How the Anti-Defamation League Fuels Islamophobia
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The NYPD is part of the broad U.S. counter-terrorism effort, characterized by pervasive civil liberties violations and driven by a “war on terror,” in which the U.S. government views Israel as its invaluable ally. The ADL’s failure to speak out against NYPD civil liberties abuses is totally consistent with the organization’s strong support for both Israeli and U.S. policies, as well as with its long-standing anti-Muslim and anti-Arab history. Further, the ADL has long-standing ties to the NYPD (as well as federal agencies) through ADL anti-terrorism training programs, including training in Israel and instruction in both Israel and the United States by Israeli security forces that routinely view Arabs and Muslims as the enemy.
Three examples of the NYPD’S infringement on the civil rights of Muslims are particularly salient.
In 2007, the NYPD issued Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, which laid out several unsound, dangerous anti-Muslim assumptions that motivated NYPD actions and policies and served as a template for other law enforcement agencies. Speciously linking Islam and terror, this report provides the theoretical foundation for the NYPD’s development of a four-stage post-9/11 “ theory of radicalization” that views acts like “giving up cigarettes, drinking, gambling,” as well as opposition to U.S. policies and actions, as precursors to a Muslim man’s “self-designation” as a “holy warrior.” The Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition, created in the wake of the report, and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice (New York University) and the Center for Constitutional Rights expressed “serious civil liberties concerns” about the type of approach to “homegrown terrorism” taken by the NYPD. But not the ADL.
Similarly, news about Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s appearance in The Third Jihad (2009), a rabidly Islamophobic propaganda film, and its showing to nearly 1,500 officers at NYPD training sessions led to widespread community outrage. Before the public learned the truth, the NYPD claimed that the film had been “mistakenly screened ‘a couple of times’” and that Kelly had not been specially interviewed but appeared only in old film clips. The Brennan Center engaged in a “nine-month legal battle” for access to NYPD information about the extent of The Third Jihad showings. Unlike other local civil liberties groups, the ADL neither condemned Kelly and the NYPD nor spoke out about the need for honesty and transparency.
In 2011-2012, a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press articles found that the CIA had enlisted the help of the NYPD in order to target Muslims because of their religion, not because of indicators of criminal activity—infiltrating about 250 mosques in New York.  The NYPD went far beyond legitimate law enforcement interests to targeting people in several Northeast states just because they were Muslims. As the public learned more details, a broad coalition of Muslim American and other community and civil rights groups criticized NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and called for his resignation. Anger at the spying initiative and The Third Jihad was heightened by an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy that targeted residents of color. The ADL did not join the many civil rights groups that condemned the NYPD’s actions.
Instead, the ADL had cast its lot with the NYPD. It was not deterred by the 2011 AP revelations about the NYPD surveillance operations. Even after this information had become widely known, the ADL gave Thomas Galati, commanding officer of the Intelligence Division, an award for “outstanding achievements in combatting terrorism, extremism, and injustice.” In June 2012, Galati gave a deposition that made clear that, rather than having an outstanding track record as chief of this Division, the NYPD’s more than six years of spying on the Muslim American community “ never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.” The ADL made no public comment on the fundamental injustice of a spying program that targets people based on religion, as well as on linguistic and geographical profiling.