Why would the White House include an organization that has been accused of supporting Hamas and being antisemitic, as one of the main non-government organizations that will implement the new White House Strategy on Antisemitism?
Why would the White House allow an organization that the FBI cut off ties with lead a strategic initiative as part of their strategic program?
According to the fact sheet that has been sent out by the White House on Thursday “The Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] will launch a tour to educate religious communities about steps they can take to protect their houses of worship from hate incidents, such as instituting appropriate security measures, developing strong relationships with other faith communities and maintaining open lines of communication with local law enforcement.”
Why was CAIR, an organization accused of supporting Hamas, part of the White House antisemitism plan?
CAIR is a self-declared Muslim civil rights and advocacy group headquartered on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, with regional offices nationwide. CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization.
Yet according to an official document of the US Department of Justice in 2013, the FBI cut off ties with CAIR. “The guidance specifically stated that, until the FBI could determine whether there continued to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, ‘the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner’ for non-investigative activities,” the document stated.
In addition, according to a background document of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), some members of CAIR’s leadership have used inflammatory anti-Zionist rhetoric that on a number of occasions has veered into antisemitic tropes related to Jewish influence over the media or political affairs. According to the ADL, CAIR frequently partnered with vehemently anti-Zionist and anti-Israel groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and American Muslims for Palestine, many of whose members employ extreme rhetoric and questionable tactics to demonize Zionism and Zionists and disrupt pro-Israel activity.
“Some of CAIR’s current leadership had early connections with organizations that are or were affiliated with Hamas,” the ADL said of CAIR, reminding that Hamas is designated as “a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the US and is also viewed by the European Union as a global terrorist organization.”
As mentioned, a number of CAIR senior employees and leadership have used antisemitic rhetoric. In 2021, Zahra Billoo, (CAIR) San Francisco executive director, was quoted saying that "Zionist synagogues," the ADL, Hillel and other Jewish organizations are "enemies'' who are part of a conspiracy behind Islamophobia, American police brutality and US border control.
The Jerusalem Post’s Michael Starr reported that Billoo said in a speech "When we talk about islamophobia, we often think of the vehement fascists... but I also want us to pay attention to the polite Zionists, the ones that say 'let's just break bread together.’”
She went as far as saying that "We need to pay attention to the ADL, we need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation, we need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues, we need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses."
Billoo created an imaginary conspiracy saying that the Israeli military trained police officers in the US to "kill unarmed black men, women, and children."
Also in 2021, Shaheen Nassar, director of policy and advocacy for the CAIR Los Angeles chapter, said that antisemitism “was a way of persecuting a group of people for… this false historical allegation that they had descended from historic Palestine,” according to a report by the Jewish Journal.
Major Jewish organizations condemned these statements. The ADL said that they are “outraged over comments from CAIR-LA denying the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and adopting a racial and racist definition of Jewishness. This type of incitement perpetuates antisemitism and is especially shameful coming from a self-described civil rights organization.”
Hussam Ayloush, CAIR-Los Angeles executive director, has a history of problematic rhetoric, according to the ADL. They refer to a number of incidents, such as during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas, Ayloush denigrated Zionism and Zionists, including by invoking the Holocaust and comparing Zionism to the Ku Klux Klan and ISIS. He also intimated Zionist Jews are responsible for the scourge of Islamophobia in the US. In February 2019, Ayloush implied that denying the Holocaust is morally equivalent to supporting “Zionism and its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”
“Everyone knows I love partnership but adding CAIR which embraces antisemitism is kind of like Iran serving on the women’s rights council in the UN — it should never have happened and it shouldn’t now either.”Yoseph Haddad
How did CAIR react to being included in the White House antisemitism plan?
In a statement on Thursday, CAIR said that “The strategy’s fact sheet notes CAIR as one of the many contributing organizations that provided the White House ongoing commitments to counter antisemitism and build cross-community solidarity by organizations across the private sector, civil society, religious and multi-faith communities and higher education.”
CAIR mentioned that they plan to “combat Islamophobia, antisemitism and other forms of hate by launching a summer tour of states, starting in the southeast, to educate religious minority communities about steps they can take to protect their houses of worship from hate incidents, such as appropriate security measures, developing strong relationships with other faith communities, and maintaining open lines of communication with local law enforcement.”
CAIR added that they also intend to “continue regularly tracking and condemning incidents of hate, including racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, and xenophobic incidents.”
In the same statement, CAIR national deputy director Edward Ahmed Mitchell applauded the strategy on Thursday, especially supporting the fact that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism wasn’t fully adopted by the administration.
Mitchell noted that “the White House’s national strategy on antisemitism does not adopt the disputed IHRA definition of antisemitism as binding policy, does not express support efforts to silence free speech such as the right to engage in BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel] and does not declare that criticism of or opposition to the Israeli occupation is inherently antisemitic, as some civil and human rights groups feared the strategy would.”
He added that “the IHRA definition, criticized by CAIR and many Jewish and Palestinian American groups, as well as domestic and international human rights organizations, is seen as potentially conflating criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism, limiting free speech on Palestinian human rights.”
IHRA is actually a definition that has been adopted by tens of Western countries as well as tens of US states. Mitchell emphasized that “this clear distinction based on the motivation for criticism of Israel highlights the administration’s commitment to combating antisemitism while safeguarding free speech and the right to engage in human rights activism.”
The ADL hasn't been related to CAIR since the publication of the new strategy and welcomed the release and supported “the White House in its execution,” according to a statement on Thursday.
“ADL actively assisted in the development of the White House strategy, contributing more than 30 distinct policy recommendations,” the statement read.
Pro-Israel influencer Yoseph Haddad criticized the White House for partnering with CAIR. “Everyone knows I love partnership but adding CAIR which embraces antisemitism is kind of like Iran serving on the women’s rights council in the UN — it should never have happened and it shouldn’t now either,” Haddad, a Christian-Arab-Israeli, tweeted.
In addition, the StopAntisemitism organization asked “CAIR as a partner to fight antisemitism? Allowing alternatives to IHRA? Ignoring anti-Zionism? Disturbed is putting it mildly.”