In a mid December conference in Jerusalem, computer experts, governmental officials, and academics gathered under the banner of , “Confronting On-Line Terrorism and Anti-Semitism.” Amongst the names of sponsors and co-sponsors, one organization stands as the most active by far in the field of censorship, mainly in the United States; the Anti Defamation League (ADL).
What compels dozens of professionals and activists to fly long distances from all corners of the globe to meet in a “disputed city” only miles away from a war zone? It’s the fear of losing a greater war, a war that has cost Israel an abundance, the Internet media war that is.
Perhaps since the establishment of the ADL in 1913 to “fight anti-Semitism and bigotry in the world”, the gigantic organization with hundreds of offices in the US, Europe and Israel has never felt as outnumbered as it feels today. The Internet revolution, among its many positive aspects has given a voice to those, who unlike the ADL, are unable to rely on a $46 million budget to spread their message.
The ADL, has a powerful lobby which deeply impacts US domestic as well as foreign policy, and has come under repeated attacks over the years, and was heavily cited for failing to champion what its preaches. In fact, it is accused of being a promoter of hatred and bigotry itself.
In the 1970’s, the group was caught distributing lists of persons deemed as enemies, according to SF Weekly in its February issue. Among those who were defamed for being “pro-Arab propagandists” was the highly renowned professor Noam Chomskey. In 1993, according to the same source, the ADL was caught illegally spying on nearly 10,000 people “including members of socialist, labor and anti-apartheid groups.”
But why would an organization whose “ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike, and to put an end forever to injustice and unfair discrimination against, and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens” carry out such suspicious tasks?
“The number one goal of the ADL is the protection of Israel,” a former Republican congressman from San Mateo Pete McCloskey told SF Weekly in a recent interview.
The organization however, who claims to fight for other issues beside its vibrant defense of Israel, has done very little in recent months to demonstrate those claims. The outbreak of the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation had caused the ADL to gear up for one fight, and one fight only, supporting Israel and censoring those who criticize the Jewish state for using excessive violence, for violating international law and for committing genocide in areas which are supposed to be protected under human rights laws.
The organization which often legitimizes its missions by fighting minor and highly despised groups in the US like white supremacists, has unmasked its real identify and has joined Israel’s propaganda war, employing all of its resources to justify the Israeli army’s ongoing genocide of unarmed civilians.
The ADL’s website is a perfect example of the organization’s full-fledged support of Israel. While the overwhelming majority of deaths, many of whom were children, were Palestinians, the ADL seemed only concerned with the Israeli army and settlers’ losses. “Anti-Israel violence” is a section that is updated daily. Nothing was said regarding the loss of life among Palestinians, nothing about the murder of children like Muhammad Al Durra, nothing to explain the illegal status of the Israeli settlers, and of course, nothing to site the international laws concerning the Arab Israeli conflict.
In fact, the United Nations was itself under attack. “the ADL says UN Human Rights Chief has accepted “hook, line and sinker” Palestinian strategy, calls her report distorted and detrimental,” charged one of the site’s top reports. The US government was itself under attack. “the ADL says US criticism of Israel’s retaliatory action for an attack on school bus is counterproductive.” And of course, Arabs and Muslims were left with the largest share of attacks and threats; “the ADL says if Egypt doesn’t return its ambassador to Israel in a timely manner, America should reassess US aid to Egypt.”
But the Internet showed that the ADL, despite its resources and influence no matter how large and long armed, is still vulnerable. The rapidly growing Arab and Muslim presence on the Internet alarmed the ADL that its endless propaganda campaign may be doomed, if the Internet is not censored, so that the ADL’s voice is the only one heard. Hence, the introduction of the Hate Filter.
The ADL describes its Hate Filter as “a software product designed to act as a gatekeeper.” Once more to legitimize its censorship efforts, the ADL succeeded in introducing its product as part of Mattel’s Cyber Patrol, a software package set to block a large range of offensive web sites, including pornographic ones. Moreover, the organization is ceaselessly working to enforce its product on private and public libraries and educational institutions. President Clinton has already endorsed the software. In a statement made October of last year following a meeting with the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, Clinton said, “thank you for your pioneering work to filter out hate on the internet.” The ADL’s director of civil rights Elizabeth Coleman said in a seminar earlier this year that Vice President Al Gore has also seen and has endorsed the product and in fact “loved it.”
McCloskey on the other hand, protested the ADL’s seemingly successful censorship attempts saying, “Any group whose sole purpose is to protect a foreign nation should not have anything to say about what’s said or written here in America.”
The Intifada, and the cyber war which was provoked by Israeli hacker attacks on pro-Palestinian web sites, was another reminder of the vulnerability of the ADL and other Israeli and pro-Israeli groups, when it comes to the World Wide Web. As a result, the recent Jerusalem conference was a badly needed chance for the re-making of a new media strategy that would withstand the upsurge of Arab and Muslim presence on the Internet.
The mounting worries of pro-Israeli groups were stressed in the speech delivered by the director of the ADL’s Israel office, David Rosen. Rosen warned of what he called Islamic propaganda, which he described as one upholding Christian Anti-Semitic themes. “The lone wolf of the past is no longer such and can link up to become a pack,” he said.