Pro-Palestine groups denounce Paypal-ADL research into extremism funding

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /   July 27, 2021

Youth group warns ‘lifeline’ financial dealings for Palestinians could be ‘profoundly disrupted’ if ADL plays a role in deeming what transactions are legitimate.

Pro-Palestine groups have urged PayPal to cancel its partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which seeks to investigate how extremist and hate movements in the United States use financial platforms. 

The Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) said in a statement on Tuesday that PayPal should scrap working with the ADL due to the organization’s “anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic” track record. 

The US-based Palestinian group said that while the ADL “claims to fight anti-Semitism”, it has “a long and uninterrupted track record of working to censor and punish Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims for speaking out or organizing for Palestinian liberation”.

Paypal announced on Monday that it planned to launch an investigation into hate group funding, saying the initiative would be led through the ADL’s Center on Extremism and would focus on uncovering and disrupting the financial flows supporting white supremacist and anti-government organizations.

But the PYM, which describes itself as an independent, grassroots movement of young Palestinians in Palestine and in exile, said Paypal’s partnership with the ADL, a pro-Israel organization, is likely to result in the targeting of pro-Palestinian spaces. 

“PayPal describes its new partnership as one rooted in ‘studying’ and ‘ending’ pipelines for hate and extremism, but as Palestinian organizers, we are all too familiar with this language of censorship that the ADL has previously used to blacklist pro-Palestinian activists as well as derail Palestinians’ careers and livelihoods,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday. 

“With the ADL at the helm of determining what is ‘hateful’ or ‘extreme,’ financial transactions that are a literal lifeline for Palestinians in Occupied Palestine and the camps could be profoundly disrupted, making it even more difficult for families and communities to send remittances, fund lifesaving medical procedures, and otherwise help Palestinians under occupation to survive despite the tremendous economic barriers erected by Israel,” it said. 

Meanwhile, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) asked Paypal whether it would be “going after organizations that fund settler terror against Palestinians?” – a reference to right-wing Israeli settler groups, “or are extremists just people your new business partner doesn’t like?” it said.

‘Drop the ADL’ campaign

The ADL has a long history of describing Palestinian rights movements as antisemitic and has in the past worked with US law enforcement to spy on and target Arab-American groups, among others. It has also facilitated and funded US police training trips to Israel.

The ADL has also denounced organizations including the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) and has advised police forces to plant undercover agents within anti-racist demonstrations in order to use surveillance footage to prosecute protesters.  

In 2016, not long after the founding of the Black Lives Matter movement, ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt published a letter in the Times of Israel’s New York Jewish Week highlighting and condemning the movement’s solidarity work with Palestinian activists. 

Last year, more than 100 human rights groups signed a joint letter asking progressive organizations to stop working with the ADL. 

The groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Dream Defenders, said their call came “in light of a growing understanding of the ADL’s harmful practices”. 

“Even though the ADL is integrated into community work on a range of issues, it has a history and ongoing pattern of attacking social justice movements led by communities of color, queer people, immigrants, Muslims, Arabs, and other marginalized groups, while aligning itself with police, right-wing leaders, and perpetrators of state violence,” the groups warned at the time. 

The groups also posted a collection of links and resources to back up their stance, on the website, which the PYM has linked to in their calls on PayPal to take action.