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August 5, 2016 3

Eyes on The Prize: In Pursuit of Racial Justice, Stick to the Facts and Avoid the Fiction

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Black Lives Matter

Ear­lier this week, a col­lec­tive of more than 50 orga­ni­za­tions asso­ci­ated with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment (BLM) released a detailed plat­form, A Vision for Black Lives, Pol­icy Demands for Black Power, Free­dom & Jus­tice. There are other groups asso­ci­ated with BLM who have not signed onto the Plat­form and offered dif­fer­ent approaches. Nonethe­less, the Plat­form is bold and provoca­tive in its demands. It point­edly rejects many racial equal­ity approaches tried over the past four decades. Instead, the doc­u­ment pro­poses a trans­for­ma­tional pol­icy frame for many ideas that pre­vi­ously have been artic­u­lated by activists, schol­ars and writ­ers like Bryan Steven­sonMichelle Alexan­der and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

We do not agree with many of the spe­cific demands of the Plat­form, but the doc­u­ment appro­pri­ately high­lights the need to address mass incar­cer­a­tion and a wide range of racial inequities and socio-economic issues fac­ing African Amer­i­cans today. Beyond hand-wringing and soul-searching, the Plat­form pro­poses a num­ber of spe­cific legal, admin­is­tra­tive, and leg­isla­tive reme­dies to address iden­ti­fied challenges.

We appre­ci­ate these points because the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is deeply com­mit­ted to address­ing many of these issues, too. ADL’s long­time ded­i­ca­tion to fight­ing big­otry in all forms includes build­ing a just soci­ety where fair and equal treat­ment is guar­an­teed for all. Along with coali­tion part­ners, we are tack­ling crit­i­cal civil rights issues such as end­ing racial pro­fil­ing, address­ing edu­ca­tional equity and eco­nomic inequal­i­ties, dis­rupt­ing the school-to-prison pipeline and reform­ing our crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

This work is not new. For decades, we have been work­ing closely with our civil rights part­ners in the hard fight to advance a shared agenda of equal­ity, jus­tice, and respect for human dig­nity through lead­er­ship work in edu­ca­tion, leg­is­la­tion, and lit­i­ga­tion. Where pos­si­ble, we want to engage with a range of activists to achieve these goals.

But would-be allies in the strug­gle for civil and human rights along with jus­tice and fair treat­ment can­not ignore the Platform’s false and bla­tantly one-sided posi­tion on US-Israel rela­tions and Israeli-Palestinian issues. We cat­e­gor­i­cally reject the document’s crit­i­cism of the United States and Israel as being “com­plicit in the geno­cide tak­ing place against the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple.” The Jew­ish com­mu­nity knows too much about genocide.

What­ever one’s posi­tion on the rela­tion­ship between Israel, its Pales­tin­ian cit­i­zens, and the res­i­dents in the West Bank and Gaza, it’s repel­lent and com­pletely inac­cu­rate to label Israel’s pol­icy as “geno­cide.” And the Plat­form com­pletely ignores incite­ment and vio­lence per­pe­trated against Israelis by some Pales­tini­ans, includ­ing ter­ror inside the coun­try and rocket attacks lobbed from Gaza. Unfor­tu­nately, these phe­nom­ena are not new but have been chal­lenges that have faced the Jew­ish state since its incep­tion more than half a cen­tury ago.

We strongly dis­agree with the Platform’s erro­neous broad-brush con­flat­ing of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict with civil and human rights abuses dis­cussed in the doc­u­ment. Although Israel is far from a prin­ci­pal focal point in the more than 40,000-word doc­u­ment, it’s the irre­spon­si­ble and com­pletely over-the-top ref­er­ences to the Jew­ish state — as well as later gross mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of Israel as “an apartheid state,” and calls for sup­port of the BDS move­ment (boy­cott, divest­ment and sanc­tions against Israel) that alien­ate us and bear lit­tle resem­blance to real­ity. These points are wrong on the facts and offen­sive in tone. Impor­tantly, for ADL and many in the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, such false char­ac­ter­i­za­tions and mis­guided calls to action dis­tract us from the task of address­ing other, critically-important jus­tice and equal­ity priorities.

So let’s work to keep our eyes on the prize.

In the past few weeks, we have seen sig­nif­i­cant progress in push­ing back against state voter sup­pres­sion laws and advanc­ing crim­i­nal jus­tice reforms. The Jus­tice Depart­ment is appro­pri­ately high­light­ing the need to address the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of povertyThe President’s Task Force on 21st Cen­tury Polic­ing is actively pro­mot­ing many worth­while ideas to increase police account­abil­ity and enhance police-community relations.

The vital issues of racial jus­tice we are con­fronting now — and the need to directly com­bat extrem­ism, hate vio­lence, immi­grant bash­ing, and stereo­typ­ing — require sus­tained com­mit­ments. They neces­si­tate a dis­ci­plined, relent­less focus. They demand clear-headed, fact based approaches.

We can­not walk away. We can­not be dis­tracted or dispir­ited. Those of us com­mit­ted to jus­tice can­not afford to stray from address­ing the very real injus­tices fac­ing our communities.

We are com­mit­ted to doing just that.

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November 24, 2014 3

Presbyterians Against Divestment

New York Times Ad

New York Times Ad

A full page ad in the New York Times on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 21 stated “Pres­by­te­ri­ans: We can do bet­ter than divest­ment.”  The ad, endorsed by over one hun­dred lead­ers of the Pres­by­ter­ian Church (USA) and spon­sored by Pres­by­te­ri­ans for a Just and Peace­ful Future in the Mid­dle East, is a response to the nar­row deci­sion (310–303) by the PC(USA) Gen­eral Assem­bly this past sum­mer to divest from three Amer­i­can com­pa­nies who con­duct busi­ness with Israel in the West Bank, a deci­sion the ADL deplored.

The ad calls for Pres­by­te­ri­ans to “reclaim the church’s role as ‘repair­ers of the breach’” between them­selves and other reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties, “to reaf­firm boldly the church’s com­mit­ment to two-state solu­tion,” and “to seek oppor­tu­ni­ties in Pales­tine, Israel, and between Israelis and Pales­tini­ans for proac­tive investment.”

Polling data con­sis­tently show that “main­line” Protes­tants over­whelm­ingly sup­port a safe and secure Israel, even while also being con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion of Pales­tini­ans in the West Bank and Gaza.  The efforts at the PC(USA) and other churches to pass divest­ment res­o­lu­tions reflect the views of a minor­ity of activists within those churches who take advan­tage of the struc­tures of those churches to press their agenda.

ADL hopes this ad will pro­mote exactly the kind of respect­ful dis­cus­sion and col­lab­o­ra­tion for which it calls, as well as serve to encour­age oth­ers within the PC(USA) and other main­line Protes­tant churches who have con­sid­ered divest­ment res­o­lu­tions to look for con­struc­tive ini­tia­tives that pro­mote Israeli-Palestinian coop­er­a­tion and  reconciliation.

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March 28, 2014 0

Update: BDS Resolutions Fail At Michigan And Loyola

Last week, we blogged about impend­ing divest­ment res­o­lu­tions on four U.S. col­lege cam­puses. Two of those res­o­lu­tions were voted on, and ulti­mately voted down, this week.

Here’s what happened:Michigan Divest

  • At the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan, a divest­ment res­o­lu­tion intro­duced by SAFE (Stu­dents Allied for Free­dom and Equal­ity) was defeated by a 25–9 vote and five absten­tions by the Cen­tral Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment (CSG). ADL praised the CSG for defeat­ing the res­o­lu­tion and also spoke out against reports that CSG rep­re­sen­ta­tives were allegedly threat­ened and called anti-Semitic slurs such as “kike”’ and “dirty Jew.”
  • At Loy­ola Uni­ver­sity, the Stu­dent Sen­ate held a sec­ond vote on SJP’s divest­ment res­o­lu­tion on Wednes­day, March 25. The res­o­lu­tion ini­tially passed with a 12–10 vote with and nine absten­tions. The next day though, the Pres­i­dent of Loyola’s United Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion, Pedro Guer­rero, vetoed the res­o­lu­tion, explain­ing his deci­sion to do so on the grounds that the res­o­lu­tion “caused harm among the stu­dent com­mu­nity” and that “diver­sity of thought on cam­pus was not taken into consideration.”

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