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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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July 28, 2016 5

Rep. Hank Johnson, Your Words Have a History

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

Much has been said and writ­ten about our response at the Anti-Defamation League to the recent com­ments by U.S. Rep. Hank John­son (D-GA) com­par­ing the Israeli set­tle­ment enter­prise to “ter­mites” under­min­ing the two-state solu­tion. (You can watch the offend­ing com­ments here begin­ning at 34:00). Some appre­ci­ated our strong words. Oth­ers anguished over our response on Twit­ter, sug­gest­ing that we did not go far enough in con­demn­ing him.

This was one of those moments when 140 char­ac­ters failed to fully con­vey our feelings.

So I wanted to take the oppor­tu­nity now to put this issue into full con­text, to explain why the remarks were so offen­sive both to Israelis and Jews across the polit­i­cal spec­trum and to elu­ci­date what elected offi­cials must do in such instances to assure the pub­lic that they do not sup­port the kind of anti-Semitic notions the remark sug­gested for so many.

First, to the remarks them­selves: As I myself tweeted, there’s absolutely no doubt that Rep. Johnson’s com­ments were both irre­spon­si­ble and rep­re­hen­si­ble, par­tic­u­larly because they played into tra­di­tional anti-Semitic canards. The image of “ter­mites” being used to describe Jews has sor­did con­no­ta­tions. In the annals of anti-Semitism, from the medieval period to Czarist Rus­sia, and most pro­nouncedly in Nazi Ger­many, there is a com­mon leit­mo­tif of Jews being por­trayed as sub­hu­man – rats, cock­roaches and other unde­sir­able crea­tures. Even today, depic­tions of Jews in anti-Semitic car­toons that per­vade the Arab press often con­form to this legacy.

Surely Rep. John­son can under­stand a people’s legit­i­mate sen­si­tiv­i­ties that emerge from a long his­tory of oppres­sion. And surely there is room for legit­i­mate and bal­anced crit­i­cisms of pol­icy which do not resort to these prej­u­diced tropes.

In light of the fact that the com­ment – inad­ver­tently or not – evoked clas­sic anti-Semitic stereo­types, our ini­tial tweet on the remarks call­ing it an “offen­sive and unhelp­ful char­ac­ter­i­za­tion” did not go far enough in spelling out pre­cisely why it was so objec­tion­able. Indeed, that impelled my sub­se­quent tweet that “yes, there was apol­ogy, but no ‘point’ jus­ti­fies refer­ring to human beings in such an abhor­rent, inap­pro­pri­ate manner.”

Our con­cern about Rep. Johnson’s remarks and those of oth­ers whom we have taken umbrage with dur­ing the cam­paign is not about politics—it’s about an expec­ta­tion of civil­ity in our pol­i­tics. ADL con­sis­tently has spo­ken out about inap­pro­pri­ate and offen­sive lan­guage made by can­di­dates and sup­port­ers of both polit­i­cal par­ties. This is not new and will never change.

Because this is an elec­tion year, peo­ple tend to read more deeply into our crit­i­cism of can­di­dates and other polit­i­cal pun­dits, sug­gest­ing our state­ments reflect a “hid­den” agenda or try­ing to pigeon­hole us as “left” or “right.”  Let me be crys­tal clear on this point. For us, it does not mat­ter whether it is a Demo­c­rat or a Repub­li­can or an Inde­pen­dent. It is the com­ment itself that jus­ti­fies our response. This is not about can­di­dates or par­ties – it is about ideas.

We will call out ideas that run counter to the val­ues we believe in so deeply – civil­ity, plu­ral­ism and tol­er­ance – even as we con­tinue to abide strictly by our sta­tus as a 501c3 non­profit which appro­pri­ately requires us not to oppose or sup­port can­di­dates for office.

All should under­stand that Rep. John­son quickly apol­o­gized and sub­se­quently restated his apol­ogy to me and to Rabbi David Wolpe. This was mean­ing­ful because we have seen oth­ers who refuse to demon­strate any pub­lic con­tri­tion after anal­o­gous lapses. But he and oth­ers need to know that it is unac­cept­able to den­i­grate any group of human beings regard­less of one’s views on the Israeli Pales­tin­ian conflict.

Con­sid­er­ing the where Rep. John­son was speak­ing adds addi­tional con­text to the sit­u­a­tion. His remarks were deliv­ered at an event spon­sored by the U.S. Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion, a group with a one-sided view of this long-standing and deeply com­plex con­flict, who advo­cate for boy­cotting Israel and who pro­vide a plat­form for the most out­ra­geous charges against Israel. Rep. John­son was play­ing to a crowd—a crowd that eagerly applauded his remarks.

