It appears the St. Petersburg Times is channeling the New York Times. In an article titled, "With CAIR, compromise complicated," reporter Susan Taylor Martin puts forth a "balanced" report, countering points made by CAIR's "pro-Israel" critics (as all of CAIR's critics are, don't you know?) with an equal number of points made by "friends" of CAIR, and leaving it to the reader to decide whether or not CAIR is an organization that, in the words of one of CAIR's defenders quoted by Martin, "could be worked with."
In the process, Martin omits damning and easily verifiable information about CAIR, while allowing CAIR Florida spokesman Ahmed Bedier an unchecked platform to spew his propaganda – more on that later.
Halfway through the article, Martin concedes:
Much of the controversy over CAIR stems from its roots in the Palestinian struggle against Israel. The Washington-based council was founded in 1994 by leaders of the Islamic Association of Palestine; a now-defunct U.S. organization accused of supporting Hamas, but never designated a terrorist group itself.
But she does no independent reporting to demonstrate that the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) is not merely "accused" of supporting Hamas. It has, in fact, lost a $156 million civil judgment in a case against Hamas-front groups in the United States. Nor does Martin allude to the copious amounts of documentary evidence released in the Hamas-fundraising case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), stating unequivocally that CAIR was part of the Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood network in the US. The jury is currently deliberating the HLF defendants' fate. But the documents speak for themselves.
Page four of Government Exhibit 3-3, for example, titled "Work paper #1: A historical outline and main issues," written in October of 1991, discusses how and why IAP came into being, and its ties to other well known Hamas-front groups including the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) and the Occupied Land Fund, the precursor to HLF. This document directly ties IAP to Hamas, in the own words of the Muslim Brotherhood:
In 1981, the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) founded the Islamic Association for Palestine to serve the cause of Palestine on the political and media fronts. The Association has absorbed most of the Ikhwan's Palestinian energy at the leadership and grassroots levels in addition to some of the brothers from other countries … The Association's work has developed a great deal since its inception, particularly with the formation of the Palestine Committee, the beginning of the Intifada at the end of 1987 and the proclamation of the Hamas movement. The Association has organizations affiliated with it such as (The United Association for Studies & Research, The Occupied Land Fund, and The Media Office), dedicated main personnel, several periodicals, research, studies and field branches in all the regions.
For example, it is listed among members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Palestine Committee in a 1994 agenda (page 6). And two CAIR founders, including executive director Nihad Awad, attended a secret 1993 gathering of Hamas members and supporters to discuss ways to "derail" the Oslo peace accord. Has anyone asked CAIR to respond to this disclosure? If Martin did, she didn't tell her readers.
Rather, she gives space for CAIR board member Ihsan Bagby to engage in a subtle variation of CAIR's main "CAIR = Islam" theme, namely that "Hamas = Palestinians:"
Most Muslims support the Palestinian cause, making it hard for CAIR to be detached, says Ihsan Bagby, a CAIR board member and University of Kentucky professor.
"CAIR tries to stay out of international issues, but they are dragged into it partly because the American Muslim community wants their voice to be heard on this issue because it is so important," Bagby says.
Bagby's response fails to address whether CAIR's origins in Hamas are an issue at all, and Martin lets him get away with it.
Additionally, she allows him a laughable line about CAIR supposedly staying out of "international issues," shifting blame on the American Muslim community for their any of their forays into international relations. As anyone who has followed CAIR for any length of time knows, the opposite is true, and it is CAIR dragging the American Muslim community down its maximalist, pro-Hamas path.
CAIR denounced the 1995 arrest and detention of IAP founder and Hamas deputy political director Mousa Abu Marzook by federal authorities on an Israeli murder warrant. Awad called it "politically motivated … [and] orchestrated to serve as a wedge between America and Islamic countries." CAIR also signed an open letter to then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher complaining that "our judicial system has been kidnapped by Israeli interests."
And, though he'd like you to forget, Awad publicly endorsed Hamas in 1994.
Now, if a politician tried to rationalize his way out of an embarrassment by blaming others or changing the subject, would a reporter challenge the response with evidence to the contrary? Hopefully. The same standard should apply to a political lobbying group even if it has a religion in its name.
