The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan), a radical Sunni Islamist organization, was founded in 1928. Today it has several million members and branches all over the world, including the US. Although the Ikhwan’s goal is similar to that of other Islamist groups, calling for the establishment of a transnational caliphate and the application of Islamic law and principles to all aspects of society, it differs from al Qaeda because — at least officially — it opposes violence at the present time, in most circumstances. But there are exceptions, including the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Hence it gave rise in 1987 to Hamas, its ‘Palestinian’ branch, which is open and explicit about its antisemitic and jihadist position. There is little or no daylight between the Ikhwan and Hamas, and Brotherhood-linked organizations around the world have played a large role in funding and supporting Hamas.
There is little doubt that some of the groups that claim to speak for Muslims in the US also have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. The most widely-cited evidence is the “Holy Land Foundation” (HLF) case in which numerous individuals and groups were charged with material support for terrorism, conspiracy and money laundering in providing funds for Hamas and other jihadist groups. After a mistrial in 2007, several individuals were convicted in 2008 and sentenced to long prison terms. The process gave rise to a list of unindicted co-conspirators which included the Council on American-Islamic relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Both were cited as belonging to the US Muslim Brotherhood.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is the largest and most influential Muslim advocacy group in the United States. Its annual conference draws tens of thousands of people and, in 2009, was honored with a speech by Valerie Jarrett, a top advisor to President Barack Obama.
President Ingrid Mattson is Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at the Hartford Seminary and active in interfaith dialogue.
ISNA has a troubling history, however, and its leadership ranks beyond Mattson include people who date back to the group’s foundation by Muslim Brotherhood members. The organization grew out of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), which also was founded by Brotherhood members…
Its conferences have featured rhetoric in support of terrorist groups and other radicalism. This continued at the 2009 convention, where panelists expressed extreme anti-Semitism and support for the terrorist group Hizballah.
So it was very surprising when, in 2007, Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Union for Reform Judaism announced a cooperative educational venture with ISNA. Rabbi Yoffie spoke at an ISNA convention, and several months later hosted ISNA’s President Ingrid Mattson of ISNA at URJ’s biennial convention. Yoffie said,
We chose ISNA as our partner because it is the closest equivalent to the Union within the American Muslim community. It has issued a strong and unequivocal condemnation of terror, including a specific condemnation of Hizbollah and Hamas terror against Jews and Israelis. It has also recognized Israel as a Jewish state and supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These statements provide the framework of common values that we believe are necessary for a fruitful dialogue to occur.
I had a hard time finding these statements. There are many condemning ‘terrorism’ and particular terrorist acts, but few that mention specific organizations. However, I finally found a press release issued by ISNA after the inconclusive end of the first HLF trial:
To be clear, ISNA remains consistent in its rejection of terrorism and violence. ISNA rejects all acts of terrorism, including those perpetrated by Hamas, Hizbullah and any other group that claims Islam as their inspiration. ISNA has encouraged and continues to encourage a just and fair settlement of disputes between Israel, the Palestinians and their neighbors through diplomacy and other peaceful means.
This is a very carefully crafted statement. It rejects ‘acts of terrorism’ perpetrated by Hamas and Hizballah. But it does not condemn those organizations themselves for their essential antisemitic nature.
The closest thing I can find to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is ISNA’s approval of the ‘quartet conditions’, that is, that Hamas should recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept prior agreements between Israel and the PA. I doubt strongly that ISNA would agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state today anyway, since the PA itself rejects it. And ‘two-state solution’ is highly ambiguous.
In fact, a more accurate reflection of ISNA’s attitude toward Israel might be this press release,
ISNA Condemns Israeli Massacre On Board of Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Calls for End of Illegal Blockade
in which ISNA aligns itself perfectly with Hamas and the Turkish IHH in their attempt to spin the forced self-defense of Israelis on the Mavi Marmara as yet another phony ‘war crime’.
No, we can’t expect all (or any) Muslims to be Zionists. But Jewish organizations should choose their ‘partners’ from among their friends, not enemies.