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Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
December 2023

In recent years, there has been an effort to redefine “antisemitism” to include  
not simply bigotry toward Jews and Judaism, but also criticism of Israel and  
Zionism. In May 2022, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League  
(ADL), declared that “Anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” He argued that groups  
calling for equal rights for Palestinians in Israel are “extremists” and equated  
liberal critics of Israel with white supremacists.  
In an assessment of the role the ADL is now playing in the campaign to silence  
criticism of Israel, Eric Alterman, CUNY Distinguished Professor of English at  
Brooklyn College, published an article in the New Republic (Aug. 21, 2023)  
titled, “What Does the ADL Stand for Today?” He is the author of the book, “We  
Are Not One: A History of America’s Fight Over Israel.”  
Alterman points out that, “The far right is the source of the vast majority of  
antisemitism In the U.S. today…The ADL should be saying so more insistently…  
Greenblatt had virtually nothing to say about the rise of white Christian  
nationalism, together with its undeniably antisemitic ‘replacement theory’ that  
has mesmerized so many MAGA supporters and inspired murderous violence against  
Jews…and other vulnerable members of the population. Instead, he focused his ire  
on what the ADL calls ‘hostile anti-Zionist activist groups’ like Students for  
Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, which loudly criticize and  
protest against Israel on American college campuses, calling them ‘the photo  
inverse of the extreme right.’”  
While Greenblatt assaulted alleged “antisemitism” on the pro-Palestinian left,  
the ADL’s own “Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2022” found that the liberal groups  
he focused on were responsible for just two percent of the “antisemitic” actions  
to which the ADL objected. Lara Friedman, a Middle East policy analyst, and  
frequent critic of the ADL, points out that of these incidents cited, 53 out of  
70 were attributable to a single marginal group in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  
The ADL’s overall count of antisemitic incidents, Alterman points out, “does not  
allow for crucial distinctions to be made among them. A tragic massacre at the  
Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh or the Jews held hostage in a Dallas  
synagogue for 11 hours by a gunman last year, are accorded the same statistical  
significance in the ADL’s counting as, say, a report of graffiti written on a  
stairwell of a college dorm. In the ADL’s statistics, they both count the same.”  
The motive for promoting the idea of mounting antisemitism, Alterman argues, is  
clear: “A major reason for the ADL’s addiction to alarmism is the same  
institutional imperative that drives virtually every other issue-oriented  
nonprofit: Bad news in the world is good news for the organizations committed to  
fighting it. Climate change catastrophes fill the coffers of environmental  
groups. Attacks on choice fill the coffers of Planned Parenthood.”  
Some Israelis admit that the equating of anti-Zionism with antisemitism is a  
tactic to silence criticism of Israel. Shulamit Aloni, a former Minister of  
Education, and winner of the Israel Prize, describes how this works: “It’s a  
trick. We always use it. When from Europe, somebody criticizes Israel, we bring  
up the Holocaust. When in the United States, people are critical of Israel, then  
they are antisemitic.” *

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