After the outrage following remarks by CAIR San Francisco executive-director Zahra Billoo – who said that Jewish Zionist organizations are “enemies” who are part of a conspiracy behind Islamaphobia – the Council on American-Islamic Relations came out in support of Billoo on Saturday and defended her speech as misquoted.
After Billoo’s address at the American Muslims for Palestine’s (AMP) Annual Convention for Palestine on November 27, “anti-Muslim websites misquoted Zahra’s remarks and falsely claimed that she had discouraged Muslims from working with Jewish groups at-large,” CAIR said in a statement on Saturday.
“This is a blatant lie,” CAIR said. “In fact, Zahra praised the many Jewish activists and groups that support human rights for all people, including Palestinians, and specifically encouraged Muslims to engage in interfaith collaboration with Jewish organizations such as IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace. We strongly condemn this online smear campaign against our sister and colleague, Zahra Billoo.”
CAIR said that they would “continue to proudly stand by Zahra and all American Muslim leaders who face smears and threats because they dare to express an opinion about Palestinian human rights.”
CAIR blasted ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt – whose organization was listed as an “enemy” by Billoo – for his response to Billoo’s remarks, in which he stated that her speech “is textbook vile, antisemitic, conspiracy-laden garbage attacking the mainstream US Jewish community. It sounds like something you would expect from white supremacists.”
Greenblatt demanded that CAIR condemn Billoo “for this awful, unapologetic bigotry. And any org [sic] that claims to fight for social justice should cut ties with anyone who spouts such hate.”
During her November 27 speech, Billoo cautioned attendees that “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.’”
According to Billoo, the reason these organizations were coming after Muslims is that they are afraid that Muslims advocate for Black Lives Matter, police accountability, homelessness, against poverty, for the environment, and “a free Palestine.” Consequently, they “must come after us,” said Billoo. “We need to pay attention to the Anti-Defamation League, 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.”
Later in her speech, Billoo called on attendees to oppose the organizations she previously described as “the polite Zionists.”
“Oppose the vehement fascists, but oppose the polite Zionists, too,” she said. “They are not your friends... When we talk about Islamophobia and Zionism let’s be clear about the connections.”
Billoo advised the AMP convention to “know your enemies,” which were “the Zionist organizations” and “the foreign policy organizations who say they’re not Zionists but want a two-state solution.”
The reason that Billoo described them as enemies was the assertion that Zionist organizations were behind the propagation of Islamophobia and various ills afflicting the United States.
Throughout her speech, Billoo referred repeatedly to the connection between Islamophobia and Zionism, claiming that “Islamophobia is a well-funded conspiracy, a well-funded project – a well-funded project to marginalize us. We have to connect the dots between the organizations that promote Zionist agendas – materials, marketing, and legislation – are the same ones that want to ban Muslims, are the same ones that want to pass anti-sharia legislation.”
Billoo claimed that the Israeli military trained police officers in the United States to “kill unarmed black men, women and children,” and that the technology “used at the US-Mexico border is the same technology used at the apartheid wall.”
David Lange, executive director of Israellycool Israel Advocacy, who discovered and publicized the statements on Thursday, said Billoo’s speech was “incitement” that “could lead to bloodshed.”
CAIR is a “nonprofit, grassroots civil rights and advocacy organization” that is “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization,” according to their mission statement on their website.
Billoo was formerly a board member for the Women’s March, but was ejected over allegedly antisemitic remarks, which she described as “an Islamophobic smear campaign.”