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Jewish World Review
April 17, 2007
/ 29 Nissan, 5767
Two Fail Leadership Test on Terrorism
Among the most important things public servants can do is to conduct
themselves in such a way as to inspire public confidence in their
ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately,
the grades for this all-too-basic test of behavior for two leading
political figures result in a resounding "F."
The men in question are Rep. Joe Sestak, the freshman member of the
U.S. House of Representatives from the Philadelphia suburbs, and Ed
Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania. By appearing at a fundraising
dinner for the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic
Relations this past weekend, the two have allowed their personal
prestige to be used to bolster a group whose conduct and goals remain
anathema to democracy and the defense of the United States and Israel.
Though CAIR presents itself as a group whose purpose is to advocate for
embattled American Muslims, it was founded a decade ago as the
public-relations arm of American supporters of Hamas, a terrorist group
declared as such by the U.S. government. It raised money for Hamas-
front group, the Holy Land Foundation, which has since been deemed
illegal by the federal government. Its members and leaders have been
known to advocate for terrorist acts against Israel and the United
CAIR has declared its opposition to such things, yet it has remained a
loyal supporter and apologist for Hamas and Hezbollah. A campaign on
its behalf (funded largely by sources in the Arab world, whose
antipathy to America and Israel are well-known), has sought to
whitewash it. But there is no evading the fact that CAIR is a hate
group, as well as a vicious opponent of both Israel and America's war
on Islamist terror.
You would think that such a record would render the group's events
off-limits to national leaders.
However, Sestak, whose planned speech was a source of controversy for
weeks, and Rendell, who made an unscheduled appearance at the same
event, defend their behavior as simply a matter of meeting with
constituents. In particular, Sestak has claimed that it was his
obligation to speak to CAIR, even if he disagreed with it.
To his credit, in his speech the congressman did chide CAIR for
refusing to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah. He rightly said that to do so
was akin to those who "did not speak out against the perpetrators of
Jim Crow laws." But by his presence there, Sestak has lent credibility
to CAIR's laughable pretense that it is a "civil-rights group."
The truth is that CAIR has more in common with segregationists and
other hate groups than it does with the NAACP. Would he or Rendell,
for that matter show up at a Ku Klux Klan fundraiser and say it was
just a matter of talking to voters?
Their appearance has also unfortunately helped bolster the false
argument that the only opponents of CAIR are anti-Muslim extremists.
Opposition to the group runs across the board among national Jewish
organizations and anti-terror experts. Sadly, Sestak and Rendell's
misjudgment also helps stifle the efforts of genuinely moderate
American Muslims and Arabs who have been crowded out of the public
square by extremists.
It must be clearly stated that although both these men are Democrats,
this is not a partisan issue. Leading national Democrats like House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and
others have stated on the record that they want nothing to do with
CAIR. Like most Democrats, Sestak has an established record of support
for Israel, as does Rendell, the longtime mayor of Philadelphia. But by
helping to sanitize CAIR's image and to boost its already bulging
purse, they have materially damaged the fight against terrorism and the
efforts to defend the Jewish state.
We have a right to expect much better from our leaders.
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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.
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