WASHINGTON (Feb. 21)
The Anti-Defamation League has dismissed as “rubbish” charges leveled by the Arab American Institute that, in conjunction with U.S. law enforcement agencies, it has been involved for years in conducting surveillance of Arab Americans.
The Arab American Institute released a report titled “The ADL and Arab Americans: A Disturbing Relationship,” at a news conference here last week, and ADL was quick to respond.
“This so-called ‘study’ plays fast and loose with facts in an attempt to tar ADL with a series of alleged civil rights violations against Arab Americans over the past 20 years,” ADL National Chairman Melvin Salberg and ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement.
At the news conference, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, and Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the National Association of Arab Americans, discussed their view that ADL has been involved in a series of incidents targeting the Arab American community over the years.
The charges and denials were played out against a backdrop of reports that the U.S. government has stepped up investigations of American supporters of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.
Hamas, which is to receive its own listing for the first time in this year’s State Department report on global terrorism, has received worldwide attention recently following Israel’s deportation of 415 Palestinians, many of whom have ties to the group, and Israel’s arrest of two Palestinian Americans accused of funneling money to Hamas activists.
Israeli officials have suggested that the Hamas movement is now being directed by leaders in the United States and Britain.
COMPLAINTS ABOUT ‘HAMAS HYSTERIA’
The Arab American leaders cited the complicated case of a former San Francisco police officer who allegedly spied on Arab Americans and gave information to ADL.
The San Francisco Examiner reported recently that information on one of the men detained in Israel had turned up in the case. The Examiner also reported that ADL denied the man’s name was in its files.
“ADL has played a leadership role in promoting civil rights and improved human relations among all Americans over the past 80 years,” Salberg and Foxman said in their statement.
“We categorically reject any implication that ADL has acted improperly in pursuing its mission of combatting anti-Semitism, bigotry, extremism, terrorism and anti-Israel propaganda in America,” they said.
The ADL statement concluded by saying, “This is not the first time that subjects of ADL information reports have attempted to undermine the credibility of the league through the use of smear and innuendo. We will not be deterred from exercising our legitimate and constitutional rights.”
George Shadroui, director of communications for the Arab American Institute, said that at the news conference, Arab American leaders asked why it is seen as illegitimate for Arab Americans to raise money for Arab causes, when it is acceptable for Jewish Americans to raise money for Jewish causes.
Shadroui said he is concerned that with the current “Hamas hysteria,” a pattern will be repeated in which Arab Americans are all “tainted” with the terrorist label. “It’s not fair,” he said.
The Arab American Institute’s report called on ADL and other Jewish groups to “work with Arab Americans, rather than defame and demonize our people and institutions.”