Marriott Cancels Anti-Israel Group's Annual Conference

(CAIR press release, via Eventbrite)
October 20, 2023

A Marriott hotel has canceled its plans to host the Council on American-Islamic Relations's annual banquet after the Washington Free Beacon reported on the event, which would have featured an anti-Semitic speaker and rallied supporters against Israel in its war on Hamas.

The Marriott Crystal Gateway hotel in Arlington, Virginia, which has hosted CAIR's annual gathering for more than 10 years, canceled the event planned for Saturday. CAIR said the hotel told them it had received threats.

The Islamic group said it had moved the event to an undisclosed location.

"Anonymous callers have threatened to plant bombs in the hotel's parking garage, kill specific hotel staff in their homes, and storm the hotel in a repeat of the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol if the events moved forward," CAIR said Thursday night.

Marriott did not confirm specific threats.

"After careful consideration, we have determined that we are unable to move forward with an event planned for this weekend due to significant risks to the safety of event attendees, guests and associates," a spokesperson for the Crystal Gateway Marriott said in a statement.

The Free Beacon reported Tuesday on the planned event, which would have featured Linda Sarsour, who was booted from the Women's March organization in 2019 over accusations of anti-Semitism. CAIR also has ties to Hamas, the terrorist group that killed more than 1,400 Israelis in its Oct. 7 surprise attack on the Jewish state. CAIR has faced federal scrutiny for allegedly helping direct funding to Hamas.

The hotel's move comes as Justice Department authorities are monitoring an increase in reported threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities in the United States tied to Israel’s war with Hamas.

At least two pro-Israel advocacy groups urged members to call on Marriott to cancel the CAIR gathering, including the Endowment for Middle East Truth and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

"Please join ZOA in calling Marriott to demand that they cancel this dangerous CAIR event," the ZOA said in an "action alert" on Thursday.

Marriott did not comment on those calls.

CAIR said it would proceed with the banquet on Saturday at an alternate, secured location.

On Thursday, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a second advocacy group, said a Hilton hotel in Houston had abruptly canceled its booking for an annual conference on Oct. 27-29.

Texas governor Greg Abbott praised Hilton's decision, writing on social media, "Texas has no room for hate & antisemitism."

"The governor's rhetoric, and actions by the hotel echo and inflame the sharp increase in hate incidents that are targeting Arabs," the Palestinian rights group said, citing the murder of a six-year-old Muslim boy in Illinois in what police said was a bias-motivated crime.

"Given escalating security concerns in the current environment, the hotel has determined that it cannot serve as the venue for this event because of the potential risks to our Team Members and guests," Hilton Houston Post Oak by the Galleria said in a statement.

The ZOA praised both Hilton and Marriott for the decisions.

President Joe Biden called on Americans to denounce Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in an Oval Office address Thursday night. "You're all America," he said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington, Julia Harte and Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis, and Rod Nickel)