If the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stuck to its stated mission statement and only did civil-rights work protecting Muslim Americans from discrimination and bigotry, you likely would never see it mentioned.
But CAIR has a second, perhaps more paramount objective that it never directly acknowledges: to oppose Israel and promote Palestinian nationalism.
Its mission statement makes no mention of Palestine. Instead, it says it aims to “enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.” It describes its lobbying arm as focusing “on issues related to Islam and Muslims. The department monitors legislation and government activities and responds on behalf of the American Muslim community.”
But a review of CAIR’s activities shows a significant amount of time is spent on pushing Palestinian narratives, while never addressing Hamas’s obsession with pursuing terrorism at the expense of Palestinian civilians, or the Palestinian Authority’s ceaseless rhetoric fomenting hatred.
That’s especially true in times of conflict. CAIR also routinely teams with groups devoted to opposing Israel’s very existence. It should not be surprising to those familiar with CAIR’s origin story. It was created by a Muslim Brotherhood-run Hamas support network in the United States. Witnesses told the FBI that supporting Hamas was its mission from the start.
CAIR officials also have spent years casting the FBI as an imminent threat to the Muslim community, depicting agents as dark figures lurking outside their doors, as willing to threaten, lie and even break the law just to set up innocent Muslims, and as cold-blooded murderers. CAIR reflexively dismisses counter-terrorism indictments as entrapment.
Despite these facts, too many people remain ignorant to CAIR’s full slate of activities. CAIR takes advantage of this situation by using the visibility and influence its civil-rights work provides to pursue its foreign-policy aims.
That was made abundantly clear at CAIR’s recent national banquet and fundraiser outside Washington, D.C. The Oct. 19 event drew letters of support and congratulations from 101 elected officials and candidates, nearly all Democrats. That group includes 17 U.S. senators, including likely presidential candidates Cory Booker of New Jersey and California’s Kamala Harris. Other prominent Democratic senators signing salutation letters to CAIR include Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, Florida’s Bill Nelson, 2016 vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine from Virginia and New Jersey’s Robert Menendez.
Missing from the list is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, whom we called out in 2016 for a similar endorsement.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism obtained a copy of the booklet containing all the letters, which can be seen here. Many of them use similar language, likely supplied by CAIR. Most note the event and praise the organization for its civil-rights and anti-bigotry work.
“As our country faces new threats to civil rights,” wrote Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, “it is crucial that active participation in our democracy be protected and allowed to prosper. CAIR’s efforts to provide American Muslims a voice in the public square and encourage civic engagement are vital as we work to unite against all forms of hate.”
Next to his signature, Kennedy hand-wrote, “Many thanks for all you do.”
That note indicates that Kennedy knew he was signing an endorsement of CAIR. But elected officials receive countless requests for salutations every month, and the responses traditionally are handled by staff members. It’s unclear how many of the members of Congress knew they endorsed CAIR.
As we noted in the 2016 story about Schumer, the New York senator expressed concern about CAIR’s ties to terrorists as far back as 2003 and advocated a government cut-off of communication with the group. And in 2009, Schumer joined Republican colleagues Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) in asking FBI officials why they had enacted that very policy the previous year.
“We certainly support that action,” the senators wrote, “and it would be helpful to understand the situation more fully.”
Evidence collected during a Hamas-financing investigation connected CAIR and its founders within a Hamas-support network in the United States called the Palestine Committee, an FBI response said. “[U]ntil we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and HAMAS, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner.”
The policy remains in effect, but somehow, dozens of members of Congress are comfortable endorsing CAIR anyway, or haven’t made it clear to their staffs to steer clear of a group that might have ties to Hamas.
We’ve written exhaustively about CAIR’s pro-Hamas/Palestine Committee connections. Here are some key points:
- CAIR appears on a list of Palestine Committee entitieswritten the month of CAIR’s founding.
- At least three CAIR officers, including executive director Nihad Awad, appearin a Palestine Committee telephone roster. The Palestine Committee’s mission was to “to support Hamas from abroad,” the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found.
