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Zionist Instrumentalization of the Global War on Terror

Read our article with Palestinian Youth Movement, originally published in “The Terror Trap: The Impact of the War on Terror in Muslim Communities Since 9/11” (convened by the Coalition for Civil Freedoms, The Bridge Initiative, CAGE, the Center for Islam and Global Affairs, the Muslim Justice League, ICNA Council for Social Justice, and United Voices for America).

On January 7, 2021, the day after an armed takeover of the U.S. Capitol with many off-duty law enforcement and military personnel among the mob’s ranks, President-elect Biden publicly labeled the rioters “domestic terrorists.” News articles amplified Biden’s long-stated intentions to enact new federal laws against “domestic terrorism” and to increase funding to combat “violent extremism.” Liberal supporters of the new president cheered these moves to use the surveillance, law enforcement, and counterterrorism machinery of the state to fight white supremacy. These proposals however had long been in the works- and are rooted in a legacy of the United States’ policing and national security efforts to neutralize political organizing and movements for racial justice, liberation and self-determination.

Weeks earlier, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a prominent Zionist organization with a history of racism and surveillance of civil rights organizations, had met with Biden (Levine, 2020) to give him recommendations for combatting “domestic terrorism” in his upcoming administration. At around the same time, the state of California had begun to launch their “Education to End Hate” initiative, which involves grants to educational institutions and community partnerships, ostensibly to “confront the hate, bigotry, and racism rising in communities across the state and nation” (Thurmond, 2020). This initiative features the California Department of Education (CDE) partnering with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a right-wing Zionist organization that labeled protesters rising up against police murders of Black people as “domestic terrorists” (SimonWiesenthalCntr, 2020). This group has long been an established institution for “anti-bias” education for law enforcement officials and school districts.

There has been a critical intervention in the wake of the January 6 takeover of the Capitol by anti-racist and abolitionist scholars, activists, and organizations, arguing that the inclusion of white supremacist violence into the category of “terrorism” or “extremism” and the use of counterterrorism programs and policies to fight white supremacy will not provide real protection to marginalized and racialized communities. Instead, this domestic “War on Terror” supposedly targeting white supremacists will only expand the powers of the inherently white supremacist police/surveillance state, inflicting even more violence on communities of color.

However, one underappreciated aspect of this political moment is the foundational role that Zionist institutions and lobbies have been playing in collaborating with politicians and law enforcement in order to create and expand criminalization and policing programs based on the frameworks of “hate”, “extremism”, and “terrorism.” The criminalization of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims through the rubric of counterterrorism is a fundamental aspect of Zionism as a settler colonial and imperialist project (Qutami, et al 2021). Zionist groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Jewish Committee (AJC), and Simon Wiesenthal Center have not only supported legislation on “domestic terrorism” and “violent extremism” but have also participated in and supported policing and counterterrorism programs like Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE), and Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP):

● The ADL was present at the 2015 White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism and has been an official partner in Countering Violent Extremism programs in several cities and local school districts and universities, including in Los Angeles, Houston, Boston, and Colorado.

● The AJC partnered with the “Islamic deradicalization group” Muflehun on their TVTP grant focused on “teaching people how to identify individuals displaying concerning behaviors… and how to intervene with them, including potentially referring them to law enforcement” (Panduranga, 2021)

● The Simon Wiesenthal Center accepted a “Preventing Violent Extremism” (PVE) grant from the state of California in 2018 and a “Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention” (TVTP) grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2020.

Understanding the relationship of Zionism to CVE frameworks illuminates and resolves apparent contradictions; for example, why is Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization with a long history of anti-Muslim, anti-Black, and anti-Palestinian bigotry, whose dean and founder literally blessed Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, being tapped to do anti-bias trainings? Why were Israeli flags seen among the antisemitic and white nationalist imagery of the white supremacist Capitol rioters? Investigating this relationship between Zionist organizations and the proliferation of “hate”, “extremism”, and “domestic terrorism” legislation and programs also highlights the role that the colonization of Palestine plays in the global industry of policing and reaffirms that abolitionist approaches to ending the violence of white supremacy must also be anti-Zionist.

