Prominent media outlets need to be called out for not covering the Billoo story.
Zahra Billoo, the San Francisco Executive Director at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), announced this week that she was going on a “sabbatical” from her position.
The decision was made following the backlash provoked by her comments at the 14th Annual Convention for Palestine in the US. At the conference, organized by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Billoo blamed ‘Zionists’ for Islamophobia and police violence in the US.
During her speech, which was discovered and publicized by the Israellycool advocacy group, Billoo clearly defined who these ‘Zionists’ are:
“We need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation, we need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues, we need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on campus. […] Make no mistake about it: They would sell you down the line if they could. And they often do behind your back.”
A few years earlier, when Billoo was voted off the board of the Women’s March for antisemitic tweets, she likewise responded by labeling anyone who opposed her ‘Islamophobic.’
The CAIR organization in general and Zahra Billo in particular have been on HonestReporting’s radar for months.
In July, HonestReporting had already published a report on the Council on American Islamic Relations. In “Why Do Media Uncritically Cite US-Based Muslim Lobbying Group CAIR?,” we detailed repeated allegations of antisemitism, promotion of anti-Israel conspiracy theories, and proven links that CAIR has to a group convicted of channeling funds to the Hamas terrorist organization.
In August 2020, HonestReporting exposed CAIR’s actual agenda, in a piece titled, “HR Supports ADL Against Far-Left Cancel Culture“:
CAIR, ostensibly an Islamic civil liberties advocacy group, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 trial of the Holy Land Foundation in Texas. Officials from the Holy Land Foundation were later found guilty of diverting funds to Hamas. As a result, some American lawmakers have called to ban CAIR. In fact, CAIR was designated a terrorist group by the UAE in 2014.
CAIR employees have promoted “the modern variation of the long-debunked blood libel that claims Israel kills Palestinians to steal their organs,” and shared an article from white nationalist website Information Clearing House that alleges Israel controls American politics.”
Regarding Zahra Billoo, Israellycool reported that CAIR as recently as December 13 continued to stand by its executive director, while attacking the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations that had condemned her. As such, her stepping away from the organization is a welcome development.
However, prominent media outlets need to be called out for not covering the Billoo story. Virtually all the news on the developing scandal was reported by Israeli and Jewish news sites. This is ironic since CAIR is a favorite of the international media. As a recent HonestReporting data analysis revealed, outlets like CNN, The Washington Post and The Guardian mentioned CAIR over 250 times in 2021.
Does today’s mainstream media have an antisemitic blindside? HonestReporting over the last 12 months uncovered professional, mainstream journalists who were clear antisemites: they either praised Hitler, referred to Jews or Israelis as ‘Nazis’, or expressed direct support for terrorism perpetrated against Israelis.
By repeatedly and uncritically citing a problematic organization like CAIR as an authoritative source, the worldwide media are failing to uphold the most basic standards of journalistic due diligence, and they mislead their followers as a result.
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