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Schapira MFA’06, Ophir, Smulyan: Brown doesn’t need to hear from the ADL

Brown’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity recently announced plans to bring Jonathan Greenblatt, Director of the Anti-Defamation League, to speak on campus later today. This invitation shows a disregard for the Brown community and for the safety of its Palestinian and Muslim members, as well as anti-Zionist or non-Zionist Jewish members. There is an urgent need to discuss racism against Muslim, Arabs, Palestinians and Jews, but for many members of this community, the ADL emblematizes this racism. Aligning with the ADL and Greenblatt specifically is part of the problem, not the answer.

Though the ADL describes its mission as combating antisemitism, it has weaponized its platform in explicitly Zionist ways which deviate greatly from supporting Jewish safety. For example, a 2020 ADL press release describes anti-Zionism and the “delegitimization of Israel” as antisemitism. By centering advocacy for Israel in its messaging, the ADL denies Israeli apartheid and genocidal violence, also delegitimizing Jewish-led actions in solidarity with Palestine. In a press release from Oct. 25, 2023, the ADL included general ceasefire activism—including many Jewish-led protests (like those we have seen on our own campus) — on its antisemitism database, making it impossible to discern the true number of hate crimes against Jewish people.     

The ADL’s  purposeful mischaracterization of antisemitism is entwined with its horrendous track record, shared by Greenblatt, of inciting anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism. The organization’s history of racism has recently included peddling anti-Palestinian stereotypes, including repeatedly debunked inflammatory claims; labeling Students for Justice in Palestine as terrorists; and congratulating Elon Musk on his efforts to suppress pro-Palestinian speech. While many of these actions come from the ADL as a whole, Greenblatt in particular has been so extreme in his positions that he has faced criticism from his own staff. Bringing such a speaker to campus, who represents an organization with patterns of anti-Black, anti-Palestinian, anti-Jewish, anti-LGBTQIA+ action, suggests that the OIED is not truly committed to its mission of equity and inclusion when it comes to Jews and Palestinians. Greenblatt’s visit comes days after the US vetoed another UN Security Council demand for an immediate ceasefire, despite the ICJ ruling on ceasing “genocidal activities” and the opening of a second ICJ case judging the legality of the occupation.of Palestinian territories, as well as a planned ground invasion of Rafah by Israeli troops. Jewish safety is not established by eroding or destroying Palestinian safety; this applies on Brown’s campus and in the world at large. This is not just a question of conflicting positions, but of the effects of those positions.

A large contingent of the global scholarly community (particularly in Jewish Studies and Palestine/Israel Studies) has consistently disputed the ADL and the similar International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definitions of antisemitism in recent years. An array of scholars have supported the Jerusalem Definition of Antisemitism, which takes a far more intellectual and politically-inclusive approach to assessing when criticism of the activities and structures of the State of Israel may stray into antisemitism.


Given that the ADL has a noted history of racism and Islamophobia — particularly toward Palestinians and Jews — and does not take an academically rigorous view of antisemitism, we call on the OIED to remove any reference to this organization and its hateful position from its work after Greenblatt’s visit has taken place. We expect the OIED and the University to engage with scholars and resources who respect and honor Jewish traditions and are more fit to speak on antisemitism. 

Kate Schapira MFA’06, Susan Smulyan and Adi M. Ophir can be reached at, and, respectively. Please submit responses to this op-ed to and op-eds to


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