Providing resources and political muscle to smaller local groups
The ADL has made itself seem indispensable to local groups working on issues like free speech, religious freedom, and refugee rights. Many small local groups use the ADL’s printed materials, are in coalitions that are made more “legit” by having the ADL as a member, and seek the ADL’s help to move policy by weighing in with politicians.
What’s wrong with the ADL’s support?
The ADL’s outsized role means it gets to define “rights” from a white-led, conservative perspective—often to the detriment of the communities who need support to exercise their rights. For instance, the ADL uses its role as a “free speech advocate” to fight students’ right to speak against Israeli policies on their campuses, saying their speech isn’t protected. The ADL supports some Muslim causes, but then uses its position as a “religious freedom advocate” to claim that US counterterrorism policies that profile Muslims based on religion, and that inappropriately surveil Muslim communities aren’t Islamophobic: just good security. On some issues, like refugee rights, the ADL may actually support good policy. But it takes any credit for doing good work and uses it against other communities.