The State Department, as part of its efforts to support refugee arrivals, is working with a coalition of nonprofits that includes several anti-Israel groups.
The State Department partnered with Welcome.US, a coalition of nonprofit groups, corporations and former politicians, in September 2021 to help new Afghan refugee arrivals find sponsors, jobs and housing. The coalition includes Islamic Relief USA, Amnesty International and the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) Oklahoma branch, all of which have made anti-Israel statements.
“The State Department applauds the launch of Welcome.US and looks forward to our ongoing collaboration and discussions with leaders across sectors to mobilize support to meet the needs of these arriving Afghans as they write a new chapter of the American experience,” the State Department said in a statement when the program launched.
Islamic Relief USA is affiliated with Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW). The Trump administration’s State Department cut ties with the group due to the “anti-Semitism exhibited repeatedly by IRW’s leadership,” Ellie Cohanim, then the deputy special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism at the State Department, told the Washington Free Beacon at the time.
Islamic Relief USA’s website says it is legally separate from Islamic Relief Worldwide, but also notes that the two groups “work together under the Islamic Relief umbrella to provide aid.”
The Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank, published a report in 2018 that alleged that IRW donates to a Hamas-run organization and the Muslim Brotherhood. After drawing congressional scrutiny, Islamic Relief USA called the accusations “inaccurate and misleading” in a 2018 letter to Congress.
Islamic Relief Worldwide’s head Heshmat Khalifa resigned in 2020 after calling Israelis the “grandchildren of pigs,” according to the Times of Israel. Such remarks led to the Trump administration’s decision, the Washington Free Beacon reported at the time.
“The Council on American-Islamic Relations and Islamic Relief Worldwide are not innocuous ‘faith-based’ groups,” Asra Nomani, cofounder of the Muslim Reform Movement, a group fighting radical Islamism, told the DCNF. “They are dangerous organizations that believe in political Islam, or Islamism, and stoke anti-American, anti-Jew intolerance and hate.”
CAIR accused Israel in 2022 of being an “apartheid state.” CAIR Oklahoma Executive Director Adam Soltani also has referred to Israel as “the occupation” that is engaging in “apartheid.”
Soltani shared a Facebook post in 2020 calling for prayer for his “brother” Mufid Abdulqader, who helped provide “material support” to the Hamas terror organization, according to the Department of Justice. Abdulqader was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In an Oct. 9 Facebook post, CAIR’s national executive director, Nihad Awad, called Israel a “settler colonial Apartheid state.”
“You must condemn the occupier not the occupied,” Awad wrote on Twitter Oct. 7, the day of the Hamas massacre of Israeli civilians.
When asked by a VOA reporter whether CAIR condemns the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks, CAIR government affairs director Robert McCaw said that the organization condemns “any violence against civilians.” McCaw also said that the world had been ignoring “the core concerns of the people of Gaza for 17 years.”
“These groups are a gateway to hate, and our newest Americans should not be exposed to them, but rather protected from them,” Nomani told the DCNF.
Amnesty International similarly has accused Israel of being an “apartheid” state. In response to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the organization called for “dismantling Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on Palestinians” as part of a petition urging a ceasefire.
The organization also published a report in 2022 on “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians.”
Amnesty International said the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks were “horrific,” and called for the immediate release of the more than 200 civilians the terror group took hostage, according to a Nov. 7 press release. That same press release also claimed that Israel was committing “war crimes” in its counteroffensive efforts in the Gaza Strip.
The State Department itself has vocally expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself since the Hamas Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Though the department has echoed calls for a “pause” in Israel’s counteroffensive so that humanitarian aid can be delivered to Gaza, it has refused calls to pressure Israel into a full ceasefire.
“It’s our view that a ceasefire now would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on Oct. 7,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a press conference on Nov. 4, Reuters reported. “We maintain again that Israel has a right, and indeed an obligation, to defend itself and take the steps necessary to ensure what happened on Oct. 7 never happens again.”
“Israel is a great partner to the United States, and Israel has no greater friend than the United States,” the State Department says on its website.
The State Department says it rejects any form of antisemitism and will do “everything in its power to see that hatred against Jews is rebuked.”
The State Department told the DCNF that it funds a consortium that includes Welcome.US, which is a project led by the left-leaning Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, in a statement to the DCNF.
“The consortium, which includes Welcome.US, is led by the Community Sponsorship Hub (CSH) to oversee and manage the significant new operational infrastructure for the program,” a State Department official told the DCNF.
Islamic Relief USA, CAIR Oklahoma and Amnesty International did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment. The State Department didn’t respond to further questions about its support of Welcome.
Jennie Taer and Jake Smith on November 14, 2023