Dear Ms. Dermody:

Thank you for your recent invitation to participate in “How to be a Good Ally: A Strategic Engagement Conference”, to be held on January 6, 2017. As the nation’s first integrated and gender-inclusive bar association, the National Lawyers Guild recognizes the vital importance of convening together as lawyers and human rights advocates to challenge the reactionary policies proposed by President-Elect Donald Trump. We understand, however, that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is a significant participant in this event, and cannot attend due to our concerns regarding the organization’s involvement. We believe the participation of the ADL fundamentally violates the mission of the conference, will prevent those attending from having a secure discussion, and violates the NLG’s principles as an organization committed to human rights.

Despite its so-called commitment to anti-defamation, the ADL has a long history of violating the civil and human rights of individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. and around the world. For example, as long ago as 1938 the ADL provided information to the House Un-American Activities Committee about individuals and organizations that it considered subversive. More recently, in 1993, the District Attorney of San Francisco released 700 pages of documents implicating the ADL in a vast spying operation directed against local and national civil rights organizations. The ADL’s targets included the National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union, the San Francisco Labor Council, ILWU Local 10, the Asian Law Caucus, the NAACP, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the International Indian Treaty Council, the Oakland Educational Association, elected officials, activists within the anti-apartheid movements of South Africa and Palestine, and many others. Indeed, these documents revealed that the ADL passed information about Chris Hani, one of the leaders of the African National Congress, to South African intelligence shortly before Hani’s assassination. Today, the ADL promotes Israel’s apartheid policies in Palestine, which include theft of land from Palestinians, bombing campaigns, and the physical segregation of Palestinians and Jews.

In addition, the ADL has recently come out in support of President-Elect Trump and his administration. In a press release dated November 9, 2016, the ADL congratulated Donald Trump on his election despite his attacks on Jews, Muslims, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants and people of color.[1] And in a press release dated November 13, 2016, the ADL commended the appointment of Reince Preibus as the President-Elect’s chief of staff.[2]

Lastly, the ADL also has a history of targeting specifically Arab and Muslim organizations. For example, CAIR, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States, was recently targeted by the ADL, whose representatives stated, “CAIR is not an organization with whom we are willing to work.”[3] The Arab and Muslim community has been under attack in the United States for quite some time, and is likely to experience an upsurge of government repression and extralegal violence after the President-Elect enters office. Despite this, the conference lacks sufficient representation from those communities, particularly in a region such as the San Francisco Bay Area, which is home to several organizations that provide legal services to Arabs and Muslims.

The ADL’s long history of collaboration with right-wing elements in the U.S. and foreign governments has violated the civil and human rights of many individuals and groups and has caused a disruption in human rights activism. We are entering challenging times, where we must prioritize our security and safety and work with truly progressive organizations with a known track record of human rights and social justice work. As such, we cannot put our members in jeopardy by participating in a conference with a known spy organization that supports apartheid, and we encourage our colleagues and allies to take heed and protect themselves as well.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. Otherwise, we hope we can partner with you on other initiatives in support of civil and human rights for all. Respectfully, National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter


National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter