Read the full article from The Guardian

By Jonathan Guyer and Tom Perkins

The Anti-Defamation League CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, sparked controversy in 2022 when he placed opposition to Israel on a par with white supremacy as a source of antisemitism.

“Anti-Zionism is antisemitism,” Greenblatt said in a speech to ADL leaders. He singled out Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace as groups that “epitomize the Radical Left, the photo inverse of the Extreme Right that ADL long has tracked”.

His remarks didn’t only upset grassroots activists and Jewish groups critical of Israeli policy. It also set off a firestorm within the Jewish advocacy group.

Some members of ADL’s staff were outraged by the dissonance between Greenblatt’s comments and the organization’s own research, as evidenced by internal messages viewed by the Guardian. “There is no comparison between white supremacists and insurrectionists and those who espouse anti-Israel rhetoric, and to suggest otherwise is both intellectually dishonest and damaging to our reputation as experts in extremism,” a senior manager at ADL’s Center on Extremism wrote in a Slack channel to over 550 colleagues. Others chimed in, agreeing. “The aforementioned false equivalencies and the both-sides-ism are incompatible with the data I have seen,” a longtime extremism researcher said. “[T]he stated concerns about reputational repercussions and societal impacts have already proved to be prescient.”


The precise contours of antisemitism and anti-Zionism are intensely debated. The ADL and many other Jewish establishment organizations have been pushing for years for governments to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition, which defines some criticisms of Israel, and anti-Zionism in particular, as antisemitic. When the Biden White House released its strategy to counter antisemitism in May 2023, it mentioned several definitions in its document rather than enshrining a single one. At the time, the ADL said it shaped the strategy, claiming that the White House had adopted the IHRA definition outright and described that as a victory.

The ADL said in its statement that it does not conflate criticism of Israel, which is not inherently antisemitic, with actual antisemitism. But experts question whether its widely cited annual audit of antisemitic incidents does just that. Some fraction of those incidents, for example, are probably actions by anti-Zionist activists who are themselves Jewish, such as Jewish Voice for Peace.

“It contributes to a distorted view,” said Ben Lorber, an analyst of trends in white nationalism at Political Research Associates. “Parts of the ADL continue to do valuable work in monitoring and warning against the danger of the rising far right, but increasingly, that work is compromised by their reactionary approach on Israel.”

The ADL and progressive groups have previously clashed over its support of anti-BDS measures and the Trump administration’s investigations into Palestinian rights groups.

Sophie Ellman-Golan, spokesperson for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, believes that the ADL is responding to the rise of a progressive Jewish left that cuts into space the group has historically occupied.

“It is very threatening for institutions that have long been able to speak as the representative voice of the Jewish community to now be faced with such an undeniable set of loud, persistent and consistent Jewish voices that are directly counter to what they’re saying,” she said.

Read the full article from The Guardian