Top Menu

With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Anti-Defamation League Fuels Islamophobia


Elly Bulkin and Donna Nevel have published a massive and important article on Alternet that is going to be the cause of much discussion regarding the ADL’s role in fueling Islamophobia.

As has been noted previously on Loonwatch, the ADL’s record on Islamophobia has been very “mixed,” and indeed they have fueled and or supported bigots and Islamophobic causes.

I have more thoughts on the article and the points it presents that I hope to add in an update.

With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Anti-Defamation League Fuels Islamophobia


February 1, 2013  |    The Anti-Defamation League bills itself, and is typically seen by many in the mainstream Jewish community and beyond, as the “nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency.”[1] In fact, the ADL’s conduct over the years is at odds with this one-dimensional view of the group as a long-time champion of civil liberties. The ADL mission statement, for instance, describes it as a group that “fights all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.”[2] Yet, a record going back decades shows something very different, including a shift “from civil rights monitoring to espionage and intelligence gathering.”[3] Mistrust of the ADL among those concerned about civil and human rights has deep roots.

In the 1970s, the ADL, which had been tracking neo-Nazis and other right-wing U.S. groups, began to also focus on critics of Israeli policies.[4] Since the 1970s, the ADL and its chapters have issued numerous publications to expose alleged “Arab propaganda” on university campuses and to silence and intimidate Arab Americans and others who did not share their perspective on Israel.[5] Branding any criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitism,” ADL publications like Pro-Arab Propaganda in America: Vehicles and Voices, a Handbook (1983) effectively developed a “blacklist” of faculty, staff, and campus groups.[6] The Middle East Studies Association singled out “the New England Regional Office of the ADL for circulating a document on college campuses ‘listing factually inaccurate and unsubstantiated assertions that defame specific students, teachers, and researchers as ‘pro Arab propagandists.’”[7]

Front-page investigative reports in the San Francisco Examiner during the winter and spring of 1993 revealed that the ADL had been carrying out surveillance of almost 10,000 people and 950 organizations.[8] The Examiner reported that the ADL particularly targeted Arab Americans and Arab American organizations and also spied on such groups as the ACLU, ACT UP, Artists Against Apartheid, Americans for Peace Now, Asian Law Caucus, Greenpeace, NAACP, New Jewish Agenda, and the United Farm Workers, as well as three current or past members of Congress.[9] The FBI had also found that the ADL had been sending surveillance information on U.S. anti-apartheid groups to South Africa (which was an ally of Israel).[10]

The San Francisco Examiner exposé revealed that the ADL’s domestic spying involved a San Francisco police officer and a “full-time salaried undercover investigator,” who had been working for the ADL for 32 years.[11] Running “a public/private spying ring,” the ADL received aid from local police and federal agencies.[12] The Examiner reported that “FBI documents released through the Freedom of Information Act show that special agents in charge of FBI field offices throughout the nation were explicitly ordered by Bureau headquarters in Washington, D.C. during the 1980s to cooperate with the ADL.”[13] Six years after the filing of a class action suit coordinated by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the ADL was fined in 1999 and “under the permanent injunction issued by Federal Judge Richard Paez . . . [was] permanently enjoined from engaging in any further illegal spying against Arab-American and other civil rights groups.”[14] As Nabeel Abraham has written in “Anti-Arab Racism and Violence in the United States,” “The overall effect of the ADL’s practices is to reinforce the image of Arabs as terrorists and security threats, thereby creating a climate of fear, suspicion, and hostility toward Arab-Americans and others who espouse critical views of Israel, possibly leading to death threats and bodily harm.”[15]


The ADL’s anti-Arab, staunchly pro-Israel mindset, which was behind decades of illegal spying, enabled it to easily incorporate an anti-Muslim worldview that has become increasingly pervasive after 9/11.[16] This has been a period of growing popularity for the “clash of civilizations theory,” which characterizes the causes of conflict in the post-Cold War world as fundamental “cultural” differences between Islamic and Western civilizations, rather than history, politics, imperialism, neo-colonialism, struggles over natural resources, or other factors.[17] Further, the Islamophobic belief that all Muslims were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and that all Muslims, as well as Arabs and South Asians, should be targeted provides a dominant U.S. narrative that brands all members of these groups as “terrorists,” “potential terrorists,” or “terrorist-sympathizers.”[18] Like others within and outside the Jewish community, the ADL views the U.S. focus on the domestic and global “war on terror” as integral to ensuring Israeli security and maintaining the United States’ “special” relationship with Israel.

