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January 28, 2016 0

Crossing the Line: When Criticism of Israel Becomes Anti-Semitic

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Task Force Protestors

Pro­test­ers at Task Force Con­fer­ence in Chicago











In the wake of a protest against a recep­tion fea­tur­ing an Israeli com­mu­nity group at a recent LGBTQ con­fer­ence, there has been wide­spread con­tro­versy. We have read blog posts and arti­cles, watched videos of the protest, and heard from friends and allies who were present at the demonstration.

Yet, what was per­haps most painful for many of us is that we value and embrace much of the good work of these activists and orga­niz­ers.  They are some of our nation’s lead­ing advo­cates, work­ing to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. Often they stand as allies in our work for jus­tice and equality.

Unfor­tu­nately, though, this fis­sure is not a new expe­ri­ence.  Since start­ing as the CEO of ADL last sum­mer, I per­son­ally have heard from many col­lege stu­dents that their Jew­ish faith ren­ders them pari­ahs on their cam­puses – unless and until they affir­ma­tively denounce Israel.

Cam­pus Hil­lels and other Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions that have long worked with LGBTQ cam­pus groups, stu­dent of color orga­ni­za­tions, and other pro­gres­sive clubs on cam­pus to host film fes­ti­vals, pan­els, and other events increas­ingly are being shut out, rejected from par­tic­i­pat­ing, even when Israel is not on the agenda. Where other stu­dents are not being sub­jected to a lit­mus test on their views on Israel, Jew­ish stu­dents have been sin­gled out and ques­tioned about their objec­tiv­ity and posi­tion on the issue.

As racial ten­sions flared across the coun­try the past few years, we heard anec­dotes from Jew­ish racial jus­tice advo­cates that they were called “kikes” or tar­geted with other anti-Jewish slurs. When they tried to address the epi­thets, they were told they need to under­stand that “it’s because of Israel.”

Here’s the thing, though. It’s not. It’s anti-Semitism.

Let’s be clear. No gov­ern­ment is immune from crit­i­cism. Surely nei­ther the U.S. gov­ern­ment nor the gov­ern­ment of Israel nor any other.  Indeed, we have crit­i­cized poli­cies and prac­tices of Israeli lead­er­ship when we felt appro­pri­ate to do so.

We rec­og­nize that anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian activists will con­demn Israel. That is a real­ity. That is their right. We dis­agree — vig­or­ously — with their accu­sa­tions of pinkwash­ing, with claims that Israel is an apartheid state, and with other efforts to demo­nize Israel.  And we will speak out, chal­lenge their mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tions, and dis­man­tle their indict­ments with facts and truths, as is our right.

But when that crit­i­cism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism, we will con­demn it. It is unac­cept­able and can­not be tol­er­ated any­where, espe­cially not in social jus­tice circles.

To be spe­cific, when a per­son con­flates Jews, Israelis, and the Israeli gov­ern­ment, it is anti-Semitic. When all Jews and all Israelis are held respon­si­ble for the actions of the Israeli gov­ern­ment, it is anti-Semitic. When Jews would be denied the right to self-determination accorded to all other peo­ples, it is anti-Semitic.

And when pro­test­ers chant “Pales­tine will be free from the river to the sea,” it is appro­pri­ately inter­preted by most peo­ple as a call for the era­sure of Israel – and it is anti-Semitic. Giv­ing pro­tes­tors the ben­e­fit of the doubt, it is unlikely that most intend their mes­sage to be anti-Semitic. How­ever, regard­less of the intent of the protest, the impact matters.

Yet, too often, when stu­dents, indi­vid­u­als, or orga­ni­za­tions raise the specter of anti-Semitism it is quickly rejected, dis­re­garded, or writ­ten off. Israel’s crit­ics lit­er­ally have writ­ten best-selling books decry­ing their so-called inabil­ity to crit­i­cize Israel.

But Pres­i­dent Obama him­self noted that anti-Semitism is on the rise. And, as he elo­quently reminded, “When any Jews any­where is tar­geted just for being Jew­ish, we all have to respond.. ‘We are all Jews.’ ”

Indeed, we know that women are best posi­tioned to define sex­ism, peo­ple of color to define racism, and LGBTQ peo­ple to define homo­pho­bia, trans­pho­bia, and het­ero­sex­ism. But, does this mean that all women must reach con­sen­sus on what offends them? All peo­ple of color? Every­one in LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ties? Hardly.

So too, we Jews are best sit­u­ated to define anti-Semitism, even if all of us may not likely reach con­sen­sus on the def­i­n­i­tion. Our mil­len­nial expe­ri­ence with intol­er­ance demands the same acknowl­edge­ment as other forms of big­otry. Indeed, it is the col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­ity of activists and orga­niz­ers across the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum to stop and lis­ten when some­one says,  “You’ve crossed the line.”

