How Pro-Israel Forces Drove Two Virulent Anti-Muslim Campaigns

In the years since the 9/11 attacks, attempts to open a mosque, a Muslim cultural center, or an Arabic-themed public school have resulted in full-fledged, sometimes well-coordinated, Islamophobic campaigns that have lasted months or even years and have struck at Muslim and Arab communities in different parts of the country. Some of these anti-Muslim campaigns make it into the national news, but many do not. Yet all have national significance, because they involve attempts by mainstream groups and anti-Islam ideologues to dehumanize and demonize Muslims, portray them as a threat to the country, and undercut their basic civil, religious, and human rights.

Two post-9/11 campaigns are prominent examples of this type of Islamophobia in action. The first was the organized attempt to block construction of the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) Cultural Center in Roxbury (2002-2007). Until recently, the controversy over its opening appeared to have largely died down. In the aftermath of the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the same individuals and groups that had led the drive to stop the ISB Cultural Center seized the opportunity to once again malign the ISB. The second campaign opposed New York City’s Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA), the country’s first Arabic dual language public school, and attacked its founding principal, Debbie Almontaser (2007-2010).

These campaigns have much in common with each other and with other anti-Muslim campaigns across the country. Hardline pro-Israel members of what the Center for American Progress has called “the Islamophobia Network in America” played important roles in these two crusades—fear-mongering, providing misinformation, and using the right-wing media and blogosphere—and they continue to foment anti-Islam sentiment.[1]  Most disturbingly, the Islamophobia comes not only from people viewed as fringe or from those who commit hate crimes, but also, significantly, from the mainstream, those with the power of government and other institutions behind them. 

The campaigns against the ISB Cultural Center and KGIA also illustrate how, when Israel enters the equation, many Jewish groups, public figures, and institutions (including those that claim to oppose Islamophobia) take positions based on their implacable commitment to Israeli policies.[2]  Israel politics were pivotal to each of the two campaigns.

1. The Campaign against the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center: 2002-2007

The campaign against the ISB Cultural Center began more than a decade ago. The Center opened in 2009 and now serves much of the Boston-area Muslim community. In the days after the Boston Marathon bombing, key individuals who had precipitated the multi-year anti-mosque campaign surfaced once again to drag the ISB into the national spotlight. To understand the earlier campaign in the context of more recent events, we begin here with the post-Marathon events and then return to the beginning of the anti-mosque campaign.

Almost as soon as the news broke about the Marathon bombings, anti-Muslim ideologues, in the absence of any evidence, made allegations linking those acts with Muslims and Arabs. Steven Emerson claimed erroneously on C-SPAN that he had been “privy” to “certain classified information" indicating a Saudi man was responsible for the bombings.[3]  Emerson had also provided misinformation during the long Boston anti-mosque campaign.[4]

Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), a group whose origins are rooted in vehemently pro-Israel and anti-Muslim/anti-Arab politics joined Emerson in the anti-Muslim charge following the Marathon bombings.[5]  APT is the most recent incarnation of Citizens for Peace and Tolerance (CPT), formed in 2004 to help spearhead the Boston campaign against the ISB Cultural Center.[6]  Charles Jacobs, the central figure, helped form CPT and now leads APT. Jacobs co-founded CAMERA, the right-wing Israel watchdog group, and founded the David Project, a pro-Israel hasbara (propaganda) group.[7]  

When the media inaccurately reported that both of the bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar, had attended the ISB Cultural Center in Roxbury, long targeted by anti-Islam forces, APT responded immediately.[8] APT called the latest ISB news a “big success for Americans for Peace and Tolerance and our campaign to warn Massachusetts civic leaders about the Muslim Brotherhood mega-mosque in Boston,” as mosque opponents have often referred to the Roxbury mosque.[9]

APT’s anti-ISB narrative remained consistent even when it turned out that the Tsarnaev brothers were actually quite irregular attendees at a small ISB mosque in nearby Cambridge (not at the ISB Cultural Center in Roxbury), where Dzhokhar was “seen rarely,” and Tamerlan went “intermittently” and had public differences with the imam.[10]  Nonetheless, APT and its ideological allies played up a non-existent relationship between the Tsarnaevs and the Cambridge ISB mosque to incite Islamophobia. APT’s biggest media coup was to get its rehashed charges against the ISB Cultural Center into the mainstream media. USA Today ran an article whose title, “Mosque that Boston Suspects Attended Has Radical Ties,” could have been written by APT’s Charles Jacobs.[11]  In an interview on CNN, Jacobs mentioned that the Tsarnaevs “lived five blocks away” from the Cambridge ISB mosque, as if such geographic proximity implicated the mosque.[12]

APT had singled out for criticism William Suhaib Webb, the imam of the ISB Cultural Center in Roxbury, the mosque that APT and others had maligned since its 2002 ground-breaking.[13]  In the weeks after the bombing, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick gave credence to APT’s charges.[14]  After interfaith event organizers asked Imam Webb to speak at the service along with President Obama and others, the Office of the Governor disinvited him.[15]  Although there was no public explanation of this decision, the anti-Muslim blogosphere had been lit up with Webb-bashing.  By appearing to back down, the Office of the Governor gave APT good reason to celebrate.[16]  According to APT, this change in plans confirmed the impact of its longstanding allegation that anyone connected to the ISB Cultural Center, or the Muslim American Society (MAS) that runs it, is irredeemably tarred by an association with the Muslim Brotherhood.[17]

As with the earlier Boston anti-mosque and New York anti-KGIA campaigns, conservative/right-wing media outlets that reach large audiences amplified the anti-Islam narrative put forth in the far-right blogosphere.[18] Fox News ran the latest attacks on the Islamic Society of Boston on programs that reflected what one former Fox News pundit described as a campaign, after the April bombings, “to link the words ‘radical’ and ‘Islam.’”[19]  Information about the prayer service disinvitation and the charges against the Islamic Society of Boston and Imam Webb appeared in the virulently anti-Islam, right-wing Israeli corners of the Internet.[20]

The Conflict and the Players: 2002-2006

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, many people learned for the first time the story of the campaign against the ISB Cultural Center.[21]  It is the story of how one Jewish group and several individual Jews helped instigate the campaign, and how Muslim, interfaith and some Jewish groups (with varying politics on Israel and different relationships to the mainstream Jewish community) responded to it. As subpoenaed emails illustrated, it is also the story of those who spearheaded the anti-mosque campaign, who built their strategy on “the premise that the senior people in the ISB are supporters of terrorism and sworn enemies of America and Jews and that the construction of the mosque may be funded by Wahhabis,” adherents of “Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative, puritanical brand of Islam.”[22]  The fervently pro-Israel pillars of the Boston Jewish establishment—the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (Greater Boston’s Jewish federation)—provided public and implied support for the mosque opponents, while Jewish groups whose members had a range of positions on Israel, including being sharply critical of its policies, stood up for the ISB Cultural Center.

The ISB broke ground for its mosque in late 2002. The following fall, the Boston Herald newspaper attacked it for having direct connections to and having received funding from “radical Islamic” terrorist groups.[23] The Boston Herald featured a picture of the planned mosque next to one of Osama bin Laden.[24]  Based on information gathered by Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project, this article also charged “that the ISB funded the terrorist groups of Hamas and Hezbollah”—both based in the Middle East—and that the ISB board chair “was connected to terrorist training camps and Osama bin Laden.”[25]  In 2004, ADL officials and two Boston rabbis “wrote a letter asking the Islamic Society of Boston to respond to allegations”[26] that ISB trustee and treasurer, Walid Fitaihi, had made anti-Semitic statements.[27]

Several related events occurred in the fall of 2004. In a letter to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the ISB publicly dissociated itself from Fitaihi’s words, “apologized for failing to condemn the offensive remarks sooner,” and “unequivocally condemn[ed] all hateful, insensitive, and divisive statements.”[28]  In the same month, an ad hoc anti-mosque group formed to initiate a “political and media campaign” against the ISB Cultural Center, which recruited a Boston resident who lived near the proposed site to file a lawsuit (eventually dismissed by a judge) challenging the constitutionality of the city’s sale of land for the proposed center.[29]  Citizens for Peace and Tolerance was incorporated specifically to carry on the ad hoc group’s goals.[30]  Boston newspapers published articles containing allegations of ISB anti-Semitism and calls for the group to denounce anti-Semitism.  As a result of local FOX-TV reports that the ISB characterized as “defamatory and false,” “donations dwindle[d] and construction stop[ped].”[31]

Jewish groups got more involved in this dispute in 2005, when the ISB filed “a complaint against the organization and individuals who conspired to libel and defame the ISB, its leadership and to prevent the Muslim community from establishing a place of worship” (ISB “Confronting Intolerance”).[32]  The ISB subsequently expanded the suit to include conspiracy.[33]  The suit named 17 defendants, including the Boston Herald, Fox Television, the David Project, Citizens for Peace and Tolerance, Steven Emerson (the misinformation “expert” who provided research to the Boston Herald and to subsequent Fox media campaigns), and other individuals.[34]

Those stirring up opposition to the ISB Cultural Center suit garnered mainstream Jewish support in part by framing their case as one that threatened their First Amendment rights. Charles Jacobs characterized the ISB suit as an “effort to frighten people out of speaking out against extremism and hate-speech.”[35]  In a November 2005 statement, the local JCRC, American Jewish Committee, and Combined Jewish Philanthropies declared that they “stand in solidarity with those in our community who see this issue as one of free speech and exercise of basic civil rights.”[36]

The following month, in December 2005, the ISB published as a full-page advertisement in Boston’s Jewish Advocate. The ad, a letter that directly addressed the local Jewish community, said

Like you, we are not perfect. . . . We have among us those who would act in a divisive manner. We understand our obligation not to tolerate this in our community. But when we are the ones who are wronged by intolerance, we need to be able to look to our friends and neighbors to stand up with us and condemn those who are attacking us. . . . We ask you not to buy into the poisoned rhetoric and attacks against our community undertaken by the few extremists who would divide us.[37]

Two weeks later, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the JCRC took out its own ad in the Jewish Advocate—one that Michael Felsen, President of the Boston Workmen’s Circle’s board, described as “explicitly supporting the David Project.”[38]  Expressing how “deeply disappointed [they had been] by the ISB lawsuit,” they reiterated that they “stand in solidarity with the David Project and those in our community who have raised these valid concerns and issues and with all those who believe, as we do, that they need to be acknowledged and answered.”[39]

These mainstream Jewish organizations had two points of contention: (1) whether three current or past ISB officials had links with terrorist groups or had made anti-Semitic statements; and (2) whether ISB leaders had sufficiently explained or repudiated those officials’ alleged words or acts, as well as what they called “radical Islam” generally. A 2006 article in the Boston Globe describes a near-complete breakdown of communication between the ISB and the JCRC and Combined Jewish Philanthropies.[40]

