Mondoweiss / June 27, 2023
During a panel at the Aspen Ideas Festival Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said it’s antisemitic when people tweet “Free Palestine” at him.
This week Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said it’s antisemitic for people to tweet “Free Palestine” at him. The comments were first reported by Marc Rod at the Jewish Insider.
Greenblatt made the remarks at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival during a panel on free speech in social media. “When I tweet about the weather, or when I tweet about my mom, or in a tweet about anything, the vitriol directed at me from right-wing extremists and radical white supremacists and QAnon enthusiasts, and radical people on the left who say ‘free Palestine’ to me, is really stunning,” he told attendees. “And it is indicative of the deep dysfunction in these platforms.”
Greenblatt’s assertion was challenged by Meta’s Vice President of Civil Rights and Deputy General Counsel Roy Austin, who was also on the panel. “I don’t want to debate that issue, but the point is that people are going to disagree,” Austin explained.
“Saying ‘free Palestine’ to a Jewish person out of context is antisemitism, plain and simple,” responded Greenblatt.
The ADL is consistently cited by the mainstream media as an apolitical civil rights organization, but in recent years a grassroots movement highlighting the groups support for anti-Palestinian racism, racist policing, colonialism, and policies of surveillance has emerged. In 2020 the ‘Drop the ADL’ movement published a primer detailing its history. A coalition of civil society groups also published an open-letter calling on activists to sever ties with the ADL.
“We are deeply concerned that the ADL’s credibility in some social justice movements and communities is precisely what allows it to undermine the rights of marginalized communities, shielding it from criticism and accountability while boosting its legitimacy and resources,” it reads. “Even when it may seem that our work is benefiting from access to some resources or participation from the ADL, given the destructive role that it too often plays in undermining struggles for justice, we believe that we cannot collaborate with the ADL without betraying our movements.”
“We’re in conversation with educators and communities of color across the country and they’re naming the ADL as a primary force in attacking and undermining their ethnic studies work. You also have their recent efforts to suppress Amnesty International’s very moderate report condemning Israeli human rights violations,” Executive Director of Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) Lara Kiswani told Mondoweiss in 2022. “I think the ADL can continue to talk a good game, but I would encourage people to think about what the ADL is actually doing and saying. For people on the ground doing the work and trying to advance a progressive agenda, they are the ones on the receiving end of the attacks on social justice issues.”
The ADL’s website states that anti-Zionism “isn’t always necessarily antisemitic,” but Greenblatt has consistently smeared anti-Zionists as antisemites since taking over the organization in 2014. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: anti-Zionism is antisemitism,” he told a crowd in November 2021. “Denying the right of Jews — alone among all peoples of the world — to have a homeland is antisemitism. Singling out just the Jewish state for condemnation while ignoring others, is prejudice.”
“Anti-Zionism as an ideology is rooted in rage,” he declared at the ADL’s 2022 National Leadership Summit. “It is predicated on one concept: 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.”
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss