CAIR’s Antisemitism Ignored or Embraced by Elected Officials
This is Part 2 of a two-part series excerpted from a book being published next year on CAIR’s long antisemitic track record by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. To read the previous installment, click here.
Although the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has a long and documented history of attacking Jews and Israel, many American elected officials don’t seem to mind.
A November 20 Chicago virtual fundraiser sponsored by the self-professed American Muslim civil rights organization, drew five members of Congress, a US senator, governor, and attorney general. They praised the group’s fight against hate and bigotry, and its alleged commitment to justice.
“For decades, CAIR-Chicago has been the leading Muslim community organization in the area,” claimed Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D). It has “been at the forefront of so many issues, protecting civil liberties, informing your voters, providing services to the community.”
Not only was Durbin “proud of CAIR-Chicago’s leadership in our community,” but he also looked forward to working with it on “many shared goals.”
More than 50 elected officials, including Durbin, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also sent CAIR-Chicago letters to help its annual fundraiser.
Pritzker described CAIR-Chicago’s achievements as “remarkable.” Others praised CAIR’s role as “a crucial voice for the Muslim community” in the fight against “bigotry and hate.”
But no speaker mentioned the bigoted message and antisemitic narratives pushed by CAIR since its founding more than 25 years ago. Nor did they explain how it was possible to fight bigotry and hate when the organization is led by bigots and haters.
“F*** Zionism. And F*** you too France,” wrote CAIR’s National Strategic Communications Director and Chicago chapter Director Ahmed Rehab in 2019, after the French parliament adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)’s working definition of antisemitism.
Rehab has a history of spewing antisemitic hate. While a DePaul University student in 1996, he wrote an essay that minimized the Holocaust, and claimed an exchange he saw on a Charlie Rose show “confirmed the Jewish control over the media.”
A forthcoming Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) book will expose details of CAIR’s long history of incendiary antisemitic statements, and show how they violate the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism, adopted by the US State Department in 2016, and by numerous world governments since.
Rehab, who moderated the CAIR-Chicago fundraiser, described Durbin, Pritzker, and other speakers as “our key allies … big tent allies in Congress and beyond.” He also recognized two Chicago-area Islamist leaders, one of whom was a featured speaker, among some of CAIR-Chicago’s “longest standing supporters.”
Prosecutors in a 2008 Federal terrorism financing trial named these leaders, Kifah Mustapha and Jamal Said, as part of a former Hamas-support network in the United States.
CAIR was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial, which ended with convictions against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) and five former officers for illegally funneling millions of dollars to Hamas.
That outcome should not come as a surprise.
Hamas military wing leader Muhammed Siyam spoke at the 1995 New Year’s convention in Los Angeles. “Finish off the Israelis,” he said. “Kill them all! Exterminate them! No peace ever! Do not bother to talk politics.” Copies of the notorious antisemitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were sold at the same conference. A MAYA conference in August 1994 distributed an IAP booklet called “America’s Greatest Enemy: THE JEW! and an UNHOLY ALLIANCE,” which featured Jewish and Zionist conspiracies for global domination, as well as Holocaust denial claims.
As IAP’s progeny, CAIR continues to serve the same agenda. Its leadership has repeatedly pushed dual-loyalty smears, canards about Jewish control over American policy, described Israel as a racist and genocidal state, and called for its destruction.
In August, Awad protested President Biden’s meeting with new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Hosting Bennett, Awad argued, is as bad as welcoming the Taliban to the White House.
“Imagine if [the] Taliban forms the government, [and] continues to do what it was doing to the people in Afghanistan before they were defeated in 2001,” Awad said outside the White House. “And they became national and international leaders, and if the president of the United States, President Joe Biden, decides to host in the White House the leader of [the] Taliban, what would be the reaction of the US media? What would be the reaction from the public? What would be the reaction of politicians by the fact that Joe Biden would be hosting the leader of [the] Taliban?
“Today it’s no different. President Joe Biden is hosting the leader of the Israeli Taliban. Joe Biden is hosting the leader of the settler colonial movement in Israel,” Awad said.
CAIR San Francisco Bay Area executive director Zahra Billoo has called for the destruction of the Jewish state: “From the river to the sea, #Palestine will be free,” she wrote on Twitter, evoking a popular slogan among Israel-bashers that leaves no room on the map for Israel.
From the river to the sea, #Palestine will be free.
— Zahra Billoo (@ZahraBilloo) November 30, 2018
She has openly claimed that she is “not going to legitimize a country [Israel] that I don’t believe has a right to exist.” Being pro-Israel, she has written, is tantamount to being “pro-terror, pro-violence, pro-land theft, and pro-apartheid.”
It should not be surprising, then, that Billoo sees Israel and ISIS as moral equivalents. “Both ISIS and the IDF are violent, immoral gangs,” she wrote in in 2018. “They’re literally baby killers.”
In his Facebook account in February 2009, former CAIR Florida director Hassan Shibly equated Israelis with Nazis, juxtaposing images from the Holocaust with images of Israeli soldiers interacting with Palestinians.
When Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) posted a tweet in May saying “Arizona stands with Israel,” Rehab felt compelled to respond. “Translation: Governor Doug Ducey stands with powerful AIPAC lobbyists in fear of losing reelection financing,” he wrote.
Rehab posted the tweet and his response on Facebook, adding: “But of course, it is all about the Benjamins. And the Jacksons and the Hamiltons. It usually is with all U.S. lobby-centric politics. If the naked truth offends you, I’m happy to chip in for your therapy.”
Rehab’s reference, “all about the Benjamins,” invokes Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN)’s earlier antisemitic tropes about Jewish control of American policy. Omar is a proud CAIR supporter, and vice versa.
The May exchange came as Hamas fired rockets toward Israeli civilian communities, prompting retaliatory strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza.
At a December 2017 rally sponsored by the rabidly anti-Israel group, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Awad alleged that the US government was “putting the interests of a foreign state, like Israel, and its domestic lobby here … above the United States’ interests. This is dangerous and reckless.”
Describing Israel as an “apartheid state” that “has been oppressing the Palestinian people,” Awad added, “The United States has financed and armed and defended and shielded Israel all over the world, in the United States. This is at the expense of our policies.”
During a 2010 joint convention sponsored by the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Awad spoke about the “huge influence” of the “pro-Israel lobby”: “The pro-Israel lobby has mastered deception, pressure tactics, and exploiting the system of giving money to candidates and putting pressure and threatening some candidates with either scandals or what have you. And they managed over many years to have this huge influence on not only members of Congress, but those who want to be elected officials in the United States.”
CAIR California executive director Hussam Ayloush has called for the Jewish state to be terminated. “Iran’s regime calling Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’ is like the pot calling the kettle black. All the people of that region will be better off once both murderous regimes are terminated,” Ayloush wrote in 2018.
CAIR was a “partner” in the May 29th National March for Palestine in Washington, DC, also led by AMP. The march was part of a broader campaign to “sanction Israel” to end “Israeli settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, military occupation, and blockade.” Speakers spewed inflammatory antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, and led chants calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. Among them — “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” “Israel you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” and “Palestine is our demand, no peace on stolen land.”
Awad was present for these chants. When it was his turn to speak, he called on protesters “to work to unseat members of Congress who are apologists for the crimes of the State of Israel.” He also urged the crowd to repeat a “Palestine pledge” to “support candidates who work to end Israeli apartheid.”
Another speaker at the May 29 rally, former CAIR-New York board member Lamis Deek, described Israel as a “a global threat, because Israel is a threat to all of us on the streets. Because so long as there is Israeli colonization, and Israeli apartheid and Israeli genocide and Israeli repression, we risk the resurrection of apartheid in South Africa, we risk the resurrection of colonization in Algeria.”
Some CAIR officials invoke religious belief to demonize and attack Jews as the source of Muslims’ problems. During a May 2012 sermon at the Islamic Organization of North America mosque in Warren, Michigan, CAIR-Michigan executive director Dawud Walid responded to his own question, “Who are those who incurred the wrath of Allah?” answering, “They are the Jews, they are the Jews.”
In a Twitter post at the height of the 2014 Gaza conflict, Ayloush wrote: “It isn’t merely about opposing Israel. It’s about defeating racism, colonialism, barbarism, apartheid, Zionism & the culture of murder.”
In another post a couple of days later, Ayloush compared the “supporters of Israel” to “Nazis” saying it was “interesting how supporters of Israel use exact same excuses that Nazis used to justify their murders [at] the Warsaw ghetto.”
Despite CAIR’s long and consistent antisemitic track record, elected officials, overwhelmingly Democrats, have chosen not to criticize the group. Instead, they laud it and help it raise money. The CAIR-Chicago fundraiser is just the most recent example.
Steven Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the author of eight books on national security and terrorism, the producer of two documentaries, and the author of hundreds of articles in national and international publications.