Monday, October 18, 2010

A Response to the ADL's "Anti-Israel" Tag

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

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, and
respected, organization that has a long history of principled opposition to
anti-Smites (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,CAIR 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 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, CAIR, 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-Israel 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-Zionist 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
a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East and an end to all forms of militarism and violence in the region.

Indeed, if neither occupation nor retaliatory violence can lead to viable
and just outcomes, such a conversation could be mutually informative, and
even move us all from the "anti-Israel" and "pro-Palestine" paradigm that
benefits no one. MAS and others will continue to support the end of the
Israeli occupation and the injustice of the oppression of the people of
Palestine, 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 mis-characterize 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.


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