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No place for the ADL

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In his recent OpEd in Mondoweiss, Robert Lord wrote that “To end [Israel’s] atrocities, we must reverse the dehumanization” of Palestinians. He cites many examples of how numbers and statistics fail to move anyone, whereas individual stories, such as those of Ahed Tamimi, Tareq Abukhdeir, or Razzan al-Najjar can have a great impact on Americans, who otherwise have no way to unlearn such “absurdities” as the myth that Palestinians teach their children to hate Jews, and want to throw Jews into the sea.  “The personal story of every oppressed Palestinian should be told, even if it’s just in a blog post or video that only a dozen Americans read or see. Those stories add up. They make it so much harder to buy in to the absurdities, and so much easier to reject them,” he concludes, as he pleads with justice-minded people to amplify the Palestinian narrative, so as to change American public opinion.

I agree with Lord:  painful as the need to “humanize” any people is, it is indicative of the magnitude of racism of the privileged classes—racism dehumanizes–and is indeed a strategy various oppressed communities use, as they ask us to “tell the names” and stories of murdered African Americans, disappeared Indigenous women and, more recently, asylum seekers dying in the border states concentration camps. (And I am thankful to Mondoweiss for the forum it provides for these stories, and urge its readers to contribute to the current fundraiser, so we can keep reading such stories).

In thinking of strategies to further change American public opinion and push an anti-racist agenda (on Palestine, and other oppressed communities),  organizers and activists must also be very intentional about shifting the narrative so as to expose not just Israel’s violations, but also, those US-based Zionist organizations that claim to be progressive, yet have a history of siding with white and Jewish supremacy.  Prime amongst these is the Anti-Defamation League  (ADL), which not only has a documented record of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, but has also long partnered with racist police departments and promoted surveillance of communities of color. Nevertheless, the ADL is frequently the go-to for numbers and statistics about hate crimes, and anti-bias training.

Just as we already knew Israel for the oppressor, not victim, that it is, yet we had to toil to enlighten others about this reality, so we must work hard on educating well-meaning communities that the ADL is no friend of the oppressed. Still, a sobering number of progressive individuals, organizations, human resources departments, and media outlets have partnered with the ADL, because they do not know of its history of promoting racist practices, from providing a training booklet to police departments suggesting they plant spies and informers within activist communities protesting white supremacy, to criminalizing social justice activism.  An important report by IJAN (the International Anti-Zionist Jewish Network) also documents the ADL’s own record of spying on a large number of social justice organizations, from anti-South African apartheid activists to Black Lives Matter.

By citing the ADL, as they very frequently do (e.g., most recently, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, on the rise in hate crimes in Oregon), the media are validating this racist organization. Readers, then, should respond in brief yet pointed letters that the ADL is not a reliable reference on hate crimes, as it has consistently antagonized communities of color.  Indeed, these communities set a national example in 2017 when they successfully rallied Starbucks to drop the ADL from its mandated employee anti-bias training because, as Black Lives Matter co-leader Tamika Malloy observed:  “the ADL is CONSTANTLY attacking black and brown people,” and Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project, noted:  “You can’t be a piece of an anti-bias training when you openly support a racist, oppressive and brutal colonization of Palestine.”

Just as worrisome as the media validating the ADL’s credibility is recent state legislation requiring or “strongly encouraging” Holocaust education in public schools as of the 2020-2021 academic year.  The legislation is in no way problematic in itself; if anything, it is redundant, as practically all schools already do that. However, the wording of the Washington state bill, for example, is worrisome, as it  specifies that “the superintendent of public instruction, in collaboration with an expert Washington state non-profit organization that teaches the lessons of the Holocaust, must develop best practices and guidelines” for the curriculum.  Also in Washington, the Seattle area-based Holocaust Center for Humanity, which for years has been providing curriculum for public schools teaching the Holocaust, and is as such an “expert Washington state non-profit” fulfilling the requirements of the legislation, has announced on its website that it has a partnership with the ADL. Indeed, the ADL gloats, on its website, that it has partnered with 1600 schools nationally that have committed to making their campus “No Place for Hate.”

Again, that would be absolutely wonderful, if we could trust the ADL to provide genuinely anti-racist and anti-bullying training. Instead, as Emmaia Gelman, who is part of a national coalition seeking to debunk the ADL’s false claim to being progressive has written, the urgency of implementing anti-racism measures following the urban conflicts and race riots of the 1970s and 1980s “put the ADL in the position of writing essentially national curriculum not just on anti-Semitism, but on anti-black, anti-Asian, and anti-Arab/anti-Muslim racism,” and these curricula were often written and implemented “over the objections of black, Asian, Arab, and Muslim communities.” A similar national moment is engulfing the country today, as Trump’s presidency has emboldened white supremacists, and the ADL is once again coming to the fore, with little awareness amongst most of its toxic history.

