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Why is the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Accepting an Award from an Anti-Muslim Hate Group?

The anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP) announced that it will present the current Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, with its highest award at a Dec.13 ceremony in New York City.

The decision by the ambassador to accept CSP’s Freedom Flame award not only further legitimizes this organization, but could be read as an endorsement of anti-Muslim hate by the Israeli government. The CSP and its founder, Frank Gaffney, are known for alleging Muslim infiltration of the U.S. government, suggesting that “creeping Shariah” law is threatening American democracy and more. Donald Trump at one point cited a bogus CSP “poll” that alleged that 25% of American Muslims support violence, a claim that serious polls show is ludicrous.

Hatewatch asked the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., for comment. Itai Bardov, a spokesperson for the embassy, issued the following response:

“As somebody who strongly believes that Israel is an outpost of democracy and freedom in a Middle East that largely rejects both, Ambassador Dermer is honored to receive this year’s “Freedom Flame Award”, whose former recipients include Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. Perm. Rep. to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick.

“The Ambassador also greatly appreciates the Center for Security Policy's longtime support for a strong and secure Israel.

“As for the Ambassador's views of Islam, he has made it clear through dozens of public speeches that Islam is not the enemy.  

“For example, in his speech to the Zionist Organization of America in November 2015 he said: ‘The enemy we face has a name. It’s called militant Islam. Not militants. Not Islam. Militant Islam.’ In the same speech he also stressed that ‘…the most frequent victims of the militant Islamists are Muslims who do not share their fanaticis.’ (The full speech can be seen here).  

“Furthermore, as the representative of a state that includes 1.5 million Muslim citizens, the Ambassador holds an annual Iftar (breaking of the fast of Ramadan) at his residence, honoring Muslim officials and colleagues.

“Ambassador Dermer is not aware of any anti-Muslim views held by the Center for Security Policy and certainly would not endorse any such view.

“Accepting this award does not mean that the Ambassador subscribes to every point of view expressed by individual members of the Center, as would be true of any other organization.”

Examining CSP’s track record, the Israeli embassy’s assertion that the ambassador is “not aware of any anti-Muslim views held” by CSP is baffling.

Gaffney is known for his accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated all levels of government and warnings that “creeping Shariah,” or Islamic religious law, is a threat to American democracy. He has called for congressional hearings along the lines of the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee that investigated supposed “reds” during the Cold War. The CSP was banned for a time from the Conservative Political Action Conference, a high-powered annual gathering of leading conservatives, after it accused two prominent American conservatives of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood. Last year, Gaffney hosted a notorious white nationalist, Jared Taylor, on his radio show. Taylor has written that black people are not capable of sustaining civilization, among other insults.

The CSP recently published a report calling for a ban on Muslim immigration and encouraged activists to oppose the construction of mosques in their areas. In 2013, Clare Lopez, the group’s vice president for research and analysis, told a New Jersey audience: “When people in other bona fide religions follow their doctrines they become better people — Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews. When Muslims follow their doctrine, they become jihadists.” Two years later, commenting on Somali refugees who work at meat processing plants, Gaffney said, “I don’t know about you, but it kind of creeps me out that they are getting jobs in the food supply of the United States.”

Over the past 18 months, the CSP has focused on Syrian refugees and began collecting information meant to spread the word about the “deeply flawed refugee resettlement policy” of the U.S. and to build resistance to resettlement. The CSP has also had a hand in getting anti-refugee legislation introduced, most notably in Kansas, where state Rep. Peggy Mast said she was consulting with the CSP before introducing an anti-refugee bill. In January of this year, the CSP held a forum for legislators imploring them to introduce an anti-refugee bill. An Idaho politician, state Rep. Eric Redman, instead introduced an anti-Shariah law bill two months later and cited the CSP.

In fact, it was the CSP’s general counsel, David Yerushalmi, who in 2010, drew up the so-called “American Laws for American Courts” model legislation, aimed at forestalling the imposition of Shariah law on U.S. criminal courts — an impossibility under the Constitution, but an effective fear-generating tactic that has resulted in passage in half a dozen states. Yerushalmi has his own history of bigotry, once calling for undocumented immigrants to be placed in “special criminal camps,” detained for three years, and then deported. In an essay on race, he said that black people in New York City were “the most murderous of peoples.”

The CSP has been condemned from across the political spectrum, including civil rights organizations People for the American Way and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, criticized then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz in February for adding Gaffney to his national security advisory team. Gaffney and fellow anti-Muslim extremist Jerry Boykin, Greenblatt wrote, “have a history of anti-Muslim bigotry and have promoted outrageous conspiracy theories involving Muslims.”

The CSP is not a fair critic of Muslims or Islam, and its history of bigotry is well documented. Ron Dermer’s decision to accept the organization’s Freedom Flame award is an ill-advised move that will only lend CSP more legitimacy. 

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