Zahr said that "welcoming groups like ADL into the family of civil rights organizations ... is a real slap in the face to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims who have been the victims of ADL rhetoric for decades."
Asked to respond to Starbucks' decision, a spokesman for the ADL who was contacted refused to comment.
Spied on Leftists
ADL was established in 1913 "to defend Jews, and later other minority groups from discrimination," Robert I. Friedman wrote in 1993. It led the struggle against the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party, and supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. But in the late 1940s, "ADL spied on leftists and Communists, and shared investigative files with the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the FBI. The ADL swung sharply to the right during the Reagan administration, becoming a bastion of neoconservatism."
In 1993, the San Francisco District Attorney released 700 pages of documents that implicated ADL in an extensive spying operation against US citizens who opposed Israel's policies in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, and apartheid in South Africa. ADL then passed the information to Israel's Mossad and South African intelligence.
The documents revealed that ADL provided information to South African intelligence shortly before Chris Hani was assassinated. Hani was a leader of the African National Congress, which led the struggle against apartheid, and was considered the successor to Nelson Mandela. Hani was killed soon after returning from a speaking tour in California, where he had been spied on by ADL.
Fifteen civil rights groups and seven individuals filed a federal lawsuit against ADL in 1993 for violation of their civil and privacy rights by spying on them. Six years later, federal Judge Richard Paez issued an injunction permanently enjoining ADL from illegally spying on Arab-American and other civil rights organizations.
But ADL's hateful activities continue. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson said in an interview with Consortium News that ADL, which "calls itself a civil rights organization, is in truth playing a really damaging role in a number of communities." She noted that ADL is "promoting and complicit in anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian, anti-Black and anti-activist campaigns."
Vilkomerson criticized ADL for honoring the St. Louis Police Department one year after their officers killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man in Ferguson.
Arielle Klagsbrun of the St. Louis JVP explained, "The ADL's side is the side of police. As someone whose family members are Holocaust survivors, the lessons I learned from the Holocaust for today are that black lives matter and that we must stand against systemic racism."
Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of Alliance of Families for Justice, said in an interview that if one were crafting a training program against anti-Semitism, you "wouldn't go to the NAACP for sensitivity training," adding, "as a Black person, I found [the inclusion of ADL] further insulting."
Vilkomerson called ADL "one of the biggest purveyors" of exchanges between Israeli and US law enforcement, where American police go to Israel to learn "counter-terrorism" measures to be applied here. That encompasses "racial profiling, spying, mass surveillance and collective punishment."
But "US police don't really need a lesson in racism," Vilkomerson added.
Starbucks Backs Down After Anti-ADL Backlash
JVP circulated a petition against inclusion of ADL, which garnered 11,000 signatures in 72 hours. According to Vilkomerson, the "enormous outpouring" on Twitter of opposition to ADL's initial central role in the training and the "week-long pushback," including JVP's petition, led Starbucks to back down.