October 26, 2020
News Press Release

ZOA Condemns ADL: Instead of Fighting Antisemitic “Human Rights” Groups, ADL Defends Them

Jonathan Tobin, Editor-in-Chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate) Calls ADL’s Defense of These Antisemitic Groups “A Disgrace ... Antithetical to ADL’s Mission to Fight Antisemitism”

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein and Chair, Mark Levenson, Esq. released the following statement: 

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) condemns the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – whose primary mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people” – for not only refusing to denounce three antisemitic, Israel-bashing “human rights” organizations but instead disgracefully defends them!!

Last week, the media reported that the U.S. State Department appropriately plans to label three international “human rights” organizations – Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam – as antisemitic, and to declare that it is U.S. policy not to support these antisemitic, Israel-hating groups. Instead of standing up for the Jewish people and the Jewish state of Israel, and applauding the State Department’s plan, the ADL opposed and condemned it.  ADL issued a press release, which falsely claimed that “applying the antisemitism label to these human rights organizations . . . is neither accurate nor helpful to the fight against antisemitism.”

The ADL is frighteningly wrong on both counts. NGO Monitor, which researches and analyzes non-governmental organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, has assembled detailed profiles of all three groups, documenting their respective records of demonizing Israel with falsehoods, singling out Israel for condemnation and punishment, and applying double standards to Israel, including by supporting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. All of this constitutes antisemitism, according to the definition of antisemitism officially endorsed by the U.S. government and many countries around the world. It is a horrific mistake and dangerous for anyone – especially the ADL – to excuse these Israelophobic groups’ Jew-hatred however it is expressed, including when it relates to Israel.

NGO Monitor’s research shows, for example, that Human Rights Watch has repeatedly falsely accused Israel of “war crimes,” “serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” “collective punishment,” and fostering a “culture of impunity.” Human Rights Watch promotes a Palestinian Arab “right of return,” which would effectively mean the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel. It also lobbies the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and others to promote false and unverifiable allegations against Israel.   

NGO Monitor’s profile of Amnesty International is just as horrifying, documenting that this organization disproportionately singles out Israel for condemnation, defends those linked to terrorism, and engages in numerous anti-Israel BDS activities. 

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch led the recent BDS campaigns targeting Airbnb and other tourism-related businesses. The campaigns fortunately failed. 

Gerald Steinberg, the president of NGO Monitor, explained that it was Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other anti-Israel groups that actually initiated the anti-Israel BDS movement back in 2001, at the antisemitic UN World Conference on the Elimination of Racism, which took place in Durban, South Africa. These groups aligned with South African and Palestinian Arab groups to demand “the complete international isolation of Israel as an apartheid state.”

Oxfam International is supposed to be dedicated to fighting poverty, but it also has a record of anti-Israel hatred, well-documented by NGO Monitor. In 2014, actress Scarlett Johansson was forced to resign from her position as an “Oxfam Ambassador” because of her role in promoting SodaStream, an Israeli company that operated in Ma’ale Adumim in Judea, a city of 50,000 Jews, directly adjacent to Jerusalem. Oxfam demonized SodaStream with falsehoods, as one of the businesses in the “settlements” that “further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.” In reality, SodaStream was an inspiring example of Jewish-Arab co-existence, employing hundreds of Palestinian Arabs who, like their fellow Jewish workers, had high-paying jobs, health care, and other benefits that they never would have been afforded in jobs for the Palestinian Authority.

Jonathan Tobin, a highly respected journalist and the editor-in-chief of the Jewish News Syndicate, called ADL’s defense of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam “a disgrace,” and explained why:

As with so many of its stands during the last four years, the ADL is not so much interested in antisemitism as it is in defeating President Donald Trump. Acknowledging that this administration has not only been the most pro-Israel in U.S. history but also devoted more resources to fighting antisemitism, especially on college campuses, than its predecessors undermines the Democrats’ talking points about Trump dog-whistling or enabling far-right Jew-haters.

Just as troubling, [ADL head Jonathan] Greenblatt seems to value ADL’s alliances with partners on the left, even if means making common cause with a trio of groups whose policy agenda is antithetical to the ADL’s mission to fight anti-Semitism. Denouncing them for antisemitism violates the ADL’s current impulse to see no enemies on the left.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein expressed similar outrage: “The ADL continues to hold itself out as a leader in fighting antisemitism – and raises millions of dollars based on this reputation. It’s unconscionable that the ADL would come to the defense of organizations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, given their antisemitic records. 

“This is just the latest example of the ADL giving a pass to antisemitism coming from the left, when it should be fighting all forms of antisemitism, regardless of the source. Think about what ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt did after Jew-hating, Israel-hating U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar failed to clearly apologize for calling Israel ‘evil’ and for falsely accusing Israel, the only flourishing democracy in the Middle East, an ‘apartheid regime’?  Greenblatt tweeted ‘hats off’ to the Israelophobic Omar, praised her for her weak apology, and credited her undeservedly for her commitment to ‘a more just world.’

“Antisemitism from the left is predominantly what Jewish students have been enduring for years on their college campuses, causing them to feel threatened, harassed, and even afraid for their physical safety. The ADL’s failure to condemn it hurts our fight against antisemitism. By defending ugly antisemitic groups like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, the ADL is making it easier for others to close their eyes to these groups’ antisemitic records. If even the ADL not only excuses but also defends the conduct of these so-called human rights groups, then everyone else gets the message that Jew-hatred expressed as hatred for Israel is acceptable. It isn’t.” 

ZOA urges ADL’s director Jonathan Greenblatt and ADL to immediately retract their dangerous and shocking defense of these Israelophobic Jew-hating groups and publicly apologize for their despicable stance. The inexplicable and frightening policy position that the Anti-Defamation League has taken in this situation could itself be called antisemitic. 

After all, defending antisemites is itself antisemitic.