ADL slams US effort to declare human rights groups ‘anti-Semitic’

Anti-Semitism watchdog says designation of 3 organizations would be ‘neither accurate nor helpful’ in combatting Jew hatred

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, October 21, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, October 21, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)

The Anti-Defamation League has strongly criticized a reported US decision to declare several major international human rights groups “anti-Semitic.”

In a report Wednesday, the Politico news site said the designation would apply to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam.

Criticizing the move, the Anti-Defamation League said it would politicize efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

“We strongly believe that these organizations are crucial to ensuring robust civil society and democratic protections worldwide,” the ADL said, while acknowledging there was “significant disagreement” between it and the three groups on Israel policy.

The ADL said calling the groups anti-Semitic “is neither accurate nor helpful to the fight against anti-Semitism.”

Democratic Congressman from Michigan Andy Levin, who used to work for Human Rights Watch, also criticized the move.

“Criticizing Israel’s policies is not anti-Semitism. I know because I do so out of love for a country I want to thrive,” he said on Twitter.

He also said the groups “do essential, often dangerous work to protect human rights.”

Democratic Representative Andy Levin of Michigan speaks as the House of Representatives debates the articles of impeachment against US President Donald Trump at the Capitol in Washington, December 18, 2019. (House Television via AP)

News of the reported declaration came just before an international conference on anti-Semitism, which featured Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and a range of other officials and analysts. The conference focused on online hate and emphasized anti-Semitism from the left and Islamic terrorists, including anti-Israel activism.

While no panelist focused solely on far-right anti-Semitism, officials, including Netanyahu and others, did mention neo-Nazis among the dangerous groups facing the Jewish people.

“Contemporary anti-Semitism feeds off its more traditional precursors, often focusing on the State of Israel, which for the modern anti-Semite is the manifestation of the collective Jew,” Netanyahu said.

“Today people with opposing political agendas can nevertheless find themselves united in hatred for Israel and the Jewish people. The neo-Nazi, the ultra-left revolutionary, the Islamist militant might agree about nothing else, but they all do share a common hatred towards us and that hate is awash across the internet,” he added.

Notably, the ADL, the most prominent Jewish organization combating anti-Semitism, was not included among the speakers.

Elan Carr, the US State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, addresses the European Jewish Association’s annual conference in Paris on February 24, 2020. (Courtesy)

The Politico report, which cited two officials, said the groups would be targeted by a declaration in the form of a report by US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism Elan Carr, that could come as soon as this week.

The declaration would cite the human rights groups’ alleged or perceived support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Politico said.

Israel has long accused human rights groups of bias, unfairly targeting Israel and holding the Jewish state to a higher standard than other countries over its treatment of the Palestinians.

Last year, then-strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan (now Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations) threatened to ban Amnesty International from Israel over a report that called on websites like Airbnb,, Expedia and TripAdvisor to boycott listings in Israeli West Bank settlements.

Illustrative: In this photo taken Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, Moshe Gordon sits outside his guest house advertised on Airbnb international home-sharing site in Nofei Prat settlement at the West Bank. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

“Amnesty International, that hypocritical organization that speaks in the name of human rights, is acting to promote a boycott of Israelis as part of a campaign of anti-Semitic delegitimization,” Erdan said at the time.

Also last year, Israel expelled the local director of Human Rights Watch for allegedly supporting the BDS movement against Israel.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department or the Israeli embassy in Washington.

When the Politico report initially broke, it drew criticism from US officials and vehement denials of anti-Semitism from the human rights organizations.

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