Michelle Goldberg on the Anti-Defamation League's latest attack on human rights groups
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the ADL’s list is the desperation it betrays. Israel is now a country whose own social-affairs minister warns of “a whiff of fascism” in national politics. The New York Times documents brazen acts of theft and vandalism by extremist West Bank settlers, while Israeli intransigence on settlements is doing much to derail the current, ill-starred peace process. Last week, the Israeli government jailed the Palestinian non-violent activist Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a man whose supporters include Archbishop Desmond Tutu. On Friday, a new poll in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth found that 36 percent of Israeli Jews want to deny Israeli Arabs the right to vote. Israel is currently headed in a very frightening direction.
My most recent trip to the West Bank was a few days ago; there, it’s harrowingly clear how settlement expansion is killing hope for a two-state solution, how Israel is systematically making liberal Zionism an oxymoron. Among younger American Jews, identification with Israel is collapsing, and for obvious reasons. One 2007 study found that among non-Orthodox Jews under 35, only 54 percent are “comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state.” At campuses like U.C. Berkeley, young Jewish activists, outraged by Israel’s policies, are joining groups like Students for Justice in Palestine—another member of the ADL’s top 10.
The ADL recognizes that it is losing the propaganda war. One reason it put out the list right now, Segal says, is that students are returning to campuses where there’s been an uptick in anti-Israel activism. “Online activism, as well as what’s happening on college campuses, are seeping into the younger generation,” he says.
But the reason young people’s views are changing isn’t because of sinister organizations. It’s because, given current Israeli policy, an unequivocal defense of the country requires ever more heroic feats of denial and rationalization. It requires great barrages of defamation, against Jimmy Carter, against once-revered South African jurist Richard Goldstone, against Desmond Tutu, against J-Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace Washington group, and now, against groups like Jewish Voice for Peace. “This defense of Israel right or wrong makes them not have a moral compass,” Sydney Levy, campaign director of Jewish Voice for Peace, says of the ADL. “They cannot distinguish right from wrong. All they can do is defend Israel blindly.” George Orwell famously said, “To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.” To refuse to see it requires a constant struggle as well.
Michelle Goldberg is a journalist and author based in New York. Her first book, the New York Times bestseller "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism” delved into some of the reddest precincts of the United States to expose the ascendant politico-religious fundamentalism dominating the Republican Party. It was a finalist for the 2007 New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. Goldberg's second book, “The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World,” explored the international battle over reproductive rights, and argued that the liberation of women is key to solving the planet's most urgent problems. It won 2008's J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award and the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. Goldberg has reported from countries including Uganda, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, India and Argentina, and her work has appeared in Glamour, Rolling Stone, The Nation, New York, The Guardian (UK) and The New Republic among many other publications. Her third book, about the world-traveling adventuress, actress and yoga evangelist Indra Devi, will be published by Knopf in 2012.