Immediately after the Boston Herald had linked the ISB with Islamic radicalism, Salma Kazmi, then ISB’s assistant director, reported on a meeting with Jewish leaders at which she denied any ISB links with “terrorism.” She recalls: “After that meeting, there was a very heartfelt apology by one of our directors for any harm that may have been done by anti-Jewish statements. There were handshakes, and at the end, the perception we had was that we were going to move forward from that point."[41]  But the Jewish leaders saw things differently; they wanted more complete ISB responses about former and current ISB officials, including a former trustee who had allegedly praised Hamas and Hezbollah in 2002. After months of meetings between the ISB and the Jewish groups, and despite ISB requests for further discussion, this dialogue ended. As long as the litigation continued, dialogue, according to Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the JCRC, was “at a screeching halt.”[42]  Her objection to the litigation outweighed her stated concern that the “Jewish community [might be] seen as preventing the mosque from being built.”[43]

Jewish Responses: 2006-2007 

The Boston Workmen’s Circle stepped into this impasse. Michael Felsen described to us an extended process.[44]  In early 2006, the Workmen’s Circle Middle East study group, whose members had had some contact with the ISB, invited an ISB representative to come to their study group to inform them about the defamation, libel, and conspiracy lawsuit. Several Workmen’s Circle members raised their concerns with the JCRC executive director and reported back to their board about possible responses  An ISB lawyer subsequently visited Workmen’s Circle to provide information and to request that it submit an amicus brief supporting the ISB’s legal right to continue with its suit. To determine what role Workmen’s Circle might play and whether it would do an amicus brief, the board held a forum for its members at which the ISB and the David Project lawyers gave separate presentations to the 100 people attending. 

As Felsen described it, the question that the board had to consider was: “How could we, as secular, progressive Jews, most effectively be a voice across the divide?”[45]  The Boston Workmen’s Circle is a member of the JCRC of Greater Boston and, says Felsen, “works hard to be a thoughtful voice on the left.” It was important, he told us, for the Workmen’s Circle to “be strategic” and to “try to maximize our impact on the dispute,” while avoiding “attempts to marginalize us by those who objected to our approach.”[46]

The Workmen’s Circle board was most concerned with the freeze of relations between Boston’s largest Muslim organization and its organized Jewish community. The board believed that it could not even hope to thaw relations while the litigation was pending.  It therefore called for mediation of the lawsuit and consulted privately with both parties. But, while the ISB immediately agreed to mediation, the David Project refused. Hoping to encourage the David Project to agree, the Workmen’s Circle board went public—speaking on the radio, seeking signatures for a petition (with the ISB’s public approval), calling for mediation, and working with rabbinical students who were active in different congregations.[47]  The Workmen’s Circle actions, as Alice Rothchild, a member of that group and of Jewish Voice for Peace, told us, “cracked the monolith”—that is, the image that all mainstream Jews opposed the mosque—and helped other members of the mainstream Jewish community feel empowered to speak.[48]

During this period, individuals from other Boston-area Jewish groups became more involved in the controversy.  Tekiah, an alliance of progressive Jews, issued a letter to the JCRC and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. While indicating that “we understand and share your concerns about the personal histories of some ISB members and the statements attributed to a few,” the letter also states that “Tekiah is deeply troubled that prominent Jewish organizations such as the JCRC and CJP have implicitly condoned the tactics and conduct employed by the David Project in its efforts to halt the building of the ISB Cultural Center.”[49]  Tekiah also published an Op-ed in the Boston Jewish Advocate that expressed its “alarm” about the conflict and how “deeply disturbing” it was “for Jews to oppose the building of any house of worship.”[50]

On behalf of the Interreligious Center for Public Life (ICPL), Rabbi David Gordis, president of Hebrew College, and the Reverend Nick Carter, president of Andover Newton Theological School, had met with representatives of the ISB and the David Project. In December 2006, they wrote a letter designed to address “a seemingly intractable dispute” that was harming “interreligious relationships in greater Boston.”[51]  They proposed a five-step process that would begin with ending all lawsuits. (In July 2006, a Justice to the Superior Court had denied an anti-mosque legal attempt to dismiss the ISB suit.[52])  Other steps would include: (1) issuing a joint ISB-David Project statement “condemning and disavowing, without exception, all forms of terrorism”; (2) “affirming the right and the benefit for all communities of faith . . . to build and maintain houses of worship”; (3) supporting the development of a Center for Interfaith Understanding that the Interreligious Center would assist in developing; and (4) once these steps were taken, being involved in a joint “celebratory event.”[53]

Although the Workmen’s Circle chose not to sign the ISB amicus brief, three Jewish Boston groups did sign it: the Boston chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which “supports the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination”[54]; Tekiah, “a membership organization that works on local issues of social, economic and racial justice”[55]; and the Boston Tikkun Community/Network of Spiritual Progressives, “a national interfaith organization founded in response to the atrocities of September 11, 2001.”[56]  In their “Statements of Interest” as signers of the amicus brief, Tekiah cited its “significant interaction with members of the ISB, including discussions concerning accusations made against it . . . ,” while the Boston Tikkun Community noted that its members had joined with the ISB “in worship, interfaith dialogue, Muslim-Jewish study programs, and, during the war in Lebanon last summer, a public interfaith gathering to pray for peace.”[57]

In the midst of the stalemate, Tikkun organizer Hayyim Feldman expressed his regrets at seeing “‘the JCRC’s public statement aligning themselves with the David Project on this,’ especially since the group is dedicated to interfaith dialogue.”[58] Reflecting on the mosque dispute, Alice Rothchild told us how Israel/Palestine politics had played a key role—specifically through accusations that people associated with the ISB had been supporting “terrorism.”[59]

The JCRC and Combined Jewish Philanthropies circled the wagons. Referring to the groups that had signed the amicus brief, JCRC executive director Nancy K. Kaufman was dismissive. “None of those organizations,” she said, “are members of the organizations of the JCRC. We don’t consider them to be a part of the mainstream Jewish community.”[60]

Mosque opponents, though, were considered very much part of that community. Both the JCRC and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies have had, in their leadership, groups or individuals who had helped initiate or continue the anti-mosque campaign, including those named as co-defendants in the ISB defamation, libel, and conspiracy suit. The JCRC, for example, included CAMERA, among other groups that resolutely support Israeli government policies (e.g., AIPAC, the ADL, and the Zionist Organization of America). CAMERA, like the David Project, was co-founded by Charles Jacobs.[61] William Sapers, also a co-defendant and part of the ad hoc anti-mosque group, has been a director and (in the 1980s) member of the executive board of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, honorary national director of the ADL, and chair and executive board member of its New England Chapter.[62]  Sapers’ wife, Aviva, was on the board of the JCRC during at least part of the mosque controversy (2006-2007).[63]

While the Workmen’s Circle was working to mediate within the institutional Jewish community, a small group, primarily young Jews in their 20s with diverse perspectives on Israel, felt the need for a more public voice of Jews who supported the Islamic Society of Boston. They were angry, as Rabbi Joseph Berman (then a rabbinical student) recalled in a 2011 interview, that the Muslims “had to run a political campaign in order to have a place to worship.” [64]  While starting a group called “Jews Support the Mosque,” they met with an ISB person involved in the mosque campaign and an ISB board member to discuss how the ISB representatives thought the new Jewish group could help. 

Jews Support the Mosque, according to its website, drew on members of the Boston Jewish community “from across the religious and political spectrum.” It placed its support for the ISB’s freedom of worship within the context of tikkun olam (repairing the world), the ways that “fear-mongering and Islamophobia” echo anti-Semitism, and the Jewish “obligation to stand side-by-side with those who are marginalized and oppressed.”[65]  Despite the Jewish establishment’s claims to the contrary, Jews Support the Mosque believed that they represented the majority of Jews whose “voices have so far gone unheard,” but who “support the right of Boston-area Muslims to practice their religion and celebrate their culture.” Jews Support the Mosque aimed to help “close the current divide between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Greater Boston.”

As Jews Support the Mosque member Marjorie Dove Kent (now director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice in New York City) recalled in a 2012 interview, “This ad hoc group clearly had a role to play that both differed from that of Workmen’s Circle and complemented it.”[66]  According to Kent, because Jews Support the Mosque was positioned differently from Workmen’s Circle and was able to be “public, fast, and nimble,” they could provide a quick Jewish community response. Countering the narrative that the mainstream Jewish community was putting forth, Jews Support the Mosque made clear that many within the community backed the mosque plan. They did this through pieces in the local media, an online petition, and a public fundraising drive (which was symbolic rather than financially significant). 

As part of its attempt to resolve the dispute, in April 2007, the Workmen’s Circle hosted a small meeting of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clergy and lay leaders, including a board member from the David Project, with Walid Fitaihi, an ISB trustee and Saudi doctor. The David Project had found that he had made statements in Arabic that were anti-Semitic.[67]  According to the Workmen’s Circle’s Felsen, several rabbis who were friendly with Dr. Fitaihi post-9/11, when he had been teaching at Harvard Medical School, felt betrayed.  The ISB lawyer arranged for Fitaihi, then living in Saudi Arabia, to return to Boston for the gathering. He apologized for his statements and participated in a followup discussion with those present.  Right after the closed meeting, the ISB issued a press release describing how, “to emphasize the unequivocal nature of his apology and desire for reconciliation, Dr. Fitaihi, a self-described ‘healer and builder,’ explained that he did not come to the meeting to parse words or debate translations but rather ‘to heal’ by offering an apology without condition” for words he had written at the start of the second Palestinian Intifada that “he recognized were offensive to Jews.”[68]

Several weeks after this gathering, the ISB and the Muslim American Society hosted an Intercommunity Solidarity Day. The Workmen’s Circle’s Yiddish community chorus sang, and its leaders attended, along with various religious and political leaders.  But, according to Michael Felsen, “most of the large mainstream Jewish organizations were conspicuously absent.”[69]

The Resolution: 2007

Two key turning points took place in May 2007. Subpoenaed emails publicly released as part of the discovery process supported the ISB defamation suit. The emails, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor, revealed that the David Project “had worked actively to instigate the lawsuit and news stories as part of their ‘strategies to attack the mosque.’”[70]  This anti-mosque conspiracy, according to an ISB press release, included “an Israel advocacy organization, which specializes in creating malicious anti-Arab, anti-African and Islamophobic propaganda...real estate investors, attorneys, and Republican activists....”[71]

The 2004 emails excerpted in the press release made evident that the sole purpose for initiating a lawsuit against the ISB (dismissed in February 2007 as being “without merit”) was to find a media angle that would garner negative press for the Muslim community.[72]  In an email to David Project executive director Anna Kolodner, Citizens for Peace and Tolerance co-founder Steven Cohen wrote: "Aside from our 1st Amendment claims and the various other strategies to attack the mosque, ultimately our interest is based on the premise that some of the senior people in the ISB are supporters of terrorism and sworn enemies of America and Jews, and that the construction of the mosque may be funded by Wahhabis.” 

