A political memo for Americans who love freedom, equality, democracy, and peace.
The ADL and AIPAC support the far-right Israeli government and we should reject them too
The head of Twitter pushes Nazi messages, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) just praised him. Last week, Elon Musk responded approvingly to an antisemitic canard that Jews are running a Great Replacement conspiracy, calling it the "actual truth." Appropriately, a chorus of civil-rights groups and prominent individuals criticized Musk, and advertisers started pulling their ads from Twitter. Then, a few days later, the head of the ADL, an advocacy group founded in 1913 that claims to fight hate and defend against antisemitism, was back praising Musk. I saw quite a few political experts asking what was happening; asking what had happened with the ADL.
Not only is this a sadly predictable move from the ADL, but it highlights what is now a major political problem for Americans. The ADL claims to be a civil rights group but in actuality it has enabled the worst excesses of Israel's war against Hamas. Why?
Before going into that, let's be clear about values and what we stand for. Liberal values are the way forward for a just world. All people are created equal, and are endowed with unalienable rights, amongst them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Multicultural, pluralistic democracy protects human rights. All people deserve freedom from fear and freedom from want. Civilian killings are terrible. Hamas is a terrorist group that brutally killed hundreds of Israelis. The Hamas hostages must be returned. Bombings that kill kids are horrible, killing journalists is terrible, and blocking civilian access to water or hospitals is horrible. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens protested against the far-right Netanyahu government for months over the past year. We can differentiate between Hamas and the Palestinian people just as we can differentiate between the far-right Israeli government and the Israeli people.
And having laid out the values that Americans have long stood for, what can we do about the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the war against Hamas?
There are no easy solutions, but here is one path for Americans who want to take action: Americans can fight against AIPAC and the ADL leadership.
Those groups protect the Israeli far-right government, and Americans should unify in opposition to that government.
The Netanyahu government has chosen to abandon American Jews
Netanyahu is not a friend of America or American democracy. He is a fascist who funded Hamas because that helped block a state for Palestinians, effectively encouraged a Jewish terrorist to assassinate the liberal Rabin, is pro-Trump, worked with Tom Cotton, and worked to sink Obama and Biden.
And it goes beyond this choice to openly side with US Republicans and oppose US Democrats: Netanyahu's government has chosen to abandon American Jews.
Netanyahu's chief political advisor, Ron Dermer, has been called "Bibi's Brain" and Netanyahu's "alter ego."
It’s rare in rightwing politics that the leadership are honest in public about their political strategy (Lee Atwater's deathbed confession a notable exception), but Dermer publicly laid out the Likud plan in 2021. An excerpt:
“About 25% [of Americans] — some people think more — are evangelical Christians. Less than two percent of Americans are Jews,” [Dermer] said. “So if you look just at numbers, you should be spending a lot more time doing outreach to Evangelical Christians than you would do to Jews.”
Dermer went on to note that it is “very rare to hear evangelicals criticize Israel,” whereas American Jews are “disproportionately among our critics.”
It's a political strategy. The Netanyahu government is happy to support Americans who wish to move to Israel. But they really do not care about Jews in America. They have made a political choice to throw over American Jews and instead pursue support for the Israeli state and their own government, even if that makes American Jews' lives more difficult and less safe. And Israel supporting evangelical Christians in America is making American Jews less safe.
This all boils down to the Israeli right not actually considering American Jews their people. And that makes it destructive for Americans to hang on to supporting Netanyahu and his government.
And it's a political no-brainer for Americans to reject Netanyahu. When Netanyahu was supporting Trump and Republicans in the US, Republicans had the support of more than a third of America. But today, only 4 percent (you read that right, 4!) of the Israeli people trust Netanyahu and his government.
Israelis want this government gone. Sure, those numbers don't speak to Israeli support for military actions, but both Israelis and Americans who support freedom and equality seem to agree on one thing: this Israeli government is bad.
If you're interested in reading more about Netanyahu's political life, search for "Jabotinsky" and "Revisionist Zionism," and read about the Rabin assassination and Netanyahu's actions back then — and the actions then of Itamar Ben-Gvir, who Netanyahu brought into his government.
The ADL has chosen a rightwing path by supporting the Netanyahu government to the hilt
For decades after Israel's founding, the country was largely ruled by a Labor government. Many Israeli immigrants from the US were on the left, and they worked on kibbutzes and read Ha'aaretz. And Israel, for better or worse, was seen as an underdog. It had been attacked by other countries and managed to survive. Especially with the Holocaust in widespread living memory, US support for Israeli governments was strong. That was the environment that the ADL worked in for many years.
Today, however, Likud and further-right governments have been the predominant rulers of Israel for around forty years. And the ADL has today chosen to stay in lockstep with the Israeli government.
That's what Greeenblatt's recent tweets of support for Elon Musk are about. Musk took the Israeli goverment's side, and the ADL supports that. Even when the Musk is a clear antisemite who endangers Jews in America with his rhetoric — and with his cesspool of a rightwing website.
