“Fake news is cheap to produce,” Toomas Hendrik Ilves once observed, but “genuine journalism is expensive.” The former Estonian prime minister’s observation is only partially true, however.
In 2013, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos acquired The Washington Post for $250 million — and despite lagging numbers in 2021, the newspaper’s value has reportedly only increased since then. The Post employs hundreds of journalists, editors, and “fact checkers,” and is one of the few American newspapers to continue to have foreign bureaus. In sum: the paper’s resources are considerable, particularly when compared to many of its competitors. But the Post’s reporting still comes up short.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) bills itself as a civil rights organization representing Muslims. In fact, however, the organization rarely promotes civil rights for others, and it has a long history of antisemitism. Several of its employees and lay leaders have been linked to terrorism. And yet, The Washington Post has seen fit to provide PR for the group.
A January 12, 2022, article by Post religion correspondent Michelle Boorstein and reporter Hannah Allam was more stenography than genuine journalism. The dispatch was ostensibly about “moles” inside of CAIR, but it treated claims by the organization uncritically.
The newspaper called CAIR “the nation’s biggest Muslim civil rights group,” but failed to note CAIR’s troubling history — which is a matter of public record.
As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) noted in a June 2019 Jerusalem Post op-ed, CAIR has had no fewer than five former lay leaders or staffers who have been arrested, convicted, and/or deported for terrorism related charges.
Indeed, CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing case in US history. This latter charge comes not from CAMERA or the myriad of nonprofits, many Jewish, that CAIR has slandered as “Islamophobic.” Rather, it comes from the FBI itself.
In an April 28, 2009, letter, the FBI said:
CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in the United States v. Holy Land Foundation et all…During that trial, evidence was introduced that demonstrated a relationship among CAIR, individual CAIR founders (including its current President Emeritus and Executive Director) and the Palestine Committee. Evidence was also introduced that demonstrated a relationship between the Palestine Committee and Hamas, which was designated as a terrorist organization in 1995. In light of that evidence, the FBI suspended ties between [itself] and CAIR.
The FBI subsequently restricted its field offices’ “non-investigative interactions with CAIR,” according to a September 2013 US Department of Justice Inspector-General report that was issued under the Obama administration.
As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has observed, CAIR’s name remains on the list of unindicted coconspirators for the Holy Land Foundation trial
Further, CAIR itself has often been a purveyor of hate.
In a March 1998 article in the Georgetown Voice, CAIR’s longtime leader, Nihad Awad, claimed that US foreign policy was “driven in part by the Jewish origin of many Clinton administration officials.”
In March 1994 comments at Barry University in Florida, Awad said “after I researched the situation inside Palestine and outside, I am in support of the Hamas movement more than the PLO.” Awad has previously characterized Hamas and Hezbollah, both Islamist terrorist groups that seek Israel’s destruction, as merely “resistance movements.”
In July 2014, Awad claimed that the “Israel lobby has corrupted American politicians by skewing US foreign policy to support killing of civilian population in #Gaza….”
Indeed, the ADL’s website address chronicling — with sources — CAIR’s history of antisemitism and inflammatory statements encompasses multiple pages.
CAIR also lacks credibility for other reasons.
In 2016, a US Court of Appeals ruling suggested that CAIR should be tried for fraud. The organization was accused of defrauding hundreds of people, many Muslims, who had relied on the group for legal aid. In 2019, after two adverse legal decisions, CAIR settled with several of the plaintiffs.
More recently, in January 2022, CAIR dropped a lawsuit against one of its former employees, Lori Saroya, who had accused the organization of “rampant sexual harassment and discrimination.”
Yet, none of this history is mentioned in the Post’s CAIR puff piece. Nor can Post reporter Michelle Boorstein plead ignorance. The Post correspondent has written numerous pieces on CAIR throughout the years — nearly all of which have failed to disclose the group’s sordid history.
Further, CAMERA has, on several occasions, sent proof, including documents from the FBI to the Post, with Boorstein either the direct recipient or cc’d. It’s hard not to reach the conclusion that, when it comes to CAIR at least, the Post’s religion correspondent is not reporting in good faith.
The Post’s inability to report honestly and forthrightly about CAIR is costly.
On January 15, 2022 — less than three days after the Post’s report on CAIR appeared — a British Pakistani man named Malik Faisal Akram took members of Congregation Beth Israel synagogue hostage in Colleyville, Texas. Akram demanded the release of Aaifa Siddiqui, a woman who had been convicted by US courts for trying to murder US soldiers. Siddiqui, who was married to the nephew of the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was so antisemitic that she insisted that no Jews serve on her jury “if they have a Zionist or Israeli background.” She also requested that the jurors be subject to a DNA test to prove that they didn’t have Jewish ancestry.
Akram was killed by members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), and the hostages managed to escape. Yet, as the Post noted in a subsequent, January 16, 2022 report — entitled “Who is ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’” — efforts to free Siddiqui “has long been a cause celebre in Islamist militant circles.” These circles, the Post pointed out, include US-designated terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
But it also includes CAIR.
As Hen Mazzig noted in Newsweek, CAIR’s Dallas-Fort Worth chapter had campaigned for Siddiqui’s release, labeling her conviction “one of the greatest examples of injustice in US history.” Other CAIR officials made similar claims. And the executive director of CAIR’s San Francisco office, Zahra Billoo, told the annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine to monitor even “polite Zionists,” including the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federation chapters, Hillel and “Zionist synagogues.” “They are not your friends,” Billoo added. The CAIR employee then referred to Jewish houses of faith as “enemies” of the Muslim community.
CAIR, Mazzig pointed out, has stood by Billoo. And, if its history is any indication, The Washington Post seems likely to stand by CAIR, breathlessly repeating its claims and ignoring its troubling history, while simultaneously labeling CAIR’s critics as “anti-Muslim hate groups.”
Fake news is easy to produce. But it is also costly, as recent events illustrate.
(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an op-ed in the Algemeiner on Jan. 24, 2022)