Human Rights

No Surprise That Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer Will Accept Award From Vile U.S. Anti-Muslim Hate Group

There's a long history of right-wing Israel supporters getting cozy with rabid Islamophobes.

It should be no surprise that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer will be accepting the Freedom Flame Award in New York City on December 13 from the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a pillar of the anti-Muslim movement. Those who have followed the close relationship and overlap between Israeli policies and Islamophobia find Dermer’s link to such a group and its founder, Frank Gaffney, despicable, but totally unsurprising—certainly not something he or Israeli officials wouldn’t welcome wholeheartedly. If this relationship hadn’t been clear enough, Israeli officials have been celebrating the election of Donald Trump, whose loathsome Islamophobia was just one of the hallmarks of his hate-filled campaign. (His initial major appointments have all expressed and supported virulent anti-Muslim positions.)

Islamophobia, which has a long history in the U.S., is escalating daily. Gaffney—who has claimed that President Obama is a "secret Muslim"—is one of the country’s leading purveyors of anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, promoting the idea that mosques are a means of “destroying the United States from within,” that Islamists are successfully infiltrating the highest levels of the federal government, and that Muslims are taking over the United States by imposing Shariah law (Muslim religious law) in U.S. courts. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump cited bogus data from the CSP that a quarter of Muslim-Americans favor violence against Americans in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress, Center for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Southern Poverty Law Center, and other groups have thoroughly debunked all of these claims. 

Described as a “misinformation expert” in CAP’s 2011 report, "Fear. Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America," Gaffney and CSP are prominent parts of this network. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies him as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes” and CSP as an anti-Muslim hate group.  

Israeli Embassy spokesperson Itai Bar-Dov’s claim that Dermer, who “greatly appreciates the Center for Security Policy’s longtime support for a strong and secure Israel,” is “not aware” of his anti-Muslim ideology is disingenuous at best. Gaffney’s views are widely known. His and Dermer’s views reflect two sides of the same coin, promoting both Islamophobia and Israeli apartheid.

Several Jewish and other groups have criticized Dermer for accepting an award that promotes Islamophobia. Some expressed concern that the connection between Dermer and CSP undercuts what they see as shared U.S.-Israel values and principles, including religious freedom. As they condemn Gaffney’s Islamophobia, they seem to treat Dermer’s acceptance of anti-Muslim hate a departure from Israel’s imagined anti-Islamophobic norm.  

But they totally miss the point, which is that no amount of information about the depth and scope of Gaffney’s Islamophobia would be enough to dissuade this representative of the Israeli government to forego this “honor,” let alone condemn CSP.  (Dermer has often been called “Bibi’s brain,” because of his close relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.) The CSP award is just one instance in a long history of right-wing supporters of Israel making common cause with some of this country's most rabid Islamophobes. 

The annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference, for example, has often provided a platform for the views of Stephen Emerson, a prominent member of the Islamophobia network. Among AIPAC’s former board members is Nina Rosenwald, heir to the Sears Roebuck fortune, who has been described as the “Sugar mama of anti-Muslim hate." Netanyahu has spoken at multiple AIPAC Policy conferences. 

Then there is the rabid Islamophobia of the Zionist Organization of America, whose longtime executive director Morton Klein is being honored by CSP this year along with Dermer. ZOA is the rare Jewish organization willing to sponsor talks by Pamela Geller, co-founder of the hate group, Stop the Islamization of America, who has advertised her vicious anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian ideology on buses and in train stations across the country. Netanyahu spoke at the 2015 ZOA Brandeis Dinner. ZOA also invited newly appointed senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who has his own Islamophobic and racist history, to attend its gala in NYC. 

In addition, the Islamophobia of the Reverend John Hagee of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), who fully accepts the Islamophobic “clash of civilizations” concept—the implacable conflict between “Western civilization” and its enemies—is well-known. Hagee has said of Muslims, “They are trained from the breast of their mother to hate us.” Netanyahu, a speaker at CUFI events, said, “I consider CUFI to be a vital part of Israel’s national security.”

It is no accident that Dermer, Netanyahu and their most fervent backers in the United States consort with Islamophobes. The relationship between Israel and its supporters’ anti-Muslim ideology and their support for expansionist anti-Palestinian policies—and how one depends on the other—cannot be underestimated. Dermer’s acceptance of the CSP award is not an aberration, but exemplifies Israeli policy at its core.

Elly Bulkin is a co-convener of the Network Against Islamophobia (NAI), a project of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and co-author of Islamophobia & Israel (2014).  

Donna Nevel is co-convener of the Network Against Islamophobia (NAI), a project of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and co-author of Islamophobia & Israel (2014).  

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