Khashoggi Legacy Group Wants To Ban Lawmakers From Meeting With 'Abusive' Foreign Lobbyists. Its Advocacy Director Is Accused of Abusing His Wife and Was Fired for Sexual Misconduct.

Democracy for the Arab World Now advocacy director Raed Jarrar in letter acknowledged he 'pushed, slapped, choked, and hit' ex-wife

DAWN advocacy director Raed Jarrar (Twitter)
March 29, 2024

A human rights group working to block lawmakers from meeting with "abusive" foreign lobbyists employs a senior lobbyist who admitted to physically abusing his wife and was fired from a previous job for sexual misconduct.

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) advocacy director Raed Jarrar acknowledged that he "pushed, slapped, choked, and hit" his ex-wife, anti-war activist Alli McCracken, in a 2022 letter reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.

While Jarrar now denies that he abused McCracken, and claims the letter was coerced, the history of misconduct allegations against him from women could raise questions for DAWN, a human rights group founded by slain Saudi dissident and Washington Post opinion contributor Jamal Khashoggi. DAWN's executive director is Sarah Leah Whitson, a vocal critic of Israel who once lamented that the Jewish state was not experiencing enough suffering during the COVID pandemic.

The organization is known for its campaign to stop members of Congress from meeting with U.S. lobbyists who work for "abusive, unrepresentative, and unaccountable" foreign clients. DAWN’s "Lobbyist Hall of Shame" specifically singles out lobbyists for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israeli companies.

DAWN also holds itself up as an advocate for "women's rights and equality" in the Middle East, protesting "discrimination against women, exploitation of women migrant workers, sex trafficking and sexual slavery."

The latest abuse allegations against Jarrar are detailed in a $1 million defamation suit that he filed in 2023 against his ex-wife McCracken last June.

Jarrar—who was fired from Amnesty International in 2018 for allegedly sexually harassing a female employee in an unrelated case—claims McCracken and several of her friends are trying to "cancel" him by falsely depicting him as a "chronic abuser." McCracken counters that she has evidence of the abuse, including a letter in which Jarrar admitted to physically assaulting her.

Jarrar, a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, was barred from entering Israel due to his involvement in the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement in 2018. As DAWN’s advocacy director, he has worked with lawmakers such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) on human rights legislation.

In court filings, McCracken and her co-defendants, activists Emily Siegel and Gabriella Haddad, expressed "concern about Jarrar’s ongoing leadership in their community of advocates fighting for human rights." They said Jarrar’s defamation suit was an attempt to "stifle their speech and make them pay dearly for it."

McCracken declined to comment for this story. Jarrar did not respond to a request for comment.

DAWN did not respond to a request for comment.

Jarrar and McCracken, a former Code Pink activist who now works at Amnesty International, wed in 2018. Their nuptials were profiled by the New York Times under the headline: "Love, Not War, Resonates for Two Activists."

"For two people immersed in social justice and antiwar work, where everything seems to happen at a glacial pace, love came in an instant," wrote the Times, adding that the two met at a social justice conference.

But the marriage fell apart four years later, when McCracken said Jarrar became physically abusive.

On June 2, 2022, McCracken texted her sister a photograph of bruises on her arm, which she said were inflicted by Jarrar.

"He beat me up … Tell dad," wrote McCracken, according to messages submitted in the court case.

She filed for divorce soon after. A few months later, Jarrar sent McCracken an apology letter describing the alleged abuse.

"I am deeply sorry about the physical abuse that I inflicted on you meanwhile in April and May," wrote Jarrar. "I look at my hands and think about how I pushed, slapped, choked, and hit you. There is no excuse for what I did."

He added that he was "not only … remorseful for the physical violence, but I also realize the verbal violence was horrendous."

Jarrar’s apologetic tone was short-lived. After McCracken posted on X, formerly Twitter, that Jarrar "violently abused" her "multiple times," Jarrar denied the charge and claimed he was coerced into writing the apology letter.

Last June, Jarrar sued his ex-wife and two of her friends, anti-war activists Siegel and Haddad, claiming that they "engaged in a campaign designed to embarrass and humiliate [Jarrar], injure his relationship with his minor children, and effectively ‘cancel’ him."

He said McCracken had sent "several male friends to intimidate the plaintiff into executing an ‘apology letter,’ the terms of which were entirely dictated by defendant McCracken."

Jarrar’s complaint aims to paint McCracken, not him, as the instigator of her own injuries. He claimed she "encouraged" him to "leave bruises" on her during sexual encounters.

McCracken, Siegel, and Haddad have hired First Amendment lawyer Greg Lipper, and set up a fundraising campaign to finance their legal defense. Lipper did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s not the first time Jarrar has taken legal action to combat what he claims are false accusations by women. It also isn’t the first time he’s accused women of provoking his behavior.

In 2018, Amnesty International fired Jarrar following complaints that he had sexually harassed a young female colleague during a work retreat. The woman said she attended an after-party with Jarrar where he "tried to kiss her," "pushed [her] against the door with his body" and told her they "could fuck" in a hotel room. The alleged victim, who rebuffed his advances, described him as "odd" and an "older man" with a "round, hard stomach."

Witnesses said Jarrar had been acting inappropriately toward the young woman throughout the evening. Another female employee told human resources that she was "concerned that Jarrar was a ‘predator’ who ‘would not take "no" as an answer.’"

But when Jarrar was interviewed about the incident by human resources, he claimed the alleged victim "propositioned him" by telling him she was "from the ‘hood, I could fit your entire dick in my mouth." Jarrar said she "offered oral sex, which [he] declined."

Investigators didn’t find Jarrar’s version of events credible.

"Having observed both Jarrar and the [alleged victim] during the interviews, it is very difficult to imagine [the alleged victim], who is a very petite young woman in her twenties who seems to lack self-confidence, making physical advances toward Jarrar, who is in his forties, physically much larger than [her], and who seems assertive," wrote the human resources investigator.

Jarrar sued Amnesty after his termination, claiming the group retaliated against him because he objected to its "practice of employing unpaid interns." In a letter to his former Amnesty colleagues, he also argued that there were "racist and lslamophobic [sic] undertones in the accusations." The lawsuit against Amnesty ended in an undisclosed settlement in 2022.