On October 27, thousands of Jews and other people participated in peaceful protests in Central Park in New York, in the largest protest witnessed by the city in the last two decades. The event was organized by “Jewish Voice for Peace," where the protestors demanded an end to the Israeli war on Gaza. Almost 400 people were arrested in this protest including rabbis.
Following the protest, the Anti-Defamation League classified the event like many others as “antisemitic," and according to an investigation published by “The Intercept," the Anti-Defamation League added the event to its database, which documents the rising manifestation of antisemitism in the U.S. Additionally, it accused Jewish protest groups against Israel of being fringe and extremist groups that spread antisemitism and incitement speech.
What Is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)?
The Anti-Defamation League [ADL] is a non-profit organization that was established in the United States in 1913, it has widespread influence and confidence there, which are based on its goals over the years of combating distortion and hate against Jews, discrimination, and extremism.
The league states that its mission has developed to include combating discrimination against minorities. It documents events of distortion and hate, generating related reports and statistics. However, tracking the organization's behavior in recent years indicates political bias and connection to official Israeli propaganda, which may be evidence of the organization's deviation from its stated goals.
The Confusion Between Criticism of Israel and Antisemitism
On October 18, the Anti-Defamation League published a statement saying that anti-Zionism equates to antisemitism, after hundreds of protesters stormed into the U.S. Congress demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. Jonathan Greenblatt, the league's executive director, accused protestors of being affiliated with extremist groups that promote hate speech like Jewish Voice for Peace.
In response, Jewish Voice for Peace emphasized that conflicting anti-Zionism with antisemitism by the league exposes anyone who defends Palestinian rights to danger and suppresses the right to criticize the policies of Israel. One of the most important tasks of the Jewish Voice for Peace is to combat the false and dangerous accusations of anti-Semitism against Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims in particular, promoted by the Anti-Defamation League.
Although the Anti-Defamation League has previously clarified on its website, in a blog that was removed but found in an archived copy by Misbar, that legitimate criticism of Israel is not considered antisemitism and highlighted distinctions between various forms of criticism, the latest policies of the league, its database, and added organizations all indicate the intended mix between policies of Israel and antisemitism.
Manipulation of Data and Reports
On October 24, the ADL published a report stating that antisemitism events in the U.S. have increased by 400% since October 7. Although the information was not publicly available for analysis, “The Intercept” team succeeded in getting and analyzing the data. The team discovered threads of misinformation, including repetition of incidents claimed to be antisemitic, and other misleading information like describing 54% of these incidents to be antisemitic even though they were protests calling for a ceasefire and ending the U.S. unconditional aid to Israel.
The ADL also accused other protests of being supportive of Hamas and terrorism, even though they just called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
Combating Freedom of Speech
Many have noticed the ADL is fighting freedom of expression within the framework of the Israel propaganda, especially after getting into a conflict with X social media platform last September, based on the accusation of the league to X platform of containing antisemitic and hateful tweets since Elon Musk took over.
Journalistic reports indicated that the cause of the dispute is that X did not remove the reported hateful posts, as these posts were found not to meet that description.
In September, Elon Musk said that the advertising revenues of the X platform had dropped 60% due to the pressure of ADL on advertisers which led then to take down their advertisements on the platform, he accused ADL of trying to kill the platform.
On November 21, ADL classified many pages on the X platform that criticize Israel for containing antisemitic content that “includes incitement and supports terrorism."
Among these pages mentioned by ADL were “Africans against apartheid," “Black Coalition for Peace," “The Palestinian-American People," and “Palestinian Women Association.”
Although most of these pages contain posts about peace and fighting for the Palestinians’ rights and criticism of Israeli violations, they were classified as a terrorist organizations due to their use of words such as, “Resistance” and posts “Against Zionism” and other posts to criticize Israel and “Restore the Occupied Lands.” On another level, these pages which are against normalization with Israel were classified to promote antisemitic and anti-peace content.
The ADL extensively works to report and ban the usage of words such as “apartheid” and “genocide” in regard to Israel, despite the fact that international human rights organizations, researchers, and even official spokespersons use them repeatedly to describe some of Israel’s policies.
Fighting the Cultural Voice Supporting the Palestinian Cause
The ADL exerts extensive efforts to track all voices that criticize Israel in cultural and academic venues. Last October, the ADL sent letters to university directors to investigate accusations of financial support of terrorism without any evidence against “Students for Justice in Palestine," a young university student activists pro-Palestinian organization in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand, due to the students’ activities calling for an end to the war on Gaza.
Although the ADL’s influence on the academic field has increased since the beginning of the war on Gaza, the organization’s pressure to suppress academic voices that criticize Israel is not new. In 2020, more than 100 cultural and progressive organizations signed an open letter asking the progressive community not to cooperate with the ADL upon the fact that the organization “has a repetitive history and pattern of attacking social justice movements.”
Moreover, in October 2006, the ADL played a significant role in canceling a lecture that was supposed to be held at the Polish Consulate in New York for Professor Tony Godet, who is well known for criticizing Israel. The ADL pressured the Polish Consul, Krzysztof Kasprzyk, who subsequently canceled the lecture.
Questionable History: Suspicions About the Organization’s Path and Development
The ADL's history is marked by questionable events that raise suspicions about its work and goals. In 1933, the U.S. authorities accused ADL of employing Roy Bullock, who spied and gathered information about individuals and organizations hostile to Israel.
For over three decades, Bullock established a database that contains files of 12 thousand people and 950 organizations. It turned out the ADL was fully aware of his activities and had full access to his database. As a result, the ADL was sued along with Roy Bullock in a collective lawsuit filed by these targeted people and organizations. Bullock was accused with the ADL of violating the law by collecting private information about thousands of political activists and ordinary citizens.
Historically, the ADL tracked several organizations opposing Israel’s policies. In 2010, the ADL published a list of 10 organizations, asserting that they were responsible for “Insulting Israel in the U.S.” The list contained names like “Jewish Voice for Peace," “ANSWER” (an organization aims to end war and discrimination), and the “International Solidarity Organization” which criticizes Israel peacefully.
Selectivity and Disregard of Israel’s Hate Speech
Although the ADL has confirmed its role in combating hate speech against all religious minorities in the U.S., reports show that it rarely addresses Israeli hate speech.
On November 21, the ADL published a report directed against the Jewish Voice for Peace movement and attached to it cartoon images where the movement criticized actions of violence by the Israel Army against the Palestinians. The ADL classified this criticism to be antisemitic.
Simultaneously, it is noticed that the ADL did not address many Israeli cartoon images and posts which contain discrimination and violent speech. For example, despite the large media coverage of the hateful and racist statements made by Stuart Seldowitz, the former advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, who verbally attacked an Egyptian vendor in New York and described him as a “terrorist,” and said that the killing of 4,000 Palestinian children was not enough, the ADL did not publish any report or statement regarding this matter, which is considered central to its interests and announced goals.
The clear bias of these organizations towards Israel could pose serious threats to individuals’ lives and freedom of expression. It could also be a resource to the increase of misleading information, stereotypes, and hate speech against a wide sector of people. This contributes to obscuring the facts about what the Palestinians are exposed to, and as a result, empowers the official Israeli narrative.
It is worth mentioning that Misbar has previously reviewed several similar organizations, including CAMERA, which pressures the media and academic venues to pass and adopt the official Israel narrative and suppress voices supporting Palestinians and criticizing Israel.