Jewish Federation of LA and ZOA host anti-Muslim inciter Pamela Geller at pro-Israel event

Update: Jewish Federation cancels event after outcry

Following an outcry, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles has canceled an event that was due to be held today at its offices, featuring anti-Muslim inciter Pamela Geller.

Geller announced the cancelation on her own website, in a posting that – true to form – was laced with anti-Muslim bigotry.

“We will be protesting this craven capitulation of the Jewish Federation to Islamic supremacist Jew-haters,” Geller wrote, calling the interfaith coalition that raised alarm over the event “Hamas-linked Muslim groups.”

Geller also posted a copy of an email that was sent from the Zionist Organization of America, the event’s sponsor, announcing the cancelation to potential attendees, and calling on them to gather “outside the Jewish Federation building and protest this act of cowardice that only serves the Islamic agenda of shutting down free speech and fostering animosity between Jews, who must stay united during these dangerous times of assaults against Israel and Jews the world over.”

While the cancelation should be welcomed, leading pro-Israel groups must do much more to distance themselves from the Islamophobia that some have courted and fostered in recent years under the guise of pro-Israel advocacy.

Original post

In a truly stunning example of the marriage between pro-Israel advocacy and open incitement against Muslims, two prominent pro-Israel groups are hosting Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim demagogue who inspired the beliefs of, and in turn defended Norway mass killer Anders Breivik.

This weekend, a coalition of interfaith groups in Southern California expressed “ ‘deep shock and alarm’ over the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ decision to offer a platform to the leader of an anti-Muslim hate group.”

In a press release sent out by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the groups noted that:

Pamela Geller, who will deliver a lecture tomorrow on “Islamic Jew-Hatred: The Root Cause of the Failure to Achieve Peace,” is co-founder of Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and author of a book offering step-by-step instructions on how to stop mosque construction in America.

As The Electronic Intifada previously reported, Geller was also prominent in spreading the completely false claim that Muslims were responsible for a “rape epidemic” in Norway.

An announcement on the Jewish Federation of LA’s website says the event is sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America and will be held today, Sunday 24 June at the offices of the Jewish Federation of LA.

Interfaith groups react

We are extremely shocked and alarmed to see a mainstream Jewish organization associating itself with **one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes who doesn’t hesitate to share the podium with European racists and whose admirers apparently include Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik. Religious leaders and institutions have an increased and urgent responsibility to promote tolerance and mutual understanding among all Americans, instead of giving aid and comfort to fear-mongers like Geller. Imagine how hurt Jewish community members would be, and rightly so, if they discovered American Muslims hosting an anti-Semitic speaker.

This statement was signed by an interfaith coalition including: American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations - Greater Los Angeles (CAIR-LA), Islamic Circle of North America - Southern California (ICNA), Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Jewish Voice for Peace - Los Angeles (JVP-LA), LA Jews for Peace, Muslim American Society - Greater Los Angeles (MAS-LA), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and Progressive Christians Uniting (PCU).

How does inciting against Muslims help Jews?

On its website, the Jewish Federation puts defending Israel at the center of its mission:

Based on Jewish values, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles convenes and leads the community and leverages its resources to assure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad, and mobilize on issues of concern to the local community, all with our local, national, and international partners.

It is a part of the Jewish Federations of North America, a network of 157 local federations and hundreds of other groups:

The Federation movement, collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent, protects and enhances the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity and social justice) and Torah (Jewish learning). 

It is difficult to see how promoting hatred of Muslims protects and enhances the well-being of Jews, or reflects the values of charity and social justice.

Using hatred of Islam to deflect from Israel’s actions

But hosting Geller may reflect another of the Jewish Federation’s top priorities: aiding and abetting Israel’s efforts to smear all its critics.

It is notable that in its title the ZOA-Jewish Federation event explicitly links the peace process and Islam: “Islamic Jew-Hatred: The Root Cause of the Failure to Achieve Peace.”

Pro-Israel propaganda has increasingly involved conflating all criticism of Israel with alleged Islamic extremism, and in turn painting all critics of Israel as Islamic extremists or sympathisers.

Now, ZOA and the Jewish Federation of LA are hosting Geller apparently to directly blame “Islam” for the fact that Israel keeps building settlements on occupied Palestinian land, among other crimes and abuses as if “Islam” somehow has the power to force Israel to keep confiscating Palestinian land and denying Palestinian rights.

Federations financing anti-Palestinian propaganda

In October 2010, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs launched a $6 million initiative called the “Israel Action Network” to fight “delegitimization,” especially boycott, divestment and sanctions.

“Delegitimization” is the name the Israeli think tank Reut Institute gave to virtually all Palestine solidarity activism, when it called on Israel and its supporters in the US to engage in a strategy of “sabotage” and “attack” against Palestine solidarity groups.

The Jewish Federation of LA described itself as the “lead sponsor” of the Israel Action Network:

“We advocated for the creation of the Israel Action Network to protect Israel against a vicious campaign that seeks to isolate it internationally through boycotts, divestment and sanctions,” said Jay Sanderson, President of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “Now, through the Network, as well as our extensive local work, our Los Angeles Jewish community can both meet urgent situations and develop long-term strategies to promote a fair and balanced understanding of Israel and Middle East issues.”

Now we know what Sanderson thinks “fair and balanced” is. It means hosting the likes of Geller who as the press release from CAIR points out “once bragged that she uses a Quran, Islam’s holy text, as a doorstop,” called for the demolition of a mosque in Florida, “has claimed that ‘Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by Islam’ and that Islam ‘mandates’ lies and deception.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.