FLASHBACK: Dozens of Dems Wrote Letters of Support to Anti-Israel Group That's Now Defending Hamas

Council on American-Islamic Relations attributed terror attack to Israel's 'apartheid policies'

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) speaks to CAIR at a Los Angeles fundraiser in 2019
October 11, 2023

Dozens of Democratic members of Congress in 2019 privately issued letters of support to an anti-Israel advocacy group that is now blaming the Jewish state for the Hamas terror attacks that killed more than 1,000 Israelis.

After Hamas on Saturday began its terrorist assault on Israel—which included the execution of women and children—the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) blamed the barbaric attacks on the Jewish state, urging lawmakers in a Monday statement to address the "Israeli government's apartheid policies" and other "root causes of Mideast violence." The response comes roughly four years after prominent House and Senate Democrats wrote supportive letters to the anti-Israel group ahead of its 2019 gala in Washington, D.C. CAIR used the messages to tout its support among congressional leaders, the Washington Free Beacon reported at the time.

Congressional Democrats' widespread support for CAIR reflects the left's willingness for years to align with anti-Israel and far-left groups, which are now excusing and even praising Hamas's terrorism. The Biden administration in May tapped CAIR to take part in its "National Strategy to Combat Anti-Semitism," an initiative that saw CAIR launch a nationwide tour to "educate religious minority communities." A Black Lives Matter group that represents 26 local chapters across the country, meanwhile, on Monday expressed its support for Hamas, saying the terror group's atrocities were "a desperate act of self-defense."

Democrats who lent their support for CAIR ahead of the group's 2019 conference include Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), as well as Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Jahana Hayes (Conn.), Kim Schrier (Wash.), and Susie Lee (Nev.), materials obtained by the Free Beacon show.

Hayes told the Free Beacon she condemns the "violent terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel" and did not answer questions on her support for CAIR. Brown told the Free Beacon he condemns "in the strongest possible terms CAIR's anti-Semitic statements—and anyone who tries to make excuses for Hamas's murder of innocent civilians." None of the other lawmakers returned requests for comment.

CAIR has a long history of anti-Semitism. Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the group's San Francisco chapter, in 2021 described Jewish groups and synagogues as "enemies" that are "working to harm you." In 2014, Billoo said, "Blaming Hamas for firing rockets at Apartheid Israel is like blaming a woman for punching her rapist."

CAIR has also been linked to Hamas itself. In a 2007 federal trial, evidence showed that a founding member of the group's Dallas chapter provided support to the terrorist group.

Warren in her 2019 letter supporting CAIR nonetheless celebrated the group for "25 years of civic engagement and dedicated service to American Muslims." Klobuchar struck a similar tone in her letter, writing that CAIR "on this milestone anniversary" has "much to look back on and be proud of."

"We have many fights ahead, and for 25 years, CAIR hasn't backed down," Warren wrote at the time. "I'm glad to count on CAIR as a strong partner in these fights."

The Biden administration's decision to elevate CAIR as a partner in its "National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism" prompted pushback, with Jewish magazine Tablet saying criticism of the group does not just come from "right-wingers or conservative partisans who are suspicious of CAIR's agenda."

"To put it nicely, CAIR's record on Jewish matters has been a source of controversy and tension," staff writer Armin Rosen wrote.