Another 2004 email elaborated on this plan to identify “the ISB's source of donations in the Middle East. Depending on the country of origin, the group would create a sensational news story saying the mosque was financed either by ‘the Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia or by the Moslem Brotherhood,’ which, they would allege ‘advocate the violent victory of Islam over the west.’"[73]

As the newly released emails illustrated, the David Project had collaborated with, among others, Robert Leikind, regional director of the ADL, and Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project, to create a “comprehensive document regarding the individuals/organizations/history etc. of the Mosque, which will be the backbone of the media campaign.”[74]  The message in one 2004 email will strike a familiar chord for many who have helped organize against anti-mosque campaigns: mosque opponents, while denying that they “have anything against Muslims,” should work to thwart mosque construction by pushing quality-of-life objections, like noise or parking. As Anna Kolodner of the David Project wrote: “Given that they may not have parking, Josh [Katzen, real estate developer and chair of the New England Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces] suggested we might thwart them through the building permit process for the intended parking.”   

In the same month as the email release, both sides agreed to end litigation: the ISB dropped its defamation, libel, and conspiracy suit against anti-mosque groups, media, and individuals; and mosque opponents said they would not appeal the court’s dismissal of the suit challenging the constitutionality of Boston’s sale of land to the ISB.[75]  Once these legal battles ended, the ISB resumed mosque construction after a break of more than two years. 

Tensions continued, however. The David Project planned to continue legal efforts to get access to Boston documents pertaining to the ISB land deal.[76]  Mainstream groups like the JCRC continued to express concerns about alleged ISB connections with a Muslim cleric who had been banned from the United States—a person whom the ISB maintained had no links to it since the 1990s.[77]

Although the JCRC had been deadset against dialogue with the Muslim community, not everyone associated with it turned out to have shared the JCRC perspective. A Boston Globe article right after the end of the defamation suit, for instance, quotes Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, chair of the JCRC Holocaust Commemoration Committee, as saying that “the lawsuit did not represent the Jewish community,” since “the David Project is a lot more conservative than a lot of people in the Jewish community.”[78]  The article revealed that Rabbi Waldoks “had been quietly meeting with Islamic leaders even during the course of the lawsuit in an effort to keep the post-Sept. 11 dialogue alive.  He said that local rabbis and imams had several lively discussions about faith and culture.”  These discussions, he said, “could now be a lot more open.”[79]

Rabbi Waldoks was not alone in his views. Rabbi Toba Spitzer, whose Reconstructionist congregation is in nearby Newton, Massachusetts, expressed her own concern with the David Project’s “rhetoric.”[80]  “I don't think the David Project’s views on Islam represent a large portion of the Jewish community,” Rabbi Spitzer said. “We are raising a different voice.”  he largest and loudest voices in the mainstream Jewish community, however, offered no critique of the mosque opponents’ language or tactics.

The ISB Cultural Center, operated by the Boston chapter of the Muslim American Society, opened in June 2009, with the mayor and numerous public officials, clergy of different denominations, and community leaders in attendance. Mainstream Jewish officials were, as Michael Felsen of the Workmen’s Circle wrote, “notably absent.”[81] According to Charles Jacobs of the David Project, “We convinced the JCRC and the Federation here to skip the big public mosque inauguration where they were to be honored guests and to pull back from public dialogue.”[82]  A few protesters, reported Felsen, handed out leaflets repeating earlier claims about “ties to terrorism or offensive remarks by individuals with either a past or present connection to the mosque” and alleging a U.S.-government-identified link between the Muslim American Society and the Muslim Brotherhood.[83]

In the controversy about the ISB Cultural Center, mosque opponents helped create a template for subsequent Islamophobic campaigns, like the one against the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA). The Boston campaign began with a small group of individuals, with a bedrock opposition to the proposed mosque, who then searched for ways to substantiate their perspective and sell to it to others. It brought together local activists with those, like Steven Emerson, who were part of a national Islamophobia network. Like the later anti-KGIA campaign, the one in Boston used a local tabloid and the blogosphere first to frame and then to amplify, in sensational, fear-mongering ways, charges against a Muslim or Arab group or individual. Boston mosque opponents used guilt-by-association to tar the ISB. Those instigating the anti-mosque campaign mapped out a strategy intended to resonate with Boston’s most prominent Jewish groups, so that, even if the leaders of these groups did not sign on to the public campaign, they might provide behind-the-scenes backing or remain silent, rather than criticizing the instigators’ message or tactics. 


In the years since the mosque opened, Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) found himself clearly on the outs with mainstream Jewish groups. He reviled a Boston-area rabbi, Eric Gurvis, for hugging the leader of Boston’s Muslim American Association (MAS) during a 2010 visit by Governor Deval Patrick to the ISB Cultural Center.[84]  Among strong statements of support for Rabbi Gurvis in the Jewish Advocate were a letter by JCRC executive director Nancy Kaufman and a statement signed by 74 rabbis denouncing the attack on their colleague.[85]  “We call upon Mr. Jacobs,” they wrote, “to discontinue his destructive campaign against Boston’s Muslim community, which is based on innuendo, half-truths and unproven conspiracy theories.”[86]  As Jacobs took to maligning Jewish organizations, including the national ADL, for “not doing more on Islamic anti-Semitism,”[87] they pushed back. In one response, representatives of the Boston chapters of the ADL and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies charged Jacobs with veering “too far in the direction of demagoguery,” “sound[ing] like McCarthyism,” and using “guilt-by-association.”[88]

By the time of the Boston Marathon bombings, while Jacobs’ APT was crowing over the disinvitation of the ISB Cultural Center’s Imam Webb from the interfaith service that included President Obama, the Boston Jewish establishment had clearly cut its ties to Jacobs and his associates. So it was not surprising when a representative of Boston’s JCRC—a group that had been absent from the mosque’s 2009 opening ceremony—spoke along with Imam Webb and others at a post-bombing peace and unity gathering convened by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization.[89] For Rabbi Ronne Friedman, the senior rabbi at Boston’s largest synagogue who was the sole rabbi to speak at the city’s high-profile interfaith service and a signatory of the letter defending Rabbi Gurvis, the exclusion of Imam Webb from the interfaith service was both a surprise and a disappointment: he’d been very impressed with the imam during several meetings between ISB Cultural Center staff and rabbis and Jewish community leaders.[90]  Speaking a week after that prayer service, Rabbi Friedman told the congregation at Imam Webb’s mosque, “We stand with you—we are one Boston.”[91]

2. The Campaign against the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA): 2007-2010

The controversy about the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) and its founding principal Debbie Almontaser, which began in New York City in 2007, highlighted some of the ways in which the “good Muslim/Arab,” “bad Muslim/Arab” paradigm operates.[92]  As we’ve written elsewhere, those who adhere to the “good Muslim/bad Muslim” paradigm “identify some Muslim and Arab Americans as ‘suitable’ to work with and discredit all others, based, in part, on whether they ‘pass’ an Israel-related litmus test and are willing to dissociate themselves from Muslim and Arab groups that have been accused (evidence not necessary) of supporting pro-Palestine groups or having any alleged connections to Hamas or to ‘terrorism.’”[93]

The story of KGIA is about how those with power (Jewish and not) classified Almontaser as a “good Muslim/Arab” with whom they might ”safely” and publicly work. Then, based on her alleged failure to “sufficiently” condemn Palestinian actions, they suddenly re-classified her as a “bad Muslim/Arab.” In this way, Almontaser, who had not taken any prior public position on Palestine and Israel, quickly found herself a pariah whom some former colleagues and friends shunned or condemned publicly. 

Israel/Palestine politics played a key role in determining Almontaser’s future and New York City educational policy. Decisions about Almontaser and KGIA by the city’s education leaders also prevented Arabic-speaking students and others from having the opportunity to attend a dual-language public school that served the needs of Arabic speaking students as well as other students from across the city.

Our discussion below has been shaped by our deep involvement with the coalition—Communities in Support of the Khalil Gibran Intentional Academy (CISKGIA)—that formed in 2007 to support Almontaser and the school. 

The Conflict and the Players

At the center of the conflict was Debbie Almontaser, a respected educator, an observant Muslim, and a Yemeni immigrant. She had long done interfaith and social justice work with many different communities and was highly regarded as an educator and bridge-builder. After 9/11, she organized cross-cultural events at Brooklyn churches and synagogues and co-founded Brooklyn Bridges, which provided Arab and Muslim communities with escorts in the weeks following 9/11. She also joined with a group of New York City educators to form the September 11th Curriculum Project, which addressed issues and tensions that arose among students.  In addition, Almontaser co-founded with Rabbi Ellen Lippmann the Children of Abraham Peace Walk, and worked closely with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the office of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.  She helped build bridges between the Arab and Muslim communities and the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.[94]  Almontaser was widely considered to be an ideal educator to lead KGIA.

In 2005, New Visions for Public Schools, a non-profit organization working with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to develop new small schools, asked Almontaser to help create what would become KGIA. Doing extensive outreach and planning, she and other educators, parents, and community members developed a proposal for the first Arabic dual language public school in the country. KGIA would be one of more than 60 existing dual language schools in New York City. The DOE approved it, and Almontaser became KGIA’s project director and then its acting principal. 

Shortly after the DOE announced that KGIA would open in September 2007, Almontaser became the object of persistent hostile media attention from right-wing newspapers and internet blogs that continued through the summer of that year.  Beginning in March, members of the country’s Islamophobia network—all with right-wing Israel politics—weighed in on the school.[95]  Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, wrote that KGIA was an attempt to establish an Islamist “beachhead in Brooklyn.”[96]  Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum claimed that KGIA should not open because “Arabic-language instruction is inevitably laden with Pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage.”[97]  To frame the discussion in ways that would make both the school and its principal seem both “un-American” and threatening,[98] Pipes tagged the public school a “madrassa.”  Though “madrassa” literally means a secular or religious educational institution, Islamophobes—and sometimes politicians and the mainstream media—use the word to make an implicit connection between madrassas and indoctrination, terrorism, and Islamic extremism.[99]

Gaffney and Pipes were part of Stop the Madrassa, a self-described “community coalition”[100] that formed in June 2007 “with the goal of preventing an avowed Islamist from heading a taxpayer-funded school.”[101]  Other key players in Stop the Madrassa were: David Yerushalmi, the “anti-Sharia” legislation advocate, who was the group’s general counsel; Pamela Geller, who subsequently spearheaded the opposition to Park51, but got her start as an activist, not just a blogger, when she joined Stop the Madrassa[102]; and local Islamophobes Pamela Hall and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a City University of New York trustee and Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) board member.[103]  In the summer of 2007, Stop the Madrassa attacked KGIA repeatedly for its alleged “Islamist curricula.”

