By Todd Katz
from Defenstrator #20

Underneath the name Anti-Defamation League and their public relations ploy of fighting anti-semitism, the ADL has a long history of spying on Leftists, cooperating with oppressive governments, and inappropriately accusing groups of racism.

The last issue of the Defenesterator had an article about the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) turning against Anti-Racist Action (ARA). ("In the Aftermath of York, ADL Turns on ARA," pigpen, March 2002) After ARA organized and carried out a militant protest against white supremacist groups, ADL ironically labeled ARA a "hate group" and worked with the Philadelphia police to stop ARA activities.


The incident with the ARA is not the first time ADL has fought against anti-racist struggles in the name of fighting against racism. In November of 2001, I spoke at a teach-in about Israel and Palestine at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Two of the three organizers for this event are Jewish and 4 of the 7 speakers are Jewish, yet the ADL contacted the school and complained that the event was "anti-Semitic." Presumably, they believed the teach-in was racist because Israel was criticized.

According to the ADL: "The mission of ADL today is, as it has been in the past, to expose and combat the purveyors of hatred in our midst." ( Yet, in the wake of the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestine, ADL has begun to use anti- Semitism and racism as a synonym for "critical of Israel." In a 1974 ADL publication entitled "The New Anti-Semitism," then-ADL National Director Benjamin Epstein argued that any "criticism of Israel reflects insensitivity to American Jews and constitutes a form of anti-Semitism." ADL continues to staunchly defend Israel and much of it's website is dedicated to justifying Israel's brutal 35 year-occupation.

ADL's position on Israel and Palestine is an act of racism. It defends and empathizes with Israeli lives while casting the label of "terrorist" over Palestinians. It is this racist way of thinking that enables ADL to call any empathizing with Palestinians and criticism of the Israeli government as "anti- Semitic." There is no question that that many Israelis have suffered from the Occupation, but that does erase the fact that 3 million Palestinians face military invasions of their neighborhoods, dangerous and humiliating checkpoints, an active de-development of their economy, and the rest of the emotional and physical effects of living under an foreign military.


It gets worse. After World War II, the ADL worked with the conservative forces in the US to blacklist and jail progressives and Leftists in what's known as "McCarthyism." Since then the ADL has worked with CIA agents, domestic police forces, the FBI, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Massod (the Israel FBI), and Apartheid South Africa to undermine a broad range of Leftist, progressive, and anti-racist activists.

In 1947, the US Government?s House Subcommittee on the Expenditures of the Executive Department conducted an investigation of the Civil Service Commission, a governmental committee involved in the McCarthy witch-hunts. During the investigation the Commission's President, Mitchell, admitted the ADL help to compile a list of 6,000 or 7,000 dissidents. One example of a ADL is dissident is the National Lawyers Guild, a group that provides legal services for progressive causes.

Since then, the ADL has continue to spying on progressives and Leftists. In 1993, the FBI accused a former CIA operative and torture instructor in Latin America named Thomas Gerard of stealing FBI files. The investigation uncovered that Gerard was working with an ADL spy named Robert Bullock. For over 7 years, Bullock had been on the ADL?s payroll. The investigation led to a several hundred-page report about the ADL?s spying racket.

According to the report, Robert Bullock had compiled computer files for the ADL on 9,876 individuals and more than 950 groups. Bullock?s targets included the NAACP, the Rainbow Coalition, ACLU, the American Indian Movement, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Pacifica, ACT UP, 77 Palestinian and Arab groups, Sandinista solidarity groups, Americans for Peace Now, Jesse Jackson, 29 anti- apartheid organizations, CISPES, the National Lawyers Guild, Asian Law Caucus, 20 Bay area labor unions, Greenpeace, and the San Francisco Boycott Shell Committee.

These groups represent a broad spectrum of progressive causes from AIDS, environmental issues, worker?s rights, independent journalism, civil rights, anti-racism, Lesbians/Gay/Bi/Trans, and peace issues. Irwin Saul, the ADL?s head of ?fact finding,? explains the need to target progressive groups: ?The right-wing isn't the problem. The left-wing is the problem. The Soviet Union is the biggest problem in the world for Jews. It's the American left that is the biggest threat to American Jews.? Likewise, Bullock saw ?gay Left revolutionaries? as one of the biggest threats to society. The ADL wasn?t fighting against racism and anti-Semitism they were fighting against the left.


In the 1980?s, Israel and South Africa worked together, sharing nuclear weapons secrets, attempting to avoid international trade sanctions, and continuing their respective Apartheids. Meanwhile, the ADL worked with the South African government to fight anti-apartheid organizing in the US.

ADL's national director, Abe Foxman, explains why they needed to spy on anti- apartheid organizing. "People are very upset about the [files on the] ANC [the African National Congress, one of the main groups resisting the white South African government]. At the time we exposed the ANC, they were communist. They were violent, they were anti-Semitic, they were pro-PLO and they were anti- Israel. You're going to tell me I don't have the legitimacy to find out who they were consorting with, who their buddies are, who supports them." Foxman finds the anti-apartheid movement to be leftist, anti-Israel, and anti-Semitic. Indeed, they were leftist and critical of Israel. Yet, when Fox throws around the term ?anti-Semitic?, we have to remember that when the ADL uses that term it means the same as ?critical of Israel.?

Bullock told the FBI that he the South African government paid him $16,000 to spy on anti-apartheid groups. He also said that he had been spying on anti- apartheid groups for the ADL before the South African government had ever approached him.

ADL settles out of court The ADL was under several charges for stealing government information. They settled out of court paid a $75,000 civil fine -- most of which went to charitable causes along the lines of the ADL's own interests. Gerard pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of a police computer and was sentenced to three years' probation, 45 days in jail, and a $2,500 fine.


ADL's spying does not occur in a vacuum. It is part of a government and rightwing crackdown on people's movements. Palestinians that the ADL spied on have been deported from the US and arrested by the Israeli Massod. South Africans spied under ADL observation have been assassinated. There is no way to know if these actions are directly related. However, we do know that the ADL has become a resource for oppressive governments.

The ADL isn?t all bad. They have supported gay rights, voting rights act of 1965, and the Civil Rights of 1964. Yet, as long as the ADL continues to support the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, spy on progressive organizations, and cooperate with repressive governments, they have no legitimacy as an anti- racist group.

Perhaps it's time ADL got a taste of their medicine (spying, infiltration, and being called out as racist). ADL has offices in almost every city. ADL is also connected to the lobbying group AIPAC. Check out the AIPAC website to see how you can get involved! Go to