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April 20, 2016 8

Why I’m Speaking to Students at J Street U

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium on April 17, 2016.

J Street U

This morn­ing, I will speak to stu­dents at the J Street U National Assem­bly, the annual gath­er­ing of more than 200 young lead­ers from across the coun­try who con­verge on Wash­ing­ton D.C. to dis­cuss the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and to exchange views about what they can do on cam­pus to advance a two-state solu­tion. J Street U reached out to me seek­ing to engage with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, eager to estab­lish a rela­tion­ship with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which it has never had.

As I begin to chart the course of my lead­er­ship, I felt it was impor­tant that I accept this invi­ta­tion. I feel this way because of my con­vic­tion that it is vital to engage with all mem­bers of our com­mu­nity, even and espe­cially those with whom we might have disagreements.

We can’t talk only to those who are aligned with us on every point.

In our time of hyper-polarization and the ero­sion of civil dis­course, I believe it’s imper­a­tive that the orga­nized Jew­ish lead­er­ship mod­els the traits that we want to define the broader pol­i­tics in our coun­try. When I started my tenure as CEO, the coun­try was locked in a bit­ter debate over the Iran deal. More than any­thing, the expe­ri­ence showed me that our com­mu­nity suf­fers from an inabil­ity to thought­fully and respect­fully engage across polit­i­cal divides.

I saw it first­hand as Jews who sup­ported the deal as well as those who opposed the deal both were attacked viciously for their views, par­tic­u­larly by fel­low Jews. I was dis­mayed by the self-destructive behav­ior — tak­ing out news­pa­per ads, plas­ter­ing munic­i­pal buses, exco­ri­at­ing oth­ers with ad home­nim attacks — such attacks don’t advance the debate. They dimin­ish all of us.

For a peo­ple who ele­vated the notion of dis­sent as a bedrock prin­ci­ple of our reli­gious prac­tice, the unwill­ing­ness to coun­te­nance oppos­ing views is counter to the best tra­di­tions of our peo­ple. As a leader, I will not engage in these tac­tics. Instead, as the CEO of ADL, I will be an active advo­cate for civil­ity and avoid the pol­i­tics of per­sonal destruction.

Build­ing from this frame, I see my remarks today as a major oppor­tu­nity for ADL to accom­plish two things.

The first is to deliver the mes­sage that, at ADL, we are com­mit­ted to ensur­ing Israel remains a safe and secure, Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic state, as enshrined in its procla­ma­tion of inde­pen­dence. It was that remark­able Zion­ist vision expressed from the cra­dle of Israel’s birth that cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and the world, the notion that Israel would be a coun­try unlike all others:

“…based on free­dom, jus­tice and peace as envis­aged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure com­plete equal­ity of social and polit­i­cal rights to all its inhab­i­tants irre­spec­tive of reli­gion, race or sex; it will guar­an­tee free­dom of reli­gion, con­science, lan­guage, edu­ca­tion and culture…”

Frayed Israel Flag

That is why ADL has had a pol­icy of sup­port for a two-state solu­tion for decades. This means advo­cat­ing for the legit­i­macy and secu­rity of the Jew­ish state even as we sup­port Pales­tin­ian dig­nity and equal­ity of Arab cit­i­zens in Israel. These ideas should not be in con­flict. Rather, they are con­sis­tent with our cen­ten­nial com­mit­ment to civil rights and social justice.

Sec­ondly, I see an oppor­tu­nity to deliver an impor­tant mes­sage to these impas­sioned stu­dents who are gal­va­nized by the imper­a­tive to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. At ADL, we equally want to see a res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict. Israel must take real, mean­ing­ful mea­sures to pro­mote an end to the impasse. How­ever, the idea that peace can be brought about only by apply­ing pres­sure to one side of the con­flict — Israel — is a strat­egy bound to backfire.

Fur­ther iso­lat­ing Israel at a time of great local tumult and regional volatil­ity will only rein­force the polit­i­cal psy­chol­ogy of Israelis who eye con­ces­sions made in the con­text of nego­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tini­ans as inevitably endan­ger­ing them. And this fear is real. It is sub­stan­ti­ated in the unrav­el­ing of the mod­ern Mid­dle East, the rise of vio­lent non-state actors com­mit­ted to the destruc­tion of Israel, ter­ror­ist groups like Hezbol­lahISIS and Hamas, and the regional power of Iran whose rev­o­lu­tion­ary ide­ol­ogy remains firmly rooted in anti-Semitism. As Israelis look around they see regional chaos engulf­ing their neigh­bor­hood: whole­sale slaugh­ter in Syria, chaos in Sinai, chal­lenges to the sta­bil­ity of their friends in Jor­dan. Any rea­son­able approach to solv­ing the con­flict in order to be cred­i­ble in the eyes of Israel must bear in mind this new reality.

