Posted by: ZOA Staff
June 7, 2016
News Press Release

ZOA Concerned and Perplexed: ADL Lobbies Against Anti-BDS Laws

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein issued the following statement:

The ZOA believes that pro-Israel groups need to work together to combat the well-financed, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (“BDS”) onslaught.   We thus issue this release with great sadness, in the hopes that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will promptly reverse ADL’s public opposition to anti-BDS laws.  The ADL has repeatedly harmed anti-BDS efforts by publicly opposing and lobbying against needed anti-BDS laws, in Maryland, Illinois, New York, South Carolina and possibly others, and against federal anti-BDS laws.  In addition, ADL published articles falsely claiming that anti-BDS laws violate free speech.   This is a critical time for the ADL to publicly retract its former statements and positions opposing anti-BDS laws, as it is rumored that BDS groups are planning to attack an anti-BDS executive order in court.  BDS groups may very well use ADL’s misguided statements to attempt to overturn the laws and recent executive order aimed at protecting the Jewish State of Israel from the scourge of anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Here are some of the ADL’s harmful activities:

(1) ADL lobbied against Maryland State’s anti-BDS bill, including by writing a letter dated March 4, 2014 to the Chairman of the Maryland State Legislature’s Appropriations Committee stating that the anti-BDS bill would “interfere with academic freedom” (former link), and by submitting testimony to the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, wrongly stating that the anti-BDS bill “suppresses academic freedom and chills speech.”

A top legal expert, Northwestern University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich, (specializing in constitutional and international law) explained why ADL’s opposition to anti-BDS laws is wrong.

(2)  On May 29, 2015, in the midst of the efforts to pass anti-BDS bills in Illinois and South Carolina, ADL issued a statement opposing anti-BDS legislation on false grounds. ADL wrongly stated:  “Legislation that bars BDS activity by private groups, whether corporations or universities, strikes at the heart of First Amendment-protected free speech, will be challenged in the courts and is likely to be struck down.  A decision by a private body to boycott Israel, as despicable as it may be, is protected by our Constitution.”

(3) A Haaretz article, American Jewish Groups Oppose Maryland Anti-Boycott Law (Mar. 9, 2014), explained that the ADL opposed the Maryland anti-BDS bill, claiming that the law would “stifle academic freedom.”  The article also notes that other Jewish groups were attempting to pass this bill. A top legal expert, Northwestern University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich, (specializing in constitutional and international law) explained why ADL’s opposition to anti-BDS laws is wrong in Can States Fund BDS?, Tablet Magazine (July 13, 2015).  Also, ZOA’s article, Why Opposing Anti-BDS Legislation is Wrong, by Morton A. Klein, Elizabeth Berney, Esq., and Clifford Rieders, Esq., The Jewish Exponent (July 18, 2015), further explained why ADL’s widely publicized opposition to anti-BDS laws is wrong.

ADL Opposed Anti-BDS Bill Proposed By Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren

(4)  ADL reportedly opposed federal anti-BDS legislation.  The article Jewish Groups Split on Anti-Boycott Bill, by Adam Kredo, The Free Beacon (Feb. 7, 2014), reported that a prominent strategist stated that ADL opposed a bill to cut federal funding to any U.S. academic institution that endorses boycotts of Israel.  A statement by ADL’s then-national director Abe Foxman through a spokesman also alluded to ADL’s opposition to the federal anti-BDS law: “We [ADL] are not sure that this bill would be the most effective means of recourse.”   The Free Beacon article notes that ADL’s opposition to the anti-BDS bill conflicted with other Jewish groups who were promoting the bill, and former U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren, who helped initiate the proposed anti-BDS law.

(5)  ADL also opposed efforts to pass anti-BDS laws in New York State.  The article Bill Targeting Israel Boycott Bounces Back in New York State — and Nationally, by Hody Nemes, The Forward (February 7, 2014), noted that ADL opposed a New York State anti-BDS bill. 

The Zionist Organization of America has been at the forefront of the efforts to combat BDS, including legislative efforts, bringing civil rights claims on behalf of Jewish students who have been harassed on campus, supporting students in battles to defeat campus BDS resolutions, and leading the 6-year battle that successfully persuaded the Office of Civil Rights to interpret Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect Jewish students from harassment.  ZOA also frequently works collaboratively with other pro-Israel groups.  

ZOA hopes and prays that ADL will reverse its misguided and harmful stance that gives aid and comfort to the anti-Semitic, bigoted and hateful BDS campaign.