As news spreads of the circumstances surrounding last week’s murder of 17-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdair, many international observers are responding with incredulity. Israeli police say the teenager was kidnapped from his home, beaten in the head, forced to consume a flammable liquid, and then burned alive. They also say they believe the crime was carried out by Jewish Israelis, acting out of racist hatred for non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs.
These details have come as a shock for many Jewish people living outside of Israel, who find it hard to believe that Jews could be capable of such venomous violence. Multiple viral videos of Jewish Israelis chanting “Death to Arabs!” in downtown Jerusalem earlier that same evening have added to the bewilderment of Israel’s liberal supporters in the Diaspora.
Clearly, such deep-seated hatred could not have sprung up spontaneously; surely it had been building up for weeks, months, and years. But why then, were many Jews outside of Israel only learning of it now, for the first time? Why hadn’t they been warned about it by the Jewish communal organizations that are in constant contact with their Israeli counterparts? With their claim to be a “premier civil rights” group, where has the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) been all this time, and why hasn’t it been sounding the alarm?
Two months ago, the ADL published its conclusions from an “extensive” survey of anti-Jewish racism in 96 languages and from 102 countries around the world. While conservative commentators hailed the work, liberal voices harshly criticized its methodology and subsequent results. In Ha’aretz, journalist Amira Hass derided the ADL for including Palestinians in the survey without in anyway addressing Israeli dispossession of the Palestinian population: “Why didn’t the ADL ask Palestinian respondents how many people they know whose land was stolen by Jews?” In the Jewish Daily Forward, Jay Michaelson ridiculed the ADL for compiling a questionnaire that even the biggest philo-semites would fail to pass: “I’m an ordained rabbi, a lifelong Jewish educator, and an anti-Semite according to this survey.”
But the most glaring failure of the ADL’s “comprehensive” survey was its notable exclusion of one critical country: the State of Israel. Considering the Anti-Defamation League’s dedication to Israel and professed mission to advocate for the civil rights of all people, not just Jews, one would naturally expect it to actively monitor rampant racism in Israel and work frantically to reduce it. Though it made a point of interviewing Palestinians living under occupation, it purposefully steered clear of Israeli Jews, the lords of the land. Why did the ADL go out of its way to leave Israelis out of its all-important centennial survey? Zvi Bar’el made it plain in Ha’aretz: “Were the ADL to conduct a survey of racism in Israel, the results would make global anti-Semitism pale in comparison.”
According to the ADL, there were a total of 751 anti-Jewish racist incidents in the United States in 2013, including both violent and non-violent incidents. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 399 anti-Arab racist incidents in Israel during the same period — a figure that reflects only violent instances of racism.
At the end of 2013, the population of the United States was 317.3 million while the population of Israel was 8.1 million. This means that in 2013, one anti-Jewish racist incident was committed in the United States for every 422,500 people, while during the same period, one anti-Arab racist incident was committed in Israel for every 20,400 people.
This disparity points to a frightening fact: anti-Arab racist incidents in Israel are a staggering 20 times more common than anti-Jewish racist incidents in the United States.
In terms of racist incidents perpetrated against Palestinians, Israeli soldiers commit far more of these acts than Israeli civilians, and these are not even included in the OCHA tally. It is also important to note that the OCHA figure only represents those incidents perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinian Arabs; in recent years, Africans, Asians, and other non-Jews have also been on the receiving end of racist attacks by Jewish Israelis.
To be sure, major Jewish communal organizations, including the ADL, have responded to news of Abu Khdair’s torture and murder with vigorous condemnations. Admittedly, they have also done so in the past, as in the case of the May 23, 2012 anti-African pogrom, when 1,000 Israelis ran rampant through the streets of Tel Aviv for hours attacking any dark-skinned person they came across.
But these condemnations only occur when anti-Gentile violence in Israel spikes to such appalling levels that it grabs the world’s attention, and these groups are called upon to respond. Their boilerplate denunciations of violence inevitably include effusive praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his weak words denouncing the racist violence. Accepting these denunciations at face value depends on one’s total ignorance of Netanyahu’s key role in ramping up racism, by labeling Gentiles as demographic threats and inciting carnage with calls for “vengeance” against Palestinians.
The ADL and its allies have already failed Israel’s citizens miserably by whitewashing Israeli racism, allowing it to fester to the point where it has now produced a Palestinian Emmett Till. With liberal Jews and other Americans aghast at the extent of anti-Gentile racism in Israel, will these citizens demand more from their leaders and insist upon seeing Israel for what it is, infected warts and all? Or will they allow themselves to be lulled back to sleep by these so-called lovers of Zion, who are perfectly content to let it burn?
For more on the ADL’s silent support of racism in Israel, please watch the video below