Central to counterinsurgency (Glueck Jr, 2014) is the battle for “legitimacy” and the portrayal of the settler-colonial state and its occupying forces as neutral, rational actors. In order to cultivate this false veneer of legitimacy, especially after moments in which the horrors of state violence are exposed, the settler-colonial state -including law enforcement- attempts to distance itself from the white supremacy that is at the heart of the institution of policing, instead portraying themselves as guarding the neutral center from the “extremes” of right-wing and left-wing “violence,” “hate,” “terrorism,” or “extremism.” But none of those terms have collectively agreed-upon definitions, or at least their definitions have always been politically produced to meet the needs of white supremacist policing.

Countering Violent Extremism, as a framework of policing and form of counterinsurgency, conflates the actions of people attempting to oppress and enforce institutional and state violence with the actions of communities resisting oppression, fighting for self-determination and well-being. In the name of preserving an oppressive status quo, the Countering Violent Extremism framework also attributes vague terms like “hate,” “violence,” “terrorism” and “extremism” only to individuals, hiding the structural, systemic violence enacted in board rooms, courtrooms, legislative sessions, and police oversight meetings. This sleight of hand allows the state and the ruling class to hide the fact that their very existence and maintenance are the result of ongoing racialized violence. As the PYM writes in their statement on “Zionism & Domestic Terrorism”, this “precludes the state from ever being accountable as a producer, enabler, or repressor of the context from which political violence emerges”. finally, equating left-wing and right-wing “hate,” “extremism,” “terrorism,” etc. omits any kind of power analysis and portrays resistance to oppression as a conflict between ideologies, or worse, a debate between ideas. As Palestinian freedom fighter and writer Ghassan Kanafani famously stated about peace talks between the state of Israel and Palestinian freedom fighters, the “debate” driving these counterinsurgency and counter-radicalization initiatives is a “kind of conversation between the sword and the neck”.

“Hate,” “extremism,” and “terrorism” are all fundamentally political categories, and when the state is in charge of determining their meaning, they inevitably are utilized to criminalize and repress political activity and organizing. In the U.S. this will mean the targeting of Black and Indigenous communities, Muslim communities, and communities of color more broadly. In Utah, a woman has been charged with a hate crime for stomping on a “Back the Blue” police sign (Chappell, 2021). Domestic terrorism charges have been levied against activists for combatting the Dakota Access Pipeline (Swan, 2021). A Black community activist in Dallas was imprisoned for “Black identity extremism” for facebook posts critical of the police (Levin, 2018).

In this environment, in which “hate crime” and “domestic terrorism” laws are already being weaponized against movements for justice, Zionist institutions are functioning as an arm of the state, pushing local legislation and working to train local educators, service providers, faith leaders and law enforcement to surveil and report “hate groups” and instances of “hate” and “extremism.” As the ADL put it last year, their goal is “doing the policing work without needing to have a warrant” (ADL Event at UC Irvine 2020). The Program on Extremism at George Washington University, a major academic arm of CVE, published a report on antisemitism and violent extremism heavily pushing the conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, even recommending that policymakers and legislators consider anti-Zionism an indicator of extremism. (Meleagrou-Hitchens et al, 2020)

These efforts to conflate anti-Zionism with racism flare most heavily when we see the growth of mass mobilizations, campaign wins, and popular support for the Palestinian struggle in the face of escalated Zionist violence. In the past few months, with organizations like the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) leading mass mobilizations across North America in response to the uprisings in Palestine and brutal violence perpetrated by Israel, we have seen Zionist institutions falsely claim an “uptick in antisemitism,” and call for law enforcement agencies, municipal, state and federal entities to partner with them to “identify” and “prevent extremism”. These “increased antisemitism” statistics however, consist largely of reports of protest chants at Palestinian solidarity rallies as “hate crimes” allowing Zionist institutions like the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the American Jewish Committee to not only further entrench a definition of “hate” and “extremism” that includes any criticism of Israel, but to integrate this conflation into legislation and legal consequences of what gets constituted as a “hate crime” or as “domestic terrorism”.

