Anti-Defamation League (ADL) again sides with human rights abusers over free speech on campus

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) again sides with human rights abusers over free speech on campus

The ADL wants to see the continuation of Israeli abuse of Palestinian human rights – and the repression of free speech on American campuses – rather than cause discomfort among Jewish students.

by Kathryn Shihadah

In a particularly shocking headline, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – the self-styled “world’s leading anti-hate organization” – has begun another school year loudly and clearly announcing its primary enemy. It’s not neo-Nazis or KKK members. The arch nemesis of this well-funded organization (total assets in 2021 over $238 million) is college students who advocate for the human rights of a marginalized group halfway around the world.

The headline:

Anti-Israel Incidents on College Campuses Often Marked by Vilification of Zionists and Support for Terror, ADL Finds

For years, the ADL has been tracking antisemitic incidents on college campuses, at times differentiating between antisemitic and so-called “anti-Israel” occurrences. The organization’s latest report hones in on the latter, going so far as to declare, “There is a growing, radical movement on many campuses in which opposition to Israel and Zionism is required to be fully accepted, effectively marginalizing campus Jewish communities.”

The ADL is particularly concerned that Zionism (“an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel”)  is viewed by some groups on campus as insupportable. Jewish students’ public support for Israel has at times caused them to feel ostracized.

The ADL indicated that in the 2022-2023 school year, there were 326 “protests and actions” against Israel and 303 other “anti-Israel events.”

ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, has acknowledged that when Israeli aggression against Palestinians (what Greenblatt refers to as “tension in the Middle East”) intensifies, so does opposition to supporters of Israel here at home. He objects to the way Jews and Jewish organizations can find themselves the recipients of this hostility.

“Anti-Israel events” on campus included speakers and panels, conferences, webinars and other activities – many of which promoted BDS, the boycott, divest, and sanction movement for Palestinian rights – or informed students that Israel has been declared by multiple human rights organizations to be practicing apartheid.

Israel, the catalyst

Often these events come in response to specific actions that Israel has taken against the largely unarmed Palestinian population. Greenblatt has acknowledged the connection, noting for example a “roughly 50% uptick” in incidents during and immediately following Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2021. What happened in that attack, that caused such a flare-up (more details on the attack here)?

  • At least 279 Palestinians were killed (77 of them children); 12 Israelis were also killed
  • An estimated 2,400 Palestinian homes and 5 Israeli homes were destroyed
  • 120,000 Gazans were displaced due to the attack; an estimated 50 Israelis were displaced
  • Israel , which boasts one of the world’s top militaries, reportedly dropped 80 tons of explosives in one 40-minute campaign; resistance fighters in Gaza had little more available to them than homemade rockets

The ADL apparently believes that either this attack was above reproach, or at least that there should be no social cost for people who support such attacks. At no point does Jonathan Greenblatt criticize Israel’s actions or try to distance American Jews from Israel.

Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians are ongoing, and will likely spark protests and conferences throughout the 2023-2024 school year. The Anti-Defamation League would like to see such events halted so that Israel-supporting students (especially if they are Jewish) can feel comfortable on campus. That is, students who wish to defend the rights of Palestinians should remain silent in the face of actions like these (a few recent headlines):

The ADL would also prefer that no one denounce these actions, as reported by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights:

  • So far in 2023, the Israeli military has killed 223 Palestinians (42 of them children)
  • In 2023, the Israeli military has injured 1,142 (175 of them children, 16 journalists)
  • In 2023, Israel has made 138 families (802 persons) homeless
  • In 2023, Israeli settlers have conducted at least 309 attacks against Palestinian civilians and their property
  • In 2023, Israeli settlers have killed 9 Palestinians

It is entirely possible that yet another globally-recognized human rights organization will release a report labelling Israel an apartheid state (although it would be hard to beat the prestige and meticulousness of the Amnesty International report), or that the charge of genocide and/or ethnic cleansing could be made again by prominent group. The ADL would prefer that such information not be displayed prominently or discussed publicly.

The bottom line is that the ADL would rather see Israeli abuse of Palestinian human rights – and the repression of free speech on American campuses – than allow those Jewish students who support such abuses to feel snubbed for doing so.

Historic warnings, modern alliances

Jewish thinkers have been warning against this phenomenon since before Israel was born. They have insisted that an oppressive “Jewish state” would spell trouble for American Jews – and the best remedy would be for American Jews to distance themselves from Israel, and/or to pressure Israel to provide a measure of justice to the Palestinian people.

Instead of following this advice, however, American Jewish groups (unlike many Jewish individuals) have chosen to do the opposite— to work against Palestinian justice and statehood.

At the same time, leading American Jewish organizations insist that Jewish identity is inherently linked to Zionism and Israel. Jews who support Palestinian rights are branded “self-hating Jews.” To complete the circle, Israeli leaders declare themselves the leaders of the world’s Jewish population.

Now the Anti-Defamation League has made it a top priority to bring an end to advocacy for Palestinian rights.

Kathryn Shihadah is an editor and staff writer for If Americans Knew. She also blogs occasionally at Palestine Home.



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