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Op-Ed

Anti-Israel Groups: Polluting The Debate

Abraham H. Foxman
National Director of the Anti-Defamation League

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week on November 9, 2010

Criticism of Israel, like criticism of any sovereign nation in the world, can be reasonable and legitimate. In recent years, however, discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have all too often been polluted by those who seek to simplify the conflict into a battle between good and evil and turn public opinion against Israel.

Our recently released report on the "Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in America" is comprised of groups that look for every opportunity to singularly blame Israel. Despite claims of pro-peace and pro-justice objectives, these groups are dedicated to delegitimizing and demonizing the Jewish state.

The inclusion of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in the Top Ten elicited a strong reaction, particularly from some in the American Jewish community. Some questioned our decision to include JVP and pointed to the group's stated ideals of peace, justice and equality as evidence that it is not an anti-Israel group. While JVP's objectives may outwardly seem "kosher," a look at its actual agenda and activities reveals a clear anti-Israel bias, including initiating numerous boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel, protesting celebrations of Israel's 60th anniversary and organizing and participating in anti-Israel rallies that regularly feature extreme messages.

[Members of the group interrupted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech five times Monday at the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly in New Orleans, reportedly shouting "the occupation delegitimizes Israel."]

In June, for example, the New York chapter of JVP was one of the organizers of a rally to protest Israel's raid of the flotilla to Gaza. Several hundred demonstrators participated in the rally, which was held outside the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan. Many held signs that read, "Nuremberg Justice for Israeli War Criminals" and "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free." One speaker went so far as to describe Gaza as a "death camp."

JVP did not condemn the calls for Israel's destruction and offensive Holocaust analogies at this rally and has not condemned similarly outrageous messages featured at other events it has participated in. In fact, JVP has remained willing to co-sponsor and organize events with radical anti-Israel groups time and time again.

A credible "voice for peace" would have condemned these messages, refused to partner with groups that promote extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and sought to create an atmosphere where a real conversation about the conflict could take place.

Many of the anti-Israel groups named in the ADL's Top Ten are responsible for organizing events that routinely feature conspiratorial allegations about Israeli control over the U.S. government and media, comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany and expressions of support for terrorist groups. Chants of "long live the intifada" and "resistance is justified when people are occupied," as well as signs equating the Star of David with a swastika, are all too commonplace.

Several of the groups hold Israel to a different standard than other countries and advocate for boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns targeting Israeli institutions and companies that engage with Israel. Others organize and fund "break the siege" missions to Gaza that serve to buoy the terrorist group Hamas and castigate Israel for its legal blockade of the Palestinian territory.

In these and other ways, the Top Ten groups paint Israel as the perennial aggressor and Palestinians as the eternal victim, choosing to judge every step and misstep by the Israeli government as immoral, repressive and irredeemable. This approach is fundamentally anti-Israel.

While JVP had an ambivalent response to its inclusion in the report — describing it as an "honor" yet also claiming that it is not anti-Israel — many of the other groups named were thrilled with the designation. They expressed cynical enthusiasm, letting their supporters know with e-mails that read, "Congratulations to Us — We Made ADL's List," "We've Made the Top Ten" and "Bravo!!!"

We welcome the intense debate our Top Ten report has engendered. Now more than ever, Americans need to be able to distinguish between those who are critical of Israel policy and those who are engaged in a full-fledged assault on Israel's legitimacy.

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A credible "voice for peace" would have condemned these messages, refused to partner with groups that promote extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and sought to create an atmosphere where a real conversation about the conflict could take place.

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