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is at it again. They just came up with a list of the top ten most influential anti-Israel Groups in America, and Jewish Voice for Peace makes the list. We appreciate the honor, except that the ADL–as usual–got a few things wrong in describing us.

TOP 5 THINGS ABOUT JVP THE ADL GOT FLATLY WRONG

(1) JVP IS NEITHER ANTI-ISRAEL NOR ANTI-ZIONIST.

We do not hold Zionism as a litmus test for membership. Some of our members are Zionists, some are anti-Zionists, and some are non-Zionists. We believe you can define yourself in any of these ways as long as you support an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank — including East Jerusalem — and Gaza, and you advocate for human rights, which naturally apply equally to Israelis and Palestinians.

We stand by Israelis that hold these views, such as Israeli conscientious objectors and Israeli actors refusing to play in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

We stand by Palestinians that hold these views, such as Palestinian activists protesting the Israeli confiscation of land in the West Bank town of Bil’in.

We stand by internationals that hold these views, such as students pressing for divestment from occupation and war crimes or activists trying to break the siege of Gaza.

What unites us is our belief in human rights and equality.

(2) WE DO NOT ‘USE’ OUR JEWISH IDENTITY TO PROTECT ANTI-SEMITES.

We are Jews and allies who strongly oppose anti-Jewish hatred, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab racism.

We do understand that as Jews we have a special role to play in bringing about a change in American and Israeli policy. Israel claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. Some American Jewish organizations defend Israel right or wrong, claiming to be representing all American Jews. It is up to us to set the record straight.

We strongly reject the misleading accusations of anti-Semitism that the ADL and others have used in other to protect Israel’s policies. For example, when the ADL accuses Archbishop Desmond Tutu of anti-Semitism, it is not only wrong, but it also makes all Jews less safe when facing a real case of anti-Jewish hatred.

(3) ACKNOWLEDGING THE NAKBA IS NOT OPPOSING ISRAEL’S EXISTENCE.

Would the ADL call those that acknowledge the genocide of Native-Americans in this land anti-American?

We believe that in order to reach a just and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the Nakba must be addressed. Without  acknowledging the events of 1947-9, there will be no truth and reconciliation. JVP adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and return to his country.” Israelis should acknowledge the Palestinian refugees’ right of return and negotiate a mutually agreed just solution based on principles established in international law, including  return, compensation, and/or resettlement.

We acknowledge our own legacy of suffering and the horrors of the Holocaust, but we do not allow these to blind us to the suffering of others. Quite the opposite, we have learned from our own history and from our own tradition not to stand silent when others are suffering. The ADL, on the other hand, fights Holocaust-deniers and denies full recognition of the Armenian genocide at the same time.

(4) THE ADL IMPOSES ON PALESTINIANS A BURDEN IT DOES NOT IMPOSE ON ITSELF.

Jews in America constitute fewer than 2% of the population. We would be rightfully upset if we had to recognize the United States as a “Christian state.” And yet, he ADL expects Palestinians — 20% of Israel’s population — to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” The ADL apparently has learned little from Hillel: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

(5) STARVING PALESTINIANS IS NOT OUR JUDAISM.

The ADL protests the fact that JVP members hold signs stating “Starving Palestinians Is Not My Judaism.” This one they got right, and they have the picture to prove it. Our question to the ADL is: what is your Judaism?

Want to read more? Check out what Salon has to say: Anti-Defamation League beclowns itself, again. And see also Foxman vs Peace Groups.

An amusing postscript:4 or 5 years ago, the very same ADL office notorious for conducting the largest ever civilian domestic spying operation, started sending me emails under a false name and a yahoo email account. They wanted to know if Jewish Voice for Peace was planning a secret action at their oxymoronically titled conference on progressive anti-Semitism. But the emails were oddly over enthusiastic, and we weren’t planning anything, and I checked the IP number and sure enough, the return address was the ADL office in San Francisco. The then director, blamed, what else, on the intern.

Cecilie Surasky
cecilie@jvp.org