If we hope in any way to advance the cause of peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, we need to resist demo­niza­tion of the other side, to desist from incite­ment and refuse to slide into slander.

The Israeli-Palestinian con­flict is an endur­ing one and its his­tory is com­plex. It has so far frus­trated the attempts of our country’s most able nego­tia­tors. Achiev­ing its res­o­lu­tion will not be easy and may not hap­pen soon. But one thing is for sure: assign­ing blame only to one side fails to move us any closer to that destination.

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May 20, 2016 2

Isi Leibler: Wrong on All Counts

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Jerusalem Post Blog

Isi Leibler gets it wrong on almost all counts in his crit­i­cism of my appear­ance in April before J Street U, the stu­dent arm of J Street.

As I made clear pub­licly in accept­ing the invi­ta­tion to speak, I did so both because of my con­vic­tion that it is vital to engage with all mem­bers of our com­mu­nity, even and espe­cially those with whom we might disagree.

I used this stage to deliver a dou­ble mes­sage.  First, that ADL is com­mit­ted to ensur­ing Israel remains a safe and secure, Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic state; and sec­ond, that peace can­not be brought about by apply­ing pres­sure only to one side of the conflict—Israel.  This in many ways is the crux of our dis­agree­ment with J Street—that fur­ther iso­lat­ing Israel at a time of great tumult and regional volatil­ity is bound to make peace less likely.

There­fore, Leibler’s accu­sa­tion that I made a moral equiv­a­lence between Israel and the Pales­tini­ans when I called for acknowl­edge­ment of “respon­si­bil­ity of both par­ties” turned my point on its head. In speak­ing to a group that is often crit­i­cal of Israel, I was mak­ing clear that “cham­pi­ons of Pales­tin­ian self-determination must hold the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship to task for its fail­ures as well.” Leibler ignores—or worse—willfully dis­torts my message.

What is more out­ra­geous is that any aspect of my remarks to these stu­dents could be mis­con­strued as “indi­rectly gave a seal of approval for the Obama admin­is­tra­tion to impose solu­tions on future bor­ders that could dra­mat­i­cally com­pro­mise Israel’s security.”

Rec­og­niz­ing that there are steps Israel can take to ensure the via­bil­ity of a two-state solu­tion bears no resem­blance to sup­port­ing an imposed solu­tion. I deliv­ered that mes­sage even while reit­er­at­ing that a rea­son­able approach must have expec­ta­tions of the Pales­tini­ans as well.

In talk­ing about the need to rec­og­nize two nar­ra­tives, I was, of course, not refer­ring to the Pales­tin­ian rejec­tion of Israel’s legit­i­macy, which ADL con­demns over and over again, but that there is a Pales­tin­ian peo­ple and pop­u­la­tion whose future has to be dealt with in order to have peace and secu­rity for Israel.

And in call­ing out the need for Israel to pro­tect the rights of all its cit­i­zens, I was not chal­leng­ing the fact that Israel is one of the great demo­c­ra­tic soci­eties in the world. Instead, just as we do in that other great democ­racy, the United States, we urge our­selves to do bet­ter, to make sure that all seg­ments of soci­ety are full par­tic­i­pants in our democ­racy and enti­tled to the full ben­e­fits of rights—a noble ideal, but hardly a betrayal of Israel.

As to the crit­i­cism of my deci­sion to speak to J Street U, I have no apolo­gies. I do not know if Leibler ever both­ered to attempt to meet these young peo­ple, but I was impressed: They are a group of deeply thought­ful col­lege stu­dents whose com­mit­ment to Israel is gen­uine and whose pas­sion on the issues is impres­sive. Whether Leibler likes it or not, these are future lead­ers in our com­mu­nity and in our country.

Again, while I may dis­agree with many of their par­ent organization’s posi­tions and tactics—and ADL has expressed such sen­ti­ment pub­licly in the past—if we are going to main­tain a true sense of com­mu­nity and inclu­sion, par­tic­u­larly among younger Jews, then we must engage those with whom we have dis­agree­ments and explain our posi­tions. We cer­tainly must be wary of those who cas­ti­gate those who are will­ing to engage broadly.

Israel con­tin­ues to face many threats from ter­ror­ists and extrem­ists, as well as in the form of calls for boy­cotts, divest­ment and sanc­tions. We must stand against all. But there are also dan­gers to Israel from those who do not want a two-state solu­tion, from those who do not worry about main­tain­ing Israel as a Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic state.

And there are those within our own com­mu­nity who seem to for­get that dis­agree­ment and dis­sent are not just Jew­ish ideas – they are Jew­ish ideals.

The chal­lenge for all of us is how to be a strong advo­cate for Israel while respect­ing a broad range of views on how best to move forward.

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