It is clear that a US state-sanctioned crackdown on “domestic terrorism” will neither condemn the state for perpetrating violence against the people nor deter white supremacist movements who uphold the state’s interests of curtailing our pursuit for self-determination, liberation, and reparations. Instead, as has been borne out time and time again, it will be individuals and movements advocating for the end of settler-colonialism and white supremacy – including Zionism – who will be targeted by these revamped surveillance and policing powers as “domestic terrorists”. It is clear that the intent of and the expansion of policing paradigms like Countering Violent Extremism – as well as the false narrative that the state is going after “right wing extremism” – is to neutralize political activity and repress movements, as well as any attempts to self-sustain communities and build autonomy.

By disingenuously and falsely equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism – as well as conflating Israel with the Jewish people – Zionist organizations strategically position themselves as neutral arbiters of “hate,” “violence,” “terrorism,” or “extremism” from both left-wing and right-wing sources. Because principled leftists, Palestinians, and their allies oppose Zionism, and because many white supremacists are truly anti-semitic (while often in fact supporting Zionism), Zionist organizations can claim to be “oppressed” by all sides. Never mind the fact that Zionist organizations have had cozy relationships with anti-Semites and white supremacists – or at the very least have harsher words for liberation movements than they do for fascists. The dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center even stated that the Nazis, including Eichmann and Mengele, “revere life” as opposed to “Hamas terrorists “who” revere death.” (Simon Wiesenthal Center 2014, 0:23-1:02)

In Israel’s Dead Soul, Steven Salaita argues that by ADL’s own standards for identifying “hate”, the organization would have to classify itself as a hate group. Salaita exhaustively details: “(1) the ADL’s resolute support of American imperialism and Israeli colonization, (2) “the ADL’s persecution of academics and public figures whose politics do not express adequate fealty to Israel”, and (3) the ADL’s institutional denial of genocide, in particular the 1915 Turkish genocide of Armenians.” Exposing these contradictions clearly points to contradictions at the heart of these terms, and how they are infused with the position, power, and ideology of the institutions that wield them. That Zionism itself is not more widely accepted as a form of hate – or more accurately a colonial ideology and form of racism, is a reflection of the power disparity between Zionists and Palestinians/anti-Zionists, as well as the usefulness of Zionism to ongoing U.S. and Western imperialism. As Joe Biden famously said, Israel is “the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region” (Candidate Research, 2019).

The collaboration between U.S. law enforcement agencies and Zionist organizations on programs combatting “hate,” “extremism,” and “terrorism” is strategic and mutually beneficial: law enforcement agencies get to rehabilitate their reputation by presenting themselves as saviors of marginalized communities against white supremacy, while Zionist organizations get to embed Zionism firmly as a stand-in for the entire Jewish community within the criminal justice infrastructure of the U.S., criminalizing anti-Zionism and Palestinian resistance as a form of discrimination, hate crime, or terrorism. The partnership also deepens popular support for the “War on Terror” as a whole, serving U.S. imperial interests as well as the interests of the U.S. and Israeli arms and surveillance industries. Just as the U.S. empire uses the Israeli colonization of Palestine as a laboratory for counterterrorism technology and tactics that then get exported all over the world, it also develops methods of domestic repression and exports them to other populations and settings. Countering Violent Extremism, a program that most overtly has targeted and stigmatized Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities, has been adapted for other communities as well. For example, the Minneapolis CVE program that focuses on Somali youth has expanded to target Native youth (Mauleón, 2018).

The Biden administration recently released a revamped “Domestic Violent Extremism” framework, justifying the expansion of Countering Violent Extremism under a different name. According to this Domestic Violent Extremism framework, anyone from environmentalists to anti-capitalists to Puerto Rican anti-colonial activists is an “extremist”. The framework also focuses on “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists,” which is the continuation of the FBI’s “Black Identity Extremism”. The cause for ‘violence’ and ‘racially motivated violence’ provides little mention of white supremacy as a structure or a system. Of course, the revamped CVE framework relies on the individualization of violence as well as the complete erasure of systems or structures of oppression against which our peoples are mobilizing and organizing to further advance carceral logics and legislation, criminalizing our peoples’ resistance and community-building efforts. In addition, language in the recent framework focuses heavily on “personal grievances” and “ideological agendas” derived from “perceived” economic, social, or racial hierarchies, or any opposition to capitalism or the U.S. government; a continuity with the concept of Radicalization Theory – the belief that certain individuals are on a predictable pathway to violence – that underpinned the original CVE program. Despite its rebranding, Biden’s Domestic Violent Extremism framework will continue to identify the political mobilization, organization, and mutual aid of Black, Palestinian, Muslim, Indigenous, and Immigrant communities as an indicator of radicalization or violent extremism that must surveilled and criminalized.