Given these facts, it is only the con­stancy of Amer­i­can guar­an­tees of moral and phys­i­cal sup­port that will under­gird an even­tual agree­ment. And under­min­ing that sup­port endan­gers the prospects of peace. While a respon­si­ble approach should rec­og­nize that there are steps that Israel must take to ensure the via­bil­ity of a two-state solu­tion, a rea­son­able approach must have expec­ta­tions of the Pales­tini­ans as well.

Ignor­ing the steps they also must take, com­pro­mises they too must make to achieve peace, does a deep dis­ser­vice toward that goal.

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The fact is that the Pales­tini­ans, under the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, twice rejected seri­ous Israeli peace offers, once in 2008 dur­ing direct talks between Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen, and again under the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion — an admin­is­tra­tion which I was a part of. When Pres­i­dent Obama offered Pres­i­dent Abbas an Amer­i­can frame­work doc­u­ment for the res­o­lu­tion of the final sta­tus of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, Abbas decided to ignore it entirely. That is an incon­ve­nient fact for some who wish to por­tray the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict as a sim­plis­tic story of Israel’s unwill­ing­ness to make peace. But it is a fact that can­not be ignored.

The cham­pi­ons of Pales­tin­ian self-determination must hold the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship to task for its fail­ures as well.

But even as I will make these points, I want to stress that despite this, we must find the areas where we can be partners.

It is vital to be in con­ver­sa­tion with these stu­dents and the next gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Jew­ish lead­ers because it they who can cred­i­bly bro­ker crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions on cam­puses rooted in a com­mit­ment to peace, while unmask­ing the dam­ag­ing effects of BDS and anti-normalization.

The imper­a­tives for social jus­tice today do not lie in the Israeli-Palestinian nego­ti­a­tions alone. We can­not let our dif­fer­ences over how to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace keep us from work­ing together to address so many other chal­lenges fac­ing our nation. There are vital issues of struc­tural racism that we must address now, mat­ters of press­ing racial injus­tice that wrack our own soci­ety. There are dem­a­gogues ris­ing to power in Europe and the intro­duc­tion of a ter­ri­ble new type of polit­i­cal dis­course that threat­ens our fun­da­men­tal values.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 with an endur­ing mis­sion that still rings true today: to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. For more than 100 years, we have worked to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of big­otry even as we equally have fought for civil rights and social jus­tice for Jews and other mar­gin­al­ized people.

But it always has been a shared strug­gle, one that we have not waged our­selves but that has been a prod­uct of alliances, coali­tions and part­ner­ships. And the work is not yet com­plete. There is still much to do be done. Hope­fully we can do it, together.

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April 14, 2016 0

Jackie Robinson Set the Stage

By Ken­neth Jacobson

April 15 is the 69th anniver­sary of the entry of Jackie Robin­son into the major leagues. To com­mem­o­rate that his­toric event and that his­toric fig­ure, PBS is run­ning a new two-part doc­u­men­tary  look­ing at how this grand­son of slaves rose from hum­ble ori­gins to inte­grate Major League Baseball.

In some ways, the story of Robin­son and the inte­gra­tion of base­ball is a lit­tle hard for us to under­stand in 2016. Soci­ety in gen­eral has come a long way: the civil rights rev­o­lu­tion, the elec­tion of an African-American pres­i­dent, and the lead­ing role that African-Americans play in our major Amer­i­can sports. And base­ball no longer occu­pies a unique place as the national pas­time that it held in the 1940s.

Jackie_Robinson,_Brooklyn_Dodgers,_1954

Still, in a year where major sto­ries include num­bers of cases of unarmed African-Americans killed by police, where the right to vote cre­ated by the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act is under attack, where the school to prison pipeline is in the news, the Jackie Robin­son story has much to teach us.

In 1947, base­ball was king in Amer­ica. The fact that base­ball had never allowed an African-American to par­tic­i­pate in the major leagues was a blot on America’s rep­u­ta­tion, but only one of many that char­ac­ter­ized the coun­try before the civil rights era.

Robin­son was truly the har­bin­ger of change in America.

His break­through on April 15, 1947, which was rec­og­nized as a huge step for­ward. It took place seven years before the land­mark seg­re­ga­tion case Brown vs. Board of Edu­ca­tion and 17 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It started a process, which took years to ripen and which still is not over, of right­ing the great wrong of Amer­i­can history.

The great les­son of the Robin­son expe­ri­ence is that while laws have the great­est impact in chang­ing soci­ety, cul­ture can set the stage and cre­ate a cli­mate for the accep­tance of new, more inclu­sive laws. We’ve seen that in our time with the legal­iza­tion of gay mar­riage, which was pre­ceded by a num­ber of years of greater cul­tural accep­tance of les­bian and gay peo­ple through tele­vi­sion and the internet.

Back then, the emer­gence of Robin­son, the first African-American major lea­guer,  who han­dled  hos­tile fel­low major lea­guers and crowds with such grace and strength, to be fol­lowed over the next few years of other suc­cess­ful black major lea­guers, helped to cre­ate a sense that African-Americans deserved to be treated like other Amer­i­cans in our demo­c­ra­tic soci­ety. It was not a rev­o­lu­tion – it took years for the law to change – but it set the stage for the revolution.

