Source: Washington Report On Middle East Affairs - October 1996, pg. 20

Earning My Living as a Writer:
The Year the ADL Changed My Job Description

by Grace Halsell

When I made my first journey to Jerusalem in 1979, I had earned my living as a writer for 37 years. I always thought I was lucky, being able to sell articles and pay my way around -- and around -- the world. I lived as a writer in Europe, the Far East and South America. I also went as a writer to cover the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and Bosnia. For most of my life, I've reported what I saw with my own eyes and what others on the scene told me.

Since I have earned my living as a writer since my high school days, it came as a surprise to learn that a Jewish organization chose, unilaterally and arbitrarily, to classify me not as a reporter, journalist or writer but rather as a propagandist.ä What prompted one organization to assume the authority of changing my job description?

I was one of 34 persons identified as propagandists in A Handbook, 1983 -- First Edition, put out by a Jewish organization, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL). While the others on the list undoubtedly would think of themselves as professional persons -- doctors, lawyers, heads of organizations -- in the ADL listing they, like me, become propagandists. We were singled out for one purpose: we've said that as regards the Arab-Israeli conflict, there are two sides of the story -- and that most Americans know only one.

Our sin, in the eyes of the Jewish ADL, is having disseminated Pro-Arab Propaganda in America. Although the ADL champions the cause of justice for all Jews, it apparently does not condone others speaking of justice for Palestinians.

Looking at the ADL Handbook, I am left wondering: how widely has it been circulated? If any of those listed in the Handbook apply for a job, will a boss clear their names with the ADL? Is the Handbook used as a guide for pro-Israeli editors not to print articles written by anyone the ADL terms a propagandist? Is it a guide for pro-Israeli lecture agents to refrain from sponsoring any speaker who mentions the plight of Palestinians? Is the action taken by the ADL intended to set us aside, to mark us for life with a brand of their choosing?

As a child, I often heard my father relate how, in the frontier days before fenced-in property, he heated over open flames an iron rod and put a brand on cattle. Later, living through the Second World War, I learned that the Nazis branded individuals by forcing them to wear yellow arm bands. The arm bands were used to brand Jews, gypsies and other so-called enemies of the state as different, suspect, not reliable, unsuitable. In its Handbook, the ADL also chooses to set individuals apart.

The intent is to suggest that we are suspect, unreliable.

Unlike branded cattle, I do not suffer the pain of burning flesh. Nor am I forced to wear a yellow arm band. Since I suffer no physical abuse, is it fair at all to make an analogy with those who endured torture worse than death and of the multitude of others who indeed were killed? Compared with those tragedies, the ADL listing of individuals in a handbook may seem innocent and non-invasive. Yet, while the dissemination of such a handbook is done professionally, with skill, sophistication and subtle use of pejoratives, the intent seems clear: it is to suggest that we differ from the norm, that we are suspect, unreliable, not given to write or relate what we see with veracity.

The ADL Handbook targeted a medical doctor, a former U.S. senator, 10 university professors and 3 attorneys. It listed a half-dozen men of Jewish heritage: Rabbi Elmer Berger, Edmund R. Hanauer, Mark Lane, Alfred M. Lilienthal, Haviv Schieber and Israel Shahak. And it named 23 Arab Americans presumably guilty of being pro-Arab.

In addition to individuals, the ADL Handbook also targeted 31 organizations. In this listing, 17 were committed to giving the Palestinian side of the story. These organizations, in their financial resources, membership and over-all influence and impact on American society, may be likened to a grain of sand in the vast sea of huge, wealthy pro-Israel groups that operate throughout the United States.

Since the pro-Israel organizations are so vast and successful in their endeavors and the pro-Arab groups so small and largely ineffectual, why did an influential Jewish organization, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in America, go on the attack? In the ADL Handbook preface, it explained that after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Israel began to get bad publicity:

The nightly television news which brought pictures of death and destruction directly from Lebanese battlefields, and the print media with its exaggerated casualty figures created fertile ground for the latest propaganda campaign characterizing Israel as a militaristic, brutal and oppressive nation.
Blaming the Messenger

The ADL gave no rebuttal to charges that Israel in its invasion of Lebanon was acting as a militaristic, brutal and oppressive nation. Rather than investigate the charges, the ADL investigated those who called attention to the wrong. It blamed the print media with its exaggerated casualty figures. Generally, the press reported that the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon killed and wounded some 200,000 people, most of them civilians. The ADL in its Handbook, found no fault with the invasion itself, only what it termed exaggerated casualty figures.

The Handbook's purpose, ADL reported in its preface, is to identify the leading individuals and organizations who have mounted this and previous propaganda campaigns targeted against Israel.ä If the massacre simply were not reported, the Handbook seems to imply, Israel and its supporters would have had no problems with the massacre itself.

One result of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon was Israel slicing off a portion of Lebanon which became known as Israel's security zone. The Handbook pointed out, however, that criticism of Israel started much earlier on than the invasion of Lebanon, and in fact, the criticism started at the very beginning of the Jewish state:

Shortly after the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, the preface said, there were those questioning the basic legality of the infant state. Indeed, most American Jews at that time did not support Zionism nor its goal to take land from Palestinians. In 1967, after Israel initiated a new war, seizing military control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, critics of Israel, the Handbook said,promoted the myth of an oppressive, imperialistic Israel seeking to expand her borders from the Jordan to the Euphrates.

Again, the Handbook, while claiming that the descriptive terms are myth, gave no evidence that refuted an aggressive, imperialistic Israel -- one that was dramatically and successfully executing a plan to expand her borders. Rather than being a myth, it was, especially for the victims, a tragic reality.

In the wake of the Camp David accords, the preface continued, champions of Palestinian rights began calling attention to issues they claimed had been overlooked by the 1979 peace treaty signed between Egypt and Israel. Charging the Jewish state with gross human rights violations -- including torture, educational and economic repression of the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, the propagandists stepped up their campaign aimed at discrediting Israel in the eyes of the American public.

Here again, rather than deal with the accusations -- that Israel engages in gross human rights violations -- including torture, and educational and economic repression of the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza the Handbook attacked not what might be at fault, worthy of ADL's own investigation, but rather those who expose the wrongs.

By branding those who say Israel engages in gross human rights violations as suspect characters, the ADL hopes that others will see the charges as a myth, coming from persons not so pure as the rest of society.