- The FBI describedOmar Ahmad, a CAIR co-founder along with Awad and a longtime past national CAIR chairman, as “a leader within the [Palestine] Committee.” Internal records showhe was one of the committee’s executives.
CAIR has never directly addressed these and many other connections, or tried to claim that it has moved away from its past.
A look at CAIR’s activities shows why. The organization continues to lobby against Israel for every element of the conflict with Palestinians, and many of its chapter leaders express a blind hate for the Jewish state. San Francisco chapter director Zahra Billoo has repeatedly compared the Israeli military to ISIS. Los Angeles chapter director Hussam Ayloush has, too, in addition to angrily claiming that asking him about Hamas was an act of hatred since he works for “a civil-rights organization we’re not here in the business of being dragged into the Middle East affairs and the conflicts of the Middle East.”
In rare moments of candor, CAIR officials say what they’re really all about. During a 2014 rally for convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmieh Odeh, CAIR’s Michigan chapter director Dawud Walid described CAIR as “defenders of the Palestinian struggle.”
CAIR partners with groups like American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which has clear ties to the old Palestine Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and other groups that seek Israel’s elimination. In May, for example, CAIR joined AMP and JVP in protesting outside Booker’s and Menendez’s offices, demanding they condemn Israel’s response to Palestinian riots at the Gaza border. The protesters went home disappointed.
Nearly all the casualties from the violence were members of Hamas or other terrorist groups.
During a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza triggered by Hamas rocket fire and the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, CAIR and its San Francisco chapter published a primer on how to help Palestine. It included calls to attend rallies and contact members of Congress to discuss “our country’s complicity in the ongoing attack on Palestine.”
During a similar conflict in 2009, also sparked by Hamas rocket fire at Israeli civilian communities, Awad spoke at a news conference at the National Press Club, demanding “the U.S. government, take immediate steps to end the immoral and illegal Israeli bombardment of Gaza.” Ayloush issued a similar statement. Neither mentioned Hamas or called on the terrorist group to cease firing at Israeli cities and civilians.
Last December, CAIR—the purported American civil-rights group, the one Ayloush insisted was “not here in the business of being dragged into the Middle East affairs and the conflicts of the Middle East” when it comes to addressing Hamas—joined AMP, SJP and other groups at a rally to oppose another foreign policy issue, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. To Awad, the move represented proof that the United States placed the interests of another country over American interests.
Speaking in his capacity as CAIR executive director, he urged his audience to act:
“We cannot support the Palestinian people by just coming to Washington, D.C. and speaking at these rallies,” he said. “You know what’s next and what’s more important? You have to speak to your members of Congress, you have to meet with them … ”
Everyone has the right to petition the government and have his or her voices heard. The issue here is CAIR’s deceptive marketing effort. It sells itself as a civil-rights organization and does do aggressive work in that arena. But it all goes to building a platform that it uses to try to influence American public attitudes and policies in favor of Palestinians, and by extension, Hamas.
More than 100 members of Congress fell for CAIR’s ruse. In the end, whether it was out of ignorance or willful blindness doesn’t matter. They have enabled an organization born in a terror support network that continues to do the bidding of radical Islamists.