Stand­ing up for rights of dis­em­pow­ered peo­ple is a job for us all. ADL has been doing it for more than 100 years. But mar­gin­al­iz­ing and wound­ing oth­ers in the process helps no one. Rather, it divides us and impedes our abil­ity to find com­mon ground in places where our col­lec­tive strength could do so much good.

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January 25, 2016 2

Terrorism in Israel in Perspective

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared in The Jerusalem Post

Beit Horon Terror Attack

The news the past few days has been hor­ri­fy­ing. A mother of six chil­dren, a nurse, fatally stabbed in the door­way of her own home. Another woman, 18 weeks preg­nant, knifed.

And these ter­ror attacks fol­low scores of more shoot­ings, car ram­mings and stab­bings over the past four months at bus stops, in bars, and on street cor­ners in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Afula, and elsewhere.

I would not assert that the world peren­ni­ally ignores Israeli vic­tims and down­plays ter­ror­ism directed at Israelis. Just this week, react­ing to the heinous mur­der of Dafna Meir and the attack on Michal Fro­man, U.S. offi­cials called the attacks “bar­baric” and said they were “appalled’ by these acts of terror.

Yet, one can’t deny that this ongo­ing wave of ter­ror­ism tar­get­ing Israeli civil­ians has got­ten short shrift inter­na­tion­ally. Recent media overviews of ter­ror­ist attacks appro­pri­ately list inci­dents in Paris, Burk­ina Faso, San Bernardino, Bagh­dad, Istan­bul, and Nige­ria. But it’s impos­si­ble not to notice that almost all such lists omit men­tion of those in Israel. This tol­er­ance of ter­ror­ism against Israelis risks mak­ing it accept­able, and it must end.

Let’s put this vio­lence into per­spec­tive. Accord­ing to the IDF, since Sep­tem­ber 13, 2015, there have been 110 stab­bings, 38 shoot­ings and 22 car ram­mings, for a total of 167 ter­ror­ist attacks.  That’s an aver­age of 1.2 attacks every day for the last 19 weeks. Even more hor­ri­fy­ing, accord­ing to sta­tis­tics from Magen David Adom, 29 peo­ple have been killed in ter­ror attacks. With a per-capita adjust­ment, that’s the equiv­a­lent of 1,131 Amer­i­cans killed by ter­ror­ists in the last four months. While there have been some new sto­ries on the vio­lence, there have been numer­ous head­lines pro­claim­ing “Pales­tin­ian killed” while only not­ing below that the indi­vid­ual had been killed in an effort lit­er­ally to pre­vent them from stab­bing Israelis on a street corner.

Can you imag­ine the out­rage if that many Amer­i­cans were killed by ter­ror, or if Swedes were attacked by ter­ror­ists every sin­gle day for months?

To what can this muted response be attrib­uted?  Cer­tainly, there are some dif­fer­ences between the cur­rent ter­ror­ism afflict­ing Israel and the nature of the attacks in Paris or Nige­ria. The per­pe­tra­tors attack­ing Israeli civil­ians appear to be tar­get­ing Israelis alone, killing them sim­ply for the fact that they are Israeli. In con­trast, ter­ror­ists in Paris or San Bernardino appear to have been moti­vated to kill ran­dom indi­vid­u­als with the goal of expand­ing the threat and impact of the Islamic State.

But there’s more there. The real­ity is that, after decades of a pro­longed Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, the world has become accus­tomed to Israeli vic­tims of ter­ror­ist vio­lence in a way that sim­ply is not the case when it comes to inno­cents in Paris or Lon­don or New York. The world sees itself as uncon­nected and fun­da­men­tally un-threatened when the vic­tim is an Israeli and the per­pe­tra­tor a Palestinian.

More­over, while nearly all observers abhor such vio­lence, they don’t react with the same emo­tion induced by other acts of ter­ror­ism because of an under­ly­ing sense that the vio­lence is caused and even pro­voked by Israeli actions such as the ongo­ing occu­pa­tion of the West Bank. Observers seem to believe that this is not a black and white sit­u­a­tion that can be reduced to vic­tim and perpetrator.

But that is exactly what it is.

A benign tol­er­ance of vio­lence against Israelis is intol­er­a­ble. Ter­ror­ism is never jus­ti­fied, no mat­ter the rea­son. Sim­ply put, one can seek to right a wrong, but mur­der­ing peo­ple because of their nation­al­ity is always wrong. More­over, the fail­ure to con­demn such atroc­ity inevitably haunts those who stand idly by.

The secu­rity cri­sis in Israel has gone on too long with too lit­tle out­rage.  We owe it to all of them — Dafna and Michal, along with Naama and Eitam Henkin; Richard Lakin, Yaakov Lit­man and his son Netanel, and Ezra Schwartz, and many, many, more.