The attacks on Almontaser and the school received some media attention, though the DOE defended her strongly, and plans for the school moved forward without interruption. Significantly, however, the DOE’s response changed once Israel entered the equation, as the discussion below illustrates.

Media attention intensified after Stop the Madrassa issued a July 31 press release purporting to connect Almontaser to T-shirts bearing the words “Intifada NYC” that Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media (AWAAM) were selling.  AWAAM’s summer youth program shared office space with a Yemeni community organization on whose board Almontaser sat, though neither she nor KGIA had any connection to AWAAM or the T-shirts. But Stop the Madrassa had successfully attracted the attention of both right-wing and mainstream media and politicians. Pamela Hall appeared on the Glenn Beck show the same day as Stop the Madrassa issued its press release and amplified its message about KGIA.[104]

Soon after the press release came out, a New York Post reporter contacted Almontaser and the DOE seeking to interview her about the T-shirts. Despite her objections, the DOE press office insisted that she participate in the interview.  Almontaser spoke with the Post reporter by phone while a DOE press official was also on the line. The reporter asked her about the Arabic root word of “intifada.”  Almontaser accurately explained that it literally translates as “shaking off.”  She also noted the word’s negative connotation, given its association with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  She emphasized to the reporter that she would never affiliate herself with any organization that would condone violence. The reporter mentioned AWAAM, suggesting that its members wanted to hold, in his words, “a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple.”[105]  Almontaser responded that she did not believe the girls intended any violence and said that “I think it’s pretty much an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society . . . and shaking off oppression,” referring to AWAAM and its members’ arts and media training.[106]

On August 6, the day after the interview, the Post published an article under the headline “City Principal Is ‘Revolting.'"[107]  The article inaccurately reported that Almontaser had “ties” to those who had produced the T-shirts. Later that day, despite knowing that the Post article had distorted Almontaser's comments and that Almontaser had done nothing wrong, the DOE issued a statement in Almontaser's name apologizing for her remarks. This action only served to amp up the attacks on her.

In the days following the Post article, there were numerous media and editorial attacks on Almontaser in connection with the article.  Post headlines called her the “intifada principal.”[108]  Articles in the Post and the New York Sun described her as “Dhaba ‘Debbie’ Almontaser,” using her legal and Arabic name, though she has long gone by “Debbie” both personally and professionally.[109]  The Sun published an article by Daniel Pipes, who condemned Almontaser’s “gratuitous apology for suicide terrorism” while admitting that “the T-shirts' call for a Palestinian Arab-style uprising in the five boroughs, had only the most tenuous connection to Ms. Almontaser.”[110]

Soon after that, Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, speaking for DOE Chancellor Joel Klein, gave Almontaser an ultimatum. Because of the August 6 Post article and resulting public criticism of her, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the DOE would not continue to support KGIA unless she resigned immediately. The next morning, the Mayor announced Almontaser’s (forced) resignation on his radio show. After saying that it was “nice of her” to step down, he noted that “she’s certainly not a terrorist.”[111]

Jewish Responses

After the Post interview, Jewish community reactions to Almontaser took different forms. Responses came from individuals and groups that, for the most part, knew and had worked with her and viewed her as a strong advocate for non-violence and inter-faith dialogue.  Some in the Jewish community who had been her allies shunned her or didn't come to her defense.  Others supported her (the “good” Arab/Muslim), but kept their distance from AWAAM (the “bad” Arabs), the makers of the intifada t-shirts. Still others (many of whom were involved with Israeli-Palestinian peace and justice work) fully supported Almontaser and AWAAM and became involved in the creation of a broad-based coalition, Communities in Support of KGIA (CISKGIA).

In some instances, the organized Jewish community pressured individuals to remain silent and not to support Almontaser. One local rabbi, Michael Paley, scholar-in-residence and director of the UJA-Federation of New York’s Jewish Resource Center, had met Almontaser and knew a lot about the school because his daughter had interned for KGIA in the summer of 2007.  He publicly defended Almontaser in August 2007, calling what happened to her “a high-tech lynching.”[112]  The UJA, his employer, then “ordered him not to speak on the issue anymore.”[113]  As Almontaser wrote, the “silence from the mainstream Jewish organizations was deafening.”[114]

Exemplifying this behavior toward her, Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director, said  that Almontaser could “absolutely” continue to work with the ADL, because “she continues to be an important person in interfaith relations,” but he blamed her for the dispute and viewed her removal as principal as the right move. “She gave herself a body blow,” Foxman said, “making her unacceptable as principal of Khalil Gibran.”[115]

Similarly, although Almontaser had worked with Bob Kaplan of the local Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) to combat hate crimes through We Are All Brooklyn, Kaplan was noncommittal about future interfaith coalition work with Almontaser: “’We’ve had a long relationship, and we’ve been able to work together,’” he said. “’I imagine we will find opportunities to work together in the future,’”[116] When Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a JCRC board member and New York chair of Stop the Madrassa, attacked Almontaser and claimed that KGIA was trying to carry out a “soft jihad,”[117] she asked that the JCRC respond to these attacks.  But they did nothing and refused her requests to meet with them.[118]

Many individual Jews, however, stood with a wide range of communities in support of Almontaser, as did one Jewish organization, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. At an August 2007 pro-KGIA rally in front of the DOE and in subsequent sustained organizing, diverse groups and communities from across the city joined efforts.  Following this rally, a coalition, Communities in Support of KGIA (CISKGIA), formed, with many organizational and individual endorsers—from different religious, racial, and ethnic communities—calling for Almontaser’s reinstatement as principal of KGIA.[119]  The CISKGIA steering committee had representatives from six groups: Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media (AWAAM), Brooklyn for Peace, Center for Immigrant Families (CIF), Greater New York Labor-Religious Coalition, the Muslim Consultative Network, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ).[120]   

CISKGIA did outreach to many different communities.  Since, for the most part, the mainstream Jewish community remained silent or opposed to Almontaser, CISKGIA members, particularly Jewish steering committee representatives, made a point of reaching out to others within the Jewish community to garner support.  They maintained contact with and worked together with Jewish activists, leaders, and rabbis who had publicly affirmed their support for Almontaser and KGIA.  These included, among others, Jewish leaders Rabbi Rolando Matalon of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Rabbi Burt Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann of Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and educator Peter Geffen.  All of these individuals spoke out when they could, held and attended events in support of Almontaser and the school, and worked to make their voices heard within the Jewish community.

One outreach effort included a letter signed by Jewish leaders and crafted by Peter Geffen, timed to go out during Passover 2008.  It read in part:

In the spirit of Passover we ask your support to right this wrong and your help in achieving her reinstatement at the Academy. As Jews, we have experienced Debbie’s friendship to us. We are certain that her return to her children will only bring greater peace and understanding between people of all faiths in our educational system and in our city as a whole.[121]

While the letter was quite supportive of Almontaser, it did not mention Israel or the politics around the intifada t-shirt. 

At one point in the middle of the controversy, tension arose between CISKGIA and some Jewish community members. A group of individuals from the liberal Jewish community made clear they would not join or work with CISKGIA if AWAAM, which had put out the intifada t-shirts, remained part of it.  They were not like the more conservative Jews, who believed that, as soon as Almontaser was even accused of being pro-Palestine, she became the “bad” Muslim.  Rather, these individuals would defend Almontaser, since she clearly had not made any statement defending the intifada, and they knew she was the victim of a smear campaign.  Many had worked with her for years and saw her as a “moderate.”  But, still, for these liberal Jews, as well as for the more conservative Jewish groups, Israel was a litmus test.  And for both groups, AWAAM was “tainted” with the anti-Israel brush and was not a “kosher” partner.

For AWAAM, the attacks coming from different directions were devastating. They were relentlessly maligned by the media. Funding began to dry up.  AWAAM had no choice but to stop focusing on its ongoing work and, instead, to respond to the attacks.  Everyone in the CISKGIA coalition recognized that AWAAM deserved full support and that its leadership in CISKGIA was essential; the Islamophobes had targeted and vilified AWAAM, along with Almontaser.  CISKGIA members and allies also understood that Israel politics were inserting themselves in a very ugly way.

Reflecting on mainstream Jewish community responses, Almontaser offered the following analysis: 

It was clear that the lack of support I received from mainstream Jewish organizations was a result of their unwillingness—in the name of support for Israel—to confront those who attacked me, no matter how unjustified and unprincipled the attacks.  Unfortunately, I believe that this critical failure in courage and commitment has left me little room to address the underlying issues that continue to impact the Muslim, Arab, and Jewish communities in the United States.  In this sense alone, we have all truly lost an important opportunity.[122]

Israel—the “Elephant in the Room” of New York City Politics—and Debbie Almontaser

Israel-Palestine politics has long had particular salience for New York City’s politicians and leaders.  Entire New York City political campaigns have been fought over the issue of which candidate most strongly supports Israeli policies.  Significantly, the key political decision-makers in the Almontaser case were strong supporters of Israeli state policy.  The struggle over her and KGIA played out within this context. As Almontaser has said, Israel is "the elephant in the room’ of New York politics.”[123]  

Although anti-Islam ideologues with hard-right Israel politics demonized both Debbie Almontaser and KGIA, Mayor Bloomberg—who controls the Department of Education—could have chosen to ignore these attacks. Instead, he brought to the controversy his own views on Israel and acted based on them. As the New York Times reported in January 2009, while Almontaser’s case was still being considered in court and was before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), he flew to Israel (with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly) “to express his backing for Israel . . . the morning after Israel’s punishing air assaults segued into a ground war”[124] that resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Palestinian residents of Gaza.[125]  This latest “visit was Mr. Bloomberg’s seventh to Israel since he entered public life, and it comes as he worked to secure support for re-election.”[126]  As The Times reported, “Asked about the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, Mr. Bloomberg replied sharply: ‘That they are putting people at risk is an outrage. If Hamas would focus on building a country instead of trying to destroy another one, then those people would not be getting injured or killed.’”[127]  The Mayor’s unquestioning support for Israel helps explain his silence when Israel became a weapon of the Islamophobic assault on Almontaser.

