Issues

NBC Foreign Correspondent to Address Leading Anti-Israel Group

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has been accused of harboring an anti-Israel bias

Ayman Mohyeldin
Ayman Mohyeldin / AP

An NBC News foreign correspondent is facing criticism for agreeing to be the keynote speaker this Friday at a conference hosted by a group known for its fierce criticism of Israel and affiliation with leading anti-Israel commentators.

NBC News foreign correspondent and MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin is scheduled to be the keynote speaker Friday evening at a dinner hosted by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which for years has been accused of harboring an anti-Israel bias and of celebrating the Jewish state’s most vociferous critics.

Mohyeldin’s scheduled presence at the conference has sparked criticism from leading pro-Israel organizations and supporters. It is inappropriate, they argue, for a supposedly non-biased newsman to lend his support to an organization with a clear political agenda.

President Barack Obama and several of his senior advisers received similar criticism in 2012, when they filmed messages of support for the ADC and attended its annual conference in Washington, D.C.

As in past years, this year’s ADC conference will feature speakers who routinely condemn Israel and advocate boycotts aimed at harming the Jewish state’s economy and standing in the world.

Mohyeldin, a former Al Jazeera English correspondent, has come under fire from the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA) for singling out Israel during a broadcast earlier this year about the murder by terrorists of four French Jews in a kosher supermarket.

Asked about a rise in immigration to Israel due to worldwide anti-Semitism, Mohyeldin responded:

The issue of immigration to Israel always is a sensitive one here. The Israeli government says every Jew around the world is allowed and welcome to Israel, their ancestral homeland as they call it. But at the same time denies similar rights obviously to Palestinians born within Israel. And it is always seen from that perspective in this context.

The reporter in 2011, when working for Al Jazeera, compared "the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics to the Christian Democrat Parties of Europe."

Eric Rozenman, CAMERA’s Washington director and a former reporter, criticized Mohyeldin for choosing to appear at the ADC’s confab.

"As for Mohyeldin's speech to ADC, will he receive an honorarium?" Rozenman asked. "Will he receive an award of some kind? If so, would either violate NBC guidelines on conflict of interest? Has he spoken to any pro-Israel groups? If not, does this speech create at least the appearance of a conflict of interest [or a] lack of partiality? What does he plan to say?"

Rozenman explained that when he was a reporter, this type of public appearance would have been unacceptable.

"I was a Scripps-Howard reporter once, in the pre-digital era, and where we could appear, let alone what we could receive, was pretty circumscribed as I remember," he said. "Basically, in non-partisan or news settings (local public affairs shows) or talks to the Rotary Club, etc. free meals, that was about it."

An MSNBC spokeswoman declined to comment on Mohyeldin's speech.

"Perhaps his bosses at NBC News would be pleased if the ADC presents him with the ‘courage' award the gave Helen Thomas when she told Israeli Jews they should ‘go back to Europe where they came from' or if he shares the stage with a fellow ADC speaker praising Hezbollah," said Josh Block, president and CEO of the Israel Project. "Otherwise, how can one explain their approving his speech to an anti-Israel group with a long history of events that praise terrorism."

This year’s ADC conference, which begins on Thursday, will feature panels on Israel’s "occupation" and purported suppression of Palestinian rights.

ADC conference attendees will gather on Sunday for a session on "Non-Violent Tactics to End the Israeli Occupation and Protect Palestinian Human Rights."

The panel will feature Ramah Kudaimi, an official with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which has been described by organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as one of the top 10 anti-Israel organizations in the country.

"The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a coalition of anti-Israel groups that promotes divestment from Israeli companies, organizes anti-Israel events and lobbies the U.S. Congress to end American support for Israel as long as it occupies the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem," according to the ADL.

The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has emerged in recent years as one of the most prominent anti-Israel organizations in the country. Its supporters routinely describe Israel as an apartheid state and have dubbed pro-Israel advocates "Israel-firsters," a charge of dual loyalty deemed as anti-Semitic by many.

The ADC also will hold on Sunday a "Palestine Luncheon" that is to feature Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) representative Maen Rashid Areikat, who has advocated transferring all Jews out of a future state of Palestine.

Pro-Israel advocates have often expressed concern about the ADC’s affiliates.

They condemned the organization in 2010 when it held a gala to present a "courage" award to the late Helen Thomas, a veteran journalist who had been accused of anti-Semitism.

The award—named after noted anti-Semite Mohammad T. Mehdi—was given to Thomas after she said on camera that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine." She later said in an interview with Playboy magazine that Jewish people "own the White House."

The ADC has also received attention for sponsoring anti-Israel rallies across the United States. At one 2006 event in Washington, D.C., a speaker claimed: "From this podium I salute Hezbollah."

In past years at its conference, the ADC awarded attorney Abdeen Jabara, who is known for publishing the 2008 essay, "Zionism is a Form of Racism."

The group also liaises with the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a controversial Muslim advocacy group that was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal legal case focusing on organizations that have funneled money to the terror group Hamas.