J Street, New Israel Fund pan ADL’s top 10 list


Apparently, not everyone loves lists — or at least not every list. J Street and the New Israel Fund have rebuked the Anti-Defamation over its recent list of “Top 10 Anti-Israel Groups in America in 2013.” (And it wasn’t because the ADL didn’t include any GIFs or cute animal photos.)

The two left-leaning Jewish groups warned in a statement yesterday that the list “exacerbates, rather than quiets, unnecessary confrontation.” While expressing respect for the ADL, they wrote:

Issuing such blanket denunciations is ultimately self-defeating. Indeed, such condemnations have been issued, and are occasionally still issued, against our own organizations by various self-appointed guardians of ideological purity, who often turn out to be fronting an ultra-nationalist, pro-settlement agenda in Israel. That’s why we believe so strongly in open debate, why we do not launch guerrilla media campaigns against those who oppose our progressive values and why we must speak out when other organizations, including those with whom we profoundly disagree, are smeared with the same tactics.

In particular, they criticized the ADL’s inclusion on its list of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. J Street and NIF noted that MPAC publicly supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (You can read a pair of MPAC policy papers on Israeli-Palestinian affairs here and here.) MPAC itself tweeted that it was “puzzled” by the ADL’s decision to put it on the list.

NIF and J Street suggested that the ADL is targeting MPAC because the Muslim advocacy organization has partnered with groups that advocate the use of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The two Jewish groups — both of which oppose BDS — conclude that this is “guilt by association and an unfair indictment of an organization that seeks dialogue with our community.”

But while the ADL does note MPAC’s co-sponsorship of events at which Israel is a target for harsh criticism, it also does cite numerous examples of MPAC’s own criticisms of and actions toward Israel that the league judges to be beyond the pale. (See pages 15-16 in the ADL’s full report.)

While MPAC has been at odds with Jewish groups over Israeli-Palestinian issues, it has also worked closely with segments of the Jewish community. It had particularly warm relations with the Los Angeles-based Progressive Jewish Alliance when the latter group was led by Daniel Sokatch, who is today the New Israel Fund’s CEO. (PJA later co-founded and was subsumed into Bend the Arc, a liberal Jewish advocacy group focused on domestic policy issues.)

The ADL’s list included a range of groups, which would likely have varying reactions to their inclusion on such a list. Whereas MPAC was puzzled, the fervently anti-Zionist haredi group Neturei Karta would probably have little objection to its inclusion.

Meanwhile, another listed group, Jewish Voice for Peace, issued a response blasting the ADL. But JVP also said that they “appreciate the ADL’s recognition of our growing strength, especially among younger Jews” and called it “a badge of honor, that the ADL would attack us on the basis of our identification with anti-apartheid and civil rights struggles.” (In the statement, JVP — which neither endorses nor opposes a two-state solution — neither concurs with nor explicitly disputes the ADL’s characterization of it as an anti-Israel organization.)

Along with MPAC, JVP and Neturei Karta, the ADL’s diverse top-10 list included ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), American Muslims for Palestine, CODEPINK, Friends of Sabeel-North America, If Americans Knew/Council for the National Interest, Students for Justice in Palestine and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Incidentally, J Street has not always shied away from blanket denunciations of diverse groups of ideological foes. Indeed, the first video that J Street produced to introduce itself back in 2008 showcased on a single screen nine individuals who it suggested were negative influences on Israel-related discourse in America, ranging from Christian conservatives like Pat Robertson and John Hagee, to foreign policy hawks like Bill Kristol and John Bolton, to Vice President Dick Cheney, an avowed supporter of a two-state solution.

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