At ADL, we monitor extremism and misinformation regularly as part of our work fighting hate. As is the case with many legacy organizations, there is a fair amount of misinformation spread about who ADL is and the reality of the work we do. To help stop the spread of this misinformation, below are responses to some of the most egregious claims.
Claim: ADL supports racist, militarized policing
Fact: ADL opposes racist or militarized policing and has a long and documented history of strong opposition to racial profiling. ADL is proud of the contributions we have made to the fight against extremism, hatred and injustice through our longstanding partnership with law enforcement. ADL leads seminars for thousands of U.S. law enforcement professionals each year, providing them with information to help them prevent and respond to extremist threats, investigate hate crimes, assist victims, understand their own biases, and protect civil rights and civil liberties.
Since 2004, ADL has also brought small groups of senior American law enforcement leaders to Israel for a week-long seminar to teach about extremist and terrorist violence, mass casualty attacks and community resilience. This seminar is educational; there is no tactical, military or weapons (lethal or non-lethal) training of any kind. Any accusations that ADL brings law enforcement in Israel to train with the Israel Defense Forces or 'military forces' to conduct tactical maneuvers in the West Bank or to learn techniques that can be employed in the U.S. are patently false.
Any systemic racism that exists within American law enforcement agencies was not imported to the U.S. by Israel (as the ADL criticism claims), nor was it imparted during a one-week trip abroad (the nub of this accusation). Blaming Israel for these serious, widespread issues in the United States only serves as a distraction from legitimate efforts to address these problems.
Since the murder of George Floyd, ADL has publicly expressed its grave concern about law enforcement’s use of force against protesters and has called for investigations. ADL has also called out the deployment of Department of Justice law enforcement personnel in Portland, Oregon as ineffective and dangerous.
Claim: ADL supports repressing Palestinian rights, smearing critics of colonialism as “antisemites”
ADL supports the Jewish and democratic state of Israel. It also supports a negotiated two-state solution achieving rights and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. This support for Israel does not mean ADL is “anti-Palestinian.”
ADL is a strong advocate of a mutually negotiated two-state solution because a Jewish state alongside an independent Palestinian state will provide security and dignity to both peoples. ADL has been critical of both Palestinian leaderships’ policies as well as Israeli leaderships’ policies at times, including opposing efforts by the Israeli government to annex areas of the West Bank.
As the leading organization fighting antisemitism, ADL educates the broader public about criticisms of Israel that use age-old antisemitic stereotypes and tropes. ADL has worked to combat one-sided, biased, and at times, antisemitic, approaches to the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has exposed campaigns aimed at delegitimizing, and ultimately seeking to destroy the Jewish state. For example, some of the founding goals of the Boycott, Divestment and Saction (“BDS”) movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination, along with some of the tactics and rhetoric employed in BDS campaigns, cross the line into being antisemitic. Some of the founders of BDS have also been clear in their goal of using BDS to help eliminate the state of Israel. While ADL in no way considers all BDS supporters and goals to be antisemitic, we believe it important to expose distortions.
Claim: ADL supports actual antisemites and other right-wing, racist influencers
Fact: The claim that ADL supports antisemites is entirely baseless. We monitor, report, expose and educate about the threat of extremists, including those on the far right and on the far left. In the United States over the past 10 years the threat from violent extremism, as we have shown, is overwhelmingly from right-wing extremists and in particular white supremacists. Antisemitism, as well as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny, are integrally intertwined in the virulently racist ideologies of these extremists.
ADL has been directly working in the trenches every single day on issues of concern to marginalized communities. And this work is taking place in direct coordination with the leaders of mainstream civil rights organizations in these communities including the NAACP, the Urban League, LULAC, Unidos, and Color of Change.
Our trailblazing work on hate crimes, including most recently our partnership with the NAACP and Georgia Equality that was critical to securing the passage of a new hate crime law in Georgia this year in the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks, is one clear example. ADL is often the first organization to speak out when hate crimes affect Muslim, Black, Hispanic, Asian, immigrant, and other minority communities and people of color.
Claim: ADL contributes to Islamophobia/Anti-Muslim Racism
Fact: The idea that ADL takes the side of bigots and Islamophobes is defamatory and patently false. Doing so would be contrary to our very mission. We have been outspoken in our defense of civil rights for American Muslims for decades and the record is clear.
