The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) recently announced that "in an effort to foster better cooperation between Muslims and Jews," its Southern California chapter, along with several California mosques and branches of the Muslim Student Association, would sponsor a speaking tour by "the renowned Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, director of Neturei Karta."
CAIR claimed that its association with Weiss' group would improve interfaith dialogue and "focus on ways for Muslims and Jews to cooperate, in order to challenge racism, injustice and those who attempt to divide us along religious lines."
In fact, CAIR's sponsorship of the tour, which occurred last month, had nothing to do with improving dialogue or facilitating understanding -- just the opposite.
Neturei Karta is a tiny, ultra-Orthodox Jewish group that advocates the dismantling of Israel. It has justified suicide bombings and blamed the Holocaust on "Zionists."
Its rabbis have spoken publicly at an anti-Israel rally under the banner of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist organization. After Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and leader of the terrorist group Hamas, was killed in an Israeli military action, Weiss memorialized Yassin at a New York ceremony.
During its tour, the group appeared at several colleges and universities. On the UC Irvine campus, it reiterated its support for suicide bombing, suggesting that Palestinian terrorism was the moral equivalent of Israel's efforts to protect its citizens.
In effect, by sponsoring Neturei Karta, CAIR was able to advocate for the destruction of Israel without having to say so. Moreover, by using a Jewish group as its mouthpiece, CAIR sought to insulate itself against charges of anti-Semitism and posture as a broad-minded civil rights organization.
If this were true, though, if CAIR were actually interested in "foster[ing] better cooperation between Muslims and Jews," why is the only Jewish group it endorses a fringe sect denounced by virtually every Jewish organization? Why is CAIR's sole Jewish ally committed not merely to the dissolution of the Jewish state but also amenable to violence against its citizens?
Those who have followed CAIR were not surprised by its involvement with Neturei Karta. CAIR was founded by leaders of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), an anti-Semitic, Chicago-based organization that has directly coordinated its activities in the United States with the leadership Hamas, according to the FBI. IAP regularly distributed communiques from Hamas -- notices that openly called for a global jihad against Jews.
Since its founding, CAIR has refused to condemn Palestinian terrorist organizations by name. Indeed, when the Hamas militant Musa abu Marzuq was arrested, the group said, "This decision raises the concern that our judicial system has been kidnapped by Israeli interests." CAIR has called U.S. legislation and enforcement regarding terrorism "Zionist inspired."
While CAIR may be dedicated to securing liberty and justice for some Americans, its growing presence in the mainstream overshadows its continued willingness to offer a megaphone to conspiratorial Israel-bashers, like former Illinois Rep. Paul Findley, who says U.S. foreign policy "is made in Israel," and Bill Baker, former chairman of an anti-Semitic political party, who has written that "Zionist Jews" in America have "dual loyalty, first to the State of Israel."
During this period of increased tensions, it is vital that Muslim and Jewish groups work together to safeguard minority rights and to speak with one voice against terrorism, whatever its provenance. As long as CAIR supports groups like Neturei Karta and excuses terrorist attacks against Israel, it cannot be seriously counted as a member of the civil rights community.
Kevin O'Grady is associate director of the Anti-Defamation League's Orange County/Long Beach regional office. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.