While city officials made the decision to demand that Almontaser resign from KGIA, Randi Weingarten, then the head of the city’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT), played her own extremely destructive part.  She had supported Almontaser and the school, as had the Mayor and Chancellor.  But Weingarten’s turn-around, based on her own reaction to Almontaser’s statement about the meaning of the word “intifada,” fueled the flames.  In a New York Post piece just prior to the DOE’s “request” for Almontaser’s resignation, Weingarten wrote: “I'm very concerned about it, and it's not often that I write as blistering a letter as I wrote, but it's not OK to explain away 'intifada,’" she said. "Maybe this was just a real error in judgment for which she has now apologized, or maybe, ultimately, she should not be a principal.”[128]  “As someone who traveled to Israel within the year, I know intifada means more than simply ‘shaking off oppression,’ as Almontaser claims,” Weingarten wrote. “[B]oth parents and teachers have every right to be concerned about children attending a school run by someone who doesn’t instinctively denounce campaigns or ideas tied to violence.”[129]

But Weingarten did not seem to have questioned the accuracy of the initial New York Post report of the interview with Almontaser.  Although she was the head of the teachers’ union and Almontaser was a veteran teacher, Weingarten did not check with her before launching a public attack based on a report in a New York City tabloid.  Nor did she take an educator’s perspective to consider that words, especially politically charged ones, have multiple meanings.  While Weingarten claimed that “intifada” meant only one thing—unwarranted aggression against Israel—“for many,” wrote the Center for Immigrant Families in a letter to Weingarten, “it is not the word intifada that promotes violence or that should be denounced; rather, what should be denounced is an occupation that promotes violence and that made the intifada necessary.”[130]  Had Weingarten done what was in the best interest of New York City’s children, she would have spoken out against the smear campaign and the targeting of Almontaser and KGIA.

The Resolution

Following her forced resignation, as well as the DOE’s refusal to consider her application to be KGIA’s permanent principal, Almontaser’s lawyers brought charges of discrimination before the EEOC and a suit in federal court claiming that the DOE, Chancellor Joel Klein, Mayor Bloomberg, and others had violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.  The March 2010 EEOC determination completely vindicated her.  As the EEOC stated in its determination, the DOE "succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on DOE as an employer.”[131]  The EEOC found that Almontaser “had no connection whatever” with the t-shirts.[132]  According to the EEOC, the DOE had “constructively discharged” her, creating working conditions that “are so intolerable as to amount to a firing, despite a lack of a formal termination notice.”[133]  The EEOC found that, the DOE, in demanding Almontaser’s resignation, had been discriminatory on the basis of her “race, religion and national origin.”[134]

Despite this conclusive finding, a lawyer representing the city maintained that the DOE had “‘in no way discriminated against Ms. Almontaser . . . .’”[135]  The DOE refused to discuss a settlement.  Soon after the EEOC issued its determination, Almontaser directed her lawyers not to initiate further litigation.  Vindicated by the EEOC, “I decided that it was time,” she wrote in 2011, “for me to move on with my professional and personal life.”[136

Commenting on the EEOC finding, Alan Levine, Almontaser’s lawyer, said:

Debbie Almontaser was victimized twice, first, when she was subjected to an ugly smear campaign orchestrated by anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigots, and second, when the DOE capitulated to their bigotry.  But the bigots didn’t have the power to take her job away.  The DOE did.  To its everlasting shame, the DOE did the bigots’ work.  Now the EEOC has reminded us that it is the responsibility of government to stand up to the forces of discrimination, not to give in to them.[137]


In the years since the March 2010 EEOC findings, we have continued to see the virulent impact of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in New York City.  In 2010, many of the same anti-Muslim ideologues from the anti-KGIA campaign initiated a relentless (and ultimately, unsuccessful) campaign against construction of Park51, an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan, several blocks from Ground Zero.[138]  Although Mayor Bloomberg was a vocal supporter of Park51, he and other city officials had, during the earlier campaign, provided legitimacy to the very Islamophobes who went on to attack Park51.[139]

More recently, we learned the extent of a New York City Police Department (NYPD) spying and profiling program—fully supported by Mayor Bloomberg—that targets Muslim, Arab American, and South Asian communities based on religion and ethnicity, not because of indicators of criminal activity.  A 2011-2012 series of Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press (AP) articles found that the NYPD had infiltrated about 250 New York mosques, targeted people because they “look Muslim,” and monitored Muslim students in several Northeast states just because of their religion (documenting, for example, how often Muslim college students on a rafting trip prayed).[140]  As a 2013 AP article reports, the NYPD has also designated mosques as "terror organizations," placed informants in mosques, infiltrated at least one local Arab-American community organization, and videotaped and infiltrated the wedding of a young Muslim leader.[141]  With the support of the local JCRC and other members of the Jewish establishment, Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, have consistently stood firm behind a program that, according to a NYPD commanding officer in 2012, had “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.”[142]

3. Ideologues, Institutions, and Israel

More than in the Boston mosque campaign, established and emerging members of the country’s Islamophobia network worked together to combat KGIA.  In Boston, local Jews and Jewish groups instigated the campaign.  They brought Steven Emerson into it, while other prominent Islamophobes played only a minor, low-profile role in backing the campaign.[143]  In New York City, however, the initial impetus for the anti-Muslim smear campaign came from long-time Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes and Frank Gaffney, together with newer players—Pamela Geller, whose first foray into anti-Muslim activism involved the attacks on Debbie Almontaser and KGIA; and David Yerushalmi, Stop the Madrassa’s legal counsel, who, at the time of the anti-KGIA campaign, was just beginning to propose legislation reflecting his views that “Muslim civilization is at war with Judeo-Christian civilization….”[144]

But, while the mainstream media and some liberal groups tend to focus most heavily on these anti-Islam ideologues, we believe it’s important to place the campaigns within the context of government and institutional power, decision-making, and actions.  In Boston, though mosque opponents tried to rally Mayor Thomas Menino and members of the city council to their cause, they were largely unsuccessful.[145]  In New York City, had government and educational power-brokers not sided with the vehement anti-Muslim, anti-Arab forces arrayed against Almontaser, these anti-KGIA opponents would have created a temporary media uproar, and the experience would have surely been painful for Almontaser and those close to her and the school.  But, most significantly, she would have retained her position, and the school would have had the opportunity to flourish. Whereas local officials attended the public opening of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the New York City Mayor’s legal team totally rejected the findings of the EEOC, and the chancellor let KGIA as it was envisioned die a slow death—eliminating staff dedicated to the vision of KGIA, making numerous school leadership changes, moving it far from Brooklyn’s Arab American community, and stripping the school of its Arab culture theme and its Arabic dual language focus.

In both campaigns, Israel emerged as a consistent theme.  In both, groups and individuals who strongly supported Israeli state policies were prominent among the inciters and supporters of the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab attacks. At the least, they were complicit by their silence.  At the same time, backers of the Islamic Society of Boston and of KGIA and Almontaser came almost entirely from the ranks of critics of Israeli state policies or from groups that welcomed members with diverse perspectives on them. 

The Islamophobia of the anti-Muslim ideologues complemented their militant pro-Israel perspective.  In Boston, without evidence, campaign instigators, including a right-wing Israel advocacy group (The David Project) indiscriminately linked individuals from the Islamic Society of Boston to Hamas, Hezbollah, and any form of Muslim- or Arab-initiated “terrorism.”  The Boston Jewish establishment—all adamant backers of Israeli policies—failed to speak out against what Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice for Peace has characterized as a “fishing expedition for ways to block the mosque in Boston [that] crossed a line from citizen’s advocacy to profoundly shameful efforts at preventing a group from practicing their religion.”[146]  Such groups as the ADL, Jewish Community Relations Council, and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies failed to offer a public critique of the anti-mosque instigators’ scaremongering, anti-Muslim media and political campaign and thereby helped foster a toxic Islamophobic and anti-Arab atmosphere.

In New York City, the anti-Muslim ideologues were unable to garner mainstream Jewish or other support until Almontaser responded as an educator to the New York Post’s question about the word “intifada.” The tabloid’s sensationalism and distortion of Almontaser’s words, specifically its smear of her as “anti-Israel,” had an immediate impact on staunch supporters of Israeli policies, with key members of the city’s political and educational power structure pushing her out of her job, and prominent Jewish institutional leaders lending credibility to the anti-Islam attacks on her.

Looking carefully at the anti-Boston mosque and anti-KGIA campaigns can sharpen our vision as we continue to challenge Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in all their forms. They underscore how anti-Muslim ideologues, Jewish and other mainstream institutions, and public officials and government can each play—through action or inaction—different roles in sustaining anti-Islam campaigns. They illustrate how unwavering support of Israeli policies often contribute to the characterization of Muslims, along with Arabs, as the "enemy” and to the perpetuation of Islamophobia, or the failure to speak out against it. We will continue to look back on the Boston and New York City anti-Islam campaigns for the lessons they can teach us about the forces, fears, and politics that made them possible and the ways we can and must move forward to counter Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.

Read the authors' previous articles: "How the Jewish Establishment's Litmus Test on Israel Fuels Anti-Muslim Bigotry," "Follow the Money: From Islamophobia to Israel Right or Wrong," and "How the Anti-Defamation League Fuels Islamophobia.”


[1] Wajahat Ali, Eli Clifton, Matt Duss, Lee Fang, Scott Keyes, & Faiz Shakir, Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, August 2011, Center for American Progress, (accessed Sept. 2, 2011). Also Muslim Public Affairs Council, Not Qualified: Exposing the Deception behind America’s Top 25 Pseudo Experts on Islam, 2012, (both accessed Sept. 15, 2012).

[2] Elly Bulkin & Donna Nevel, “Follow the Money: From Islamophobia to Israel Right or Wrong,” Alternet, October 3, 2012, (accessed October 3, 2012); Max Blumenthal, “The Great Islamophobic Crusade,” TomDispatch, December 19, 2010,,_the_great_fear_ (accessed December 22, 2010);  Alex Kane, “Who Funds Pamela Geller? In 2010, It Was a Former Israel Project Board Member,” Mondoweiss, December 19, 2012, (accessed December 20, 2012); Philip Weiss, “In Neocons’ ‘Parallel Establishment,’ a Foundation Hides Its Israel Concerns,” Mondoweiss, January 31, 2008, (accessed December 21, 2011).

[3] Alex Seitz-Wald, “The Right’s New Boston Conspiracy Theory,” Salon, April 18, 2013, (accessed May 6, 2013). See also David Iaconangelo, “Boston Marathon Explosions: Story False, Police Have No Suspect,” Latin Times, April 15, 2013,;  Solange Uwimana, “Fox Amplifies Discredited Anti-Islamic Activist Steve Emerson During Boston Coverage,” Media Matters, April 19, 2013,; and Ali Gharib, “Disgraced Terror Expert Says Boston Bombs Bear ‘Hallmark’ of Muslim Radicals,” Daily Beast, April 16, 2013,  (all accessed May 6, 2013) Also Amy Davidson, “The Saudi Marathon Man,” New Yorker, April 17, 2013,; Caitlin Dewey, “Saudi Man Investigated after Boston Marathon Speaks Out,” Washington Post, May 24, 2013,; and Amina Chaudary, “Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi in His Own Voice,” Islamic Monthly, May 21, 2013, (all accessed June 3, 2013). 

