On 27 July 2022, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged council members of Montgomery County (Maryland) to oppose adopting a definition of antisemitism that would encompass delegitimization efforts against Israel, citing the potential dangers of restrictions on free expression. According to a statement on the CAIR website:
The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on members of the Montgomery County Council to oppose a county resolution to formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) definition and examples of antisemitism, expressing concerns about the potential implications of this framing on free speech and criticism of Israel.
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In the statement, CAIR-Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry alleged that “activists are often labeled, smeared and doxed for rightfully protesting Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land and crimes against humanity.” In an additional statement dating 1 August 2022, CAIR urged council members to instead adopt an alternative definition of anti-Semitism allowing for broader criticism of Israel and exonerating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions or BDS movement, which seeks to economically and socially pressure Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism includes targeting the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity, but explains that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” In June 2017, the definition was adopted for use in European Union member states through a resolution by the European Parliament seeking to support judicial and law enforcement authorities to identify and prosecute anti-Semitic attacks.
In May 2021, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that the Georgia chapter of CAIR had welcomed what it called a “major victory” in a lawsuit against an Israel boycott law in Georgia after a federal district court ruled forbidding boycotts of Israel was a violation of the First Amendment. In March 2022, the GIOR reported that CAIR had issued a statement condemning the implementation of two Iowa state laws codifying a definition of antisemitism and restricting state business with companies that boycott Israel.
CAIR describes itself as “a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group and as “America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group.” It was founded in 1994 by three officers of the Islamic Association of Palestine, part of the US Hamas infrastructure at that time. Documents discovered during the terrorism trial of the Holy Land Foundation confirmed that the founders and current leaders of CAIR were part of the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood and that CAIR itself is part of the US Muslim Brotherhood. The organization is led by Nihad Awad, its longstanding Executive Director and one of the three founders. Recently, CAIR has been generally portrayed in the media as a Muslim civil rights group. In 2008, the then Deputy leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood acknowledged a relationship between the Egyptian Brotherhood and CAIR. In 2009, a US federal judge ruled, “the Government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with HLF, the Islamic Association for Palestine (“IAP”), and with Hamas.” CAIR and its leaders have had a long history of defending individuals accused of terrorism by the US government, often labeling such prosecutions a “war on Islam,” and have also been associated with Islamic fundamentalism and antisemitism.
For more on CAIR, go here.