The other week, when news broke out that Nihad Awad, Executive Director and co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was honored with Harvard University’s Robert Coles “Call of Service” Award, Hillel International took the unusual step of writing a letter to Harvard’s president to protest.
“With its choice of honoree this year,” wrote Hillel’s president, Eric Fingerhut, the university “is applying its good name and reputation to a normalization or countenance of support for terror.” In the early 1990s, the letter continued, “Mr. Awad was the public relations director for the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) which published and distributed a monograph entitled ‘America’s Greatest Enemy: The Jew! And an Unholy Alliance!’”
According to an autobiographical essay published in 2000, Awad joined the IAP shortly after the Gulf War and worked for the organization through the spring of 1994 before leaving to start CAIR that summer. Sometime prior to August of 1994, the monograph referred to by Fingerhut, a shockingly anti-Semitic pamphlet containing the work of a noted Holocaust denier, was published, bearing the group’s logo on its cover.
When reached for comment by email, Awad said “I did not work for IAP in the summer of 1994, I am not aware of this particular document, and CAIR and I have a long history of challenging anti-Semitism in all its forms.” In a 2003 deposition as part of a civil case in which IAP was held partly liable for the Hamas murder of an American citizen in 1996, Awad recalled seeing anti-Semitic literature on display at IAP’s offices and ordering that it be removed.
The document, obtained by Tablet, does not have a date on it, and does not indicate who was responsible for its compilation. The Investigative Project on Terrorism, an organization led and founded by researcher and activist Steve Emerson, claims the pamphlet was distributed at an August 1994 Muslim American Youth Association conference, and the cover of the publication appears briefly in “Jihad in America,” an Emerson-produced documentary that aired on PBS in November of 1994.
Thirty-five pages long, the booklet is an efficient a primer on late 20th-century anti-Semitism. The publication’s cover features the number ten, suggesting that it might be part of a series. It reproduces a lengthy 1978 speech by Austin J. App, a neo-Confederate and Nazi apologist now considered one of the more influential American Holocaust deniers. The speech refers to the Holocaust as a “legend” and a “myth,” and asserts that “the Third Reich had no plans to exterminate the Jews,” since “the German concentration camps were internment and work camps, never, absolutely never, death camps.” Elsewhere in “Enemy,” a reprint of an article from “the current issue of al-Islam, published by a Black Muslim group in Washington,” blames the Jews for the trans-Atlantic slave trade and alleges that “the Jews through their Zionist machinery have power over all the agencies and organs of the United States government.”
“Enemy” only survives in its entirety because a copy of the pamphlet was included in a collection of papers donated to DePaul University’s Islam in America collection in 1993. It’s unclear how many copies of the pamphlet were printed, or who its intended audience even was. But the document illuminates an uncomfortable truth about a certain wing of US pro-Palestine activism in the 1980s and the early 1990s, when advocacy for the Palestinian cause was sometimes linked to a rising tide of religious militarism back in the Middle East.
IAP was founded in in 1981 at the personal instruction of Khaled Mishal, who is now the Qatar-based head of Hamas’s political wing; in 1989, IAP counted Mousa Abu Marzook, the current deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau, among its board of directors. According to evidence submitted in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial, Abu Marzook opened an American bank account on behalf of the IAP in 1990. IAP was also the original publisher of the 1987 Hamas charter: Matthew Levitt, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Tablet that “When the Hamas Charter was first published, it was published in Arabic, in Chicago, by the IAP.” Hamas became a US designated terror organization in 1995, but in 1996, IAP’s website featured pro-Hamas articles and interviews with Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, along with a list of recommended publications that included a book by French Holocaust revisionist Roger Garaudy.
The Hamas-IAP link was further borne out during a series of legal actions in the early 2000s. In 2004, a federal judge held the group partly liable for the 1996 death of a American citizen David Boim in a Hamas attack (Awad was deposed in October of 2003 as part of that lawsuit). According to plaintiff’s filings, IAP produced and distributed a video glorifying the Gaza-based and Hamas-linked al-Qassam brigades that had likely been made in 1992. During the Holy Land trial, which ended in the conviction of five HLF leaders for facilitating some $12 million in funding to Hamas, it became apparent that IAP had once been part of a network designed to create an American base of support for Hamas’s activities. As Levitt, who was an expert witness in both the Boim and HLF cases explained, “When Hamas wanted to set up shop in the US they set up HLF as the fundraising arm and IAP as the communications and propaganda arm.” “Enemies” shows how extreme some of that propaganda could get.
Armin Rosen is a staff writer for Tablet magazine.