During the post-9/11 period, the ADL engaged in a number of actions that targeted Muslims and Arabs. It also marked a time when the ADL, with allies like Daniel Pipes’ Freedom Forum, was busily labeling mainstream Muslim community groups as “terrorist sympathizers” and trying to exclude them from the public sphere.[19] Although the ADL was rebuffed, it brought pressure to prevent representatives from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, from speaking at the November 2001 Florida Commission on Human Relations annual conference, “Day of Dialogue Across Ethnic, Cultural and Religious Lines,” and then, around a month later, at a public hearing of the State of California Select Committee on Hate Crimes. [20]

In 2003, an ADL press release praised President George W. Bush for appointing Daniel Pipes to the board of the United States Institute for Peace.[21] Pipes believes that “militant Islam” is “infiltrating America” and supports student monitoring of professors for their views on the Arab-Israeli conflict. [22] While the ADL commented on Pipes’ “important approach and perspective,” Muslim and Arab American leaders characterized his appointment as “a slap in the face for Islam” and described him as “a bigot” who “promotes fear and hatred of many communities, not just Arabs and Muslims.” [23] As a result of strong opposition to Pipes by Senator Edward Kennedy and other Senate Judiciary Committee members, President Bush had to resort to a recess appointment of Pipes.[24]

Read the rest…

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Pingback: What If They Were Muslim?: Zionists and Islamophobes Try to Quash Academic Freedom | Puccaso | Skillful Traveller()

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Just remember what happens if an American, British, Canadian, South African or Australian citizen faces if he is caught fighting for a Muslim army. Even if he is white, it seems to be a surefire ticket to Gauntanamo, all inclusive torture package included.

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    That’s confirmed, unfortunately.

    Of course, similar things have been going on for a while, and not just with Ethiopian Jews, but also with Jewish immigrants from Morocco and Yemen, whose children were exposed to radiation, ostensibly to treat them for lice.

    On the surface, this should seem surprising. After all, Israel was founded by Holocaust survivors for crying out loud. If ANYONE should be against genocide and forced sterilization, you’d think it would be the Israelis. But no, remember, Israel was largely founded by EUROPEAN (and Euro-American) Jews, with help from some European gentile backers. Unfortunately, some of these people bought into eugenics and other racist crap that permeated Western thought even then.

    Thus, European-descended Ashkenazi Jews came to be seen as the only legitimate or ‘true’ Jews, while Sephardim, Mizrahim, Caucasian Jews, Yemeni Jews, Bene Israel and other, more ‘exotic’ immigrants came to be seen as undesirable, perhaps even less than human. They were portrayed as having inferior intellect, morality, and even hygiene. There was even a fear that these brown skinned ‘foreigners’ would overwhelm the Ashkenazi.

    So this is nothing new. But it is especially ridiculous for a country that was only founded in 1948, meaning that the Ashkenazi have no more claim to the land than any other Jews. And the idea of people who endured the Holocaust and the myriad pogroms that preceded it buying into that pseudo-scientific racist CRAP is even more absurd. Especially considering that all Israelis – Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, whatever – do face a very real threat of terrorism.

    But then racism and prejudice have never made sense.

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Exactly. Israel is a geo-political state that happens to have an ethnically and religiously Jewish majority (and, in fact, was founded by Jews seeking to restore their traditional homeland and holy land). It does not necessarily reflect the values of Judaism, nor does it represent the entire Jewish population.

    Just as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and the like do not speak for Islam, or represent all of Islam.

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Yeah, but that Morena Baccarin. Wow… 😀

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised. We know that NYC cops were spying on Muslim groups, even out of state. No doubt they were monitoring the internet too, and some of the stories LW has carried are likely to earn their ire.

    And that’s just the crap that we KNOW about. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the CIA, Homeland Security, Mossad, the ISI, and even ‘private security contractors’ (read: mercenaries) are all spying on us, perhaps even stalking regular posters on FB and the like (though that just may be my ego speaking).

Powered by Loon Watchers