(December 10, 2021, JNS Wire)
(Los Angeles, CA) — StandWithUs strongly condemns the overtly antisemitic speeches given by Zahra Billoo and Nihad Awad, two senior officials at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The speeches took place at the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) Annual Conference in Chicago on November 27, 2021. Both AMP and CAIR have a long and growing record of actions and rhetoric that meet the internationally accepted IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.
In her speech, Billoo, who is executive director of CAIR San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA), smeared the vast majority of organizations representing the American Jewish community, citing them as being part of a well-funded effort to harm Muslims in the United States and abroad. She also promoted a vicious antisemitic conspiracy theory, blaming Israelis for cases of police brutality in the U.S. Meanwhile, Awad, who is executive director of CAIR, referred to the city of Tel Aviv as “occupied” territory which will be “free” in the future – rhetoric commonly used as a thinly veiled call for the elimination of Israel.
“It is deeply unfortunate that an organization dedicated to fighting anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination would actively promote hatred and discrimination against Jews,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs. “Sadly, this is far from the first time CAIR leaders have engaged in antisemitism. It should be clear that it is impossible to fight hate with more hate. We urge the ACLU, Amnesty International, and other major partners of CAIR to either hold the organization accountable or end their partnerships. Standing idly by in the face of overt antisemitism is a moral failing.”
In her speech, Billoo said, “Islamophobia is a well-funded conspira… a well-funded project. A well-funded project to marginalize us. To imprison us, to deport us to silence us.” While warning her audience to “know your enemy” she specifically singled out major American Jewish organizations as being behind this alleged conspiracy when she said, “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 synagogue (sic), we need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses… Make no mistake of it they will sell you down the line if they could and they very often do behind your back. I mean the Zionist organizations.” Invoking the antisemitic trope connecting Jews with money, she described Jewish organizations as being “about the millions of dollars and the big organizations and the networks.”
“Billoo’s explicit language of Jewish conspiracy, which she blatantly connected to powerful money interests and behind the scenes manipulation, echoes a long history of similar bigotry against Jews. This includes the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forged document alleging a conspiracy by ‘powerful’ Jews to dominate the world. This is dangerous hate that has led to violence far too many times before,” said Rothstein.
This is not the first time CAIR’s leadership has been exposed as having fueled and enabled antisemitism. A court filing by a former CAIR board member alleges “numerous instances of antisemitism” within the organization, “including when two different CAIR chapter board chairs posted bigoted videos and articles to a CAIR nationwide forum.” Complaints about this were allegedly met with, “silence from CAIR’s top leaders. Ironically, one CAIR leader asserted that it was within the board chairs’ free speech rights to post bigoted videos and articles on the CAIR forum.”
Other CAIR leaders are also on record promoting hatred against Jews and other forms of bigotry. At an event on June 11th, 2021, the Director of Policy and Advocacy at CAIR-Los Angeles made antisemitic comments which were widely condemned by Jewish leaders. Other CAIR officials have dehumanized and slandered Israeli Jews by comparing them to ISIS and the Nazis, while calling for Israel to be “terminated.” They solicited donations from repressive regimes and dictators like Muammar Qaddafi, and praised a Turkish sultan who was responsible for the murder of as many as 300,000 Armenians. CAIR’s Executive Director Nihad Awad previously worked for an organization that was founded with money from a Hamas leader and spread antisemitic propaganda.
StandWithUs urges all organizations and leaders that partner with CAIR to hold the group accountable and respond to antisemitism the same way they would to any other form of hate.