AIPAC, ADL refuse to condemn inclusion of
                ethnic cleansers in new Israel government

                             By Ali Abunimah

                        The Electronic Intifada
                             3 March 2003


        LEADING PRO-ISRAELI ORGANIZATIONS in the United States have
        pointedly refused to condemn Ariel Sharon's inclusion in his new
        government of the National Union alliance parties whose members ran
        for election on a platform openly advocating the "transfer" -- or
        ethnic cleansing -- of the Palestinians. The National Union is made
        up of three parties, Moledet, Tekuma and Israel Beitenu and won
        seven seats in the recent Israeli election.

        The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), widely
        regarded as the most influential pro-Israeli group on Capitol Hill,
        did not issue any statement marking the formation of the new
        government. Rebecca Needler, AIPAC's press secretary explained to me
        that, "we don't comment on domestic Israeli issues." When I asked
        her if she thought that the inclusion in the Israeli government of a
        party that openly espouses ethnic cleansing would make AIPAC's
        advocacy work more difficult, Needler replied, "Israel's coalition
        government is representative of a true democracy."

        The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which boasts of "90 years fighting
        anti-Semitism, bigotry and extremism," also remained publicly
        silent. When I called for a comment, a woman named Sarah in the
        media relations office initially told me that, "we don't usually
        issue statements on changes of government in democratic countries."
        I later received a call from ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. I
        asked Foxman if his organization planned to issue a statement
        commenting on the inclusion of the National Union parties in the
        Israeli government. Foxman's first reply was "Why would we?" I
        countered, "because they ran on a platform in favor of physically
        removing all the Palestinians from their homeland."

        Foxman said that it is "an overstatement to say that the party ran
        on a platform of transfer." He claimed that this was just the
        personal view of a few individual members. On its website, however,
        one of the National Union parties says, "Moledet ("homeland" in
        Hebrew) is an ideological political party in Israel that embraces
        the idea of population transfer as an integral part of comprehensive
        plan to achieve real peace between the Jews and the Arabs Living in
        the Land of Israel. [sic] " The party further boasts that, "Moledet
        has successfully raised the idea of transfer in the public discourse
        and political arena in both Israel and abroad."

        The National Union's combined platform states, "Within the framework
        of any agreement, it is necessary to solve the Palestinian refugee
        problem -- refugees who have spent the past 55 years in refugee
        camps. The proposed solution is transfer by agreement (population
        exchange) by which the refugees would be settled in Arab countries
        in place of Jews who emigrated to Israel from these countries." More
        than eighty percent of the population of Gaza and up to forty
        percent of the population of the West Bank are refugees.

        Foxman explained that since "transfer" is not part of the coalition
        agreement, on which the new Israeli government is built, there was
        no reason to issue a public comment. "We disagree," he said, "with
        many parties on many things, and we don't make statements about
        everything." I asked if he didn't think the ADL had a special duty
        to respond to proposals that fit the international legal definition
        of genocide. Foxman assured me that he thought the idea of transfer
        was "unacceptable" and "undemocratic," but made no firm commitment
        to condemn the new Israeli government for including parties with a
        clear pro-ethnic cleansing platform. Foxman said he had not read the
        relevant party platforms "in a while," a remarkable admission from a
        man whose organization apparently scrutinizes for evidence of
        'anti-Semitism' every obscure pamphlet issued in the backstreets of
        Cairo. "I will go back and read them," Foxman assured, "and if
        transfer becomes part of the coalition agreement, then you can be
        sure you will hear from us."

        The very high tolerance for racist and potentially genocidal ideas
        that Foxman evinces when they come from Israelis is not evident in
        other, lesser cases. For example, when the far-right Freedom Party
        made gains in Austria's elections in 2000 on an anti-immigrant
        platform, Foxman issued a statement saying, "It is astonishing that
        a significant portion of the [Austrian] population is ready to
        embrace a party and leadership that espouse xenophobic and nativist
        positions and statements." (ADL press release, 1 February 2000)

        Foxman and ADL President Howard Berkowitz even flew off to Vienna to
        meddle directly in Austrian politics, and met with Austrian
        President Thomas Klestil, as well as the president of the Austrian
        parliament and other senior officials. According to a 28 February
        2000 press release, "The Anti-Defamation League has watched the
        political situation in Austria with great concern. After meeting
        with elected officials, including President Thomas Klestil, we
        remain deeply concerned about the decision by Chancellor Wolfgang
        Schuessel to include Joerg Haider's Freedom Party as part of his

        The idea of "solving" the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by ethnic
        cleansing of the Palestinians is gaining increasing exposure in the
        United States as well as in Israel. In February 2002, the ubiquitous
        daily USA Today published an op-ed calling for "resettling" all the
        Palestinians in Jordan, and in May 2002, then US Republican Majority
        Leader, Congressman Dick Armey, explicitly backed transfer on
        national television. More recently, popular comedian Jackie Mason
        wrote an article in The Jewish Press headlined, "Time To Threaten
        Arabs With Mass Eviction."

        It is hardly surprising that such dangerous notions are becoming
        increasingly mainstream when the leading pro-Israeli organizations
        utterly fail to condemn them, and not a single American newspaper
        devotes an editorial to rejecting them. In such an unrestrained
        atmosphere it cannot be long before Sharon is indeed able to openly
        espouse "transfer" and still be lauded in Washington as a "man of

        This article was first published in The Daily Star on 3 March 2003