The ADL Collaborates with the Enemy:

Targeting anti-fascists undermines grassroots Jewish solidarity

A few weeks ago, the ADL posted — and then quickly took down — troubling recommendations and guidelines for the police to infiltrate anti-fascist organizations and protests. Their primer, explaining what Antifa is and what they do, still stands, though their recommendations for increased policing have been deleted from their website. This is just one in a series of troubling actions and the ADL’s true beliefs are clear: the left poses a problem.

Why is the ADL more concerned with anti-fascists than white supremacists who want us dead?

Charlottesville Police standing by (Photo: Flickr)

The ADL condemns armed threats and vandalism of our synagogues and community centers, yet anti-fascist organizers often help protect them when police will not. Meanwhile, the FBI and DHS label Antifa “domestic terrorists” — but not white supremacists in Charlottesville. This is a direct affront to us and those we work alongside in our collective fight for liberation. The ADL should stand beside us in this work, not infiltrate and attack us.

While the ADL claims that “most established civil rights organizations criticize Antifa tactics,” it neglects to mention that, according to The Forward, “civil liberties organizations have long opposed police infiltration of activist groups and police filming of protests.” Frighteningly, a similar ADL primer concerning “alt-right” extremists makes no such recommendations. This is despite the fact that registered users of the white supremacist forum Stormfront alone have been proven responsible for nearly 100 murders in the past 5 years.

The ADL’s memo has serious ramifications for the Jewish community in the US. When our leaders, who wield disproportionate institutional power and influence over the Jewish masses, cozy up to the police, it puts us in danger at multiple levels. On the ground, it exposes us to police violence and white supremacist infiltration within the police force. Is the ADL aware that their memo will give further justification and access by white supremacists in attacking anti-fascist organizers, and will put lives at risk? Do the lives of Jews who organize as anti-fascists matter to the ADL? This is especially (and often lethally) dangerous for people of color, both within and outside our community.

On another level, it deflates movements that have arisen for the purpose of self-protection. The ADL’s decree is first and foremost an attack on the physical safety of leftists, with special harm dealt to leftists of color. It also drives a wedge between white Jews and both Jewish and non-Jewish people of color, pushing the Jewish mainstream farther and farther from both the progressive politics they often claim to pursue and their own self-interest. Without interracial solidarity, we will never be able to take on capitalism and we will never achieve liberation for ourselves or others.

The platform of the Jewish Solidarity Caucus envisions an autonomous Jewish identity liberated from justifying itself to nation-states and their ideology, as the ADL seems intent on doing, both here and abroad. The ADL has been sponsoring what Jewish Voice for Peace calls a “Deadly Exchange”: programs are bringing together “police, ICE, border patrol, and FBI from the US with soldiers, police, border agents, etc from Israel” to “promote and extend discriminatory and repressive policing in both countries including extrajudicial executions, shoot-to-kill policies, police murders, racial profiling, massive spying and surveillance, deportation and detention, and attacks on human rights defenders.”

The ADL claims that its mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and secure justice and fair treatment to all,” but it spends a great deal of its resources stifling criticism of Israel, conflating such criticism with anti-semitism, and raising suspicion of leftist goals. In the past, the ADL has been accused of spying on and infiltrating a range of progressive and leftist groups including Arab student groups, the ACLU, the NAACP, ACT UP, New Jewish Agenda, United Farm Workers and more, in the name of “combating left extremism”.

The ADL sends the message that “a good Jew is a Zionist and American patriot.” Nationalist support for the U.S. and for Israel, hiding behind the veneer of liberalism, is fealty to an empire that extends abroad from home. This is an abandonment of internationalist Jewish traditions, and abandonment of our allies here.

This memo also brings up dark moments from U.S. history: namely the FBI’s infiltration, harassment, and murders of members of the Black Panthers. This historical precedent is not something any Jew with a conscience should attach themselves to, especially if they seek interracial solidarity and protection of those most vulnerable among us. The US has one of the deadliest police forces in the world, and yet the ADL has continued to align themselves with state repression.

It seems that the ADL will only stand with anti-fascists when it scores them political points or suits their very narrow interests. Shortly after President Trump’s widely panned “many sides” comments, the ADL joined in to condemn his appalling false equivalency:

.@POTUS: Two sides don’t exist here. Comparisons btwn white supremacists & counter protesters are beyond the pale. (x)

But just days earlier (a few hours before Heather Heyer’s murder and the day after a torch-wielding mob of neo-Nazis attacked opposing protesters on the University of Virginia campus), the ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted out the same false equivalency of which his organization would later accuse Trump:

Whether by #AltRight or #Antifa, no excuses for violence and, keep in mind, this is exactly the response that the bigots seek to provoke. (x)

Trump’s “many sides” remark briefly brought liberal institutions to the defense of leftist anti-fascists after months of widespread bipartisan hand-wringing over the dubiously named “alt-left.” For the ADL, the “false equivalency” argument was only pertinent when it was a popular way to appear progressive and attack Trump. But now they and other supposed liberal allies like Nancy Pelosi, Trevor Noah, and even Jewish publications like The Forward and Tablet Magazine, have redirected their ire at those at the front lines in resisting fascism in America.

All this talk of sides begs the question: what side is the ADL on? We look back and note: Jews too sided with the fascists during the Holocaust, and they are not remembered fondly. To undermine those who are resisting the Nazis is to collaborate with the Nazis. Right-wing Jews have made a habit of shamefully calling any Israel-critical Jew a “Kapo,” referencing Jews who Nazis tasked with administration of concentration camps, but the irony of the right’s utter failure to combat the contemporary white supremacist threat is not lost on us.

We principally stand with Antifa and will defend them and all other anti-fascists who are bravely confronting the rising tide of racist, Islamophobic, and antisemitic hate. Antifa are not some undefined other, but friends, comrades, and sure enough, Jews. They are people we can look to for assistance and mutual defense in these dangerous times. It is not Antifa, but the people whom organizations like the ADL consistently defend due to their slavish “support of Israel” — neocons, liberals who are progressive on every issue but Palestine, evangelical “zionists”; in short, the ADL’s donor class — that are the threats to the Jewish community and to collective liberation. While these friends of the ADL continue to pose a real threat to Jews across the U.S., it is people like Heather Heyer and Antifa who have heroically resisted the racist and antisemitic onslaught of the alt-right.

In choosing to vilify, undermine, and target anti-fascist groups, the ADL has made it clear which side they are on. If the ADL’s history wasn’t a clear enough indication of their complacency and support of the American empire, their recently released, deleted but not retracted statement, moves their position beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Jewish Solidarity Caucus calls on all Jews to stand up to the fascist/”alt-right” tide and reject liberal equivocations between neo-nazis and those fighting them. We call on all Jews to defend anti-fascists and say with one voice: Never Again means never again for everyone!