The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Zahra Billoo is the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area. According to her official bio, she received the 2017 Human Rights Award from the Society of American Law Teachers, a left-wing law professors organization.
Let's start by noting that mainstream (i.e., in this context, progressive-leaning) Jewish organizations have been among the strongest advocates for admitting Muslim refugees to the U.S., opposing Trump's so-called "Muslim ban," opposing hateful remarks against Muslims by populist right-wingers, and so on.
Nevertheless, as the Jerusalem Post reports Billoo holds these organizations, which she calls "polite Zionists," responsible for "Islamaphobia:" "When we talk about islamophobia, we often think of the vehement fascists… but I also want us to pay attention to the polite Zionists, the ones that say 'let's just break bread together.'" Who is she referring to? "the Anti-Defamation League, we need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation, we need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues, we need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses." These, she said, are Muslims' "enemies."
You can't get more mainstream in the Jewish community than synagogues (almost all synagogues would qualify as "Zionist" by her lights), Hillel, the Federation charitable infrastructure, and the ADL. In other words, Billoo wanted her audience to see the overwhelming majority of the American Jewish community as the "enemy." Even "organizations who say they're not zionists but want a two-state solution" are the enemy, assumedly because they don't want Israel destroyed.
Worse yet, she strongly implies that Islamaphobia is a Jewish conspiracy: "Islamophobia is a well-funded conspiracy, a well-funded project — A well-funded project to marginalize us… We have to connect the dots between the organizations that promote Zionist agendas materials marketing and legislation are the same ones that want to ban Muslims, are the same ones that want to pass anti-sharia legislation…"
Why do even "polite Zionists" hate Muslims so, according to Balloo?
Because Muslims advocate for Black Lives Matter, police accountability, homelessness, against poverty, for the environment and "a free Palestine." Consequently, they "must come after us," said Billoo.
Not surprisingly, she also repeated the absurd blood libel that the Israeli military trains police officers in the United States to "kill unarmed black men, women and children."
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who is sometimes accused of reticence in the face of antisemitism that does not emanate from white nationalists, tweeted that Billoo's speech was "textbook vile, #antisemitic, conspiracy-laden garbage attacking the mainstream US Jewish community. It sounds like something you would expect from white supremacists."
CAIR itself, true to its roots as a Hamas front, attacked Greenblatt and defended Balloo.
As a law professor, my parochial interest in this controversy is what SALT is going to do, if anything. It gave a human rights award to someone who is not just an antisemite, but can justly be accused of incitement against American Jews, the sort of rhetoric that can provoke violence. Will SALT make a statement? Revoke the award? It obviously should. I'm guessing it won't, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised.