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August 4, 2010

B'nai Brith, from civil rights to shill for Israel

Reuel S. Amdur

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The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith has once again shown its loss of integrity. It has joined the bigots opposed to the construction of a Muslim community centre a couple of blocks away from the site of the World Trade Centre, which was destroyed on 9/11.

In justifying its bigoted stand, the ADL claims it is opposing the bigotry of others.

It says building the mosque there would “cause some victims more pain,” and also that legitimate concerns have been raised about the funding of the mosque, as well as possible ties to groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to “our shared values.”

Just how many blocks from Ground Zero, I wonder, would the mosque need to be to be acceptable to the ADL?

What would the ADL say if a group opposed the location of a synagogue in a largely Arab New York neighborhood? The neighborhood might include Palestinian families driven from their homes during the independence war in 1948, and so the location of the synagogue might cause them “more pain.”

Besides, some of the funding might come from individuals identified with rampant Israeli irredentism and the anti-Palestinian prejudice now so common in Israel.

“Nonsense,” the ADL would say. “It is all a mask for prejudice. They would be right, but then the ADL prefers its own genteel brand of prejudice.

It is noteworthy that Cordoba, the Muslim organization planning the building, has worked with the ADL in the past to promote good intergroup relations and oppose prejudice against Muslims and Jews.

The ADL, though, is not the only Jewish voice on the matter. Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street was concerned that the ADL was “casting aspersions” on Cordoba’s funders and giving in to fearmongerers.

As well, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Jew, supports the mosque’s construction: “If people wanted to build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming.”

The ADL used to be a leader in the struggle for civil rights and an active promoter of positive intergroup relations.

I have their Research Annual on Intergroup Relations–1965 on my bookshelf.

The bibliography to my master’s thesis cites Prejudice and Society, by sociologists Earl Raab and Seymour Martin Lipset, published by ADL.

Now, it chooses to collude with bigots. It has abandoned a proud reputation, much like the once-great civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz, who now stands to be most remembered for his efforts to legitimize torture.

Having shifted from advocacy for civil rights to support for bigotry, the ADL also defends Israel against all comers.

If it were concerned about civil rights, in Israel as in New York City, it would ally itself with legitimate Israeli human rights organizations such as B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights.

Don’t hold your breath.

Abraham Foxman, National Director of ADL, recently wrote a piece in the Jerusalem Post that would warm the heart of the most extreme settler.

“Shame on the U.S.,” he seems to say, for favoring a resolution in a UN nuclear proliferation conference that called on Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty and open the facilities at Dimona to international inspection.

Not only that but the American government has been “focusing on settlements!”

These things, along with similar crimes and misdemeanors, are part of the American government’s “questioning” of Israel beyond anything in recent memory. Horror of horrors!

Foxman, with ADL national chairman Robert Sugarman, recently issued a statement demanding that Mahmoud Abbas “stop the excuses, demands and delays” and “engage in direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions.”

Is it any surprise that this demand is the precise echo of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, his master’s voice?

Cease settlement construction; end the expulsion of Palestinians from East Jerusalem… no preconditions permitted.

The Israeli strategy is to talk and talk while continuing its program of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Through “facts on the ground” the settlement expansion continues under the cover of talks. What about Netanyahu’s preconditions, such as insisting that Jerusalem be undivided and part of Israel, and that Israel control Palestinian borders!

Earlier this year, Foxman delivered a speech in Israel on when criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitism.

Equating Israel to the Nazis and its leaders to Hitler, comparing the behavior of Israel to the Holocaust, labeling Zionism as racism, and holding Israel to a higher standard than other nations are acts of anti-Semitism.

After all, other countries are guilty of foreign occupation, for example the Turks in Cyprus and the Russians in South Ossetia.

So, if a survivor of a family killed in a white-phosphorous attack on Gaza says: “Gazans suffered like the Jews in Poland,” he is clearly an anti-Semite, no?

On the other hand, establishing and maintaining a country on the basis of religious identity and establishing religious criteria for citizenship is somehow not racist?

Ethnic irredentism and making Israel’s non-Jews second-class citizens are not racist?

Would it be racist to want the United States to declare itself a Christian nation?

Then, there is the issue of holding Israel to a higher standard.

Let us at least compare it to other democracies, not to Egypt and Syria and other Middle East countries notorious for torture.

What other democracies are carrying on a reckless program of house demolitions against minority group?

What other democracies forbid the minority population from drilling wells in their own territory while invaders from the majority population have adequate water supply?

What other democracies maintain foreign occupation for over half a century?

Remember: Israel is the country that was to be “a light unto the nations.”

In short, Foxman’s primer on the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism ends up being a whitewash of Israel and a disgrace to the proud memory of a once-distinguished human-rights organization.

From human rights leader to shill for Israel and proponent of settlement expansion and nuclear proliferation—How the mighty have fallen!

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