When did Working for Peace Become Anti-Israel?

October 25, 2013

This week, the Anti-Defamation League listed the Muslim Public Affairs Council as one of the top ten anti-Israel groups in the nation. MPAC’s inclusion on the list is baseless and is not only ineffective, but counterproductive to building an interfaith base supporting the Middle East peace process. In a letter to the leadership of the ADL, we wrote, “The fact that any critical evaluation of Israeli policy, whether by MPAC or any other party, is deemed by ADL as ‘anti-Israel activity’ and ‘involvement in anti-Israel campaigns’ is an infringement of freedom of speech."

It’s bizarre that the first American Muslim organization to write about and support a just and comprehensive two-state solution is on the list. In fact, when we released our paper on the peace process in 2007, we stated:

We must have a right to talk about this conflict in all of its facets in an environment that is respectful and free of intimidation. Our Jewish friends must be tolerant of our perspective on this conflict, and stop the practice of intimidation and censorship of a real discussion of this issue. Furthermore, our leaders must not be attacked for supporting the Palestinians. We will not back away from our leadership for telling the truth about the Israeli occupation, and our friends in the interfaith community should respect that stance in accordance with our religion’s demand in which we must defend justice.

The irony of being added to the list is that we have worked with the ADL on numerous issues from hate crimes to religious freedom. They are very well aware of the work we do and further, praised our work in their list as being “involved in positive civil rights advocacy on behalf of the Muslim community in the U.S.,” and working “on a variety of international and domestic issues, including countering violent extremism, protecting religious freedom, hate crime response and interfaith work.”

Regardless, what ADL’s list truly highlighted was the power of partnerships. Shortly after the release of the list, J-Street and the New Israel Fund joined together in a statement calling ADL’s list “short-sighted and unproductive.” Further, they came to the defense of MPAC citing our record in trying to build bridges and having open and transparent conversations about difficult issues that impact our nation and the Middle East and critiquing ADL’s list as “an unfair indictment of [an organization] that seeks dialogue with the [Jewish] community.”

Additionally, J.J. Goldberg, editor at large of the Jewish Daily Forward, pushed back against ADL’s controversial list in an editorial saying: “The Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council [has] been partnering for years with local mainstream Jewish groups in LA on civil rights issues and interreligious dialogue.”

To be clear, MPAC is an American Muslim institution and we advocate for values and interests of our nation and human rights across the world. So it’s puzzling why the ADL would include MPAC on an anti-Israel list when we are not beholden to any foreign entity. We have been critical of a number of governments on their human rights and civil rights violations. Many of the countries we have vociferously criticized have been Muslim-majority countries. We do not believe that this makes us anti-Muslim, any more than voicing a concern about Israeli policies makes us anti-Israel.

We at MPAC are still not sure why a list like this would be issued in the first place. We do hope that this is not a means of intimidation when it comes to engaging on the issue of Middle East peace. This type of unhelpful rhetoric must not be used to intimidate policy-makers from engaging groups with disparate views. It is time that we move beyond vitriol and fear-mongering to understanding and acceptance.

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