Organization Trends

Gavin Newsom Meets with Hamas-Linked Groups

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently met with Hamas-linked Islamist groups regarding the war in the Gaza Strip, showing that even supporting terrorism won’t get you barred from meetings with high-level politicians if you have the right connections.

A coalition of Muslim American organizations, including some with extremist histories, met with Gov. Newsom to push their demand for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza (thus saving Hamas) and to ask for him to “ensure freedom of speech, particularly in universities, as students engage in Gaza.” The latter request is obviously referring to Florida’s ban on Students for Justice in Palestine on college campuses after the group’s materials declared it to be part of Hamas (at least two SJP chapters are still active).

The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) organized the meeting with Newsom and multiple other Islamic organizations based in the state joined.

CAIR and CAIR-California

The Biden Administration condemned CAIR after video emerged of its executive director publicly celebrating Hamas’s attacks on Israel on October 7. CAIR tried to argue that he was the victim of selective editing by anti-Muslim bigots and nonsensically claimed that he was only referring to nonviolent Gazans, but the spin doesn’t hold up under the slightest scrutiny.

CAIR was founded as part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s secret pro-Hamas apparatus in the U.S. in 1994. However, defenders of CAIR are likely to point out that CAIR chapters are technically independent because each chapter has its own nonprofit entity. However, that excuse is especially invalid in this case because CAIR-California (CAIR-CA) is very incendiary on its own accord.

The executive director of CAIR-CA since 1998, Hussam Ayloush, is one of the most inflammatory leaders in CAIR.

He received some attention recently after he said that Israel doesn’t have a right to self-defense because it’s an “occupier.” The Palestinians, he said, do have a right to self-defense because they are the “oppressed” ones. Ayloush’s public statements consistently legitimize Hamas and terrorist attacks on Israel, and there is no record of him ever condemning Hamas or attacks on Israel. He has said that Israel should be “terminated” as a country.

In fact, when asked in 2013 whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, he refused to answer beyond saying that the question is “not acceptable” and that asking it “proves that you have nothing but bigotry in you.”

In 2006, he legitimized the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by terrorist groups as a “military operation” by the “resistance” and equated Israel with Nazi Germany, ironically accusing Israel of engaging in “collective punishment” while Hamas and similar terrorist groups openly admit that they try to kill as many Israelis as possible. One of his most common mantras is that Israel is essentially the same as Nazi Germany and ISIS. The obvious implication is that Israel, like Nazi Germany and ISIS, should be destroyed and violence toward that end is justified.

Ayloush has cited the late terrorism-linked Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi as an authority on Islam. In 2001, CAIR-CA’s website featured a photo of Ayloush meeting with Qaradawi. The accompanying text identified Qaradawi as an Islamic “scholar” and “thinker.”

Qaradawi was the spiritual leader of Muslim Brotherhood and financed Hamas through a network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Among the long list of extremist beliefs he has promoted is justifying suicide bombings, defending violence against U.S. troops, and preaching that Hitler was Allah’s instrument for punishing the Jews and that Muslims should carry out the next punishment. He also said that he hoped to die carrying out a shooting of “Allah’s enemies, the Jews.”

Ayloush also has a history of demonizing the United States. In 2004, he told an audience that the War on Terror was actually a “war on Muslims” and that the U.S. had become a “new Saddam.” He ridiculed the notion that the U.S. is any better than the Iraqi dictator. He also claimed in 2008 that the U.S. is engaging in imperialism and occupation across the Muslim world in order to enrich defense contractors and that the U.S. is acting like a terrorist.

Northern California Islamic Council

One of the attendees meeting with Newsom was the Northern California Islamic Council. According to its website, the chairman of the organization is Hatem Bazian, one of the most prominent Islamist extremists in the country.

Bazian is the leader of the quite openly pro-Hamas American Muslims for Palestine. The group has been described as “arguably the most important sponsor and organizer” for Students for Justice in Palestine, which, as previously mentioned, declared itself to be one with Hamas after the October 7 attacks.

The immediate reaction of Bazian’s group to the October 7 massacres was to defend the attacks as justifiable acts of resistance.

“First of all, this was not an attack, it was a response. Expecting a besieged, occupied, brutalized, and colonized people to remain docile in the face of nearly a century of brutal oppression and colonial subjugation is inhumane and unjust,” AMP’s statement reads.

It also endorsed future attacks, saying “the onus rests with the Israel apartheid regime to end the brutal siege on Gaza, or else the Palestinians will find themselves compelled to end it themselves as we’ve seen in the past 48 hours.”

Several AMP leaders have unequivocally expressed support for Hamas and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. AMP’s leadership is also intertwined with known Hamas fronts, including ones that have been prosecuted and sued for their material support for terrorism, according to congressional testimony.