[4] Also, during the Park51 controversy in New York City, Emerson and his investigative team claimed to have discovered “explosive” and “shocking” new information, including “thirteen hours of audiotape,” which turned out not to contain any significant new information about Rauf.  Cited in Ali et al, Fear, Inc., 50; Richard Bartholomew, “Whatever Happened to Steve Emerson’s ’13 Hours’ of Rauf Audio?” Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, September 5, 2010, (accessed January 3, 2012).

[5] Jeff Klein, “Pro-Israel Extremists Have Campaigned against an Islamic Cultural Center Before,” Mondoweiss, August 23, 2010,; and Klein, “CAMERA Doth Protest Too Much Re Its Role in Boston Anti-Mosque Campaign,” Mondoweiss, August 31, 2010,; Episcopal-Jewish Alliance for Israel, “A Brief History and Introduction,” (all accessed January 3, 2012). 

[6] Americans for Peace and Tolerance, founded in 2008, has three directors: Dennis Hale and Ahmed Mansour, both co-founders of Citizen for Peace and Tolerance; and Charles Jacobs, who “helped form” the group, which was “later renamed Americans for Peace and Tolerance.” Hale, Mansour, and The David Project, which Jacobs founded and then headed, were all named as defendants in the 2006 ISB defamation suit.  Americans for Peace and Tolerance, “Who Is APT?”; and Jerry Gordon, “Fighting Muslim Brotherhood Lawfare and Rabbinic Fatwas: An Interview with Dr. Charles Jacobs,” New English Review, February 2011 (accessed May 22, 2013). 

[7] Jacobs views Pamela Geller, the prominent anti-Muslim, pro-Israeli settlement ideologue, as a “Jewish Heroine.” See Charles Jacobs, “Pamela Geller, Jewish Heroine,” Jewish Advocate, May 10, 2013, (free full text at (accessed May 20, 2013). 

[8] Americans for Peace and Tolerance seized on an erroneous report in the Los Angeles Times, a few days after the bombings, that linked Tamerlan Tsarnaev with the ISB mosque in Boston.   Other news outlets reported this inaccuracy for 24 hours before the Los Angeles Times printed an online correction. Jessica Testa, “Boston Mosque Mistakenly Linked to Suspects,” BuzzFeed, April 21, 2013,; Andrew Tangel & Ashley Powers, “FBI: Boston Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev Followed ‘Radical Islam,’” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2013,,0,4983624,full.story (both accessed May 6, 2013).

[9] Quote from Americans for Peace and Tolerance, “Big Success for Americans for Peace and Tolerance . . . ,” Facebook post, April 18, 2013, (accessed May 6, 2013).

[10] Islamic Society of Boston, “Boston Mosque Details Transparent Interactions with Suspect,” press release, April 22, 2013,; Mark Arsenault, “Dead Suspect Broke Angrily with Muslim Speakers,” Boston Globe, April 21, 2013, (both accessed May 6, 2013).

[11] Oren Dorell, “Mosque that Boston Suspects Attended Has Radical Ties,” USA Today, April 25, 2013, (accessed May 6, 2013).

[12] Charles Jacobs made this comment in a CNN segment that included an interview with him: “Tsarnaevs’ Mosque: Radicals Not Welcomed,” CNN, April 25, 2013, . He made the same point on “Terror Ties Suspects’ Mosque under Scrutiny—Radical Islam—Wake Up, America!” interview, Fox News, April 23, 2013, [youtube expand=1]! (both accessed My 5, 2013).  Clare Lopez of The Clarion Project (formerly the Clarion Fund, which produced Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West, The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America, and other rabidly anti-Muslim videos) told Fox News that “It’s very possible that he [Tamerlan] was influenced by the teachings there. . . . We don’t know for certain, but if you look at the way this mosque was founded and who it was founded by, you can at least suspect that he was influenced.”  Quoted in Perry Chiaramonte, “Boston Marathon Bomber’s Mosque Long a Lightning Rod for Criticism,” Fox News, April 24, 2013, (accessed May 6, 2013).

[13] Lisa Wangsness, “In Life and Words, Muslim Leader Bridges Cultures,” Boston Globe, May 12, 2013,; Suhaib Webb & Scott Korb, “No Room for Radicals,” New York Times, April 24, 2013, (accessed May 13, 2013).

[14] For Jacobs’ previous attacks on Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, see Judie Jacobson, “Q & A with Dr. Charles Jacobs,” Connecticut Jewish Ledger, July 8, 2010,; and Charles Jacobs, “What’s Up with Patrick?” Family Security Matters, June 7, 2010 (reprinted in the Jewish Advocate),; and Americans for Peace and Tolerance, “New England Jewish Community Discussion on the Islamist Threat,” [July 2010], (all accessed May 5, 2013).

[15] Ryan Mauro, “Mass. Governor Replaces Boston Bombers’ Imam at Prayer Service,” FrontPage Magazine, April 22, 2013,; and Islamist Watch, April 22, 2013, and; and Jacob Kamaras, “Muslim Brotherhood-Linked Mosque Imam Replaced as Speaker at Service for Boston Marathon Victims,” The Algemeiner, April 19, 2013,; reprinted in Jewish News Service (JNS), April 21, 2013, (all accessed May 5, 2013). 

[16] Ryan Mauro describes APT as “celebrating” (“Mass. Governor Replaces Boston Bombers’ Imam at Prayer Service”).  Anti-Islam groups were additionally pleased that Imam Web was replaced by Nasser Weddady, the chair of the New England Interfaith Council, an organization with no web presence and no discernible local constituency, and the civil rights outreach director of the American Islamic Congress, a group that receives funding from such sources as Sheldon Adelson, the rabidly pro-Israel and anti-Muslim billionaire. (Max Blumenthal, “Weddady’s Free Arabs, American Islamic Congress, and the Pro-Israel Funders Who Helped Them Rise,” The Electronic Intifada, May 7, 2013,  [accessed May 9, 2013]).  Wedaddy’s selection meant that “Muslims were the only faith community not represented by a cleric” at the interfaith service.”(Lisa Wangsness, “In Life and Words, Muslim Leader Bridges Cultures”).

[17] Jacob Kamaras, “Terror Linked Islamic Society of Boston Imam Suhaib Webb Disinvited from Interfaith Prayer Service,” Militant Islam Monitor, April 19, 2013, (accessed May 6, 2013). 

[18] Ali et al, Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.

[19] David Edwards, “Former Fox News Pundit: ‘Fox Waging a Campaign’ to Link ‘Radical’ and ‘Islam,’” The Raw Story, April 28, 2013, (accessed May 6, 2013).

[20] These included such staples of the Islamophobia network in America as Daniel Pipes’ Islamist Watch and David Horowitz ’ Frontpage Magazine.  Among other post-Marathon bombing sources of anti-Muslim vitriol were such staunch supporters of right-wing Israel politics as: Arutz Sheva, the publication of the Israeli settler movement; the Jewish News Service (JNS), whose leaders, when not “vacationing in Israeli settlements,” play prominent roles in CAMERA and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; and the Algemeiner, whose regular writers include Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, and Islamophobia network figures Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes.  Josh Nathan-Kazis, “Fledgling Jewish News Service Rocks Boat with Strident Pro-Israel Message,” Jewish Forward, June 28, 2013, (accessed July 10, 2013); and Allison Deger, “Startup ‘Jewish News Services’ Peddles Neo-con Propaganda as News,” Mondoweiss, July 13, 2013, (accessed July 14, 2013).  Deger notes that Amelia Katzen, the JNS treasurer, is director of CAMERA, which Charles Jacobs co-founded; the CAMERA board includes JNS publisher Russel Pergament.  Mauro, “Mass. Governor Replaces Boston Bombers’ Imam at Prayer Service”; Kamaras, “Muslim Brotherhood-Linked Mosque Imam Replaced as Speaker at Service for Boston Marathon Victims”; Kamaras, “Terror Linked Islamic Society of Boston Imam Suhaib Webb Disinvited from Interfaith Prayer Service”; and Algemeiner, “Featured Writers, (all accessed May 6, 2013).

[21] Jeff Klein, “Pro-Israel Extremists Have Campaigned against an Islamic Cultural Center Before.”

[22] Islamic Society of Boston, “Damning Evidence against the David Project,” press release, Scoop Independent News, May 9, 2007, (accessed January 3, 2012).  “In recent years, Wahhabi Islam has been identified not only with the Taliban and Osama bin-Laden’s al-Qaeda, but also with Islamic opposition movements in other areas . . . .” (John L. Esposito, Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam [New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002], 106.)

[23] Jonathan Wells, Jack Meyers, Maggie Mulvihill & Kevin Wisniewski, “Radical Islam: Outspoken Cleric, Jailed Activist Tied to New Hub Mosque,” Boston Herald, October 28, 2003,; Wells, Meyers, Mulvihill & Wisniewski, “Under Suspicion: Hub Mosque Leader Tied to Radical Groups,” Boston Herald, October 29, 2003,; and “Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center—Timeline,” The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, n.d., (all accessed December 30, 2011).

[24] “Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center—Timeline.”

[25] Islamic Society of Boston et al. v. Boston Herald et al. n1, Superior Court of Massachusetts at Suffolk, July 20, 2006 Mass. Super LEXIS 391, (accessed December 30, 2011; now available only by subscription).  See also Cecilie Surasky, “Campaign to Stop Mosque in Boston: The Islamic Society of Boston Drops Defamation Lawsuit against Opponents of Mosque, Construction to Proceed,” MuzzleWatch, June 4, 2007, (accessed March 2, 2012); and Jane Lampman, “Boston Mosque Rises above the Fray,” Christian Science Monitor, July 12, 2007, (accessed January 3, 2012).

[26] “Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center—Timeline.”

[27] Andrea Estes, “Islamic Group Repudiates Trustee’s Anti-Semitic Quotes,” Boston Globe, October 14, 2004, (accessed July 10, 2013).

[28] Estes, “Islamic Group Repudiates Trustee’s Anti-Semitic Quotes.”

[29] Islamic Society of Boston et al. v. Boston Herald et al; James C. Policastro v. City of Boston et al. n1. 2007 Mass. Super. LEXIS 91,*;22 Mass. L. Rep. 282, (accessed January 3, 2012).

