Civil rights

Muslim Civil Rights Group report: Jewish charities among top funders of Islamophobia

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, DC, on April 15, 2019 (Zach Gibson/Getty Images via JTA.org)

By Asaf Shalev

Charitable foundations linked to Jewish federations and Jewish families feature prominently in a new report on the flow of tax-deductible donations to organizations that a prominent Muslim civil rights lobby has identified as “anti-Muslim groups.”

Entitled “Islamophobia in the Mainstream”, the report was released on Tuesday by CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group and political lobby that is harshly critical of Israel.

Receive the Jewish Exponent newsletter by email and never miss our top stories
We do not share data with third-party providers.

Free registration

It follows a different report from 2019 that identified some 1,100 groups identified by CAIR as funding anti-Muslim activities. In the new report, CAIR used publicly available IRS data to analyze the top 50 charitable foundations in the 2019 report.

Of the foundations examined in the new report, 35 were found responsible for about $106 million in payments from 2017 to 2019 to 26 groups deemed harmful to Muslims. The figure is lower than in previous years, but still indicates that the funding of Islamophobia is alarmingly widespread, according to CAIR.

At least five donors on CAIR’s list are explicitly Jewish and direct their funds according to the wishes of their donors. Several others are private family foundations also known to support Jewish and Israeli causes.

The five are donor-advised funds affiliated with Jewish federations in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area — the largest Jewish communities in the United States.

Donor-advised funds collect donations from individuals and distribute the money based on recommendations from donors, who get an immediate tax deduction and remain anonymous. Because of their structure, donor-advised funds often distribute money to groups with widely varying values ​​and ideologies, a dynamic that can be challenging for the organization managing the fund. For example, the San Francisco federation announced last year that it would monitor its donations more closely after sending funds to a group accused of supporting the insurrection at the United States Capitol.

Meanwhile, the Adelson Family Foundation, established by the late Republican casino magnate and megadonor Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, made the list along with the Irving I Moskowitz Foundation, the Helen Diller Family Foundation and others. entities focused on the American Jewish community. and Israel.

Jewish groups appear alongside Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, which tops the list, and donor-advised funds run by big Wall Street firms such as Fidelity and Schwab.

The prevalence of Jewish-linked donors appears to be linked to CAIR’s view that some hawkish and right-wing groups with a pro-Israel agenda promote Islamophobia.

A group cited in the report is the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. CAMERA violated CAIR by accusing several American Muslim organizations of being front groups for terrorists.

JTA has reached out to Jewish Federations, CAMERA and the Adelson Family Foundation for comment.

CAMERA drew attention to the history of CAIR, which included ties to Hamas-linked groups before the United States designated Hamas a terrorist group. Additionally, federal prosecutors disclosed in 2007 — inappropriately, multiple judges later ruled — that the group was on a list of hundreds of “co-conspirators” in a Texas terrorism case. Being an unindicted co-conspirator does not necessarily suggest criminal activity or even knowledge of criminal activity.

“CAIR’s claims are gross lies seeking to deflect CAMERA factual commentary on CAIR’s extremist activity, including its history as an unindicted co-conspirator in one of the largest terrorism financing cases in U.S. history,” said Sean Durns, senior analyst at CAMERA, in an email.

“The FBI itself has suspended ties with CAIR, which has had no less than five arrested, convicted and/or deported former lay leaders or staff on terrorism-related charges,” Durns said, referring to the events of the 1990s and 2000s. “In an effort to intimidate, CAIR seems intent on smearing any group that merely relays well-known facts about them.”

In an email, Rabbi Noah Farkas, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, did not directly respond to CAIR’s claims. “The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has always built relationships and partnerships with organizations that reflect the fabric and diversity of the Los Angeles area,” he said. “We believe that the preservation and safety of the Jewish community in Los Angeles rests on deep connections with people from all walks of life. It is part of our core value system to oppose all forms of hate. “

The Jewish Federations of North America, the umbrella body for the federations, said the system as a whole was dedicated to fighting prejudice. “The Jewish community knows better than anyone the importance of combating hate wherever it is found, and the federations work tirelessly to eradicate hate and build strong friendship with other communities,” the JFNA said in response. to a question from the JTA.

Eric Fingerhut, the CEO of JFNA, in a separate email, said the report misrepresents the role of Jewish federations.

“This report is completely illegitimate and makes absurd and false accusations against the Jewish Federations, whose sole purpose is to strengthen and secure the Jewish community,” he said. “The Jewish community knows better than anyone the importance of fighting hate wherever it is. Federations work tirelessly to eradicate hatred and build strong friendship with other communities.

Other groups cited in the report include the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which engages in “anti-Muslim media lobbying and misinformation,” and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, led by activist Pamela Geller and known for its “racist public ad campaigns,” according to CAIRE. These groups have long been widely criticized for peddling Islamophobia, including by the Anti-Defamation League.

CAIR itself has been accused of allowing its advocacy to drift into the realm of bigotry, with Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt accuses CAIR leader of ‘conspiracy-laden anti-Semitic trash’ in December. Zahra Billoo, director of CAIR’s office in San Francisco, said in a speech that pro-Palestinian activists should oppose “polite Zionists” just as they would right-wing extremists, and she cited synagogues and other traditional Jewish organizations as examples. The speech was widely rebuked by Jewish leaders like Greenblatt.

The flow of funding in the nonprofit world has come under scrutiny in recent years with accusations like CAIR’s that tax-deductible donations fuel hate groups and extremists.

Concern over the issue reached a crescendo after the rally in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, which turned into an attack on the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the recent presidential election. Since the rally, journalists, watchdog groups and lawmakers have been investigate the financing of the event.

In a press release announcing the report, CAIR echoed calls to tighten controls on where donations go.

“Today, more than ever, the philanthropic community must establish clear policies to prevent funds from going to hate groups and implement educational initiatives for staff and board members to help them understand the extent of anti-Muslim bigotry,” said CAIR’s National Research and Advocacy Coordinator. Huzaifa Shahbaz said in a statement.