ADL CEO: “Anti-Zionism is Antisemitism”

May 3, 2022
Jonathan Greenblatt

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt declared that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism” in a May 1 speech, calling anti-Zionism an ideology “rooted in rage.”

Greenblatt, speaking at the ADL’s 2022 Virtual National Leadership Summit, began by highlighting the ADL’s recent report finding the largest number of antisemitic incidents that the organization has ever recorded 2021. This included an increase of nearly 150% in assaults during the May 2021 Israel-Hamas conflict over the same timeframe in 2020.

“Here, I am talking about, not just grotesque displays of anti-Israel hate, but a greatest hits of antisemitic rhetoric — everything from signs claiming that Jews are responsible for killing Jesus, to hideous Holocaust analogies, to bizarre conspiracies straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Greenblatt said. “And this is the point. To those who still cling to the idea that antizionism is not antisemitism – let me clarify this for you as clearly as I can – antizionism is antisemitism.” He then said that “antizionism as an ideology is rooted in rage” because it aims for “the negation of another people, a concept as alien to the modern discourse as white supremacy. It requires a willful denial of even a superficial history of Judaism and the vast history of the Jewish people. And, when an idea is born out of such shocking intolerance, it leads to, well, shocking acts.”

As an example, Greenblatt pointed to the recent terror attacks in Israel over the past few weeks. Anti-Israel groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) responded “with increasingly dangerous language,” Greenblatt said. “Just this month, Georgetown SJP invited Mohammed El-Kurd to its campus, a man who alleged that Jewish Israelis and Zionists eat the organs of Palestinians and claimed that Zionism is inherently linked to ‘blood thirsty[sic] and violent’ actions.”

Additionally, Within Our Lifetime, which Greenblatt said was a spin-off of SJP, recently held an anti-Israel protest calling to “globalize the Intifada.” “An even cursory examination of history reveals that the Intifada was far from a Ghandian campaign of civil disobedience,” Greenblatt said. “It was an armed conflict that ranged from rocks being thrown at soldiers to suicide bombers detonating themselves inside crowded restaurants full of women and children in Jerusalem.”

He proceeded to explain that the “sleight of hand” used by the anti-Israel crowd to replace “Jew” with “Zionist” originated from the Soviet Union in the 1950s. “Stalinists wanted to claim that their Communism inoculated them from antisemitism, that their seething hatred of the Jewish people and the systemic antisemitism so rampant in the Soviet Union was about opposition to imagined Western Imperialism, that it was rooted in politics not prejudice,” Greenblatt said. “It wasn’t. It was propaganda and prejudice then, it is propaganda and prejudice now, even if the lies today are repeated by DSA [Democratic Socialists of America] boosters rather than 1950s Kremlin supporters.”

Greenblatt pointed to the fact that the ADL spoke out against Donald Trump’s “slanders against Mexicans and Muslims in 2015” and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) “horrendous comparisons between COVID-19 mitigation efforts and the Holocaust” and her embrace of “antisemitic conspiracy theories like QAnon” because everything “starts with words.” “When campus organizations like SJP interrupt speeches, disrupt events and call for an end to any action that normalizes any relationships, or programs associated, with Israel or Israelis – including participating with the local J Street chapter as happened at Tufts University, my own alma mater, last month, that is extremism,” he said. “When groups like Jewish Voice for Peace tweet out ‘Jews, hands off Al Aqsa,’ when they absolutely know that such language is inflammatory, that the community literally is nowhere near the Al Aqsa Mosque, let alone even permitted to pray there, that is extremism.”

The ADL CEO also took aim at the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), noting that Zahra Billoo, who heads CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area affiliate, alleged “that ADL, Jewish Federations, and Hillel chapters are the ‘enemies’ of her community” and promulgated conspiracy theories of “of interconnected Jewish organizations that supposedly are planning and plotting to harm Muslims, including the groundless accusation that the Israeli military secretly trains U.S. police to harm people of color.” “When CAIR itself takes no action itself to correct the conspiracism, to acknowledge the hurt of such slander, and instead opts to blame the victim and defend the bigot, that is extremism,” Greenblatt said.

He later added: “As an organization dedicated to stopping the defamation of the Jewish people, it means we must act against the antizionist extremists just as we have against other extremists from the white supremacists and alt-right ilk who murder Jews in the places where we pray and continue to pose the greatest threat to the homeland in terms of violent domestic extremism, to religious zealots and Islamist fanatics who spread hate through their own channels and commit acts of violence, let alone inspire others like a deranged man from the [United Kingdom] who held four people hostage in a synagogue in Texas earlier this year. We will continue to combat these threats even as we apply more concentrated energy toward the threat of radical antizionism.”

Greenblatt called for Republican and Democratic Party leaders to speak out against antisemitism and anti-Zionism in their respective parties and for universities to protect Jewish students. He also urged tech companies to crack down on “hate speech” on their platforms and for corporations to include antisemitism in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) trainings.

Greenblatt’s speech was met with praise on social media. Actress Noa Tishby, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism in Israel, thanked Greenblatt for his speech in a tweet. Democratic Majority of Israel also tweeted that Greenblatt’s speech was “important.”

JIMENA [Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa] tweeted, “It was antisemitism dressed as antizionism that led to the ethnic cleansing and displacement of close to one million Jews refugees from [the Southwest Asian North African region]. We are glad ADL is taking a clear position on this issue.”

CAIR, on the other hand, criticized Greenblatt in a tweet, calling the ADL CEO’s criticism of the group “unhinged,” “hypocritical” and “another sign of its isolation and desperation.”

Quotes from Greenblatt’s speech via ADL transcript.

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