Cul­ture mat­ters. How we teach our chil­dren, how the media por­tray var­i­ous minori­ties, how our reli­gious, busi­ness and polit­i­cal lead­ers speak about “the other” have a cumu­la­tive affect that cul­mi­nates in a more equal society.

Nobody bet­ter rep­re­sents this idea than Jackie Robinson.

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March 22, 2016 3

Intended or Not, SJP’s Actions Have Consequences for LGBTQ People

By Seth M. Marnin, Vice Pres­i­dent for Civil Rights

Recent homo­pho­bic and anti-Semitic inci­dents at Brown Uni­ver­sity came on the heels of the announce­ment that Janet Mock, trans­gen­der author and founder of #Girl­s­LikeUs, a social media project that empow­ers trans women, had can­celled her sched­uled speak­ing engage­ment there. Mock’s talk, Redefin­ing Real­ness, was spon­sored by Moral Voices, the Brown Cen­ter for Stu­dents of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Cen­ter, LGBTQ Cen­ter, Sex­ual Assault Peer Edu­ca­tors, Swearer Cen­ter for Pub­lic Ser­vice, Office of the Chap­lains, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Inter­cul­tural Stu­dent Engage­ment, and Brown/RISD Hillel.

React­ing to the fact that Hil­lel was one of the co-sponsors of pro­gram, the Brown Uni­ver­sity chap­ter of Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) launched a change.org peti­tion urg­ing Ms. Mock to reject Hillel’s invi­ta­tion to speak, say­ing that she should accept “Brown stu­dents’ spon­sor­ship instead of Hillel’s.”  Although they were only able to gain 159 sup­port­ers (of the nearly 9,000 stu­dents who attend Brown), SJP’s divi­sive efforts led to Ms. Mock can­celling her talk.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

While some may be quick to crit­i­cize Ms. Mock’s deci­sion, con­dem­na­tion should instead be lev­eled against SJP and their efforts to splin­ter a com­mu­nity and use Ms. Mock as a pawn. In their effort to link Hillel’s Moral Voices’ cam­paign — a largely domes­tic ini­tia­tive high­light­ing vio­lence against LGBT+ indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties — to vio­lence in the Mid­dle East, SJP forced a trans­gen­der woman of color to choose between silenc­ing her­self or allow­ing her­self to be exploited for their unre­lated cru­sade.  She should never have been put in that position.

The homo­pho­bic and anti-Semitic graf­fiti that appeared on Brown’s cam­pus just days later occurred in an envi­ron­ment that SJP helped cre­ate. Their claim to be sur­prised is unper­sua­sive.   More­over, the graf­fiti is only one vis­i­ble sign of the con­se­quences of SJP’s actions. While SJP’s efforts to alien­ate Jew­ish stu­dents are well doc­u­mented, there are other impli­ca­tions too.

There are far too few vis­i­ble trans­gen­der role mod­els and lead­ers. Efforts that have the effect of quash­ing those scarce voices have far-reaching reper­cus­sions.  For exam­ple, stud­ies have shown that the sui­cide attempt rate among trans­gen­der men and women exceeds 41%, greatly sur­pass­ing the 4.6% of the over­all U.S. pop­u­la­tion who report a sui­cide attempt at some point in their lives. The ele­vated rates of sui­cide attempts are con­nected with sur­vivors’ expe­ri­ences of fam­ily rejec­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion and vio­lence at school and work. The absence of trans­gen­der voices in main­stream dis­course also plays a role. There few role mod­els for young trans­gen­der peo­ple, and fam­i­lies, co-workers, and friends of trans­gen­der peo­ple have lim­ited oppor­tu­ni­ties to hear from trans­gen­der lead­ers.  Such an expe­ri­ence would bet­ter equip them to be allies in the future. Unfor­tu­nately, SJP’s actions fore­closed that pos­si­bil­ity for the Brown Uni­ver­sity campus.

The impor­tance of pro­vid­ing plat­form for trans­gen­der voices is under­scored by the fact that, accord­ing to the National Coali­tion of Anti-Violence Pro­grams’ most recent report, vio­lence against trans­gen­der women and par­tic­u­larly trans­gen­der women of color remains at an alarm­ingly high rate. At present, only 17 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia have hate crime laws that explic­itly cover gen­der iden­tity. Crit­i­cal efforts to address vio­lence against LGBTQ peo­ple, includ­ing advo­cacy for inclu­sive hate crime laws like the 50 States Against Hate cam­paign, are under­mined by orga­ni­za­tions that engage in activism that results in silenc­ing trans­gen­der voices. That too is what SJP did.

SJP encour­aged a speaker – wholly unre­lated to Israel — to reject an invi­ta­tion from a broad coali­tion of stu­dent orga­ni­za­tions solely because one of those orga­ni­za­tions is Jew­ish. Intended or not, SJP harmed the LGBTQ com­mu­nity at Brown and beyond.  It’s well beyond time to reject these divi­sive tactics.

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