|A Democratic lawyer is ratcheting up the pressure on U.S. Rep. Joseph Sestak and trying to build Jewish opposition to his planned attendance of an upcoming Council on Islamic-American Relations banquet and the hiring of a former CAIR staffer. Robert Lipshutz, a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney, distributed a letter Tuesday to Delaware County rabbis, calling on Sestak to cancel the April 7 speaking engagement in Philadelphia and fire his district outreach coordinator, Adeeba Al-Zaman.
With 32 chapters, CAIR describes itself as the nation's largest Muslim advocacy group. It devotes much of its resources to anti-defamation work and educational activities, but has also been flagged by prominent Democrats -- including Sens. Barbara Boxer and Charles Schumer -- for having ties to terrorist organizations.
After facing some pointed questions Sunday at the B'nai Aaron Synagogue in Haverford, Sestak said Tuesday he stands by his decision to speak at the event and hire Al-Zaman to coordinate outreach activities in his district.
"It even says in the Torah, understand the other side before you make a judgment. Once you make your judgment, you should speak the truth. And the truth here -- and I looked into CAIR during the campaign -- is that they do some good," said Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont.
"But that isn't enough. They must condemn terrorism -- by name, the perpetrators -- and disassociate themselves from those who have murky ties or have been indicted."
Sestak, who considers himself "a friend of Israel," said he would incorporate that message into his speech at the Hilton Philadelphia. Approximately 250 of the congressman's Muslim constituents are expected to attend the CAIR event.
Lipshutz, 59, a Montgomery County Democrat who said he voted for congressional candidate Lois Murphy, isn't satisfied.
"You always have to be able to take in information to see if maybe you have to make a mid-course adjustment," said Lipshutz, who wants Sestak to cut all ties with CAIR and fire Al-Zaman.
In his letter to Sestak, which was sent Tuesday to local rabbis, Lipshutz wrote: "I believe you are so sure of both your own goodness and of your judgment about this young woman that you failed to consider not only that your judgment may have been wrong, but also in the impact your decisions have made and will continue to make on others."
The convictions of two former CAIR members on charges of supporting terrorist operations and engaging in financial transactions with Hamas was reportedly a factor in Boxer's decision to rescind an award to the head of CAIR's Sacramento office.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a 2003 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism hearing that CAIR has "ties to terrorism" and "intimate links with Hamas."
The group's government affairs director, Corey Saylor, told the Daily Times this month that CAIR condemns "any act of terrorism, whoever commits it." He said individuals indicted or convicted for supporting terrorists were not acting on behalf of the organization.
In the wake of negative news coverage, CAIR's Pennsylvania chapter has altered its Web site at least twice.
The invitation for next month's "Connecting and Sharing" event was separated into a banquet with Sestak's name on it and a fund-raiser without his name. Sestak will not be participating in the fundraiser.
The online biography for Al-Zaman, a stepdaughter of a CAIR board member, has also been scrubbed of any reference to her job with the congressman. Sestak said Tuesday he did not request the phrase be removed.
"I did not know it was on. I did not know it had been taken off," he said.
Of Al-Zaman, Sestak said, "I cannot speak highly enough of her."
MIM:CAIR Philly's latest Action Alert for the convicted terrorist and head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in America -Sami Al Arian. It is certain that Adeeba Al Zaman will ask Sestak to put in a good word for Al Arian -whose indictment listed 100 people he was responsible for murdering.
Action Alert ›
WRITE LETTERS IN SUPPORT OF DR. AL-ARIAN
Imprisoned Florida professor collapses on 23rd day of hunger strike
February 15, 2007
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is calling on American Muslims and other people of conscience to write letters in support of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a former Florida professor currently on a hunger strike in federal detention to protest his treatment by U.S. authorities.
Family members report that Al-Arian collapsed on the 23rd day of his fast and has been moved from Virginia to a medical facility in North Carolina.
Al-Arian began his hunger strike more than three weeks ago after being given a sentence of up to 18 months for refusing to testify before a grand jury in Virginia. His attorneys say an earlier plea agreement freed him from further cooperation with the government. Supporters say the government's actions amount to a form of harassment.
SEE: Al-Arian Goes on Hunger Strike (Arab American News)
In 2005, a Florida jury rejected federal charges that Al-Arian operated a cell for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was scheduled for release and deportation in April.
SEE: No Guilty Verdicts in Al-Arian Trial (Tampa Tribune)
The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), a national coalition of major American Muslim organizations, recently said the new prison sentence given to Al-Arian amounted to unconstitutional "double jeopardy."
The AMT statement said in part:
"It is becoming increasingly clear that the government is seeking to impose legal and physical penalties on Dr. Al-Arian that it could not obtain through the judicial process. . .We call on all fair-minded Americans who care about the preservation of the integrity of our nation's legal system to speak out about this apparent abuse of prosecutorial power. We also call on federal authorities to cease their harassment of Dr. Al-Arian and to release him as scheduled so that he and his family can resume their lives in another country."
SEE: U.S. Muslims Call Al-Arian Imprisonment 'Double Jeopardy'
IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be firm, but POLITE.)
1. CONTACT the following officials to request that Dr. Sami Al-Arian be released from detention and allowed to leave the country with his family. (Make sure to include your name, address and ZIP Code in the letter)
The Honorable Judge Gerald Lee U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia 401 Courthouse Square Alexandria, VA 22314
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Department of Justice U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
Fax: (202) 307-6777 E-Mail: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov
President George W. Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 20500
Comments: 202-456-1111 Fax: 202-456-2461 E-Mail: email@example.com
Dr. Sami Al-Arian is currently on a hunger strike in federal detention to protest his treatment by U.S. authorities. Family members report that Al-Arian collapsed on the 23rd day of his fast and has been moved from Virginia to a medical facility in North Carolina. He began his hunger strike more than three weeks ago after being given a sentence of up to 18 months for refusing to testify before a grand jury in Virginia. His attorneys say an earlier plea agreement freed him from further cooperation and that the government's actions amount to a form of harassment. I therefore respectfully request that you support the immediate release of Dr. Al-Arian so that he and his family may resume their lives in another country.
2. CONTACT your own elected representatives through: http://capwiz.com/cair/dbq/officials/
3. SEND COPIES of all correspondence to CAIR at: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: 202-488-0833