by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-LA
Rumor has it that Joe Biden is considering naming Abe Foxman, former head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), as his new Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, a position within the State Department that falls under the Under-Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.
This focused my attention both on the purpose of the office, which is related to US foreign policy, explaining why it’s an “envoy” (someone being sent elsewhere) and also on the ongoing controversy over the IHRA “working definition” of antisemitism, which improperly conflates antisemitism with anti-Zionism and with criticism of the Israeli government and its occupation, policies and treatment of Palestinians.
I am speaking as someone who has been called a self-hating Jew, or in these terms, an antisemitic Semite, for my support of Palestine’s liberation and sovereignty. I have been physically attacked by members of the Jewish Defense League at a protest of racism in college admissions in Brooklyn, and at an anti-Klan protest in Los Angeles, and threatened at rallies outside the Israeli consulate. Some years ago, when I informed my old neighbors that the Burbank apartment where I had earlier lived had been named as my home by Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance (WAR), who invited his followers to pay me a visit, Foxman’s ADL dispatched a lieutenant they were working with in LAPD’s so-called Anti-Terrorism Division to inquire of me why I was on Metzger’s radar. I said, “None of your business.”
It later came out that the ADL had cut deals with the police departments of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and other cities, all of whom were under court orders to prevent spying on political groups and figures, in order to evade the injunctions. My group, PART, was one the ADL spied on. The lieutenant who called me was part of that quid pro quo operation.
This deal was designed to circumvent the restrictions on cops by having ADL operatives carry out political espionage for the police on Black student groups, anti-apartheid organizations, militant anti-racist and anti-Klan activists, and Arab, Muslim and Palestinian people, in return for access to other police data and investigative resources.
When the program was exposed, and the list of targeted organization was released via a civil suit against the ADL and the PDs, behold, my group, then called People Against Racist Terror (PART), was on the list.
But the ADL malfeasance under Foxman didn’t end there. The ADL operative tasked with infiltrating the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) was also ‘monitoring’ Holocaust-denial groups that had neo-Nazi members.
He repeatedly tried to distribute the literature denying Hitler’s genocide against European Jewry at ADC activities and tried unsuccessfully to involve ADC members in attending such events with him. Such dirty tricks and entrapment are reprehensible.
It is one of the reasons that to this day Palestinian movements such as the non-violent international effort for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), led by Palestinian civil society, expressly disavow and prohibit any involvement by actually antisemitic and racist elements.
The new state-sanctioned effort to officially define criticism of Israel as antisemitism is in fact a response to the growing influence and impact of the BDS movement, which calls for full equal rights for all Israelis including Palestinians, an end to the occupation and siege of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza, and the right of return for the Palestinian diaspora, including all those living in refugee camps in Lebanon and elsewhere. There are also growing challenges to the improper “working definition” from within the organized Jewish community.
The working definition of anti-semitism has been put forward by the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Association) and is already being used on campuses to target and punish students educating about Israeli apartheid and to try to criminalize advocacy of BDS, or to require “loyalty oaths” from academics or journalists to disavow any support for BDS.
This is a massive attack on freedom of speech, press and academic inquiry. A struggle against antisemitism and hate should focus on the growing international threat and practice of violence by neo-Nazi and white power groups, not on students advocating for non-violent resistance to oppression or an end to US and corporate collaboration with occupation and repression.
Just as in times past the JDL and the ADL have had me in their cross-hairs for my anti-racist activism, these latest moves, including the possible appointment of Foxman to such a post, put a target squarely on me again, as I am a member of BDS-LA, which previously campaigned against HP’s involvement with bio-metric ID cards for Palestinians, as well as with ICE and the CA prison system.
We’re currently engaged in a campaign about similar involvements by Amazon, whose AWS supports Palantir’s “big data” intel gathering for LAPD and 100s of PDs, as does its “Ring” doorbell camera, and whose Whole Foods subsidiary sells products from settler enterprises in the occupied Palestinian territories. Amazon contracts with Israeli weapons firms for its cargo aircraft.
If Biden is really interested in combating and monitoring antisemitism, he hardly needs to send an envoy outside the US, since numerous acts of white power violence and vandalism against Jews have taken place right here in the US, which has historically also produced antisemitic and racist propaganda for neo-Nazis in Canada and Germany, where such racist incitement is illegal.
And if he is going to appoint an Envoy on antisemitism as part of US foreign policy, he should have another envoy on Islamophobia.
You can find out more about the campaign against the IHRA “working definition” of antisemitism and the effort to stop Biden from appointing Foxman or someone similar as Special Envoy here:
(click on ‘fighting antisemitism and white nationalism’).
You can follow the campaign around Amazon and its attacks on workers, involvement in state surveillance, and role with Israel and the occupation here:
Sign a petition to Joe Biden and Secretary of State Tony Blinken here: