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Clifton GS, Nagelhout GS, Razek GS, Piduri GS, Warzer GS: A Response to “An Evening with Jonathan Greenblatt”

On Feb. 22, Brown University’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity hosted an event with Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. As members of the Palestine Solidarity Caucus, we feel obligated to respond to Greenblatt’s remarks. We write with our most forceful condemnation of this OIED event both in fidelity to the Palestinian people who are directly subjected to the ongoing and abject violence of Zionism, and out of a shared concern about the consequences of this event, particularly for the marginalized members of the Brown community.

Greenblatt’s talk demonstrated many of the disturbing positions and actions taken by the ADL from its founding in 1913 until today. The ADL has been justifiably referred to as Israel’s attack dog in the US for lobbying the US government to adopt ruthless anti-terrorism laws that have disproportionately targeted Palestinian political activism. It has also been criticized by Jewish faculty at Brown for abandoning its purported mission of fighting against the very serious dangers of antisemitism. In 2020, over one hundred organizations, from Jewish Voice for Peace to the Movement for Black Lives, pledged to drop the ADL due to the organization’s “ongoing pattern of attacking social justice movements led by communities of color, queer people, immigrants, Muslims, Arabs and other marginalized groups, while aligning itself with police, right-wing leaders and perpetrators of state violence.” From the perspective of the Black and subaltern communities who have been simultaneously spied on, targeted and tokenized by the ADL, we express our most indignant opposition.

Greenblatt’s remarks on Thursday evening were entirely consistent with this harmful legacy, as he argued repeatedly that anti-Zionism is inherently antisemitic. This position, delivered amid Brown regalia and alongside high-ranking officials of the Brown administration, comes in the aftermath of Brown’s furtive inclusion of the highly disputed IHRA definition of antisemitism in its "Community Amid Conflict" website, created during the eight-day Hunger Strike for Palestine. Against this nefarious pattern of behavior, we want to be clear: Conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism has enormous consequences for anyone invested in liberation. It emboldens white nationalists on the far right while simultaneously erasing the thousands of anti-Zionist Jews whose faith has long compelled them to fight for Palestinian freedom. To claim that Zionism is the primary path to Jewish safety implies that Jewish people cannot be safe outside of a colonial ethnostate. This encourages the displacement of Palestinians and normalizes existing antisemitism in countries that Jewish people call home. 

Our commitment to justice and liberation necessarily compels us to oppose Zionism as an ethno-nationalist state project. Our commitment to intellectual honesty as scholars also compels us to refute attempts to conceal the foundational coloniality of the Israeli state, which was explicitly articulated by the founding generations of the modern Zionist movement. Theodor Herzl, for example, wrote to notorious British colonizer Cecil Rhodes asking for his “visionary” support. Likud ideological predecessor Ze’ev Jabotinsky explicitly compared Zionist “colonization” to the colonization of the Americas under Cortez, Pizarro and the Pilgrims. While contemporary Zionists have conceded that such explicit labels are no longer fashionable or helpful to the movement, the fact remains: Israel was built upon the same racist and colonial mentalities that persist today. To grasp this fact, one need only refer to the Israeli politicians calling for ethnic cleansing or Israeli soldiers celebrating genocidal destruction on social media.


The harm and deceit enabled by Zionist fallacies was on particularly dramatic display when Greenblatt compared opposing the Civil Rights Act during Jim Crow to being anti-Zionist today. This comparison is as anti-Black as it is confounding. If anything, the maintenance of Israeli apartheid is in direct opposition to legislative attempts to dismantle segregation in the U.S. The Civil Rights Act did not grant African Americans a state of their own — predicated on violence — but instead legally enshrined their right to participate in a state already firmly established in Black and Indigenous subjugation. Greenblatt’s uncritical appeal to this history casts Black Americans as characters in revisionist fantasies of settler-colonialism. Such distortions intentionally conceal the anti-racist and anti-colonial imperatives that unite the ongoing and diverse struggles against segregation, apartheid and genocide precisely by erasing the lived realities of those who have historically spearheaded those very struggles. It is by way of anti-Blackness specifically that Greenblatt partakes in the longstanding Zionist attempt to warp the principled love of humanity that grounds the fight for Palestinian liberation into the image of the hateful antisemite. We reject this caricatured manipulation of African American history to attempt to morally justify a genocidal regime.

Zionist Americans, even at Brown, echo the fraught racial logic and intellectualized callousness that seems necessary to neglect the suffering in Palestine. As graduate student workers, we were particularly disturbed to see a member of the Brown community reproduce this harmful discourse in an article titled “Why Jews Should Dismantle Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” The author argues that DEI initiatives have promulgated a “poisonous” racialized dichotomy of oppressor and oppressed that naive progressives weaponize against certain groups (“often white people”) simply because they are “more successful” than “unsuccessful groups — often people of color.” Israel, the author maintains, is wrongly condemned under this rubric. While Greenblatt did not make such bold claims, the similarities are striking: both default to racial abstractions to justify Israeli violence; both condescendingly degrade pro-Palestinian struggle while boasting a commitment to “open dialogue"; and both — most devastatingly — divert attention from the real horrors of this genocide by weaponizing distorted definitions of antisemitism.  

To tolerate such harmful rhetoric on a university campus under the guise of discursive neutrality is intellectually dishonest, and to do so while Israel continues its campaign of mass extermination is morally reprehensible. Under the auspices of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Brown University has legitimized supremacist logic and revisionist histories that ultimately defame and endanger members of all marginalized groups, including Jewish people. Brown administration remains complicit in supporting one side of this so called “conflict” as they refuse to seriously engage our demand for divestment and persistently criminalize pro-Palestinian activism. As members of PSC and the Brown community, we will not be silent amid attempts to intellectually justify this biased position, nor will we tolerate the normalization of genocide through such flagrant acts of diversion and deceit.

Additional signatories:

Caroline Cunfer

Adit Sabnis 

Nour Abaherah

Emily Mitamura

Julia Gettle

Adrianna Layne


Ashley Uruchurtu

Katherine Preston

Devon Clifton, Marah Nagelhout, Sherena Razek, Goutam Piduri and Beckett Warzer can be reached at,,, and, respectively. Please send responses to this opinion to and other op-eds to

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