Pro-Israel ADL 'spied on' African American activist over opposition to US-Israel police exchange programme

Pro-Israel ADL 'spied on' African American activist over opposition to US-Israel police exchange programme
A new report unveils how the pro-Israeli US group tracked and surveyed left-wing activists who opposed a US-Israeli police training programme.
3 min read
10 July, 2024
Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, speaking in 2019 in Washington [Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Getty Images]

A prominent US Jewish group spent years secretly tracking an African American activist and other left-wing campaigners it perceives as a 'threat', according to a new report.

The pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League (ADL) surveyed the activists for their opposition to a programme in which US police received training from Israeli military and police officials.

Tatjana Rebelle, from Indianapolis, was secretly tracked, profiled, and assessed by ADL in 2020, according to a report by The Guardian, which cited an internal email from the ADL.

Rebelle ran the advocacy wing of a national campaign called 'Deadly Exchange' which aimed at preventing US police from receiving training from Israeli military and police officials over concerns that Israeli discriminatory policies towards Palestinians should not be transferred to US schemes.

The internal correspondence email showed that the organization’s head of security determined that Rebelle was "a radical with antisemitic and hateful views" and referred their file to the organization’s 'Center on Extremism', according to the report.

The surveillance provokes serious questions considering that Rebelle, who was spooked when they found out about the spying, said they had no interaction or engagement with ADL throughout the 'Deadly Exchange' campaign, the report noted.

Deadly Exchange advocated the end of the police exchange programme, arguing that Israeli state violence and discrimination policies against Palestinians should be transferred to US policing, ultimately working to challenge the issues in both countries, despite criticisms of American policing.

The ADL has been caught up in similar controversies in the past. An investigation by the FBI in 1993 exposed how the organisation hired an investigator Roy Bullock who was alleged to have kept track of various figures from the left and right in the US, including Mother Jones magazine and Democrat Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

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It has also been vociferous in its commentary on Israel's most recent war on Gaza.

In June, the New York-based group was barred by Wikipedia from editing articles related to the war in Gaza as a "generally unreliable" source. The ADL also has a track record of labelling legitimate criticism of Israel as antisemitic and has sought to redefine the definition of antisemitism.

Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to redefine the definition of antisemitism to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) term which states that some criticism of the state of Israel is antisemitic.

Critics and rights groups have warned that such a move could stifle freedom of speech and debate about Israeli government policy against Palestinians.

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CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has said that "Anti-Zionism is antisemitism", and singled out left-wing groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace.

The league was founded in 1913 to fight antisemitism and has since developed into an influential source in political and media circles.

It receives some $76 million a year from donations, according to filings.

The ADL has been particularly active during the wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations which took over US college campuses throughout May and June calling for an end to the war in Gaza.

It accused some of the demonstrators of being "antisemitic", worked to target student Palestine solidarity groups and called on the university administration to crack down on the students.