The Crescent Report

October 18, 2010

A Response to the ADL’s “Anti-Israel” List

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 3:41 pm


Someone should tell Abe Foxman of the ADL that opposing Israelis illegal occupation ofn Palestianian land, human rights abuses and a call for the ending of all violence in the region does not make you  anti-Israel or anti-semitic. Check out the piece below.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of the Day: “You can call a horse a mule but it doesn’t make it one.”

A Response to the ADL’s “Anti-Israel” List

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League compiled a list of ten national organizations whom they consider to be “anti-Israel”. These groups included secular Left activist organizations, Palestinian rights groups, and two prominent national Muslim organizations, including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Muslim American Society (MAS).

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first time that the ADL has struck out against Muslim organizations and groups on the political Left, essentially because of our stand on the issue of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the ongoing economic blockade of Gaza.  But the fact  that the ADL now openly characterizes us, and others, as “Anti-Israel” does  require both a political analysis of the allegation, and an understanding of the subtext that underlies the contention.

For the record, it should be noted that the ADL is an important organization that has a long history of principled opposition to anti-Semites (a global phenomenon), and to an extent, racism in the American experience.  Muslim and progressive organizations should celebrate this positive work, because racism and anti-Semitism should have no legitimate place in either the Muslim organizational world or the world of progressive politics. Those of us who have heard, or witnessed, statement that excoriate Jews or attack their human rights have been, and should be, moved to reject these pronouncements.  In the case of MAS, Mr. Foxman and the ADL were informed that individuals who made such statements at our 2009 national conference did so without the support or authorization of our organization.

But the ADL now characterizes these “anti-occupation” groups as being “anti-Israel”, and this allegation requires some unpacking. Does this imply that MAS and others deny the right of the Israel to exist as a nation state? Or that we deny the human rights of the Jewish people? Or that, by implication, we are guilty of hating Jews?

What Mr. Foxman would discover, if he and the ADL are interested in the truth of the matter, is that none of these positions characterize the  positions of MAS and I truly believe, other groups on this nefarious “Anti-Israel” list.  It is true that there is virulent racism and anti-semitism in the world, and these sentiments are vile and morally indefensible.  But anti-Semitism and opposing the racially constructed, pro-colonialism policies of Israel are not one in the same. And Mr. Foxman and company know this very well. Indeed, there are numerous progressive Jews, including Israelis themselves that reject the premise that a Jewish state can claim legitimacy while opposing the most basic rights of the indigenous people who remain marginalized, dispossessed, and oppressed by the Israeli government.

There is also the allegation that MAS and others, “support terrorism” But how does the ADL selectively define this term?  Certainly, lobbing rockets from Gaza that kill Israeli civilians in the city of Ashkelon is something that no moral person can defend.  But there is a clear lack of symmetry in the absence of any condemnation by the ADL, or other pro-Israeli organizations, of the ongoing destruction of Arab homes and villages, or the systematic settler attacks on Palestinians in the occupied territories.  How could any person claiming to be a supporter of human rights possible ignore, or rationalize these actions done in the name of the Jewish state?

Arab and majority-Muslim nation states certainly have their own deep moral contradictions when it comes to violence and human oppression, and this is an issue that none of us can afford to be silent about.  But Israel (thanks in part a well-funded and ubiquitous lobby), is largely insulated from the legitimate moral concerns that confront nearly all other nations guilty of massive human rights violations. And ignoring this issue will neither make Israel “secure” nor will it help is shaping a comprehensive and just peace for the people of Israel, Palestine, and the entire Middle East.

It would be naive to ignore the huge divide between pro-Israeli and Muslim and politically progressive groups on the issue of the moral legitimacy of the occupation.  But perhaps a good place to start might be the affirmation, by both the ADL and the organizations it opposes, of the need for comprehensive and just peace, and end to the systematic human rights violations by all parties in the conflict.  Israel indeed has a right to exist.  But that existence should not be at the expense of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians people.

MAS and others will continue to support the end of the Israeli occupation and the injustice of the oppression of the people of the West Bank, Gaza, or Arab citizens of Israel, because that is the morally right position to take, not only for  Muslims, but for all people who value freedom and justice.  But it is a stand that is taken by more and more Jews as well. And hopefully, the Anti-Defamation league will one day realize that there is no value in using  the “Anti-Israel” canard to smear and mischaracterize anti-occupation  groups, and that no nation-state, anywhere, should be exempt from legitimate criticism when it comes to the issue of the violation of basic human right of either its citizens or those under its domination.

1 Comment »

  1. This is a very insightful response. I would really like to hear what ADL has to say, given this very clear rejection of anti-semitism.

    Comment by reem — October 18, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

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