Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review Nov. 6 , 2000 / 8 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Hillary's outreach

By Steven Emerson -- IN THE SPRING of 1996, I had lunch with a senior adviser to the Clinton Administration and to Hillary. I asked him if there was any concern over the article I had published in The Wall Street Journal that revealed that both the president and first lady had hosted militant Islamic groups, which had, at the White House, proclaimed their support for terrorism.

"This administration believes in a big tent." the adviser responded. "Besides, we've gotten no flak, so why should we back off?"

Last week the first lady finally got some flak. As a result, Mrs. Clinton announced at an Oct. 25 news conference that she was returning $50,000 in campaign contributions raised by the American Muslim Alliance, an anti-Israeli group whose leaders have sanctioned terrorism, published anti-Semitic statements and repeatedly hosted conferences that were forums for denunciations of Jews and exhortations to wage jihad. Mrs. Clinton claimed she was unaware that the group was behind the fund-raiser, held in Boston in June. The first lady also revealed she was returning a $1,000 contribution from Abdulrahman Alamoudi, an official of the American Muslim Council, who has openly championed Hamas and defended other terrorists, including those behind the World Trade Center bombing.

The most telling moment of the first lady's news conference--which has yet to be reported--came in response to a question as to why, she has met repeatedly over the years with other groups that had openly supported Hamas, Hezbollah and other foreign terrorist organizations.

"I think what you're referring to," she said, "is that over the course of the last seven years as part of the administration's efforts to open lines of communication and build bridges with Muslim Americans and Muslim leaders from all over the world, many, many people have been invited to the White House. I have been part of some of those events. I have hosted some of them. I would imagine that some of the people who were invited were members of organizations with whom I would have had serious disagreements about some of the things those organizations have said. . . . So I think that if you want to talk about what the White House has tried to do, what the administration has tried to do to try to promote a framework for peace, it certainly included lines of communication to many different groups and many different individuals."

Well, let's look at the results of that effort to produce a "framework for peace," which, according to White House records and published reports, began in early 1996, when Mrs. Clinton started hosting and inviting the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the American Muslim Alliance (AMA).

What have these groups done since Mrs. Clinton began reaching out to them? On Sept. 16, 2000, at a Washington rally sponsored by CAIR, AMC, and MPAC, the head of CAIR, Nihad Awad, declared: "They [the Jews] have been saying 'next year to Jerusalem', we say "next year to all of Palestine!" (Mr. Awad also dissed Mrs. Clinton's best friends in LA: "Hollywood has shown freedom fighters as terrorists. Hollywood has done the work that Zionists cannot do.")

On Oct. 13, 2000, CAIR and the AMC sponsored a rally outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington where the speakers led the crowd in a chant: Khybar, Khybar, ya, ya Yahood, jesh Mohammed sofa ya'ud. (Translation: "Khybar Khybar, oh Jews, the army of Mohammed is coming for you.") It is a refrain used by Hamas threatening the annihilation of Jews as was done to the Jewish tribe in Khybar, Saudi Arabia, by Mohammed in the year 628.

At another Washington rally, on Oct. 28, 2000, the AMC's Mr. Alamoudi led the thousands in attendance to chant their support for Hamas and Hezbollah. "Hear that, Bill Clinton, we are all supporters of Hamas," he declared. "I wish they argued that I am also a supporter of Hezbollah." (When the New York Daily News asked about these comments earlier this week, Mr. Alamoudi denied making them, telling the reporter: "You better check your Arabic." When the reporter noted that he had given the speech in English, Mr. Alamoudi replied, "It was in English? Oh my God, I forgot!")

In 1998 AMC, CAIR and AMA hosted a rally at Brooklyn College where Islamic militants exhorted the attendees to carry out "jihad" and described Jews as "pigs and monkeys." In 1999 these same groups, together with MPAC, sponsored a rally in Santa Clara, Calif., where speakers accused Israel and the U.S. of carrying out "a conspiracy" to "kill Muslims." One speaker called for the death of Jews.