[30] CPT was founded by Steven Cohen, Dennis Hale, and Ahmed Mansour (Americans for Peace and Tolerance, “About,” [accessed July 10, 2013]).  Charles Jacobs says that he “helped form” CPT (Jerry Gordon, “Fighting Muslim Brotherhood Lawfare and Rabbinic Fatwas: An Interview with Dr. Charles Jacobs,” New English Review, February 2011

[31] Islamic Society of Boston, “Confronting Intolerance,” n.d.,  (accessed July 17, 2011; no longer available online).

[32] Islamic Society of Boston, “Confronting Intolerance.”

[33] Charles Radin, “Islamic Society Expands Libel Suit,” Boston Globe, November 1, 2005,;  (accessed December 30, 2011).  According to the ISB Cultural Center Timeline, in October 2005, “after two individuals affiliated with the ISB file defamation lawsuits (against Fox Television, Boston Heralds, Inc., [reporter] Jonathan Wells, and others) the ISB files a lawsuit of its own.”

[34] Defendants were: Jonathan Wells, Jack Meyers, Thomas Mashberg, Maggie Mulvihill, Kevin Wisniewski, Fox Television Stations, Inc., d/b/a/ WFXT-TV, Michael Beaudet, The Investigative Project, Inc., Steven Emerson, William R. Sapers, The David Project, Inc., Anna Kolodner, Citizens for Peace and Tolerance, Inc., Steven A. Cohen, Dennis Hale, and Ahmed Mansour.  Islamic Society of Boston et al. v. Boston Herald et al.

[35] Kristin Erekson, Jewish Groups Back ISB’s 'Day in Court,'” Jewish Advocate (Boston), March 13, 2007, (accessed January 3, 2012).

[36] Erekson, Jewish Groups Back Islamic Society of Boston 's 'Day in Court.'”

[37] Yvonne Abraham, “Muslims, Jews Spar in Ads over Mosque,” Boston Globe, January 5, 2006, (accessed January 3, 2012).

[38] Michael Felsen, “Rosh Hashonah Dvar – September 2007,” September 13, 2007, (accessed March 2, 2012).

[39] Abraham, “Muslims, Jews Spar in Ads over Mosque.”

[40] Abraham, “Muslims, Jews Spar in Ads over Mosque.”

[41] Abraham, “Muslims, Jews Spar in Ads over Mosque.”  Kazmi, ISB assistant director for five years, co-founded the Center for Jewish-Muslim Relations (Greater Boston).

[42] Information and quotations in this paragraph come from Abraham.

[43] JTA, “Let’s Talk, Workmen’s Circle Urges Combatants in Boston Mosque Battle,” JTA, May 9, 2007, (accessed July 12, 2013).

[44] Phone interview with Michael Felsen, president of Boston Workmen’s Circle, August 23, 2011.

[45] Michael Felsen, “‘Building a Community of Trust’ in Boston,” Jewish Currents, November-December 2007, 6.

[46] Michael Felsen also told us that Workmen’s Circle is not a member of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and has gotten only minimal funding from its fundraising arm.  The Combined Jewish Philanthropies both houses and funds the JCRC.

[47] Michael Felsen, “Rosh Hashonah Dvar – September 2007.”

[48] Phone interview with Alice Rothschild, member of Workmen’s Circle and Jewish Voice for Peace, March 24, 2012.

[49] Letter from Stacie Garnett and Corinne Lofchie, Tekiah Co-Chairs, on behalf of the Tekiah Steering Committee, to Nancy Kaufman, Executive Director of the JCRC of Greater Boston, April 4, 2006, (accessed March 2, 2012). 

[50] Tekiah, “Op-ed in the Boston Jewish Advocate about the Islamic Society of Boston’s Mosque,” Boston Jewish Advocate, n.d., (accessed the first six paragraphs of this op-ed on July 12, 2011; could access only the first two paragraphs on March 2, 2012).

[51] The quotes here and in the following sentences are from the Reverend Nick Carter and Rabbi David Gordis, “Letter to Dr. Yousef Abou Allaban of the Islamic Society of Boston and Dr. Charles Jacob of The David Project,” December 22, 2006. (accessed January 3, 2012).  Both Rabbi Gordis and the Reverend Carter were subsequently among the Boston-area Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders who signed “An Interfaith Declaration of Peace,” which called “upon Hamas immediately to end all rocket attacks on Israel, and upon Israel immediately to end its military campaign in Gaza.” Michael Paulson, “Boston Faith Leaders Call for Gaza Ceasefire,” Boston Globe, January 12, 2009, (accessed January 3, 2012).   Among the leaders signing this statement were those from: the ISB Cultural Center, Muslim American Society (MAS) of Boston, which had taken on the management of the ISB Cultural Center, the Workmen’s Circle; and the former president of the Boston area JCRC.  As the Boston Globe report about this statement notes, the Jewish signatories “do not include the current heads of the major umbrella Jewish community organizations, who have generally not said anything that could be perceived as critical of Israel.”

[52] Islamic Society of Boston et al. v. Boston Herald et al. n.1.

[53] Carter & Gordis letter, December 22, 2006. 

[54] Statements of Interest of Amici Curiae (draft), Amicus Brief, February 16, 2007, 1, hard copy provided by Hayyim Feldman. 

[55] Statements of Interest of Amici Curiae, 5.

[56] Statements of Interest of Amici Curiae, 6-7.

[57] Statements of Interest of Amici Curiae, 6, 7.

[58] Erekson, Jewish Groups Back ISB’s 'Day in Court.'”

[59] Phone interview with Alice Rothchild, August 17, 2010.

[60] Erekson, Jewish Groups Back ISB’s 'Day in Court.'”

[61] Jacobs mentions his role in forming Citizens for Peace and Tolerance in Gordon, “Fighting Muslim Brotherhood Lawfare and Rabbinic Fatwas: An Interview with Dr. Charles Jacobs.”

[62] Sapers & Wallack, “Our Team: Bill Sapers,” (accessed September 8, 2013).

[64] Phone interview with Rabbi Joseph Berman, Support the Mosque, September 19, 2011.

[65] Support the Mosque, “Traditional Jewish Commitments to Justice Lose Their Power unless We Take Action,” outreach flyer statement,  (accessed January 3, 2012). Quotations from Support the Mosque in this paragraph are from this document.

[66] Quotes and other information in this paragraph are from a phone interview with Marjorie Dove Kent, Support the Mosque, March 20, 2012.

[67] Lampman, “Boston Mosque Rises above the Fray.” Andrea Estes, “Islamic Society Urged to Respond: Group Still Quiet on Anti-Semitism Issue,” Boston Globe, October 7, 2004, (accessed October 12, 2012).

[68] Islamic Society of Boston, “Islamic Society of Boston Apologizes to Jewish Leaders,” press release, April 10, 2007, (accessed July 9, 2013); and Raphael Kohan, “Controversial Islamic Figure Apologizes to Jewish Leaders,” Jewish Advocate, April 9, 2007, both at (both accessed January 3, 2012).

[69] Felsen, “‘Building a Community of Trust’ in Boston.”

[70] Jane Lampman, “Boston Mosque Rises above the Fray.”

[71] Islamic Society of Boston, “Damning Evidence against the David Project.”

[72] Islamic Society of Boston, “Damning Evidence against the David Project.” Subsequent quotations and information in this paragraph are from this source.

[73] According to Islamic Society of Boston, “Damning Evidence against the David Project”: “The David Project collaborated with Robert Leikind, the executive director of the ADL; Steve Emerson at the Investigative Project and Rita Katz, a discredited former FBI informant at the SITE Institute; Ilana Freedman, a terrorism ‘expert,’ Republican politician and managing partner of Gerard Group in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, to create a ‘comprehensive document regarding the individuals/organizations/history etc. of the Mosque, which will be the backbone of the media campaign.’ 

This fabrication, labeled ‘Mosque Characters.doc,’ lists over twenty Muslim leaders including Dr. Yusef al-Qaradawi, Abdurahman Alamoudi, founder of the American Muslim Council, and various ISB directors with bogus and bizarre links to ‘the Moslem Brotherhood,’ Hamas, Hezbollah and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.”

[74] Islamic Society of Boston, “Damning Evidence against the David Project.”  “Subpoenaed emails released in 2007 indicated that the ADL seems to have played more of a role than had been apparent from its public positions.”  (Elly Bulkin & Donna Nevel, “ADL’s Pro-Israel Mindset Leads It to Perpetuate Anti-Muslim Worldview, “Alternet, February 4, 2013, (accessed February 5, 2013).

[75] Lampman, “Boston Mosque Rises above the Fray.”

[76] Dean Barnett, “The Islamists Are Coming!” Weekly Standard, June 11, 2007, (accessed November 13, 2012).

[77] Lampman, “Boston Mosque Rises above the Fray.”

[78] Quoted in Raja Mishra, “Muslim, Jewish Leaders See Fresh Start: End of Lawsuit Creates Opening,” Boston Globe, May 31, 2007, (accessed January 3, 2012).

[79] Mishra, “Muslim, Jewish Leaders See Fresh Start.”

[80] Quotes from Rabbi Spitzer from JTA, “Let’s Talk, Workmen’s Circle Urges Combatants in Boston Mosque Battle.”

[81] Michael Felsen, “Trustworthy Community,” Boston Globe, July 5, 2009, (accessed January 3, 2012).

[82] Jacobson, “Q & A with... Dr. Charles Jacobs: Human Rights Activist Talks about What It Will Take to Awaken the Jewish Community to the Threat of Radical Islam.”

[83] Felsen, “Trustworthy Community.”

[84] Charles Jacobs, “What’s Up with Patrick?”; and Jacobson, “Q & A with Dr. Charles Jacobs: Human Rights Activists Talks about What It Will Take to Awaken the Jewish Community to the Threat of Radical Islam.”

[85] Nancy K. Kaufman, “Maligning a ‘Thoughtful Rabbi,” Jewish Advocate, letter to the editor, June 18, 2010, ; and “Rabbis Come to the Defense of a Colleague under Fire,” letter to the editor, Jewish Advocate, June 11, 2010,  (both accessed May 6, 2013).  In May, 2013, “Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said his group still has significant questions about the organization that manages the Roxbury mosque, the Muslim American Society

[86] “Rabbis Come to the Defense of a Colleague under Fire,” letter to the editor, Jewish Advocate.

[87] Charles Jacobs, “Is the Answer a Second ADL?” Jewish Advocate, January 28, 2009, (accessed May 6, 2013).

[88] Barry Shrage & Jeff Robbins, “Campaign Against ADL Tramples the Truth” Jewish Advocate, June 1, 2012, (accessed May 6, 2013). Shrage is President of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, and Robbins is the ADL Boston Regional Board Chair. 

