(We’ll be examining these issues later, but it is important to remember that Hamas and Hezbollah both respectively represent significant portions of the Palestinian and Lebanese communities. Both are political bodies, in addition to being militias, that have received significant support in democratic processes. CAIR has explicitly condemned attacks on Israeli civilians, and that is all anyone should expect them to do.)
Lately, any American politician that wants to reach out to Muslims by connecting to CAIR, the largest Muslim advocacy group in the country, which largely follows the standard formula for US religious or ethnic advocacy groups, will soon find themselves under attack for being anti-Israel.
Freshman congressman Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a tough talking former Navy Vice Admiral, is getting a pounding for agreeing to speak at a local CAIR fundraiser. This report of a meeting with Sestak at a suburban Philadelphia Jewish community center makes it clear that at least some folks in the audience consider CAIR either a 5th column. On questioner seems to suggest that CAIR should be in the same category as the KKK.
Sestak is among a growing number of lawmakers to take flak over dealings with CAIR. In January, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) rescinded a letter of appreciation that she offered to the head of CAIR’s Sacramento chapter after drawing criticism. Boxer later said her office hadn’t vetted the organization thoroughly.
CAIR vigorously disputes criticisms of the organization. Legislative director Corey Saylor said his group has “gone above and beyond in terms of condemning terrorism and extremism.” In 2005, CAIR signed on in support of a fatwa condemning “religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives.”
Referring to critics, Saylor said, “These groups want to see Muslims disenfranchised.”
But at the very least, CAIR has taken positions that appear to clash with supporters of Israel. That could prove to be politically harmful to Sestak in his suburban Philadelphia district, where about 20,000 Jewish voters live. And some supporters, including one of the speakers at the fundraiser, have made statements Jewish leaders have labeled as anti-Semitic.
One of the featured speakers at the event is Muslim activist Rafael Narbaez, who has made a number of controversial comments about Israel in the past. During a July 2006 speech at a Detroit mosque, Narbaez said the Zionists have “the same racist ideology that the Nazis of Germany had.”
“To me, the notion that you can sit down with CAIR and help them, and affirm yourself as a supporter of Israel is a contradiction,” said Jonathan Tobin, executive editor of the Jewish Exponent. “Many people in this region feel the same way.”