By Ryan Mauro (@Ryan Mauro)
On Monday, President Obama prepared for his trip to the Middle East by meeting with around 10 Muslim and Arab officials that provided him with “recommendations.” The attendees included representatives from the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, two anti-Israel groups with a record of pro-Hezbollah advocacy. The meeting came four days after his meeting with Jewish leaders.
A joint press release by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), American Task Force for Palestine, American Federation of Ramallah Palestine and the Arab-American Institute boasted of the meeting. Separately, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) alerted its supporters that the director of its Washington D.C. office, Haris Tarin, also attended. He was previously thanked by President Obama in a personal phone call for his activism on July 13, 2011. The ADC earlier tried to get President Obama’s attention by helping to organize an interfaith “No Blank Check for Israel” rally in the capital near Inauguration Day.
The meeting took place in the Roosevelt Room near the Oval Office and also involved unidentified national security officials and Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser who was a keynote speaker at the 2009 annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, a group with Muslim Brotherhood origins. The meeting apparently wasn’t all good news for the invitees. The president of ADC, Warren David, complained that President Obama has let down many Arab-Americans with his Middle East policy and said he left with a “bittersweet feeling.”
The ADC was founded by the first Arab-American Senator, who praised Hezbollah during its war with Israel in 2006. He also has stated that Zionists were secretly behind the 9/11 attacks. The ADC leadership opposed its designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. In 2000, an ADC spokesperson called Hezbollah a “responsible liberation force.” The ADC also honored Helen Thomas after she said the Jews in Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go to Poland.
Similarly, MPAC stood against the designations of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups in a 2003 policy paper. On the other hand, it called Israel a state sponsor of terrorism in 2001. It said that the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon did not qualify as terrorism. In 2006, MPAC explained it was only stating a “highly relevant fact” and did not support the attack. In 1998, MPAC co-founder and senior adviser Maher Hathout said Hezbollah’s attacks on armed forces are “legitimate” and the following year, MPAC president Salam al-Marayati said that its attacks on Israeli soldiers are “legitimate resistance.”
On 9/11, al-Marayati said that Israel should be considered a suspect. Hathout similarly entertained suggestions of a 9/11 conspiracy. In 2000, Hathout referred to Israel as “butchers” and “an apartheid state” and predicted that the Arab governments would be “flushed down in the cesspools of history of treason” by a “general intifada.”
Hathout and his brother, another MPAC co-founder, are disciples of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and formerly served in his organization. They continued to promote al-Banna’s Islamist preaching in the 1990s. However, Hathout has stated that he opposes the Muslim Brotherhood’s power grab in Egypt and that Sharia’s penal code is not applicable anymore. He recently expressed a tolerant view of homosexuals. Regardless of what his views on Sharia Law may be, MPAC’s record on Israel and Hezbollah is undeniable.
This meeting is the latest entry in the Obama Administration’s record of ties to the ADC and MPAC. Kareem Shora, who was appointed to the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory Council and then served as a community engagement liaison for the DHS, was an ADC official since 1999 and was its national executive director.
In September 2009, MPAC celebrated that it participated in a dozen Iftar dinners with government agencies. In 2010, the State Department asked al-Marayati to speak in Europe. The Department of Defense apologized to MPAC in February 2012 for the accidental burning of a Koran in Afghanistan. On February 8, 2012, MPAC, ADC, the Islamic Society of North America and other groups met with the director of the FBI to discuss its counter-terrorism training content. Afterwards, the FBI said it would consider forming a panel with them to help with the review.
The meeting with President Obama to provide policy “recommendations” is unsettling. Were their records even considered? What type of advice are they given to the President, his administration and elected officials? And why aren’t more moderate voices being asked for their assistance in combating Islamism, anti-Semitism and the other causes of the ongoing conflict?
Monday’s chat shows the influence these groups have had in the past and, most importantly, the influence they will have for the next four years.