(March 9, 2023 / JNS) Two hate crimes made news last week in New York City. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chose to condemn only one.
Why? Both involved premeditated, unprovoked attacks on people based on their identities. Victims in both cases required hospitalization. What distinction could have made one worthy of condemnation and one worthy of silence?
If you follow CAIR even casually, you already know.
The victims CAIR opted to keep mum about are pro-Israel Jews. The attacker is a radical Palestinian activist careless enough to put his plans in writing and his motive on video.
Saadah Masoud will spend 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit hate crimes.
On at least three separate occasions, Masoud, a founding member of the anti-Israel group “Within Our Lifetime,” specifically sought out and attacked Jews. The entity is so-named because its members believe “that we will achieve Palestinian liberation within our lifetime.”
The group’s leader, Nerdeen Kiswani, has told supporters not to “act like Israel has a right to exist, or [that] negotiations can be made with this colonial entity.”
Prosecutors obtained group chat transcripts from May 20, 2021, in which Masoud and his friends plotted to attack a pro-Israel rally. Masoud endorsed a friend’s instruction: “Remember, don’t chant out Jews; it’s the Zionists.”
At the rally, Masoud and his friends “forgot” what they discussed.
They confronted a man wearing a Star of David necklace, and Masoud “shouted, in substance and in part, ‘Are you a f***ing Jew?’ ” the government’s sentencing memorandum said. Masoud then sucker-punched the man in the face.
Less than two weeks later, Masoud and a friend drove past the Brooklyn home of a pro-Israel political activist they had seen at another rally. “We know where you live, we’ll get you,” Masoud told him. Masoud’s friend then punched the man in the face.
Two months later, Masoud made it clear he sought violence against Jews.
“There’s no talking to them. There’s no fighting with love, fighting with peace,” he said in a video posted by Canary Mission. “Because at the end of the day, sometimes people learn with a punch in their mouth.”
Some would argue that this meets a definition of terrorism: If you don’t change your mind or stop supporting your cause, we’re going to hurt you. But CAIR, a self-anointed civil-rights organization, said nothing about the violent incidents, Masoud’s arrest or his sentencing.
It has made a big show out of condemning antisemitic graffiti and vandalism. As I previously pointed out, it’s a selective commitment. When the Goyim Defense League distributes antisemitic publications in a neighborhood, CAIR is eager to say that’s bad.
But a pro-BDS group in Massachusetts posts a map that “puts a bullseye on” Jewish organizations and Israel supporters, which Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank described as “the latest manifestation of an antisemitic canard alleging secret, hidden Jewish control” of society and an “implicit call to violence,” CAIR opted to stay silent.
And this is why it’s fair to call CAIR’s campaign against antisemitism a scam. It’s meant to reassure people that it’s not Jewish people and their beliefs that it has a problem with. Like Masoud’s friend said, “Remember, don’t [say] Jews; it’s the Zionists.”
Masoud’s spree of attacks continued last April. At a pro-Palestine rally, prosecutors say he chased a counter-demonstrator two blocks before throwing him down and hitting him. The man was treated for a concussion. In the process, Masoud knocked over a 78-year-old lady, injuring her leg.
“I beat [the] shit out of this guy,” Masoud wrote in a text message. Concerned about possible criminal charges, he urged friends to develop a false story: “Get your stories straight,” he said, suggesting they say the victim swung first.
When he was arrested several weeks later, he turned to a detective and said: “All this for one Jew?”
Let’s compare these incidents with the one CAIR chose to condemn. An Asian man and woman were walking down the street in Queens when three strangers in an SUV started making anti-Asian slurs, then got out of the vehicle and started kicking and punching them. The beating was severe enough that the couple required hospitalization.
Clearly, this was a despicable attack.
In its statement promoted by CAIR’s national office, CAIR-New York executive director Afaf Nasher also noted “the disturbing rise in anti-Asian bigotry nationwide.”
“All Americans, regardless of their background,” he said, “must be able to walk down the street without fear of a racist attack.”
This is true. Correspondingly, there has been a disturbing rise in antisemitic bigotry in New York City and nationwide. A Times of Israel analysis of NYPD data found an anti-Jewish attack every 33 hours in New York. Masoud presents a clear example of the danger such blind hate about Jews and the Jewish state can pose.
But CAIR cannot bring itself to acknowledge, let alone condemn him. This is an organization with a decades-long record of antisemitism, including co-founder and executive director Nihad Awad’s repeated insinuations that Jews are “pushing the United States” to advance policies “at the expense of American interests.”
In 2014, as ISIS rampaged and Hamas terrorism instigated war in Gaza, Awad called Israel “the biggest threat to world peace and security.” Awad also believes Tel Aviv is “occupied” territory. His San Francisco director Zahra Billoo believes pro-Israel Jews are out to hurt Muslims and should be shunned entirely. CAIR stands behind her.
CAIR claims it merely criticizes Israeli policy as if the question of whether a country should exist is a policy up for debate.
Was Masoud merely criticizing Zionists? His “veil of ‘anti-Zionism’ is pathetically thin in this case,” prosecutors wrote. “As an initial matter, the defendant is not an equal opportunity anti-Zionist. He did not attack ‘evangelical Christians … who identify with the State of Israel’ … Instead, he repeatedly attacked Jewish men.”
In October, CAIR condemned antisemitic material left outside homes in Wyoming.
“Those targeting the Jewish community with antisemitic hate must be repudiated by all Americans,” said CAIR national spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. “The mainstreaming of bigotry in any form must never be tolerated or excused.”
But CAIR mainstreams antisemitism when it stands by frothing haters like Billoo, and when it cannot muster the nerve to condemn an ideological ally like Sadaah Masoud. Antisemitism can’t be viewed conditionally. If you can’t even bring yourself to condemn premeditated beatings of random Jews, you can’t expect to be believed when say you oppose antisemitism by condemning leaflets.
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.
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