In its determination to defend Israel (not “Jews,” generally) against any criticism, for example, the ADL has created a campus booklet with “proactive strategies to prevent anti-Israel activities on campus.” The very first strategy prompts Zionist students to consult with “off-campus organizations” like AIPAC.  The ADL equates criticism of Israel with anti-semitism and, according to Gelman, “counts calls for Palestinian rights,  and even criticism of the ADL itself, as anti-Semitic incidents.” Partnering with the ADL, then, is partnering with a Zionist organization that places the interests of Israel over the rights of Americans, (and Palestinians, of course), an organization that recommends students avail themselves of the resources provided by AIPAC, and an organization that celebrated President Trump’s move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, in violation of international law.

At this dangerous junction, we need to organize events exposing the practices of the ADL, such as the one last April at New York University on “the History, Function, and Political Impact of the ADL.”  And we need to let our schools and universities know that the ADL cannot provide curriculum on the cultures and histories of communities whose social justice activism it has been actively disrupting. It is imperative, then, for progressive organizers to be very intentional about educating our larger communities,  the media, educational institutions, and HR departments, about fake progressive organizations.  As fascism and white supremacy are emboldened in this country (indeed, globally), we must work on severing the partnership between spaces that aspire to be progressive, and the ADL.  If there is to be “no place for hate” in our communities, there should be no place for the ADL.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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12 Responses

  1. eljay on July 24, 2019, 10:13 am

    The name “Anti-Defamation League” should be changed to the more-accurate “Selective Defamation League”.

  2. Keith on July 24, 2019, 3:56 pm

    NADIA ELIA- “…recent state legislation requiring or “strongly encouraging” Holocaust education in public schools as of the 2020-2021 academic year. The legislation is in no way problematic in itself; if anything, it is redundant, as practically all schools already do that.”

    I find this recent emphasis on Holocaust education very problematic, particularly in the US which should be much more concerned with American history in regards to the Native Americans, Blacks and other people of color. Furthermore, this ongoing emphasis on the Holocaust reinforces the victimhood status of the wealthiest, most powerful ethno-religious group in the US. As J.J. Goldberg notes:

    “American Jews were the first ethnic or religious minority to win power and influence within the larger body politic by trumpeting their own weakness and victimhood.” (P20, “Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment,” J.J. Goldberg)

    • wondering jew on July 25, 2019, 2:53 am

      Certainly it is easier to teach about man’s inhumanity to man using history that is third person. For Americans to confront the past (and present) of slaughtering native Americans and enslaving African Americans it would require a leap of political consciousness that is not in the cards at this time in many American locales, thus it is easier to teach what happened in Europe between 1933 and 1945.

      If what Leopold did to the Congolese was worse in numbers than what Hitler did to the Jews is really irrelevant. Teaching man’s inhumanity to man needs to be taught.

      As far as: “We must not teach this major fact of the 20th century in order to keep in mind how powerful these people really are!” That’s a particularly point of view that I associate with hatred.

      • eljay on July 25, 2019, 8:12 am

        || wondering jew: … For Americans to confront the past (and present) of slaughtering native Americans and enslaving African Americans it would require a leap of political consciousness that is not in the cards at this time in many American locales, thus it is easier to teach what happened in Europe between 1933 and 1945. … ||

        It is easier still to teach what happened – and what continues to happen – to the indigenous people of geographic Palestine at the hands of Jewish supremacists (Zionists).

        || … Teaching man’s inhumanity to man needs to be taught. … ||

        I agree. That’s why teaching what happened – and what continues to happen – to the indigenous people of geographic Palestine at the hands of Jewish supremacists (Zionists) needs to be taught.

      • Misterioso on July 25, 2019, 10:15 am

        @wondering Jew

        Here’s a glimpse at history that would help educate Americans about Zionism and its spawn, “Israel.”

        “On Israel’s little-known concentration and labor camps in 1948-1955” Oct 19, 2014

        “It is shocking that this would have happened in Palestine within just a few years after the Nazi regime was defeated and all the prisoners including the large number of Jews in their concentration camps were freed. The following article by Yazan al-Saadi was published in Alakhbar on Monday, September 29, 2014.

        “Much of the grim and murky circumstances of the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the late 1940s have gradually been exposed over time. One aspect – rarely researched or deeply discussed – is the internment of thousands of Palestinian civilians within at least 22 Zionist-run concentration and labor camps that existed from 1948 to 1955. Now more is known about the contours of this historical crime, due to the comprehensive research by renowned Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta and founding member of the Palestinian resource center BADIL Terry Rempel.”

        “The establishment of concentration and labor camps occurred after the unilateral declaration of Israel’s statehood on May 1948.

