By Ashahed M. Muhammad
The Anti-Defamation League is coming under sharp criticism from college activists and human rights organizations for their recently released report identifying those whom they believe are the top-ten anti-Israel groups in America.
“What was once a very respected civil rights organization sort of devolved into a one issue organization that is even misusing the one issue that it's speaking out on,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, national director of Jewish Voices for Peace, one of the groups designated by the ADL as being “anti-Israel.”
Other groups included with Jewish Voices for Peace are: Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), Al-Awda, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Friends of Sabeel-North America, If Americans Knew led by Alison Weir, International Solidarity Movement, the Muslim American Society, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
According to the ADL the groups were listed because “they stand out in that they are able to organize a significant number of events, have a national reach, use particularly vitriolic language against Israel and its supporters, attract people to their cause and affect the mainstream discussion about Israel.”
Ms. Vilkomerson believes the ADL's list actually backfired on them. Instead of people looking at the organizations as being anti-Semitic, many viewed it as just another smear campaign by the ADL with the goal of muting critics of Israeli policy, she said.
Student for Justice in Palestine released a statement signed by over 60 organizations nationwide calling the ADL's report “a disingenuous and misguided attempt to vilify students that criticize Israel's occupation, which denies Palestinian human rights and self-determination.”
Inspired by the international movement against South African apartheid—which ended only 16 years ago—the Students for Justice in Palestine said many organizations are united in their desire to end the Israeli government's apartheid system being imposed on the Palestinian people.
This is not the first time the ADL has condemned peace activists critical of America's biased foreign policy towards Israel and those who have spoken out against Israel's atrocities.
Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been an outspoken critic of Israel's government and the separation barrier wall they built there. Archbishop Tutu, who experienced apartheid first hand in South Africa, has said some aspects of Israel's treatment of Palestinians rivals and even surpasses the old South African system of racial segregation and oppression. In his 2006 book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” former U.S. President Jimmy Carter drew the same striking parallels and has repeatedly called for peace and justice as a solution to the conflict grounded in international law.
Political analyst Ali Abunimah, author of “One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse,” said despite the ADL's criticisms, the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement is still picking up steam. A recent conference hosted in Israel was not attended by the UK, Sweden, Turkey, South Africa, and Ireland and many other countries who did attend agreed to only send low-level delegations. Advocates point to those developments as proof the boycott is gaining momentum.
“The ADL's ‘top ten' list is certainly an acknowledgment that the anti-Palestinian, anti-justice, anti-peace messages of many pro-Israel groups, especially the ADL, are no longer working the way they did,” said Mr. Abunimah, also co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, a not-for-profit, independent online publication which covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It is true that few members of Congress or senior politicians in this country dare to criticize Israel openly, but among young people, especially on college campuses there is increasing awareness that Israel is an apartheid state and the U.S. by supporting Israel unconditionally is prolonging apartheid and delaying justice and peace.”
Mr. Abunimah, who is named in the ADL's report, said he condemns all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, and noted that the groups designated as anti-Israel by the ADL fight not only for the rights of Palestinians, but for universal human rights as well.
“If the ADL thinks that applying universal human rights is a ‘threat' to Israel, that pretty much tells you what you need to know about Israel,” said Mr. Abunimah. “It is also worth recalling that the ADL has history from way back of spying on Palestine justice activists and activists who were working in solidarity with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.”