For example, after the 9/11 terror attacks, ADL took out a full page ad in the New York Times with a message, “Let’s not fight hatred with hatred,” calling for Americans to come together in the aftermath of hate and not seek to scapegoat Muslims, Sikhs or other minority groups. And when there was talk of creating a public registry of Muslims during the 2016 presidential campaign, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, spoke out forcefully, declaring that, “The day they create a Muslim registry is the day I register as a Muslim.”
ADL has filed amicus briefs in numerous civil rights cases on behalf of Muslim communities, including opposing the Muslim Ban. And we share our expertise on anti-Muslim extremists and on protecting religious institutions with local mosques in our regions to help protect them from threats.
Prominent Muslim organizations partner with ADL on legislative advocacy such as calling for the enactment of and strengthening of hate crime laws, and better training for law enforcement on combating and recording hate crimes.
Claim: ADL tramples anti-racist, immigrant, Queer, and other justice movements
Fact: For ADL’s entire history we have supported other justice movements and marginalized communities. It’s outrageous to claim that we do not.
ADL proudly stands with the Black Lives Matter movement. We do so because Black lives matter. And we have made clear that the movement is not antisemitic, including in ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s recent keynote address at ADL’s annual leadership summit in 2020.
In terms of the separate Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) organization, back in August 2016 when it released its broad-based policy platform, we wrote about our agreement with many points in the platform related to issues of racial justice. However, the foreign policy platform included (and still includes) incendiary language on Israel, accusing the Jewish state, alone among all the nations in the world, of committing genocide, among other things. As we regularly call out such biased claims, we did so here as well. We have called out bigotry when it raises its head in organizations and individuals whose views we oppose, as well as in groups and individuals with whom we work on other issues. And we hold ourselves to the same standard; we should call out racism and harmful misinformation when it appears in our own communities and organizations.
Claim: ADL unfairly criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar and only targets progressive members of Congress
Fact: At ADL, we call out antisemitism regardless of the source. This is as true for the president, members of Congress, and other federal office holders as it is true for local school boards and mayors.
ADL called out U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar for a series of remarks that played on longstanding and harmful antisemitic tropes, such as Jewish financial control of the U.S. government and accusations of dual loyalty. We have condemned those publicly and in private conversations with her office. ADL has also lauded aspects of Rep. Omar’s public service and pathbreaking career in the past and more recently has publicly defended her against vile anti-Muslim slurs. We can both call her out for antisemitic remarks and stand with her against Islamophobic attacks. We have and we will.
We have also spoken out repeatedly against conservative officials who engage in antisemitism and other forms of bigotry. For example, in a 2018 letter to then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, we urged the Speaker to strip U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) of his chairmanships and called on the House to take formal disciplinary action to censure him. We had previously condemned U.S. Reps. King and Louie Gohmert (R-FL) in 2015 for offering platforms to an anti-Muslim bigot, Geert Wilders. We have called on Stephen Miller, the primary architect of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, to resign as a result of his connections to white nationalists and his own statements and action.
Claim: ADL has a history of targeting and “surveilling” progressive movements
Fact: ADL has long researched extremist movements across the ideological spectrum as part of its work to fight hate. The idea that we surveil progressive movements or target them is patently false.
Some critics have erroneously pointed to a long-settled lawsuit as evidence to the contrary. It’s true that nearly 30 years ago, a lawsuit alleged that one of the local ADL offices obtained confidential files about political activists from the San Francisco police and from sheriff's officers in Los Angeles and San Diego. After years of public litigation, the lawsuit was settled with no admission of wrongdoing.
Some critics claim ADL sided with the South African government during the apartheid years. This is another false claim as ADL never wavered in its condemnation of the old, racist, South African government and society. While there was some tension between ADL and Nelson Mandela over his interactions with the Palestine Liberation Organization, in 1990, ADL and Mandela had a warm and public rapprochement.
There is also no truth to the accusation that ADL “spied” on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. ADL stood shoulder-to-shoulder with MLK and other civil rights leaders of his time. ADL filed amicus briefs in cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, vociferously supported civil rights and voting rights legislation, and stood firm against the KKK. The late Congressman, former Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee leader and civil rights icon John Lewis graced ADL’s platform on multiple occasions, and praised ADL for “standing up, speaking up, and speaking out, for in our society there is not any room for bigotry, antisemitism, there’s not any room for intolerance.”