Guardian op-ed amplifies rhetoric of antisemitic ‘Deadly Exchange’ campaign against ADL

It was perhaps inevitable that The Guardian would provide a platform to amplify an antisemitic campaign against the ADL. The piece that criticized Starbucks for its “misguided racism workshops” garnered more than 10 000 Facebook shares and was written by Hina Tai, an Associate Director of Research at The Islamic Monthly and, naturally, an ardent supporter of BDS.

A guest post by Petra Marquardt-Bigman

After two African-Americans were recently arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks because they didn’t order anything while waiting for a friend, the company tried to calm the ensuing outcry by vowing to provide anti-bias training to all its employees. But Starbucks’ decision to turn to America’s oldest Jewish anti-racist group – the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – for advice on the training upset some prominent ‘progressives’.

Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory took to social media to complain that Starbucks “is NOT serious about doing right by BLACK people” because the company “enlisted the Anti-Defamation League to build their anti-bias training” even though the ADL “is CONSTANTLY attacking black and brown people.” Mallory’s hostility to the ADL is not all that surprising given that she has the greatest admiration for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom the ADL has described as “the leading anti-Semite in America”

But Mallory could be sure to get support from her fellow Women’s March co-chair (and fellow Farrakhan fan) Linda Sarsour, who has advertised her intense dislike of the ADL for years on social media. Just a few weeks ago, Sarsour viciously attacked the ADL for criticizing Hamas’s role in the Gaza protests. As far as Sarsour was concerned, criticizing Hamas meant the ADL was “dust[ing] off their favorite playbook ‘ways to justify murder’.” Sarsour made clear that she didn’t think much of “liberals who work with them [i.e. the ADL] or who quote their statistics and research,” and she even declared: “I definitely don’t care for Muslim American organizations who choose to work with ADL, an organization that has always been clearly anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and has worked to undermine our communities for decades.”

So it was perhaps all but inevitable that The Guardian would provide a platform to amplify this campaign against the ADL. The op-ed (“Why Starbucks shouldn’t be praised for its misguided racism workshops”, April 18th) that criticized Starbucks for its “misguided racism workshops” garnered more than 10 000 Facebook shares; it was written by Hina Tai, who is Associate Director of Research at The Islamic Monthly; she also happens to be an ardent supporter of BDS.

Tai started by arguing that it was important to distinguish between manifestations of “implicit” and “explicit” bias, and she quickly worked her way to a sweeping condemnation of “implicit bias workshops,” which she rejected as “nothing more than a neoliberal PR stunt for both corporations attempting to avoid legal liability, and race organizations seeking to be solutions and funding-oriented.”

She then turned to “the Starbucks case,” urging her readers to “consider that Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), has been brought on as one of the ‘experts’ to develop the implicit bias workshop curriculum.” That this would be the same Jonathan Greenblatt who pledged in November 2016 that he would register as a Muslim if Donald Trump created the kind of national database he promised during his campaign was apparently immaterial to Tai’s argument, because she didn’t mention it.

Instead, Tai complained to her readers that the ADL “is a staunch supporter of Israel and advocates against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement;” she misleadingly claimed that BDS just “calls for an end to Palestinian occupation” and added: “How ironic is it that ADL is involved in a racial bias workshop while supporting Israel’s policing and oppression of Palestinian people?”

Well, it’s not all that ironic, because what Tai denounces as Israel’s “policing and oppression of Palestinian people” has nothing whatsoever to do with racial bias. Instead, Israel has unfortunately been forced to defend itself for pretty much all of its existence against Palestinian terrorism; another similarly unfortunate fact is that so far, Palestinians have never been really interested in a state alongside Israel.

Tai then proceeded to regurgitate some of the main talking points of an ugly antisemitic campaign called Deadly Exchange, designed “to blame Jews for police violence in the United States.”

Accordingly, she accused the ADL of sponsoring  “exchange programs that allow Israel’s military to provide training to US law enforcement officers,” adding: “During a time when Black Lives Matter is galvanizing against the militarization of police and an end to police brutality against black and brown bodies, this is a grave oversight. These are the politically charged structural-level issues implicit bias work is deflecting from. Because it makes people uncomfortable.”

In this context, we should perhaps go back to Tai’s discussion of “implicit” vs. “explicit” bias – because arguably, it’s a manifestation of very explicit bias if you think that “police brutality against black and brown bodies” in the US has anything whatsoever to do with a Jewish-American organization like the ADL that has been fighting racism of all kinds for more than 100 years, or with the world’s only Jewish state. Indeed, the Nazis had a very explicit slogan that neatly summed up the kind of bias that leads people to see Jews behind everything that’s bad somewhere in the world: “The Jews are our misfortune.” 

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