Like Ayloush, Bazian has consistently demonized Israel and its supporters as being equivalent to Nazis. In 2004, he called on Muslim Americans to launch an “intifada” to “change fundamentally the political dynamics” of the country.

Although he could claim that his use of the word “intifada” did not refer to violence in the U.S., he did implicitly endorse violence against Israel and the U.S. military by telling protestors to follow in the footsteps of the violent intifada against Israel and the violent “uprising” against U.S. forces in Iraq.

The complete record of Bazian and AMP’s extremist activity is incredibly lengthy.

Palestinian American Medical Association

The Palestinian American Medical Association (PAMA) is another group that met with Newsom and has concerning links and activity, although it has not endorsed Hamas or terrorism.

Most concerning is Focus on Western Islamism’s report that PAMA is closely involved with Al-Awda, an anti-Israel group whose leader has publicly praised the Hezbollah terrorist group.

Al-Awda expressed its support for Hamas in the immediate aftermath of its massacres. In a joint statement with Palestinian Assembly for Liberation, the two groups said they “send their highest salutations to the Palestinian Resistance, the Freedom Fighters. . . . Now more than ever is the moment for all Palestinians and allies globally to stand proudly, in full support of the brave Palestinian Freedom Fighters.”

Al-Awda is also listed as a partner of the Jericho Movement. It advocates for imprisoned criminal and violent extremists who it brands as “political prisoners,” including Al-Qaeda terrorists who targeted the U.S. and its Muslim allies. Two other partners of the Jericho Movement are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group.

It was also discovered that PAMA’s executive director, Marwan Ahmad, is a strong advocate for Hanaa Al-Shalabi, an accused member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. She is in Israeli custody for alleged involvement in terrorism, and her supporters accuse Israel of violating her human rights by indefinitely detaining her without a trial.

PAMA’s ties to Al-Awda, its leader’s passionate support for a suspected terrorist, and its participation in this meeting between Newsom and pro-Hamas groups with easily knowable extremist records should cause a double take of one of PAMA’s apparently innocuous activities: working with the Hamas regime in Gaza regarding humanitarian aid.

Shortly after the October 7 attacks, PAMA provided medical supplies to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health. According to FWI’s report, PAMA appears to have been involved in an initiative by a terror-linked charity called Pious Projects to provide $50,000 worth of medical supplies to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. The hospital recently received significant attention because Israeli and U.S. intelligence believe it was used as a command center by Hamas.

The other participants in the meeting with Newsom were the West Valley Muslim Association, the Muslim Students Association West, and the Shura Council of Southern California.

Why It Matters

Newsom’s meeting with these organizations obviously does not mean that he’s a supporter of Hamas. He has expressed solidarity with Israel. However, there are at least four reasons to be concerned about the meeting.

First, it shows that Hamas sympathizers are positioned to try to influence Newsom and other political elites. They may not flip Newsom or another Israel supporter to their side, but they can conceivably chip away at their fortitude on the conflict by being a voice in their ear and exerting political pressure while trying to entice them with the potential rewards in the form of donations and support for their campaigns.

Secondly, meetings like this one contribute to radicalization and anti-Semitism. These groups use these meetings to gain prominence and assert their leadership over their constituents, and they’re also good for their fundraising. Those who respect Newsom are more likely to accept these groups’ overtures and dismiss their critics because they assume the popular governor of California wouldn’t break bread with them if they were truly that bad. The result of empowering these groups is that their Hamas-friendly narratives are also empowered, leading to more radicalization and anti-Semitism.

Thirdly, there is a broader takeaway. The meeting demonstrates that policymakers, their staff, and those in power are still not doing the simplest amount of vetting to protect themselves from nefarious influences who present a sanitized version of themselves and their aims, even including supporters of terrorism. We know about this particular meeting only because CAIR-CA issued a press release to brag about it. How many meetings don’t we know about?

Finally, it robs anti-Hamas Muslims of an opportunity to build their own competing influence, which is desperately needed because of the near-monopoly that Islamist extremists have on the Muslim American community’s leadership and frighteningly high levels of support for Hamas within that community.

Countering Pro-Hamas Voices

Empowering Muslims who truly oppose terrorism helps counter anti-Muslim bigotry that is partially fueled by the pattern of Muslim American public figures presenting themselves as “moderate” and then being exposed as deceptive extremists. Elevating anti-Hamas Muslim voices helps debunk the negative stereotyping of Muslims that forms the basis of bigotry.

Newsom and other political elites need to be educated about those that are influencing them and those that they are empowering. The fact that well-documented supporters of terrorism and anti-Semites can access the country’s top powerbrokers, which is a privileged position of influence that few people are afforded, is shocking, dispiriting, and unacceptable.

Ryan Mauro

Ryan Mauro is an investigative researcher for Capital Research Center. He is also an adjunct professor at Regent University and the former Director of Intelligence…
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