State of Anxiety

Office of State Department envoy appears to distance itself from radical, anti-Israel rhetoric of CAP scholar

• February 29, 2012 2:49 pm


The State Department’s anti-Semitism envoy, Hannah Rosenthal, highlighted in an official Department communication last October a provocative Center for American Progress report on Islamophobia coauthored by a radical critic of Israel. Informed of the author’s extremist views, Rosenthal’s office appeared to distance itself from the controversial report.

The WFB first reported that Wajahat Ali, the coauthor of the report, has ties to a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organization and is the host of a website known for trafficking in radical, anti-Israel propaganda.

Presented with this information early Wednesday, Adela Levis, a spokesperson for Rosenthal, said, "While they [CAP] do some good research, we are in no way involved with the organization, nor do we endorse the blogger."

Levis added: "We meet with them from time to time the same way we meet with various other organizations."

In a newsletter released late last year, and accessible via the State Department’s website, Rosenthal touted CAP’s controversial Islamophobia report, which has been the subject of heated criticism. The report argues that a small faction of well-funded right-wing activists is responsible for perpetuating pernicious stereotypes about American Muslims.

In the letter, Rosenthal detailed her meeting last year with Faiz Shakir, CAP’s vice president and editor of its ThinkProgress blog, and Sally Steenland, the think-tank’s faith and progressive policy director.

"We discussed the need to combat all forms of intolerance around the world, including religious, racial, and gender prejudices," Rosenthal reports in the newsletter, which included a link to the report. "We also talked about efforts at interfaith coalition building in the United States and Europe."

Rosenthal went on to say, "We would like to collaborate with the [CAP] to promote tolerance initiatives such as the 2011 Hours Against Hate and expand their efforts into Europe." Only weeks later, CAP became mired in its own controversy as allegations of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric by CAP staffers, including the slur "Israel firster," surfaced in multiple newspapers.

Ali, the report’s author, is on record promoting the use of the term "Israel firster" and has argued that U.S. support for Israel drives terrorists to attack America.

Ali was a prominent defender of the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity that was convicted by the FBI on charges that it provided material support to the terror group Hamas.

Rosenthal herself has come under fire for her ties to the liberal group J Street and has argued that the pro-Israel community has been taken over by those who hold "narrow, ultra-conservative views of what it means to be pro-Israel."

Jeffrey Goldberg, a prominent voice in the pro-Israel community, has characterized Rosenthal’s views as "myopic."