Bend The Arc: Jewish Action CEO responds to ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt’s Defamation of Student Protestors

Bend The Arc: Jewish Action CEO responds to ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt’s Defamation of Student Protestors

April 26, 2024

In an open letter, Jamie Beran addresses Jonathan Greenblatt and his recent false statements on MSNBC that put students and Jews in danger.

Friday, April 26, 2024
Contact: Arielle Gingold
[email protected]

Dear Jonathan,

I was saddened and shocked to hear you falsely call campus protesters "proxies" of the Iranian government. You run an organization that warns about how defamation can lead to violence. Your organization’s stated mission is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people…” And yet, you defamed Jewish people who have a different perspective than you.

No matter what we look like or how we pray, we want our families to be safe, our voices to be heard, and our rights to be respected. Around tables across the U.S., Jewish families like mine are both celebrating Passover and holding difficult conversations with each other. For some, our kids may be holding seders outside on their college campuses rather than inside with us, and they are now being put in danger by political agendas disguised as fighting antisemitism.

Over the past six months, I’ve had a number of Bend the Arc supporters, some of whom are parents, share with me that they are navigating political divides about Israel and Palestine within their own families. Many have shared that while they may not fully agree with their child’s perspective, they welcome the opportunity to discuss and debate and have their own opinions challenged — even when that can be painful and difficult. We can ensure everyone’s voice can be heard and be respected, even when we disagree. But we can't do that by spreading lies.

Earlier this week, Bend the Arc responded to the campus protests by honoring the Jewish tradition of protest at schools and acknowledging the need for safety for Jewish students and all students as right-wing white nationalists call for violence against them.

I take Jewish safety and fighting antisemitism very seriously, including within our movements.

Bend the Arc has long-standing relationships with some of the most influential progressive organizations in the country, built through our collective organizing and advocacy efforts toward a shared vision where all of us can live in safety, freedom, and belonging — no matter our religion. For years, we have worked with and trained hundreds of progressive partners, including members of Congress, about antisemitism and other forms of bigotry. As a result of this commitment to partnership, we have become trusted, effective messengers for how to prevent and stop antisemitism in this moment. This uniquely positions us to ensure we can effectively address harm with our partners and build shared spaces of active resistance to antisemitism, white supremacy, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-Blackness, and all intersecting oppressions.

In stark contrast, you took to national television to further put students and faculty in danger, falsely claiming that protesters on campus are directed by the Iranian government as “proxy” groups. This accusation directly threatens the safety of students by demonizing them and leaving them vulnerable to violence by vigilante and state actors. The students in these protests — including Jewish students — deserve to be safe and free to express their political views. Threats to our fundamental freedoms, like the right to free speech and protest, are particularly dangerous to groups targeted by white nationalists, including our Jewish community.

Demonizing students by lying about their motivations also helps justify violence against these non-violent protests. Footage of police aggression towards students is terrifying and now commonplace. Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two protestors in 2020 with an AR-15, is now touring campuses. Those sowing division to undermine democracy are filling social media and cable with calls for further violence. Increasing calls for the National Guard, who killed four Kent State anti-war student protesters (three of them Jewish) in 1970, also remind us that now is the time to stop history from repeating.

Many Jews look to the ADL to show moral leadership and “to secure justice and fair treatment for all.” True leadership means including all Jews and all people fighting for a just and fair world — even those you disagree with.

Jamie Beran
CEO, Bend the Arc

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action is uniting a movement of tens of thousands of progressive Jews across the country who are fighting for justice and equality for all. We are the only national Jewish organization focused exclusively on social change in the United States.