A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
June 1989, Page 37
Coalition Raises Doubts About ADL
By Audrey Shabbas
The acrimonious breakup of a northern California community coalition organized to promote "a massive school, media, and community-based campaign to reduce prejudice" has again raised charges that the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) has become the kind of hate group it originally was organized to combat.
The ADL was heavily criticized earlier this year for a fund-raising letter by the then president of B'nai B'rith Seymour Reich which alleged that the "Arab presence on the college campus is poisoning the minds of our young people. " Reich, now chairman of the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, subsequently withdrew the letter which he called a mistake," even though he had used almost identical language in a fund-raising letter a year earlier. ADL has also been criticized for issuance of a "black list" naming educators, diplomats, and other speakers on American campuses who fail to toe the pro-Israel line.
Now, human rights and community groups have publicly disassociated themselves from an ADL-directed project aimed at schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. The "A World of Difference" (AWOD) program was conceived and carried out by the Boston chapter of the ADL, and later by the Houston chapter, as a "massive school, media, and community-based campaign to reduce prejudice. " In San Francisco, the AWOD project was to be carried out in six counties of the metropolitan area during the 1988-89 school year. With funding from Safeway Stores, the Koret Foundation, Atari, and KGO-TV (the local ABC affiliate), the ADL set about to create a community coalition called "Bay Area United," described in the AWOD promotional brochure as "a coalition of civil rights, human rights, religious, and ethnic organizations [which] will ensure the accurate representation of all our communities."
Although there are in the San Francisco area more than 20 Arab-American and Muslim-American organizations, all well-known to the ADL, not one was invited to be part of Bay Area United (BAU). When Muslim and Arab-American groups learned of the program and asked to be included, they were allowed to join RAU in the late summer of 1988, just as other groups originally invited to join the coalition began to withdraw.
The reasons for the defections centered on the manner in which the ADC created and directed BAU. The ADL chose the chair and when other RAU members complained, the ADL appointed itself as cochair. Further complaints brought the promise of an election of a third cochair, whose election was then announced at the next meeting.
From the beginning, it was learned, the ADL likened "A World of Difference" to "a great train, with the ADL as the engine, and Bay Area United as the caboose."
Efforts by the remaining BAU groups to have a positive impact on the project's study guide and teacher training workshops were blocked at every turn.
Suggestions were invited, but there was no mechanism or process for incorporating them. When RAU members asked the ADL to postpone the teacher training workshop until BAU representatives and their concerns could be included, ADL disregarded the request.
BAU component groups charged that in addition to these major flaws in process, there was, a major flaw in policy as well. When participants learned in November that ADL national policy called for the AWOD "prejudice reduction" campaign to exclude issues relating to gays and lesbians, the aged, women, and the disabled, RAU groups asked that the program be halted until these areas were addressed, and set a date to hear ADUs response.
The ADL changed the date of that meeting and changed its format from a RAU general meeting to a steering committee meeting. Clearly, either the ADL was not getting the message or felt sufficiently powerful to ignore community demands.
In other cities where the program was likewise underway, the ADL also was coming under heavy public criticism. In Los Angeles, the city's Human Relations Commission expressed concern. In New York, even Mayor Koch criticized the ADL program. So it was not surprising that the city of San Francisco's Human Rights Commission sent a letter of "grave concern" as well.
Meanwhile the AWOD program was proceeding with perceived backing of all those organizations that had originally comprised BAU. By the time of the annual convention of California social studies teachers in March, educators were beginning to get wind that all was not quite right. The organization refused to endorse A World of Difference, Teachers were stunned to see at an AWOD exhibit materials from the Israeli embassy and a brand new ADL publication, A Pocket Guide to the PLO.
At its subsequent meeting, Bay Area United (now meeting on its own, without its three "cochairs") drew up a letter to school districts, educational authorities, AWOD funders, and the general public announcing the uncoupling of its "caboose" from the ADL train and concluding:
We were frustrated in our attempt to have the A World of Difference school program, which claimed to be an "all encompassing prejudice reduction project," address issues of discrimination against women, disabled, elderly, and gay and lesbian people. The study guide did not adequately treat even the groups it targ6ted, actually fostering and reinforcing stereotypic and prejudicial attitudes rather than reducing them. The section on the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is so horrifying in its brevity as to be disrespectful. Its treatment of an Iranian child reinforces negative stereotypes of Muslim and Middle Eastern peoples. In all these cases, community representatives were not allowed the opportunity to speak for themselves, thus denying the study guide the element of authenticity that would ultimately excite students and achieve its stated goal—prejudice reduction.
In closing that final session, in which what remained of Bay Area United drew up the letter ending its participation in the project, the question was raised as to whether the ADL fits the criteria of a "human relations organization" entitled to be a major participant in conferences of such organizations on the local, state, and national levels. Or, participants asked, does it instead fit the criteria of a "hate group"?
The question is valid. Can an organization become a hate group toward some segments of the community, and still be accepted by the rest as a champion of human rights? The majority of the organizations originally represented in Bay Area United have registered their verdict.
Audrey Shabbas directs the office of Najda: Women Concerned About the Middle East in Berkeley, CA. She edited Nadja's The Arab World: A Handbook for Teachers.