Social justice groups say drop the ADL

People holding signs and Palestinian flags

Delegates from the Movement for Black Lives join Palestinian organizers and activists in the West Bank village of Bilin during a weekly Friday protest against Israel’s occupation and colonization, 29 July 2016. (Eyewitness Palestine)

More than 100 leading anti-racist, social justice and civil rights groups are calling on allied organizations to end their relationships with the Anti-Defamation League.

“Many organizations in our communities find themselves in spaces with the ADL, using its anti-bias education materials, or counting on the ADL to support our political goals,” the groups state in an open letter.

“In light of a growing understanding of the ADL’s harmful practices, many progressive groups are rethinking those relationships,” the letter adds.

The letter was published on Tuesday along with a 34-page primer – “The ADL is not an ally” – on the ADL’s history of advancing repressive practices and a racist agenda.

A major Israel lobby organization, the ADL masquerades as a civil rights group while systematically undermining social justice movements and repeatedly denouncing Black activists for expressing support for the Palestinian liberation struggle.

It regularly inserts itself into corporate and public school “anti-bias” trainings while mainstreaming Islamophobia and disparaging Palestinian, Muslim and Arab community organizations.

Shielding Israel

At the same time attempting to portray itself as an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement, the ADL has long boasted that it has sent hundreds of US “law enforcement executives” to be trained by Israeli forces in “intensive counter-terrorism” tactics.

But its signature efforts have been to shield Israel from criticism and accountability for its human rights abuses.

The groups calling for ending partnerships with the ADL include Jewish Voice for Peace, Dream Defenders, Palestine Legal, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, the Movement for Black Lives, American Friends Service Committee, the Red Nation, Friends of Sabeel North America and the Democratic Socialists of America.

They say that even when their work benefits from “access to some resources or participation from the ADL,” its destructive role betrays social movements and their core visions for justice and equality.

“In short, the ADL has sought to portray itself as the authority on rights and justice – at the great expense of Black, immigrant, queer, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, and many other communities,” the primer states.

Highlighting its history of repressive practices on US campuses, the primer details the ADL’s targeting of student organizations and efforts to censor discussions of Palestinian rights “by falsely portraying it as a violation of Jewish students’ rights.”


The primer also notes the ADL’s ability to use its credibility to gatekeep and censor content on social media.

In addition to filtering speech for Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft, the ADL “vets content for YouTube/Google, where videos about the ADL’s police training exchanges with Israel have been censored as ‘hate speech,’” the primer explains.

It also points out the ADL’s support for actual anti-Semites, including Donald Trump and other right-wing figures.

Throughout its history, the ADL has consistently opposed left-wing movements while purporting to champion civil rights.

Whether it is its documented record of spying on human rights defenders, Palestine solidarity and other leftist activists, or its collaboration with the apartheid government of South Africa, the ADL’s “opposition to the left” has framed its work, the primer says.

Activists are hoping that the primer will encourage social justice groups to drop the ADL and seek out alternative organizations to help further their work.

“We who are committed to a vision of collective liberation cannot aid the ADL in projecting a false badge of progressivism that helps advance a racist agenda,” the primer states.




Front organisations of this kind hide behind their fine-sounding titles. After all, if you wanted to curtail freedom, what would you call yourselves: The Anti-Freedom League? There's a name to bring the masses swarming. No, you'd choose The Freedom Society or some such benign, motherhood and apple pie appellation. Who would not be opposed to defamation? It's like founding the Anti Body Odour League. Thus, if your aim is to defame the Palestinians what better title than the ADL? The Zionists engage in this form of dishonesty as naturally as they eat breakfast. The CST which is known to have spied on UK citizens and passed details to the UK government, making it a private, unaccountable spy agency, is apparently a charity defending the security of Jews. What we always return to is the despicable misuse of the Nazi genocide and the vile history of anti-Semitism. In the twisted ideology of the New or Real Anti-Semitism, any refusal of Zionist claims is racism. Everyone is an anti-Semite who does not believe in the Israeli State. There is no rational means to defend the Israeli State. It has no rational legitimacy while it continues to deny equal rights to Palestinians. Thus, there is no alternative to irrationality. There is nothing new here: all injustice must use irrational means of defence. There is no rational means to defend capitalism, hence the irrationality of its doctrinal system. One Zionist body upon another proclaims its rationality in its title and its evil in its actions. What is done daily to the Palestinians is evil by any measure. And the way out is simple. The Zionists know it and make their ideology ever more convoluted in consequence. What better way to conceal your malicious intent than behind high-falutin' titles? Anti-Arab prejudice is virulent. When the ADL starts campaigning against that, we could take it seriously. But that will be the day the sun will orbit the earth.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).