Here are the politicians who sent CAIR salutation letters:
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D) WI, Senator Michael F. Bennet (D) CO, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D) CT, Senator Corey Booker (D) NJ, Senator Ben Cardin (D) MD, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D) IL, Senator Kamala Harris (D) CA, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D) MD, Senator Doug Jones (D) AL, Senator Tim Kaine (D) VA, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) MN, Senator Robert Menendez (D) NJ, Senator Christopher Murphy (D) CT, Senator Patty Murray (D) WA, Senator Bill Nelson (D) FL, Senator Tina Smith (D) MN, Senator Thomas Tillis (R) NC, Senator Mark Warner (D) VA, Representative Pete Aguilar (D) 31st district, CA, Representative Nanette Barragan (D) 44th district, CA, Representative Karen Bass (D) 37th district, CA, Representative Ami Bera (D) 7th district, CA, Representative Donald S Beyer Jr. (D) 8th district, VA, Representative Susan Brooks (R) 5th district, IN, Representative Anthony Brown (D) 4th district, MD, Representative Michael Capuano (D) 7th district, MA, Representative Salud Carbajal (D) 24th district, CA, Representative Tony Cardenas (D) 29th district, CA, Representative Andre Carson (D) 7th district, IN, Representative Judy Chu (D) 27th district, CA, Representative Katherine Clark (D) 5th district, MA, Representative Yvette Clarke (D) 9th district, NY, Representative Lacy Clay (D) 1st district, MO, Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D) 12th district, NJ, Representative Gerald Connolly (D) 11th district, VA, Representative Luis Correa (D) 46th district, CA, Representative Jim Costa (D) 16th district, CA, Representative Joe Courtney (D) 2nd district, CT, Representative Elijah Cummings (D) 7th district, MD, Representative Rodney Davis (R) 13th district, IL, Representative Suzan Delbene (D) 1st district, WA, Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D) 11th district, CA, Representative Debbie Dingell (D) 12th district, MI, Representative Mike Doyle (D) 18th district, PA, Representative Keith Ellison (D) 5th district, MN, Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D) 18th district, CA, Representative Elizabeth Etsy (D) 5th district, CT, Representative Dwight Evans (D) 3rd district, PA, Representative Marcia L. Fudge (D) 11th district, OH, Representative John Garamendi (D) 3rd district, CA, Representative Gene Green (D) 29th district, TX, Representative Raul M. Grijalva (D) 3rd district, AZ, Representative Alcee Hastings (D) 20th district, FL, Representative Jared Huffman (D) 2nd district, CA, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) 30th district, TX, Representative Marcy Kaptur (D) 9th district, OH, Representative Joseph P. Kennedy (D) 4th district, MA, Representative Ro Khanna (D) 17th district, CA, Representative Daniel T. Kildee (D) 5th district, Ml, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) 8th district, IL, Representative Brenda Lawrence (D) 14th district, Ml, Representative Al Lawson (D) 5th district, FL, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D) 18th district, TX, Representative Barbara Lee (D) 13th district, CA, Representative John Lewis (D) 5th district, GA, Representative Dave Loebsack (D) 2nd district, VA, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D) 19th district, CA, Representative Alan S. Lowenthal (D) 47th district, CA, Representative Doris O. Matsui (D) 6th district, CA, Representative Betty McCollum (D) 4th district, MN, Representative Jerry McNerney (D) 9th district, CA, Representative Grace Meng (D) 6th district, NY, Representative Seth Moulton (D) 6th district, MA, Representative Stephanie Murphy (D) 7th district, FL, Representative Donald Norcross (D) 1st district, NJ, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) Washington D.C., Representative Frank Pallone (D) 6th district, NJ, Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. (D) 9th district, NJ, Representative Donald M. Payne Jr. (D) 10th district, NJ, Representative Mark Pocan (D) 2nd district, WI, Representative David Price (D) 4th district, NC, Representative Mike Quigley (D) 5th district, IL, Representative Jamie Raskin (D) 8th district, MD, Representative Raul Ruiz (D) 36th district, CA, Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) 2nd district, MD, Representative Tim Ryan (D) 13th district, OH, Representative Linda T. Sanchez (D) 38th district, CA, Representative John Sarbanes (D) 3rd district, MD, Representative Adam Schiff (D) 28th district, CA, Representative David Scott (D) 13th district, GA, Representative Adam Smith (D) 9th district, WA, Representative Darren Soto (D) 9th district, FL, Representative Eric Swalwell (D) 15th district, CA, Representative Mark Takano (D) 41st district, CA, Representative Mike Thompson (D) 5th district, CA, Representative Paul Tonko (D) 20th district, NY, Representative Norma Torres (D) 35th district, CA, Representative Juan Vargas (D) 51st district, CA, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) Washington D.C., Governor Ralph Northam (D) VA, and Candidate Rashida Tlaib (D) 13th district, MI.