Of course, Mrs. Clinton cannot be held responsible for the views of other people. Or can she? What is her responsibility in hosting organizations that have championed Hamas and Hezbollah?

As first lady, Mrs. Clinton began in 1996 an outreach program to Muslim leaders in the U.S. With America's Muslim population at some six million and growing, an effort to include the community's leaders in the mainstream of American politics is unquestionably a worthy undertaking. But curiously, nearly all of the leaders with whom Mrs. Clinton elected to meet came from Islamic fundamentalist organizations. A review of the statements, publications and conferences of the groups Mrs. Clinton embraced shows unambiguously that they have long advocated or justified violence. By meeting with these groups, the first lady lent them legitimacy as "mainstream" and "moderate."

One of the earliest groups with which Mrs. Clinton bonded was the AMC, which she invited to the White House in February 1996, for its first reception commemorating the end of Ramadan. Mrs. Clinton accepted a Koran and told the invited crowd how she acquired an appreciation of Islam through her daughter Chelsea.

By the time Mrs. Clinton reached out to the AMC in early 1996, that organization had clearly established a record in support of radical Islam. In a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer published on Oct. 14, 1994, Mr. Alamoudi stated that the "major Islamic parties in Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey are undeniably moderates." This is plainly false. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the Jordanian Islamic Action Front, Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front and the Pakistani Jamaat-Islami have all endorsed or carried out violence. Mr. Alamoudi specifically declared in a March 5, 1993, Fox Television interview: "I am for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt."

In the aftermath of the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the AMC emerged as a defender of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, whose followers carried out the attack. Mr. Alamoudi rushed to the sheik's defense immediately after the bombing. On CNN's "Crossfire" (March 5, 1993) he said of Abdel Rahman: "An organizer of terror? No. The man has vulgar language. He might incite other people, but you cannot hold him for [terrorism]." In a letter to the Washington Times, published March 12, 1993, Mr. Alamoudi characterized the blind sheik as a "theologian" who advocated "democratization of the Egyptian political system." In 1995 Abdel Rahman was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison.

AMC served as the headquarters for the American-based offices of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), a fundamentalist organization that is dedicated to toppling the secular government of Algeria and that has carried out a campaign of terror, including beheadings and mutilations. In 1997 Anwar Haddam, the FIS leader who worked out of the AMC offices was arrested by U.S. authorities; he now faces deportation because of his support for terrorism.

Mr. Alamoudi publicly led the defense of Mousa Abu Marzuk, head of the Hamas political bureau, after Mr. Marzuk's arrest on immigration charges at John F. Kennedy International Airport in July 1995. (Mr. Marzuk was deported in 1997.) Quoted in the Washington Post on July 28, 1995, Mr. Alamoudi declared the arrest "a hard insult to the Muslim community." In 1996 Mr. Alamoudi declared on Middle East television that "I am honored to be a member of the committee that is defending Mousa Abu Marzuk in America." Such views should not have been surprising. On the Charlie Rose show broadcast on Nov. 21, 1994, I asked Mr. Alamoudi whether he considered Hamas to be a terrorist group. "No, it's not," he replied.

On May 9, 1996, Mrs. Clinton met with an Arab delegation that included Muthanna Hanooti, public relations director of the Islamic Relief Association (the meeting had been arranged by Rep. David Bonior of Michigan). Although constituted as a nonprofit charity, the Islamic Relief Association clearly has a militant agenda.

On April 21, 1996--less than three weeks before the meeting with Mrs. Clinton--the association had held a fund-raiser in Brooklyn, N.Y., where the main speaker was Sheik Abdulmunem Abu Zant, a militant Jordanian cleric. From 1990 to 1998, Mr. Abu Zant was a deputy in the Jordanian parliament and the self-proclaimed leader of the most radical wing of the Islamic Action Front. He is an ardent supporter of Hamas and has repeatedly called for holy war against Israel and the U.S. During the 1991 Gulf War, Mr. Abu Zant stated that the conflict "is not a war between Iraq and the U.S., but rather one between Islam and the infidels." In August 1990 he gave a sermon, during which he thundered: "May G-d attack the Jews and those who stand with them. May G-d attack the Americans and those who stand with them."

