Aug 09 2010

My Experience With the ADL

Published by at 1:25 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

The aim of this blog is not to pile it on the ADL, but to show that this organization that is expected to fight hate, discrimination and defamation, has little tolerance for the suffering of any group other than the Jewish population.

I was invited by the ADL sometime in 2002 to speak to a delegation of ADL chapter heads from all over the US who were making a visit to Israel. The group would not come to the Palestinian territories or even anywhere in East Jerusalem so I had to travel to see them at their hotel, the King David Hotel in West Jerusalem.

The meeting was scheduled for three in the afternoon, and the director, Abe Foxman asked if I could come ten minutes early. I did and he met with me separately saying that he had an important meeting and could not attend my talk but wanted to talk to me one on one. We talked in general terms and then I mentioned what had happened at a pro Israel rally in Washington, D.C., not long before, when the Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was booed as he told a packed crowd of thousands that “innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying as well. It is critical that we recognize and acknowledge that fact.”

Foxman was apologetic to me and reassured me that this was not a universal boo, but that it was a tiny minority certainly not representative of the majority of those attending the rally. Foxman then left for his meeting, and I entered the conference room where the directors of all the ADL branches were waiting for my talk.

In such situations I usually check, and I was assured that I was the only Palestinian that this group would meet. I often joke about being the token Palestinian and try to speak honestly to the group, explaining to them that I feel the responsibility of representing the entire Palestinian political spectrum and not just my own rather “moderate” point of view.

My discussion covered the usual aspirations of Palestinians wanting to end the Israeli occupation and live in freedom and independence. I often explain that both peoples have a choice of either sharing the power or the land, but one party can’t forever subjugate the other party. After politely listening to me, the question-and-answer period came, and I was hit with a barrage of questions, mostly about Hamas and their refusal to recognize Israel and so on. I tried to answer them with whatever information and arguments I could without being a representative of Hamas. But I would always try to force them to consider the suffering of the Palestinian people and not to focus only on one radical party.

To help illustrate my position, I express again my displeasure at what happened in that Washington rally in which a pro-Israeli official was booed simply for reminding the American Jewish audience that Palestinians also suffer and die. This didn’t go well with the audience, but I remembered what Foxman had said, so I thought of trying to gauge their position. Knowing that they didn’t have any idea what Foxman had told me, I asked them whether the booing was from a small group or whether it was more representative of the entire group.

One of those in attendance (I think he headed the ADL in St. Louis, Missouri) quickly responded. I was there, he said, and we all booed Wolfowitz, it was not an isolated response. Others in the room shook their heads in agreement.

I never told the group that I had heard the exact opposite from their more sophisticated national director, and since he had left, I never had a chance to related what I had heard from the St. Louis ADL director.

I have not spoken at an ADL visit since then, but I thought of this story when I followed the flip-flopping position of the ADL director who was vehemently opposed to the creation of the Islamic Cultural center before the vote of the Manhattan council, only to backtrack the day after the unanimous vote. I couldn’t help but remember the discrepancy between what I had heard from Foxman directly and what his local directors were saying.

My wife and daughter moved to the US for a while this summer, and when we went to register my daughter at the Cheltenham Township School District, I noticed ADL stickers all over the wall opposing Hate. I totally agree with the need for an anti-hate education beginning in schools, churches, synagogues and mosques. But the fight against hate has to be universal if it is to be effective.

The idea of an organization committed to fighting hate and defamation based on religion is a great idea. But if the ADL is committed only to stopping the defamation of the Jewish people while participating in the defamation of the Muslim community, then it has clearly gone against its own goals and vision.

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