Back to CAIR Florida's Ahmed Bedier: Martin, after telling her readers that CAIR Florida's "main job is helping Muslims who feel they've been victims of hate crimes or discrimination," and finding a Christian minister to tell us that he's "found (Bedier's) words always directed toward peace and reconciliation among peoples," we learn that, on a recent radio show, "Bedier insisted that Arab armies did not invade Israel after it declared independence in 1948." Comments clearly directed towards peace and reconciliation. In defending his remarks, Martin tells us that Bedier feels, "the real issue, he says, is that some critics will never accept CAIR unless ‘we put Israel first and we're not willing to do that.'"
How about expecting Bedier to put the truth first? No one would ever expect CAIR to "put Israel first," however, not falsifying history would be good start. Sadly, since its inception, CAIR has continuously put Hamas first.
Martin does, however, catch Bedier in an unintentionally ironic moment. After two Florida Muslims were caught in South Carolina driving a van with explosives, and carrying a laptop with videos relating to bomb making and martyrdom, Bedier, as he had done for Sami Al-Arian, became the duo's chief spokesperson, calling the two "really naive kids" who only had "fireworks," labeling them "victims," and blaming their arrest, naturally, on their ethnicity and religion, saying, "had they been two white kids, nobody would be asking those questions."
Martin reports that with respect to this case, Bedier has said, "Evidence doesn't lie … Evidence will also lead to the truth." True enough and the two have been indicted on terrorism charges. Meanwhile, the evidence against CAIR is mounting, which might help to explain the media blitz on the group's behalf. Earlier this year, it was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF case, and prosecutors in the trial officially stated that CAIR "is affiliated with Hamas." CAIR has moved to have its name removed from the list of unindicted co-conspirators, and the judge is expected to rule on the matter in the near future.
Also, on the subject of CAIR's foreign and Saudi-funding, which CAIR had long denied until it became ridiculous to do so, Martin defends some of it as coming from the Saudi government-run Islamic Development Bank. She helpfully explains that "the main purpose of the bank … is to finance roads, dams, hospitals and other projects throughout the world." Far from troubling, Martin reports:
Communications director Ibrahim Hooper says CAIR was referring to terrorist groups and state sponsors of terrorism, not individuals and banks.
"It's just a plain statement that we're not a government-supported entity," he says. "There's nothing nefarious about it."
CAIR has also received financing from the Saudi government-run World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), an organization tied to global terrorism and vicious bouts of anti-Semitism.
But CAIR is on record as unequivocally stating, in the days after 9/11, CAIR stated, "[w]e do not support directly or indirectly, or receive support from, any overseas group or government" – a statement which was as patently false when made as it today, but part of a pattern of prevarication and deception, which should call all of its funding – and motives – into question, for any skeptical reporter.
In yet another attempt to paint CAIR in a very positive light, whitewashing its extremist record, Martin writes, "(CAIR) has also spoken against anti-Semitism including Iran's Holocaust denial conference." Yet she makes no effort to research CAIR's long, documented history of anti-Semitic rhetoric.
To name but one example, on February 24, 1998, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad spoke at an event sponsored by the Muslim Students Association at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. An article in the Georgetown Voice titled, "Muslim group sponsors controversial speaker; Jews Control U.S. Policy, Awad Says," quoted Awad as saying, "U.S. policy is driven in part by the Jewish origin of many Clinton administration officials." Awad continued:
Now, of Clinton's advisors, who is now, who of his advisors, who…who is opposing the latest agreement with Iraq? Look at their names. Look at their ethnic, their ethnic or religious or racial background. You will see that these are the same groups that belong to the same interest groups in the Administration. These are the same people who are pushing the United States to go to war on behalf of a third party, and they are the same people who are opposing the peace process…
An ironic statement given Awad's presence at the meeting five years earlier of Hamas activists and supporters in Philadelphia designed to thwart the Oslo Accords.
Martin's failed attempt at "balance" renders a potentially important article virtually meaningless, only countering CAIR's outrageous statements and actions with testimonials offered up by critics she describes as "pro-Israel," in an effort to downplay the weight of such claims as tinged with bias. All the while, Martin ignores copious, documentary evidence, doing her readers a major disservice, and joining the all too many other elements in the mainstream media and government, which, despite hard evidence linking the group to Hamas, continue to give CAIR a virtual free pass.