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Left-wing activist named first Jew to head CAIR chapter

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A veteran of leftist politics who was a speechwriter during Jesse Jackson’s first bid for the presidency has been appointed the first Jew to head a branch of the Council on American Islamic relations.

And the news is that video and television producer Jacob Bender, a longtime critic of the Israeli settlement movement, is the new executive director of CAIR’s Philadelphia branch is getting a wary response from national Jewish organizations.

jacobbender1018“CAIR is far off the radar screen of the Jewish community,” Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, told the Jewish Daily Forward. “The Jewish community looked at their record and said, ‘We won’t work with this group.’”

Mainstream Jewish groups haven’t adopted a formal position on CAIR, the Forward reported, but have avoided the organization in favor of the Islamic Society of North America or just working with individual mosques.

Why would that be?

In a paper originally published in 2006 and updated in 2010, the Anti-Defamation League noted that CAIR  was founded in 1994 by the Islamic Association for Palestine.

The paper described the association as affiliated with Hamas – a group that was declared a terrorist organization by the Clinton administration in 1995 – and included a series of examples of CAIR actions through the years, such as organizing anti-Israel rallies and accusing Israel of genocide.

“While CAIR has denounced an Iranian-sponsored Holocaust denial conference in Tehran and attacks against Jewish center in the U.S., its public statements cast Jews and Israelis as corrupt agents who control both foreign and domestic U.S policy and are responsible for the persecution of Muslims in the U.S.,” the paper states.

Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League, told the Forward “time will tell” about how Bender’s position with the Philadelphia CAIR branch will work out.

“Unfortunately, there are Jews who are anti-Jewish and anti-Israel,” he said. “But we will wait and see.”

Bender, who worked for Jackson during Jackson’s 1984 campaign for the Democratic nomination (the year Jackson caused a national stir when he referred to New York as “Hymietown” during an interview with the Washington Post), said he’s felt welcome in CAIR.

“I’ve never had any question or negative feeling about CAIR ever since I came in contact with them,” Bender said. “I’ve never encountered any anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic sentiment. The opposite is true.”

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