Mrs. Clinton also embraced the Muslim Women's League and its parent group, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), headed respectively by Leila Al-Marayati and her husband, Salam Al-Marayati. In her speech to these groups in Los Angeles in May 1996, the first lady lauded her hosts for fighting "hatred." Mrs. Clinton's husband appointed Mrs. Al-Marayati to several presidential commissions. In January 1998, Mrs. Clinton organized a reception celebrating the end of Ramadan honoring both Al-Marayatis and Muslim Public Affairs Council.

What do these groups stand for? In September 1993, MPAC signed a statement declaring that the "establishment by force, violence, and terrorism of a Jewish state in Palestine in 1948 as well as the expansion of that state in succeeding years involved the unjust and illegal usurpation of Muslim and Christian lands and rights" and therefore it was illegal to recognize the Jewish state. In February 1996, following a series of suicide bus bombings, an American-born Islamic militant drove his car into Israeli citizens waiting at a bus stop in Jerusalem, killing one and wounding 25. After Israelis opened fire in self-defense on the terrorist, MPAC issued a press release calling accusing Israel of a "terrorist" act and asking the State Department to initiate criminal proceedings against the Jewish state.

Four months after standing alongside Mrs. Clinton at the White House, MPAC senior adviser Maher Hathout spoke in June 1998 at the National Press Club in Washington about Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based group that the U.S. State Department classifies as a terrorist organization. "Hezbollah is fighting for freedom, an organized army, limiting its operations against military people. This is a legitimate target against occupation," Mr. Hathout declared, "The whole country keeps condemning Hezbollah, I disagree with them on other issues, but on the issue of fighting to liberate their land and attacking only armed forces, this is legitimate, this is an American value--freedom and liberty."

The American Muslim Alliance's June fund-raiser for Senate candidate Hillary Clinton was simply a culmination of her outreach to militant Islamic groups. Beyond its anti-Israeli postings on its Web site, the AMA's head, Agha Saeed, has openly sanctioned the use of "armed resistance" against Israel and declared that the "Zionist occupiers of Palestine can be beaten back." At its 1997 annual convention, the AMA distributed an article by S.A. Ahsani, head of the AMA's Texas chapter, denying the existence of "Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek." At AMA national conferences in 1997, 1998 and 2000, numerous speakers numerous speakers condemned the "Jewish and Zionist" lobbies and their "control" of the United States.

In the end, the issue is whether Mrs. Clinton has unwittingly enabled these groups to gain legitimacy. Clearly she is aware of the danger attending to associations with extremists. In January of this year, Mrs. Clinton's campaign criticized New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani--then a prospective Senate opponent--for sharing a dais in New York with Joerg Haider, the far-right Austrian head of the Freedom Party. In March, the Clinton campaign manager attacked the mayor for hiring fund-raiser Richard Viguerie--who Clinton aides pointedly noted, had raised money for Patrick Buchanan and had once praised David Duke.

Later, when Rick Lazio said he would be willing to accept an endorsement from the New York branch of the Reform Party, whose presidential candidate is Mr. Buchanan, Mrs. Clinton blasted Mr. Lazio: "I think his [Buchanan's] record--anti-Semitic comments, his record of intolerant and prejudicial remarks--are ones that I don't want to be associated with."

These are noble sentiments. If Mrs. Clinton is willing to denounce Messrs. Haider and Buchanan, why has she associated with groups that have espoused anti-Semitism and supported terrorism?

JWR contributor Steven Emerson is a Washington-based writer specializing in militant Islamic organizations. To comment, please click here.


© 2000, Steven Emerson