For them and for our­selves, it is our respon­si­bil­ity to ensure that there is vocal out­rage at ter­ror­ism of any sort and strong sup­port for the Israeli civil­ians who face this never-ending threat.

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January 22, 2016 2

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Still…..A Jew

Saud Al Shureem anti-semitic Tweet

Saud al-Shuraim’s anti-Semitic tweet about the Jewish-Iranian alliance

Over the past month, esca­lat­ing ten­sion in the Mid­dle East between Iran and the Arab Gulf States helped fuel a resur­gence of anti-Semitic state­ments and con­spir­acy the­o­ries about a sup­posed link between Israel and Jews to Iran.

Angered by Iran’s increas­ing influ­ence in the region, promi­nent Arab fig­ures includ­ing politi­cians, reli­gious lead­ers and jour­nal­ists have accused Jews and Israel of secretly sup­port­ing Iran and Shi’a Mus­lims in their war against the Sunni Mus­lim world.

Just last week, promi­nent Saudi scholar, Saud al-Shuraim, an Imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca wrote the fol­low­ing state­ment on his Twit­ter account: “It is no won­der the Safavids [Ira­ni­ans] ally with Jews and Chris­tians against Mus­lims because his­tory tes­ti­fies that this is the case. What is strange are the minds which took too long to under­stand this fact.”

Some went as far as accus­ing “the Jews” of orches­trat­ing Iran’s war against the Sunni Mus­lim world. Jor­dan­ian online news agency Ammon News pub­lished an arti­cle on Jan­u­ary 19, titled “Iran started its holy war on the Sun­nis with the bless­ing of the Jews.”

The online pub­li­ca­tion, Al Khaleej Affairs, which spe­cial­izes in Arab Gulf States’ Affairs, inter­viewed Iraqi Sunni activist Falih Al Shi­bly on Jan­u­ary 21 to talk about the Iran­ian involve­ment in Iraq. In the inter­view Al Shi­bly claimed, “Unfor­tu­nately, there is igno­rance in the region about the Jew­ish sup­ported Per­sian plot.” He added that “This plot is against all Arab coun­tries from the Ara­bian West to the ‘Ara­bian’ Gulf.”

Other anti-Semitic accu­sa­tions included con­spir­acy the­o­ries that the Jew­ish lobby in the U.S. is respon­si­ble for dri­ving America’s pol­icy in Iran’s best inter­ests. Dubai Police Chief, Dahi Khal­fan, whose bizarre state­ments in the past included accus­ing the Jews of being linked to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, claimed on Jan­u­ary 18 that Pres­i­dent Obama is of Shi’a roots and “the sons of Zion” [the Jews] helped him  reach pres­i­dency to “bring Iran and Amer­ica closer.” Khalfan’s state­ments were widely cir­cu­lated in the Arab world.

Such a claim about Jew­ish sup­port for Iran was the sub­ject of sev­eral tweets by for­mer Man­ager of the Dubai Gov­ern­ment Media Office, Dherar Bel­houl Al Falasi, on Jan­u­ary 11. He claimed that Jews revere Iran because it is con­sid­ered a “holy” coun­try in Judaism. He wrote “Jews revere Iran more than ‘Palestine.’”

The ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion ISIS is cap­i­tal­iz­ing on this anti-Semitic trend as well. The fea­tured arti­cle in their most recent English-language mag­a­zine Dabiq issue included a 14-page screed link­ing Jews and Shi’as. The back cover of the mag­a­zine also fea­tured a full page image of Jews pray­ing in a syn­a­gogue with a clear ref­er­ence to the Jews of Isfa­han in Iran.

This anti-Semitic rhetoric is more than just a delu­sional per­spec­tive. It is a tool that has been used time and again to gal­va­nize Arab pub­lic opinion.

These con­spir­acy the­o­ries also fail to rec­og­nize both the very real threat Iran rep­re­sents to the Jew­ish state and the cen­tral­ity of anti-Semitic pro­pa­ganda in the ide­ol­ogy embraced by Iran’s rul­ing regime. It is ironic that such accu­sa­tions emerge while Iran is orga­niz­ing  an inter­na­tional car­toon contest–on the Holocaust.

Ten­sion between Iran and the Arab world has a long his­tory, but it has esca­lated notably over the past few months as a result of the Iran nuclear agree­ment and grow­ing con­cern among Arab Gulf States about Iran’s expand­ing regional influ­ence and its involve­ment in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Arab world. Both sides have used the media to prop­a­gate anti-Semitic accu­sa­tions against the other through the lens of their own agen­das. It seems that  Shi’as  and Sun­nis can agree on one thing: blam­ing the Jews for their problems.

In the past, ADL doc­u­mented a num­ber of sim­i­lar con­spir­acy the­o­ries in the Arab world includ­ing that ISIS has Jew­ish roots and that Israel and Jews are linked to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

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