The head of an Islamic advocacy group that the White House tapped to fight anti-Semitism praised Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israel and claimed the Jewish state does not have a right to defend itself.
Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said he "was happy to see" residents of Gaza "break the siege" on October 7. While Awad did not mention Hamas by name, his reference was to the day on which the terrorist group invaded Israel, slaughtering over 1,000 Israelis and taking hundreds more hostage.
"The people of Gaza have the right to self-defense, have the right to defend themselves," Awad said in remarks on Nov. 24 at a conference for American Muslims for Palestine, an anti-Israel activist group. "Israel, as an occupying power, does not have that right to self-defense."
Those are eye-opening remarks from the leader of a group with deep ties to the White House and Democratic Party. The White House tapped CAIR earlier this year to take part in the Biden administration's "National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism." CAIR's government relations director earlier this year visited the White House for a "listening session" on Islamophobia.
More than 120 members of Congress, mostly Democrats, in 2019 penned letters of support for CAIR, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Anti-Israel Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) submitted letters of support, as did mainstream Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.).
CAIR has blamed Israel for provoking the Hamas attack. The group urged lawmakers to "address [the] root cause of Mideast violence," which it attributed to the "Israeli government's apartheid policies."
Awad's remarks are perhaps no surprise given his and CAIR's links to Hamas. Federal prosecutors in a 2009 terrorism finance case named CAIR an "unindicted co-conspirator" of Hamas. Awad, who cofounded CAIR in 1994, previously served as an official with Islamic Association of Palestine, another group that allegedly raised money for Hamas.
CAIR and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.