On November 10th, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced that it was incorporating a little-known Jewish investing firm called JLens. A press release explained that the merger “expands [the ADL’s] capabilities to combat [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)] and antisemitism” in the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) movement, which urges investors to take social responsibility into consideration. “ESG is the latest frontier in the fight against antisemitism,” warned ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, arguing that the field was being hijacked by “radical BDS activists” who were using it to push for divestment from Israel. JLens, the ADL said, was leading the fight to keep anti-Israel bias from shaping the ESG efforts that increasingly influence corporate activity.
In a deep-dive feature published on our website last week, associate editor Mari Cohen tells the story of the campaign that brought JLens to the ADL’s attention: a years-long push to force Morningstar—one of the largest, most well-respected independent research firms in both traditional and socially responsible investing—to change its approach to Israel/Palestine. Mari’s piece tours the burgeoning world of ESG investing and illuminates the coalition of strange bedfellows that JLens assembled from Jewish institutions and Republican state operatives to prevent socially responsible investors from putting pressure on companies that do business in Israel/Palestine. JLens and its allies notched a major victory this fall when Morningstar agreed to change its policies, even pledging not to describe the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem as “occupied.” ESG experts told Mari that the shift undermines the credibility of their field and serves the aims of a growing right-wing movement to counter socially responsible investing. In other words, JLens’s campaign—which is now the ADL’s as well—allies Jewish groups with hardline conservatives like Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who, in a statement on Morningstar, called ESG “the latest tool that woke corporations are using to push a radical and left-leaning social agenda into every corner of American life.” I highly recommend reading Mari’s reporting on the playbook that the ADL and other Israel-advocacy organizations are using as they turn their attention to ESG.