Shortly after Israel started bombing Hamas targets in Gaza, four leaders of national Muslim-American organizations gathered at the National Press Club to condemn the violence.
Their language was nuanced, with calls for an "even-handed" U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When they were specific, their criticism went in one direction. Nihad Awad, a co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and its executive director, was the most pointed:
"And we demand that our government, the U.S. government, take immediate steps to end the immoral and illegal Israeli bombardment of Gaza and its population which has already resulted in more than 300 deaths, including many women and children."
"Israel has to comply with international law. Israel has to respect the sanctity of human lives, and Israel has to respect its allies."
One word was never mentioned: Hamas.
For years, CAIR officials have refused to condemn Hamas by name or call on it to cease terror attacks in the name of peace. Now they won't even say the terror group's name.
It's not just Awad. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper was interviewed on CNN just after the news conference and was asked whether "making Hamas irrelevant in the region" would help improve life for the Palestinian people. His response made no reference to the terrorist group:
"Well what you want to do is give the Palestinians an idea that their future can be better. That their children can actually eat. Can you imagine right now, in the twenty first century, that we have a situation where there is a blockade keeping children from eating in any part of the world and America is supporting that blockade. It's outrageous, it's illegal, it's immoral and it's against international law. At a minimum we have to end the siege of the Gaza ghetto."
CAIR-Los Angeles Executive Director Hussam Ayloush issued a statement on Dec. 30 echoing his national leaders:
"We demand that our government take immediate steps to end the immoral and illegal Israeli bombardment of Gaza. We also demand the Bush administration join with the international community in seeking the end to the savage collective punishment of the people of Gaza."
Where international conflict fits in with CAIR's stated mission isn't entirely clear. The mission statement says CAIR seeks "to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding."
When it delves into international politics, it consistently sides with radical Islamists. In 1994, Awad publicly expressed his support for Hamas. Earlier that year, he called out editors at The Message, an American-Muslim publication, for simply using the term "Israel."
"I hope," he wrote, "that the use of ‘Israel' in your news briefs was the result of an oversight and not intentional...Furthermore I hope you will return to the terminology ‘Occupied Palestine' to refer to that Holy Land."
Israel assassinated two Hamas leaders in the spring of 2004 in the wake of ongoing terrorist attacks. CAIR issued statements condemning the acts and, like now, concealing the terrorist movement's role in precipitating them. Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin was mourned as a "wheelchair-bound Palestinian religious leader." Yassin's successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, was described by CAIR merely as "a political leader."
Past behavior is relevant in assessing CAIR's current stand. If the objective truly is to help the people of Gaza, demanding that Hamas cease its daily firing of missiles into Israeli cities is required. But that is not what is happening.
At this point, it bears repeating that internal Muslim Brotherhood records show Awad and his organization were part of a Brotherhood effort to help Hamas in the U.S. That's why CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas-support trial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and why FBI case agent Lara Burns testified CAIR is a front group.
Exhibits in evidence in the show the foundation served as the Hamas fundraising arm in the United States and CAIR officials often participated in fundraisers for it. In November 2008, jurors convicted the foundation and five former officials on all 108 counts against them. In a statement, CAIR dismissed the verdict as "based more on fear-mongering than on the facts."
But CAIR's statements about the Gaza conflict are straight out of the playbook designed during a secret meeting of Hamas members and supporters held in Philadelphia in the fall of 1993. The stated purpose of the meeting was to find ways to "derail" the U.S.-brokered Oslo Accords, which led to the creation of a Palestinian Authority and was considered an important step toward a peaceful, two-state solution to the conflict.
The two-dozen men assembled had two principal reasons for opposing the Accords. The new PA was dominated by their competitors -- the secular Fatah movement -- and they were concerned any success would marginalize the Islamist Hamas. And, as the Hamas Charter states, a negotiated, peaceful settlement that leaves Israel a viable state is unacceptable.
Records and FBI surveillance tapes show Awad presented a report in Philadelphia on "political, media, popular action and public relations in North America." During a 2003 deposition, Awad claimed he couldn't remember whether he attended the meeting. In his presentation, Awad refers to "Samah," the simple code name meeting participants agreed to use instead of saying "Hamas" – its inverse – out loud. He also describes how the group can get its message out through the media:
"If you hear of a false rumor, you want to discredit it, huh? If people need money we would provide media coverage. We encourage people to donate to you. If there is a political issue, a Samah's input for instance, about this or that, we inform people to contact their representatives, I mean…the [unintelligible] and others, print circulations and send them to them."
Now, fast forward to today. CAIR chapters throughout the country are urging followers to lobby members of Congress with a unilateral focus. And they are soliciting people to sign petitions, which, in classic CAIR code, note:
"all parties in the Middle East conflict have committed violence against civilians. We unequivocally condemn all of these actions."
In reality, though, they do not. No CAIR official has called on Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israeli cities and no CAIR official has criticized Hamas for placing Palestinian civilians in harm's way.
"Those who have armed and encouraged groups like Hamas - which only yesterday did not hide its sympathy for the criminal Saddam Hussein, and which declared three days of mourning after his death - have innocent blood on their hands: [the blood of those killed] in the [recent] hostilities [in Gaza]. Now it is they who must be accountable to humanity, and it is they who must explain this tragic situation."
The group criticized the Israeli invasion, too, but added "it is equally [important] to condemn the terror organizations that use kindergartens and hospitals as a shield against the [Israeli] attacks. [Hamas's use of human shields] prepares the ground for intensified bombardment [by Israel] and for the killing of children and civilians, and [therefore] it is an inhuman act."
The next day, the Iranian government shut down a newspaper which published parts of the Daftar-e Takhim-e Vahdat statement. Neither the statement nor the newspaper's closing has received much attention in the United States.
All of it casts doubt on just how committed CAIR really is to sparing Palestinian civilians from the violence. If there were no Hamas rockets being fired, there would be no Israeli invasion of Gaza. Can anyone say otherwise with a straight face?