        “Prior to that event, the number of Palestinian captives in Zionist hands was quite low, because, as the study states, ‘the Zionist leadership concluded early on that forcible expulsion of the civilian population was the only way to establish a Jewish state in Palestine with a large enough Jewish majority to be ‘viable’. In other words, for the Zionist strategists, prisoners were a burden in the beginning phases of the ethnic cleansing.”

      • Mooser on July 25, 2019, 10:39 pm

        “Teaching man’s inhumanity to man needs to be taught.”

        And what a ‘teaching moment’ the Zionism provides. It’s got the dehumanizing words, and the inhuman actions. And just for extra relevance it is happening right now!

      • Keith on July 26, 2019, 1:03 pm

        WONDERING JEW- “… thus it is easier to teach what happened in Europe between 1933 and 1945.”

        Nonsense! The ongoing focus on historic anti-Semitism creates the impression of ongoing anti-Semitism.

        “It is a fact that American anti-Semitism currently (circa 1995) is at a historic low by most essential yardsticks. Hostility towards Jews, as measured in opinion polls, has dropped to what some social scientists consider a virtual zero point….Government action against Jews, the staple of European anti-Semitism for centuries, is almost inconceivable in this country….By contrast, the percentage of Jews who tell pollsters that anti-Semitism is a “serious problem” in America nearly doubled during the course of the 1980s, from 45 percent in 1983 to almost 85 percent in 1990.” (P6, “Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment,” J.J. Goldberg)

  3. Elizabeth Block on July 25, 2019, 8:28 am

    “they successfully rallied Starbucks against dropping the ADL from its mandated employee anti-bias training ” – this is confusing. Did you mean “including the ADL”?

    I knew that the ADL has become little more than a shill for Israel. I did NOT know about its past history. That’s shocking.

  4. David Green on July 27, 2019, 12:51 pm

    In the era of Trump, #resistance supporters have routinely invoked ADL/SPLC “hate crime” data as if they are valid. In spite of the horrific events in Pittsburgh and San Diego, there is no evidence that anti-semitism has gotten worse, or was a problem in the first place in effective terms. ADL/SPLC data is unverifiable in terms of both “hate crimes,” and the alleged consequences, which are never verifiable.

    Groups like JVP and others (Amy Goodman) make a big mistake when they concede the rise in anti-semitism. It’s wrong, and it plays into liberal Zionism. They should stop talking that way, but they won’t, because it’s part of their basically liberal/DP political agenda. Personally, I will no longer support JVP as I have in the past, monetarily or morally, until they get over this nonsense.

    • Keith on July 27, 2019, 5:47 pm

      DAVID GREEN- “Groups like JVP and others (Amy Goodman) make a big mistake when they concede the rise in anti-semitism.”

      This assumes, of course, that a PERCEIVED increase in anti-Semitism doesn’t mesh with JVP’s own agenda. ADL data is highly biased, particularly involving “hate crimes,” a category designed to emphasize and exaggerate crimes against Jews by subjectively labeling them “hate crimes” to be compared to other groups which may have a much lower percent of crimes so labeled. A relatively small number then becomes a much larger number due to the biased labeling process. Also, the ADL, et al, rarely shows the comparable opinions of Jews concerning Gentiles. It would be interesting to see the change in attitudes over time and correlate that with Jewish Zionism’s emphasis on the Holocaust. Norman Finkelstein indicates that Hollywood produced 175 Holocaust films between 1989 and 2004.

      I particularly would love to see hard statistical data regarding the well-being of Jews versus non-Jews to better judge these tales of an incipient Holocaust. It was only after the Pittsburgh shooting that I stumbled upon an article in Haaretz which said that “Lethal attacks on U.S. Jews in their homeland have been very rare, with Saturday’s mass shooting in Pittsburgh more than doubling the total number of fatalities” (David B. Green)

      The point being that exaggerated claims are made with no empirical evidence to indicate that Jews are any less safe than other whites, possibly safer due to their income level. Yet tales abound about rampant and increasing anti-Semitism, a core tactic of Jewish Zionists.

  5. Steve Macklevore on July 29, 2019, 2:18 pm

    The ADL is Orwellian, in that it’s primary mission is to defame people that criticise Israel.

  6. crankylibrarian on August 11, 2019, 11:03 pm

    Please see the Drop the ADL site:

    ADL has also been instrumental in censoring library research and activism on Palestine. When the American Library Association passed a 1992 resolution critical of Israeli censorship of Palestinians, the ADL hammered the association until it rescinded the resolution. The ADL was also key to the withdrawal of a Chicago Public Library bibliography on Israel and Palestine by CPL’s Middle East bibliographer David Williams; ADL insisted it be re-published with an additional 30 pro Israel titles “for balance”.

    See and

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