[89] Matt Rocheleau, “At Dorchester Church, Faith Leaders, Political Candidates Call for Peace, Unity in Wake of Marathon Bombings,” Boston Globe, April 22, 2013, (accessed May 6, 2013).

[90] Michael Felsen, “Boston Bombing Is a Chance for the City’s Jews and Muslims to Get Closer,” Haaretz, April 24, 2013, (accessed May 6, 2013). As Felsen writes about Rabbi Friedman,  “He told me he’s impressed with the depth, sincerity and religious scholarship the new imam brings, and genuinely delighted with the openness he has expressed to build more bridges and ‘to recognize the opportunities that exist when we act in concert for the sake of the city.’”

[91] Lisa Wangsness & Meghan E. Irons, “Boston Muslims Gather for Friday Prayer, Saddened, Shaken, Indignant,” Boston Globe, April 26, 2013, (accessed May 7, 2013).

[92] Mahmood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Pantheon, 2004), 19; and Sunaina Maira, “Islamophobia and the War on Terror: Youth, Citizenship, and Dissent,” in Islamophobia: The Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century, ed. John L. Esposito & Ibrahim Kalin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 121. Also Sheila Musaji, “Islamophobes Add to Their ‘Ideal Muslim Leaders’ Pool,” The American Muslim, May 12, 2013, (accessed May 14, 2013).

[93] Bulkin & Nevel, “How the Jewish Establishment's Litmus Test on Israel Fuels Anti-Muslim Bigotry,” Alternet, September 7, 2012, (accessed November 29, 2012). 

[94] Debbie Almontaser, “The Khalil Gibran International Academy—Lessons Learned?” Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalities, Contentions, and Complexities, eds. Reza Aslan & Aaron J. Hahn Tapper (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 46.

[95] Daniel Pipes, “New Approach Needed for Arab School,” New York Sun, August 15, 2007, (accessed March 8, 2012).

[96] Frank. J. Gaffney, Jr., “War of Ideas’ Homefront [on Khalil Gibran Academy],” The Washington Times, July 24, 2007.  See also Gaffney, “Stop the Madrassa,” The Washington Times, August 14, 2007. (accessed March 6, 2012).

[97] Daniel Pipes, “A Madrassa Grows in Brooklyn,” The New York Sun, August 24, 2007, (accessed March 6, 2012).

[98] Quote from Louis Cristillo in Samuel G. Freedman, “Critics Ignore Record of a Muslim Principal,” Communities in Support of KGIA, August 29, 2007, (accessed March 6, 2012).

[99] John L. Esposito, What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011), 41-42.

[100] Stop the Madrassa, “About,”

[101] Pipes, “New Approach Needed for Arab School.”

[102] Southern Poverty Law Center, “Intelligence Files: Pamela Geller,” (accessed May 16, 2013).  

[103] Debbie Almontaser, “The Khalil Gibran International Academy—Lessons Learned?” 47.

[104] “Transcript of Pamela Hall on the Glenn Beck Show: July 31, 2007,” Stop the Madrassa, August 1, 2007, (accessed May 6, 2013). 

[105] Chuck Bennett & Jana Winter, “City Principal Is ‘Revolting,’” New York Post, August 6, 2007, (accessed March 8, 2012).

[106] Bennett & Winter, “City Principal Is ‘Revolting.’”

[107] Bennett & Winter, “City Principal Is ‘Revolting.’”

[108] Yoav Gonan, “Randi Rips 'Intifada' Principal,” New York Post, August 9, 2007. (accessed March 8, 2012).

[109] Elizabeth Green, “At Rally, Arabic School Supporters Demand Principal’s Return,” New York Sun, August 21, 2007,; “Jihad’ya Later,” editorial, New York Post, August 11, 2007, (both accessed March 19, 2012).

[110] Daniel Pipes, “Stop the NYC Madrassa,” New York Sun, August 15, 2007, (accessed March 19, 2012).

[111] Andrea Elliott, “Critics Cost Muslim Educator Her Dream School,” New York Times, April 28, 2008, (accessed March 17, 2012).

[112] Larry Cohler-Esses, “Jewish Shootout over Arab School,” New York Jewish Week, August 17, 2007, (accessed March 8, 2012).

[113] Nathan Guttman, “JCPA Approves Effort to Build Dialogue with Muslim Groups,” Daily Forward, March 4, 2009, (accessed March 8, 2012).

[114] Debbie Almontaser, “The Khalil Gibran International Academy—Lessons Learned?” 49.

[115] Cohler-Esses, “Jewish Shootout over Arab School.”

[116] Cohler-Esses, “Jewish Shootout over Arab School.”

[117] Elliott, “Critics Cost Muslim Educator Her Dream School.”

[118] Debbie Almontaser, email to the authors, March 30, 2012.

[119] Communities in Support of KGIA, “Our Coalition: About Us,” (accessed March 8, 2012).

[120] The steering committee representatives were Mona Eldahry, Erica Waples, Carol Horwitz, Fatin Jarara, Michael Feinberg, Adem Carroll, Ayla Schoenwald, Ray Wofsy, and the two authors of this article.

[121] “Open Letter to the Jewish Community,” Communities in Support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, April 23, 2008, (accessed March 8, 2012).

[122] Almontaser, “The Khalil Gibran International Academy—Lessons Learned?” 51.

[123] Almontaser quote from Kiera Feldman, “The Anti-Muslim Machine,” Killing the Buddha, November 1, 2010, (accessed January 3, 2012).  See also Alex Kane, “Michael Bloomberg and New York’s Muslims: A Lesson in How Israel Courses through Jewish-Muslim Relations,” Mondoweiss, November 18, 2010, (both accessed January 3, 2012).

[124] Dina Kraft, “In Israel, Bloomberg Shows His Support,” New York Times, January 5, 2009, (accessed March 19, 2012).

[125] Data is from B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights groups.  Avi Issacharoff & AP, “Rights Group: Most Gazans Killed in War Were Civilians,” Haaretz, September 9, 2009, (accessed March 28, 2012).

[126] Kraft, “In Israel, Bloomberg Shows His Support.”

[127] Kraft, “In Israel, Bloomberg Shows His Support.”

[128] Gonan, “Randi Rips 'Intifada' Principal.”  

[129] Josh Nathan-Kazis, “The Leading Jew in Labor Wears Pearls,” Jewish Daily Forward, May 12, 2010, (accessed March 19, 2012).

[130] Debbie Almontaser & Donna Nevel, “The Story of Khalil Gibran International Academy: Racism and a Campaign of Resistance,” Monthly Review 63:03, July-August 2011, (accessed March 19, 2012).

[131] Debbie Almontaser v. New York City Department of Education and New Visions for Public Schools, EEOC Charge No. 520-2008-02337, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, March 9, 2010, 7, (accessed March 19, 2012).

[132] Almontaser v. New York City Department of Education, 6.

[133] U.S. Legal, Inc., “Constructive Discharge Law and Definition,” U.S. Legal Definitions, (accessed March 19, 2012).

[134] Almontaser v. New York City Department of Education, 8.

[135] Andrea Elliott, “Federal Panel Finds Bias in Ouster of Principal,” New York Times, March 12, 2010, (accessed March 19, 2012).

[136] Almontaser & Nevel, “The Story of the Khalil Gibran International Academy: Racism and a Campaign of Resistance.”

[137] Quoted in Communities in Support of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (CISKGIA)/, “EEOC Determines that the Department of Education Discriminated against Former KGIA Interim Acting Principal,” press release, March 12, 2010, (accessed March 30, 2012).

[138] Justin Elliott, “How the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Fear Mongering Began,” Salon, August 16, 2010,;  Justin Elliott, “Whatever Happened to the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’?,” Salon, December 31, 2010,  (both accessed January 3, 2012).

[139] City of New York, “Mayor Bloomberg Discusses The Landmarks Preservation Commission Vote on 45-47 Park Place,” press release, August 3, 2010, (accessed February 3, 2011).

[140] A list of all of the AP articles in this Pulitzer Prize-winning series is available at “AP Probe into NYPD Intelligence Operations,” (all accessed September 30, 2012). Matt Apuzzo & Adam Goldman, “NYPD Secrets: How the Cops Launched a Spy Shop to Rival CIA,” excerpt from Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD’s Secret Spying Unit and Bin Laden’s Final Plot Against America, September 1, 2013,; Chris Hawley, “NYPD Monitored Muslim Students All Over the Northeast,” Christian Science Monitor, February 20, 2012, (accessed February 21, 2012).  See also Tom Robbins, “NYPD Cops’ Training Included an Anti-Muslim Horror Flick,” The Village Voice, January 19, 2011,  Michael Powell, “In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims,” New York Times, January 23, 2012,; and J.J. Goldberg, “Islamophobic Film and Its Jewish Backers,” Jewish Daily Forward, February 2, 2012, (all accessed February 3, 2012).

[141] Adam Goldman & Matt Apuzzo, “NYPD Secretly Designated Mosques as Terrorism Organizations,” Associated Press, August 28, 2013. (accessed August 28, 2013).

[142] Adam Goldman & Matt Apuzzo, “NYPD: Muslim Spying Led to No Leads, Terror Cases,” New York Daily News, August 21, 2012, (accessed September 30, 2012). Goldman & Apuzzo, “NYPD: Muslim Spying Led to No Leads, Terror Cases.” In his testimony, Galati explained that the NYPD thought it legitimate to collect information, for example, on speakers of Urdu (the language of 15 million Pakistanis and 60 million Indians) or someone from South Lebanon, because, he said, “that may be an indicator of possibility that that is a sympathizer of Hezbollah because Southern Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah.”

[143] Robert Spencer spoke out against the mosque at a synagogue in a Boston suburb, and Daniel Pipes kept expanding, from 2003 to 2008, a detailed summary of the controversy that kept up-to-date those already committed to his anti-Muslim worldview. Solomon, “Robert Spencer on the Boston Mosque,” Solomania, February 3, 2005,; and Daniel Pipes, “The Islamic Society of Boston & the Politicians’ Red Faces,” Middle East Forum, October 29, 2003 (updated December 29, 2008), (accessed December 30, 2011).

[144] David Yerushalmi, “What Peaceful Islam?” The American Spectator, March 2, 2006, (accessed November 12, 2012).

[145] For discussions of the actions of local officials from an anti-mosque perspective, see Ted Siefer, “Mosque Land Sale Emerges as Election Issue,” Jewish Advocate, October 21, 2005,; and David S. Bernstein, “Menino’s Mosque,” The Phoenix, November 24, 2008, (both accessed November 12, 2012). 

[146] Cecilie Surasky, “Campaign to Stop Mosque in Boston: The Islamic Society of Boston Drops Defamation Lawsuit against Opponents of Mosque, Construction to Proceed."


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