Florida gubernatorial candidate Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) has a bone to pick with the media coverage of his campaign. After some media reports tarred him as an anti-Semite due to "a few members" of a counter-Antifa group that attended one of his rallies, a frustrated DeSantis lashed out at reporters. "Have you asked [Democratic candidate Andrew] Gillum why he had CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, to Tallahassee in 2016?" he said in a video circulating on Twitter. "Why were they in Tallahassee? To protest the anti-BDS [Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel] legislation" the legislature was debating. "What about his relationship with Dream Defenders? They support boycotting Israel! They equate Israel to an apartheid state."
Yet reporters have downplayed such unsavory ties to defend Gillum, DeSantis said. "You do not look to find the most radical person in the Democrat audience [as you did with mine]; I'd like you to start doing that, 'cause I'll tell you, it's not very difficult. I can find anti-Semites around him, I can find him doing things, but it's almost like 'we don't want to discuss that'."
Media coverage immediately claimed that Rep. DeSantis had called CAIR and Dream Defenders themselves anti-Semites (which he had not), and the two organizations were quick to deny the invented charge. The Gillum campaign too denied that CAIR and Dream Defenders are anti-Semitic, and openly acknowledged their support. "I do think it's interesting that racists tend to align themselves with Mr. DeSantis," said Gillum.
Yet what did Rep. DeSantis actually say? That CAIR and Dream Defenders support BDS. This is manifestly true. In the 2016 legislative debate DeSantis referred to, CAIR-FL government affairs director Laila Abdelaziz spoke at length in opposition to the anti-BDS bill under consideration. And CAIR frequently and openly supports BDS in venues across the country. Dream Defenders, meanwhile, is so firmly committed to BDS that it was willing to fracture the Black Lives Matter movement and alienate Jewish supporters rather than stop agitating for BDS.
Ironically, though DeSantis did not actually accuse the groups of anti-Semitism, he might as well have. CAIR-Florida in particular has some of the most openly anti-Semitic staffers of the whole organization; and Dream Defenders openly celebrates the terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and calls for the "one-state solution," meaning the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. Andrew Gillum's embrace of their support is far more telling than the presence of a few brawlers in polo shirts at a single rally.
Longtime CAIR-FL communications director Wilfredo Amr Ruiz frequently quotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Talmud, organizes events in support of Hamas, and "liked" a Facebook post stating "Hitler wasn't so bad after all." In 2017, Ruiz was interviewed by an Iranian state media report claiming that Israeli lobbyists buy American politicians with "bags of money." CAIR-FL director Hassan Shibly, meanwhile, recently endorsed an organization calling for the mass murder of the Ahmadiyya community, which radical Muslims consider to be heretical. Shibly previously was caught making bigoted statements against the LGBT community, and wrote in 2014 that "Israel & its supporters are enemies of God."
With CAIR, at least, Mayor Gillum might be excused for supporting them out of ignorance; CAIR has spent a lot of effort over many years presenting itself as a mainstream civil-rights organization, currying favor with politicians and trying to erase its established history as a front group for Hamas. While CAIR vehemently opposes Muslim moderates and tries to bully its community into conformity with the totalitarian ideology of Islamism, to the outside world CAIR has the image of a benign defender of Muslim civil liberties against American bigotry. Gillum should educate himself about CAIR's origins, but it is not surprising that he would try to signal his tolerance of the Muslim community by inviting CAIR to the table.
Gillum's association with the Dream Defenders is more serious. While nominally Dream Defenders is part of the Black Lives Matter movement, its ideology is far more extreme than simple opposition to police brutality. In 2016, Dream Defenders published an alternative school curriculum called "Blacked Out History: Rebellion Curriculum." Included among nine "heroes" that are presented as examples of "rebellion" is the Marxist-Leninist terror group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which carried out some of the most brutal hijackings and suicide bombings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adamantly opposes the Oslo Accords, and wants a "one-state solution," i.e. the destruction of Israel.
Indeed, Dream Defenders endorses the PFLP in many places in its curriculum (and frequently on social media), going so far as to say that the PFLP "wants to be free of global imperialism. They want liberation. They want equal rights. Just Like the Dream Defenders." Dream Defenders also has organized several "delegations" of other Black-Lives-Matter activists to PFLP strongholds in the West Bank, where participants meet with PFLP leaders and celebrated terrorists, and actively marshals support in the United States for its Leninist ideology of class conflict. Dream Defender leaders have also claimed that "Zionism at is core is white supremacy" (which would surely surprise the large non-European Jewish communities in Israel).
Media coverage of Dream Defenders has cheerfully glossed over their love for Leninist terrorism, uncritically quoting its spokeswoman Nailah Summers who depicts the group as "young, working Floridians who… work to make people's lives better and support things like quality education," and so forth. But whatever other activism Dream Defenders might carry out, their bizarre full-throated endorsement of the Leninist PFLP indicates, at best, that they are "useful idiots"; at worst, it indicates that Dream Defenders is fundamentally hostile to the traditions of American liberalism. Not that you would know it from the mainstream media, mind you.
Rep. DeSantis is right. CAIR and Dream Defenders are far more radical than the media wants to let on. Gillum's loud protestations against anti-Semitism ring hollow as long as he continues to associate with Dream Defenders, CAIR, or anyone else who openly supports terror groups and extremism. Rather than tolerating such hatred, Gillum ought to call it out; and the media should stop covering it up.
Dr. Oren Litwin is the Islamist Money in Politics research fellow for Islamist Watch, a program of the Middle East Forum.