Biden’s “Domestic Violent Extremism” framework also relies on the individualization of violence as well as the complete erasure of systems or structures of oppression against which our peoples are mobilizing and organizing to further advance carceral logics and legislation, criminalizing our people’s resistance and community-building efforts. furthermore, cooperation with law enforcement and emphasis on concepts of “peace” and “unity” are central to the formation of notions of “public safety” and “national security” throughout the Biden administration’s framework, which are the same notions that maintain the prison system and infrastructure of the War on Terror. Although the word “safety” is not explicitly mentioned, the criminalization of “radicalized” Black, Muslim, Palestinian, Indigenous, Puerto Rican and immigrant youth throughout the report is structured by a carceral logic that uses notions of “safety” and “hatred” to justify policing and surveillance of communities of color. ‘Safety’ is thus constructed in opposition to “radicalization,” which suggests that notions of safety and security are also racialized, as indicators of extremism and radicalization are attributed to marginalized peoples who disrupt white “security” by mobilizing politically or by resisting white violence in any manner.

CVE, now under a different name, continues to function as a form of counterinsurgency and repression of political organizing, following in the legacy of criminalization of community power and support for the oppressed. Given the intimate relationship between Zionist organizations and law enforcement – especially in the domain of counterterrorism – we maintain that the fight against CVE, the domestic terrorism framework, and the War on Terror more broadly must be grounded in anti-Zionism and commitment to Palestinian liberation, and that this issue must remain central to our resistance to the War on Terror. We urge community organizations to refuse to join coalitions (even benign sounding ones that purport the fight “hate”) that include Zionist organizations. furthermore, CVE must be understood and fought as a threat to political organizing and liberation movements, rather than simply an invasion of privacy of a targeted marginalized community Thus, “reforms” that purport to safeguard civil liberties, or false promises by the state to combat “all forms of extremism” (or even to focus on white supremacy) should not placate us. We demand the complete abolition of CVE as a framework of policing, as an integral part of the complete abolition of the War on Terror.

StopTVTP Coalition:

Stop LAPD Spying Coalition

Black Alliance for Just Immigration 

Palestinian Youth Movement

Vigilant Love

Works cited

Candidate Research (2019) Joe Biden says if Israel didn’t exist, the US would have to invent one to protect US interests, YouTube, 

Chappell B. (2021) 19-Year-Old Protester Stomped On A ‘Back The Blue’ Sign. She Faces Hate Crime Charges, NPR, 

Glueck Jr K.J. (2014) Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies, Department of the Army, 

Levin S. (2018) Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance, The Guardian, 

Levine M. (2020) Domestic terrorism and hate exploded in 2020. Here’s what the Biden administration must do, ABC News, 

Mauleón E. (2018) Worst Suspicions Confirmed, Brennan Center for Justice, 

Meleagrou-Hitchens, A., et al (2020), “Antisemitism as an Underlying Precursor to Violent Extremism in American Far-Right and Islamist Contexts”

Panduranga H. (2021) Community Investment, Not Criminalization, Brennan Center for Justice, 

Palestinian Youth Movement (2021), “Zionism & the Domestic Terrorism Framework.” Internal Paper. 

SimonWiesenthalCntr (2020) Necessary move. Sad reality that in 2020, Americans must confront terrorism not only from ISIS etc. but from domestic terrorists seeking to violently to destroy American society and those who protect us, Twitter, 

Simon Wiesenthal Center (2014), “Interview with SWC’s Rabbi Marvin Hier on the enemy Israel faces today: Hamas terrorists”, Youtube, uploaded by Simon Wiesenthal Center 10 July, 2014, 

Swan B.W. (2021) Biden’s domestic terrorism strategy concerns advocates, Politico, 

Thurmond T. (2020) State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Launches New “Education to End Hate” Initiative to Combat Bias, Bigotry, and Racism, California Department of Education, 

Qutami Loubna, et al. (2021) “Theory and Practice: Palestinian Youth Engagements in Frameworks of Struggle” (not yet published) Ricardo Bocco Journal