The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) defines itself as “a bipartisan American organization that advocates for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.” Throughout the decades since its establishment, AIPAC has targeted Muslim populations. AIPAC holds ties to Islamophobic groups and individuals.
AIPAC has falsely accused American Muslim public figures of supporting or engaging in terrorist activities in response to their criticisms of Israel.
In 2021, AIPAC bought multiple Facebook advertisements, making false claims about Muslim Congress members’ ties to or beliefs about terrorism. One advertisement claimed “For [U.S. Congresswoman] Ilhan Omar, there is no difference between America and the Taliban, between Israel and Hamas, between democracies and terrorism.” They continued with the statement “Stand WITH America. Stand AGAINST Terrorists” over a shaded image of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. After Representative Omar stated that “Israeli airstrikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism” and that “Palestinians deserve protection,” AIPAC paid for a Facebook advertisement falsely claiming that “When Israel targets Hamas Rep. Omar calls it an ‘act of terrorism’.”
In a now deleted March 2019 tweet, Adam Milstein, a generous donor to the AIPAC’s American Israel Education Foundation and previous member of its national council, stated that “The Muslim Brotherhood is now part of Congress,” claiming that Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are “representatives” of the Muslim Brotherhood. In a second deleted tweet, Milstein accuses Rep. Ilhan Omar of being a “Terrorist, who operates on behalf [of CAIR], an affiliate of [Hamas], a US designated terrorist organization.” In 2018, Milstein also referred to prominent Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour as a terrorist in a since deleted tweet.
AIPAC has made financial contributions to individuals and organizations in the Islamophobia Network.
According to its 2015 tax disclosures, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran (CNFI), an AIPAC affiliate group, donated $60,000 to the Center for Security Policy (CSP). AIPAC formed CNFI in 2015 “with the sole mission of educating the public about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal.” CSP was characterized as “a central hub of the anti-Muslim network and an active promoter of anti-Sharia messaging and anti-Muslim rhetoric” by the Center for American Progress. CSP’s founder and Executive Chairman, Frank Gaffney, was branded “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Gaffney has published multiple anti-Muslim conspiracy theories on CSP’s website, claiming that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and George W. Bush appointee Suhail Khan worked for or had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The CSP published an online survey, with results supposedly showing that a majority of American Muslims agree that “Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.” The survey was criticized by industry experts for using questionable methodology; nonetheless it was cited by then President Donald Trump as a justification for the Muslim Ban. Though inc./WomanTrend, the polling company that conducted the survey, stated that the survey data was not representative of the entire U.S. Muslim population, the CSP upheld the results of the poll.
AIPAC has invited openly Islamophobic individuals to speak at their annual policy conferences.
Steven Emerson, founder of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, was invited to speak at AIPAC’s 2015 Annual Policy Conference but pulled out just weeks prior to the event. A booklet listing the schedule of speakers for the event identified Emerson as an expert on “Islamic terrorism” and showed that he was scheduled to speak at three separate times on the topic “Islamic Radicalism 3.0: Connecting Dots Between Islamic Terrorism in the U.S., Europe, Israel, and Africa.” In January 2015, a few weeks prior to pulling out of the AIPAC conference, Emerson stated on a Fox News segment that Burlington was “totally Muslim” and that there are cities in Britian “like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.” He went on to say that, in “parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire.”
Emerson’s comments were met with widespread ridicule, including from then British Prime Minister David Cameron who stated that Emerson is “clearly a complete idiot.” Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who interviewed Emerson, also issued an apology and corrected Emerson’s claims. However, Emerson’s comments did not discredit him from AIPAC’s perspective, as the organization reinvited Emerson to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference.
Despite Emerson’s longstanding reputation as a “misinformation expert”, AIPAC invited him to speak at multiple policy conferences in the past, including in 2012, 2013 and 2014, on topics related to “Islamic Terrorism” or “Islamic Radicalism.”