PPerhaps some people were shocked when a head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently embarked on an epic rant against Jews, their synagogues and their organizations.
Zahra Billoo is the group’s executive director in San Francisco and a former leader of the anti-Trump “resistance” Women’s March. When she recently said at a conference convened by anti-Israel radicals America’s Muslims for Palestine (AMP) that they should avoid mainstream groups like the ADL, the Federations and Hillel, the Jewish establishment responded. with anger.
As Middle East Forum scholar Daniel Pipes told Jewish News Syndicate, it was funny that these organizations, which were dubbed “polite Zionists” by Billoo, only reacted strongly after being attacked by name, although CAIR’s record of extremism had been clear for most of the past two decades. CAIR not only failed to repudiate Billoo, but also supported her after her speech was hard to excuse, even for those most determined to view the incident as unimportant.
CAIR has been largely successful in persuading many Jews as well as the media and government institutions that it is a civil rights group – even though its early leaders were associated with a Hamas fundraiser for it. terrorist group in the United States.
While CAIR’s most vocal critics within the Jewish community were figures like Pipes or Steven Emerson’s Terrorism Investigation Project (IPT), which focused not only on the group’s origins, but also on its activities and its partners like AMP, many of them in the Jewish community. the institution was not only willing to give a pass to CAIR, but actively helped it become mainstream.
NOTNow that the veil has once again been pulled from their deceptive marketing by the Billoo franchise, the question is whether the American Jewish community and its major organizations are able to draw the right conclusions about CAIR.
Specifically: Will Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs) and others dedicated to promoting interfaith dialogue with Muslims finally understand that, as valuable as this effort may be, it cannot be achieved in isolation? associating with groups like CAIR?
American Jews and Muslims need to understand each other better, and this can be facilitated through outreach and dialogue.
But as is often the case with efforts to find commonalities with other minorities or faith groups, those involved often see the process itself as more important than safeguarding the interests of the Jewish community.
This failure was the key to CAIR’s efforts to rename itself the Muslim version of ADL. Like Jewish outreach to the African American community – where anti-Semitic extremists like Farrakhan’s supporters can stand in the way of liberal Jews’ desire to embrace them – Jewish groups have often been eager to engage in dialogue or to break bread with extremists within the Muslim community. whatever the consequences.
CAIR took advantage of this desire to dupe gullible liberals or those simply interested in improving their reputation as Jewish leaders. As a result, JCRCs across the country have come to view CAIR chapters as legitimate partners for dialogue.
Many Jewish liberals saw no problem working with CAIR on issues they agreed to – like the amnesty for illegal immigrants – or opposing efforts to enforce existing immigration laws. In this way, CAIR’s goal of being normalized and becoming the central address for the interests of American Muslims – most of whom have little interest in extremism – was advanced.
IIt is now a bit late for supporters of the Judeo-Muslim dialogue to take a position that CAIR’s endorsement of anti-Semitism should not deter Jews from continuing the dialogue. In too many communities, it is simply impossible to separate CAIR from the cause of interfaith outreach involving Jews and Muslims.
Having already conferred legitimacy on CAIR and its various allies, many Jews are now reluctant to view Billoo’s comments or CAIR’s failure to condemn her as reason enough to rethink the process.
Part of the problem has been the willingness of those Billoo called “polite Zionists” to treat those she called “fascists” or “Islamophobes” as an embarrassment to the Jewish community.
In her speech, she divided the Jews into three groups.
On the one hand, she advocated continuing to work with “good Jews” who share CAIR’s anti-Zionist goals, such as members of IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, who have actively sought to support the anti-Semitic BDS movement and , in the case of JVP, in fact engaged in the promotion of blood libel against the Jews.
But she warned that the “polite Zionists” were just as bad as the Third Group, those actively engaged in exposing CAIR’s activities and positions. Often their work is branded as fanaticism by self-proclaimed extremist arbitrators like the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, instead of providing the information needed to make informed decisions about CAIR.
Too often, mainstream groups have acquiesced in labeling the Middle East Forum and the IPT as “anti-Muslim” – much like Billoo – instead of acknowledging that they have done the hard work of exposing the truth about CAIR and associated groups. .
The fact that CAIR publishes a story this week intended to deflect attention from Billoo’s ongoing anti-Semitic rhetoric that the IPT paid an informant to get information about CAIR’s activities, illustrates how the CAIR is determined to marginalize its most powerful critics.
UUnfortunately, mainstream Jewish liberals have often bought into the deceptive rhetoric about Islamophobia. It’s an accusation that aims primarily to change the conversation from one conversation about hatred emanating from Islamists to one about mythical anti-Muslim backlash. It’s the same trick that anti-Semites like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) Have used to push back against legitimate criticism of his extremism and the promotion of hate.
Instead of stubbornly claiming that the problem can be limited to Billoo and pursuing the status quo in interfaith efforts, what the mainstream Jewish world needs to do is pause and examine its own complicity in CAIR’s growing capacity. to impose itself on American Muslims and to be recognized by the media and government institutions as a respected civil rights group.
Dialogue with Muslims should not be avoided, but it should be conditioned on mutual respect and self-esteem.
This requires that Jewish groups call CAIR and all those associated with it as members of hate groups, not as candidates for dialogue. If that’s too much to ask, then there’s no point listening to Jewish organizations express their outrage over what Billoo said.