As 2020 piece in the labor left paper In These Times put it, "The ADL is not an anti-hate speech organization or a civil rights organization. It is, rather, a pro-Israel lobbying group specifically tasked with protecting Israel from criticism."
That's right. And the ADL is willing to choose support for Israel's government over American Jews.
The ADL and its head Jonathan Greenblatt are inner-circle Dem advisors. We have to change that.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is a key Democratic coordination group. Schumer and Jeffries and Biden *listen* to them.
And Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL CEO, is on their board.
We are never going to move the Democratic Party, and Biden, to reject the far-right government running Israel right now unless we get Greenblatt and the ADL out of the inner circle of top Democratic advisors.
This is a lever we have as Americans. If half the ADL staff quit tomorrow and said they disagreed with the ADL's stance on Netanyahu, it's possible Biden and Schumer would sit up and take notice. We can also reach out to Maya Wiley, the Leadership Conference president and CEO.
Other leaders speaking out could have an effect too. If Randi Weingarten of AFT, or Shawn Fain of the UAW, or Margaret Huang of the SPLC said Greenblatt should leave the Leadership Conference board, it could change things.
AIPAC has also chosen Likud and the Netanyahu government over most American Jews
AIPAC is also a major problem.
It is very much the American arm of Likud, funded by a relatively small number of Conservative/Mod Orthodox American grassroots and a lot of money from big, mostly rightwing, US donors.
AIPAC for many years avoided supporting Republicans. But as the Israeli government has increasingly moved towards embracing autocracy, AIPAC has increasingly moved towards backing politicians that support American autocracy. That's not just a figurative statement: AIPAC has endorsed Republican Congressional insurrectionists.
This cycle, political watchers expect AIPAC to spend at least $100M in Democratic primaries to oppose progressives.
And AIPAC has hired "from far-right corners of Republican politics; the group’s digital director was hired away from Trump’s Republican National Committee."
As a Ha'aretz opinion piece put it in August of this year, "AIPAC is the pro-Netanyahu, anti-Israel lobby." (Put differently: AIPAC is pro-Netanyahu and anti-much of the Israeli people.)
Meanwhile Jeffries and top Dem leadership have effectively consented to this. He could publicly reject AIPAC's strategy and make it a caucus policy that Democrats cannot accept that money to primary other Democrats. (House Dems did effectively this for the 2020 cycle for consultants they disliked.) But Jeffries and other Dem leaders have chosen not to reject AIPAC, and by extension they are endorsing the Netanyahu far-right government.
Americans have the ability to make change by fighting the ADL and AIPAC.
So what can we do today to push back on the Netanyahu government?
There's a few steps that seem like they would help:
- Get Greenblatt off the Leadership Conference board. The ADL is harming civil rights and has chosen Netanyahu over American Jews.
- Support AOC and Mark Pocan and the other Democrats who have bravely come out against AIPAC. They need our support. AIPAC — funded heavily by Republicans — is now coming for them.
- Do whatever we can to get Democrats to speak out against the ADL, its leadership, and AIPAC. It's not tenable to have groups like this actively opposing Democrats and US democracy as they support Netanyahu's government.
- Be sure to differentiate the Israeli government from the Israeli people. Hundreds of thousands of liberal Israelis marched in the streets to oppose Netanyahu and his far-right ministers. (And also be sure to differentiate Hamas from the Palestinian people; many Palestinians fear Hamas and want change.)
Democrats must reject the Israeli government, and today that means rejecting the ADL and AIPAC
On November 14th, Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer stood hand-in-hand with Joni Ernst and Mike Johnson at the March for Israel. That is very bad. And it's also an excellent example of why it's important to differentiate the Israeli government from the Israeli people.
When Jeffries and Schumer were marching for Israel, did they mean they were marching for the Israeli government? The Netanyahu government? Surely Jeffries and Schumer didn't mean to support a government that is not only far-right and opposed to our values, but also funded Hamas.
Yet when someone shows up on a stage at a March for Israel and they don't make it clear they are rejecting the current far-right government, people assume they support it. That they are standing behind Netanyahu. And certainly the neofascist Republicans that Jeffries and Schumer were holding hands with are pleased to support the Israeli neofascist government.
That is a terrible message.
Dems should not go to a march like this unless they make it clear they are not lending their support to the Israeli government.
We need this both for Dem voters and for Dem leaders. We don't have much time. Not only is the US losing democratic legitimacy abroad as the world sees us as support the Netanyahu government, Biden's approval ratings are dropping, and this appears to be pulling down other candidates. It is political malpractice for Democrats to embrace "Israel" without differentiating the Israeli people from this government. We have to make clear we are opposed to the Israeli government. And the first step on that is rejecting the Netanyahu government's most prominent American allies: the ADL and AIPAC.
Netanyahu and his far-right ministers are more than happy to drag us down along with them. Refusing to disavow the Netanyahu government — and today that means the ADL and AIPAC — pulls America closer to autocracy ourselves.
Also worth a read
In These Times has two pieces yesterday and today on the ADL and AIPAC and their influence on American politics. Great minds...