Biden Tapped This Group to Fight Anti-Semitism. It’s Defending Hamas’s Attack on Israel.

Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Nihad Awad called on the White House to condemn Israel

Nihad Awad (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
October 11, 2023

The Biden administration earlier this year tapped the Council on American-Islamic Relations for an initiative to curb anti-Semitism. This week, the anti-Semitic group and its leaders defended Hamas attacks that have killed more than 1,000 Jews.

The White House announced in May that the Council on American-Islamic Relations would take part in its "National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism." As part of the initiative, CAIR launched a nationwide tour "to educate religious minority communities" on how to "protect their houses of worship from hate incidents." At the time, critics slammed the White House for partnering with CAIR, which has a history of anti-Semitism and was linked to Hamas in a federal terrorism case in 2007.

Now, CAIR is condoning the largest attack in Israel’s history, raising further questions about the administration’s affiliation with the controversial group. Hamas fighters invaded the Jewish state in a surprise attack over the weekend, killing hundreds of civilians and taking dozens of women and children hostage. The terrorist group said it will televise executions of hostages if certain demands are not met.

CAIR cast blame for the attack squarely on Israel. On Monday, the group urged lawmakers to "address the root causes of Mideast violence," which it attributed to the "Israeli government’s apartheid policies."

Nihad Awad, the executive director of CAIR, referred to Israel as a "settler colonial Apartheid state" in the wake of the attacks, and decried the placement of the Israeli flag on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Awad wrote on social media that "Israel=Russia," and called on President Joe Biden to condemn Israel, but not the Hamas attackers. "You must condemn the occupier not the occupied," Awad wrote.

It’s the latest example of the Biden administration courting anti-Israel groups. President Biden recently designated Qatar a non-NATO ally, boosting diplomatic ties with the oil-rich Gulf nation. But Qatari leaders condemned Israel after the Hamas attack, and claimed Israel was "solely responsible" for the violence.

The State Department has awarded several grants this year to pro-Hamas and anti-Israel organizations in Gaza and the West Bank. On Sept. 29, the agency gave $100,000 to Al-Quds Open University, a Ramallah-based school that praised the Hamas attackers as "righteous martyrs."

CAIR’s anti-Israel views have been known for years. In 2007, CAIR leaders were linked to Hamas at a federal trial for the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas-based Islamic charity. A founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter was sentenced to 65 years in prison in the case.

Zaira Billoo, the executive director of CAIR’s San Francisco chapter, has labeled mainstream Jewish groups as "enemies" and defended Hamas’s firing of rockets into Israel. In 2015, she asked: "When was the last time Hamas instituted a siege against a people?"

In 2021, CAIR lobbyist Robert McCaw announced that the group would boycott a White House event because of "the Biden administration’s increasing and disappointingly disturbing response to the Israeli government’s human rights abuses against Palestinians." The White House has since hosted McCaw at four events, including at a May 2 "listening session" regarding Islamophobia.

Awad, the CAIR executive director, has been a vocal critic of Israel for decades and has praised Islamic clerics who call for violence against Israel. Last month, he praised Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who has called for another Holocaust against Jews, and for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq. Awad praised al-Qaradawi as "the one who stood up to the oppressors, and who didn't beg them."

The White House and CAIR did not respond to requests for comment.