Recently, the Anti-Defamation League came out with a statement placing Students for Justice in Palestine on its top 10 anti-Israel organizations in the United States. As ADL has a history of spying and attempting to crush pro-Palestine, anti-apartheid activists working on issues of justice and civil rights, we are honored to be on a list with prominent civil rights organizations such as the Muslim American Society and Jewish Voice for Peace among others.
The ADL was established in 1913 as a response to anti-Jewish bigotry in the United States. In 1993, the San Francisco police raided an ADL office after discovering a police officer had provided the organization with information on American citizens supporting the Palestinian cause and those opposing South African apartheid. The ADL’s Roy Bullock, an undercover investigator, held records consisting of information on 77 Arab organizations and nearly 647 leftist and anti-apartheid organizations.
Rather than being a civil rights organization that defends the rights of Jews and other minorities, the ADL has a reputation for stifling debate regarding Israel’s “Jewish” democracy. The top 10 list simply reinforces this concern. The ADL blindly supports the Israeli government in its endeavors, including many that flagrantly discriminate against Palestinians.
Domineering moves, including blacklists, are increasingly viewed by peace advocates as badges of honor. Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, expressed her pleasure at being targeted: “We’re growing, we’re very organized and we’re effective…There was something perversely pleasing about being included on the ADL list.”
“The status quo crowd knows that its power is waning as American Jews have come to the understanding that defending the occupation is no act of friendship to Israel. It is precisely the opposite and that those who are first to call others “anti-Israel” have helped perpetuate policies that would be Israel’s undoing. The lobby is terrified. And so it resorts to McCarthyism, which historically is the last resort of those who are losing. It didn’t work for Joe McCarthy. It won’t work for them.”
In fact, the ADL has created a reputation for itself, as a criticizer of highly respected human rights workers, scholars and political figures. The ADL even went after Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the esteemed South African anti-apartheid campaigner, when he was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to head a fact-finding mission to Gaza. Astonishingly, the organization even criticized Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in the 1980s because of Israel’s close friendship with apartheid South Africa.
In its blind and staunch support of Israel, the ADL has found itself increasingly defending the indefensible. Organizational support for some discriminated-against minority groups does not exonerate the ADL for its heavy-handed defense of the Israeli state as a “Jewish and democratic state.” The hypocrisy of such a position is obvious. The ADL would never, thankfully, support the United States as a white and Christian state nor have the temerity to then call such a construction a democracy. Yet this is precisely what it asks for Israel.
Just days ago, Rupert Murdoch was honored by the ADL for his supposed support of Israel and commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. Yet by honoring the CEO of News Corp, parent company of Fox News, the ADL is fairly openly supporting demagogues such as Glenn Beck who is given plenty of space to promote hate against various peoples, including immigrants and Palestinians.
Having emerged from the Western colonial era, save in Palestine, university students look to the example of predecessors who fought South African apartheid and Jim Crow discrimination in the American South. In both instances, student movements were a main driving force in ending racist governing structures.
The ADL knows SJP’s potential to end a racist and colonial system enforced on the Palestinian people. Placement on the “top 10 list” is only a sign that student movements have the potential to change government policies. Our opposition to Israeli policy continues to resonate with people around the world who are shocked and dismayed at Israel’s ongoing flouting of international law and the right of Palestinians to freedom and fundamental human rights. The ADL’s discriminatory take on Israel/Palestine is entirely antiquated; the outlook of students with SJP who promote equal rights for Palestinians and Jews in the region surely represents the future.
Alaa Milbes is a graduate student at Columbia University in the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies, and she is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.