Two days ago the Anti-Defamation League, which is dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, issued a list of the top ten “anti-Israel” organizations in the U.S. This shocking sh*t-list (PDF here) includes Jewish Voice for Peace, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and CODEPINK and suggests that the groups are anti-Semitic.
In addition to their national impact and influence, many of the groups included in the list are known to employ rhetoric that is extremely hostile to Israel, Zionists and/or Jews. Examples of this include:
Allegations that Israel or Jews control the U.S. government or the media; Offensive parallels to the Holocaust by comparing Israeli leaders to Nazis or describing Gaza as the “new Auschwitz;” Calls for the dismantlement of the state of Israel; Expressions of support for terrorist groups that seek Israel’s destruction.
Now the New Israel Fund and J Street issued a statement deploring the list as “shortsighted and unproductive” for “lumping organizations which truly oppose Israel’s right to exist with others that harshly criticize Israeli government policy.”
Note that the recent Pew findings, which have rocked the Jewish world, figure in the liberal Zionist groups’ appeal for dialogue with, not denunciation of, those supporting BDS.
However, examining the individual reports on the 10 groups, it becomes clear that the “sin” of several does not go much beyond support for the BDS movement or partnering with those who do. For instance, the indictment of “CODEPINK” reads: “CODEPINK’s objective is to reduce U.S. support for Israel and end U.S.-led wars and military campaigns in the Middle East and elsewhere. Though some of its initiatives have little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (e.g. opposition to U.S. drone strikes, the closing of Guantanamo Bay), four of the 12 “Issues” listed on its website are about Israel, including a call for BDS against Israel and advocacy on ending U.S. aid to Israel.”
Meanwhile, the ADL admits that the Muslim Public Affairs Council explicitly recognizes Israel and supports a two-state solution, but partners with groups in the BDS movement. This is guilt by association and an unfair indictment of an organization that seeks dialogue with our community.
Issuing such blanket denunciations is ultimately self-defeating. Indeed, such condemnations have been issued, and are occasionally still issued, against our own organizations by various self-appointed guardians of ideological purity, who often turn out to be fronting an ultra-nationalist, pro-settlement agenda in Israel. That’s why we believe so strongly in open debate, why we do not launch guerrilla media campaigns against those who oppose our progressive values and why we must speak out when other organizations, including those with whom we profoundly disagree, are smeared with the same tactics.
We have the deepest respect for the ADL and the important role it has played in combatting anti-Semitism and racism in the United States. It should continue to do this by cataloging and drawing attention to specific cases wherever they occur. It should however be wary of devaluing the reality of anti-Semitism by applying the charge broadly against political organizations whose aims and tactics it disagrees with or suggesting that vigorous criticism of Israeli policy equates to anti-Semitism. And it should be careful not to further alienate the majority of American Jews who, as the recent Pew survey demonstrates, care deeply about Israel, but are no longer convinced that Israel or the Palestinians are sincerely searching for peace.
There is room for an important debate about BDS, a debate we believe we can win and are winning. We can and should discuss the contours of a final negotiated settlement, Israel’s future as a democracy and the complexities of Israel-Diaspora relations.
This list makes no contribution to those debates. We hope that 2013 is the last year it is issued.