Before digging into this piece, read/review part one: A Brief Introduction of Indiana Hate Crime Bills, part two: The Precarity of Rhetoric, and part three: Intent and Impact.
This piece is not a position paper about Israel, Palestine, or peaceable solutions. However, the political implications of the occupation underpins a larger conversation about how we conceptualize hate and build legal response through hate crime statutes. We cannot untie the origins of hate crime laws in the U.S., the nuances of engaging Zionism, confronting anti-Semitism, and what has been unfolding in Gaza for over 70 years. We must better understand the connections to uproot their consequences.
May 14th, 2018
Last December, President Trump announced the U.S. Embassy in Israel would relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The globally rebuked move would finally honor the unfulfilled promises of past administrations to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The embassy opened this Spring on May 14th, planned to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation. Nonviolent Palestinian demonstrations erupted in Gaza giving way to deadly state-sanctioned crackdowns along the West Bank border fence. Over the course of a single day, Israeli soldiers injured 2,700 and murdered 60 Palestinian protesters with tear gas, fire bombs, and live ammunition.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
The ADL was founded in 1913 as a Jewish advocacy and anti-discrimination agency. Today the ADL describes itself as the premier civil rights and human relations organization leading the fight against anti-Semitism in the U.S. and globally. The organization provides programming in the areas of anti-bias education, justice-oriented initiatives, and legislative efforts.
The impact of anti-discrimination programs and services the ADL offers to communities are immeasurable, but cannot be fairly evaluated apart from criticisms of the organization. In short, the ADL:
National Counter-Terrorism Program
Part two of this series expounds on two primary issues regarding hate crime legislation and law enforcement. Vaguely defined language within the criminal code flattens and fails to account for the effects of institutional violence against marginalized communities. Protected classes are designated by virtue of identity, immutable characteristics, and should not include chosen occupation. Jennifer Earl, professor of sociology at the University of Arizona, offers in Truthout:
Police as a class cannot claim protection because they do not share a history of social disenfranchisement.
The ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar has engaged over 200+ U.S. law enforcement representatives alongside Israeli military officials since the program’s inception in 2004, in the wake of September 11th. The objectives of the program cannot be politically separated from the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. The training reifies an increasingly militarized police force deeply contrasted with further disenfranchised civilians, a growing divide fueling the Israeli occupation in Gaza and reflected in police-community relations in the U.S. and globally.
State police response to Ferguson and Baltimore-based direct actions against police brutality were eerily similar to the surveillance, violent crackdowns, and border patrolling at regular checkpoints in Gaza. So much so, Palestinian activists shared strategies such as tear gas prevention and treatment tips, with leaders on the ground in the U.S. through Twitter. The ADL is at the nexus of hate crime legislation in the U.S. and directly invested in militarizing law enforcement, an institution seeking to co-opt and abuse those statutes to avoid public scrutiny and accountability for unjust policing.
Is Criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic?
The ADL is clear in its written position on what constitutes anti-Semitism, legitimizes some anti-Israel activity, and differentiates anti-Zionism as its own category of discrimination.
Anti-Israel activity crosses the line to anti-Semitism when:
The group’s policy continues:
There is also a gray area between legitimate criticism and transparent anti-Semitism, where anti-Israeli expression and campaigns help create an environment that makes anti-Semitism more acceptable and more probable.
Anti-Semitism exists and must be named and deconstructed, perhaps especially so when confronting the fraught nature of the Israeli occupation and state violence against Palestinians. This is an important principle to explore that also necessitates holding multiple truths at once.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)
BDS is a nonviolent, Palestinian-led global movement in direct response to decades of Israeli state violence and human rights violations, from Nakba to the latest massacre on May 14th. The ADL defines BDS as anti-Semitic, claiming the campaign unilaterally rejects the right to a Jewish State and self-determination of Jewish people. The purpose of BDS is to encourage worldwide boycotts, divestment, and sanctions of the Israeli government and institutions investing in and benefiting from military and weapons development, expanding the occupation, and violent control of Palestinian life, not of individual Jewish people or Israeli citizens.
The ADL has lobbied at the federal and state level to promote anti-BDS laws. According to Palestine Legal, at least 102 anti-BDS measures have been introduced in state/local legislatures. Further, as of June 2018, 25 states have enacted anti-BDS laws. In March 2016, then Gov. Pence signed Rep. Brian Bosma’s HB1378 into law with overwhelming bipartisan support, mandating the creation of anti-BDS blacklist and blocking participating organizations from from qualifying for some public funds. Anti-BDS laws effectively criminalize dissent -- freedom of speech, press, peaceful assembly, and petition -- protected by the First Amendment, contradicting key legal arguments at the center of bias-motivated crime statutes and the ADL’s approach to shaping collective understanding of hate as a concept.
The ADL represents a long history of identity-based organizing work and presents an opportunity to explore the group’s role in shaping our collective understanding of hate and resulting legislation to recognize and combat bias-motivated crime. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have hate crime statutes within their criminal code and most are based on a model drafted by the ADL in 1981.
The model legislation promoted penalty enhancements for bias-motivated crimes, perpetrated on the basis of victims’ perceived identities including race, religion, national origin, sexual identity, and added gender as a protected class in 1996. The model also specifically highlighted institutional vandalism, legal opportunities for civil actions, parental liability for bias crimes committed by minor citizens, and training and reporting for law enforcement. A handful of Supreme Court cases narrowed the scope of legislation at the federal level, notably defining hate speech as constitutionally protected by the First Amendment, but leaving room for states to determine how to legally apply the precedent.
As the ADL drummed up support for the hate crime law model at the state level, another prominent anti-discrimination organization, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), took a vastly different approach. AFSC is a Quaker, peace-oriented nonprofit formed in 1917. According to scholar and organizer Kay Whitlock, a staff member at the time, the organization had no formal position on the issue of hate crimes and legislation.
At face value, hate crime laws make sense for progressive, liberal-leaning organizations to support. After intense deliberation, Whitlock, AFSC colleagues, and cross-movement partners came to another set of conclusions and outlined those principles in In a Time of Broken Bones, a report published by AFSC in 2001:
The report, AFSC itself, supporting data, similar organizational dissent, and social science regarding the failings of the U.S. justice system were and have been routinely denounced as antithetical to social justice and progressive values.
It is clear a position against hate crime legislation is at best, unpopular, and at worst, considered tantamount to immoral bias, existing on the wrong side of history. Indiana is unique. The state’s annual legislative failure to pass a hate crime law due to bipartisan support of ahistorical policy, ultra-conservative strongholds in both houses, and political barriers to evidence-based lawmaking from the liberal caucus. Community members and leaders, regardless of party affiliation, must study and weigh the material and legal consequences of misunderstanding hate and consequently investing in bias-motivated crime laws that harm marginalized communities more than help. It bears repeating: without a hate crime law, Hoosiers have an unprecedented opportunity to imagine otherwise ways of understanding, responding to, and uprooting hate.
PERSONAL NOTE: As a high school senior, I traveled to Chicago with the school-based organization I led at the time, Socially Together and Naturally Diverse (STAND), to participate in a day-long institute hosted by the Anti-Defamation League. The workshops focused on helping young people identify and confront racist and anti-Semitic bias. The ADL shaped my politics during my teenage years, giving me a foundation to understand anti-Semitism around the world, racism in the U.S., and the connections between systemic oppressions. I am now a thinker and organizer with a few more years experience and life and knowledge under my feet. I am grateful for the space to critique my own formative experiences to better connect with fellow people and put down what harms my self and others and take up what heals and transforms.