Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer has been criticized for agreeing to accept an award from a think tank which openly espouses anti-Islamic views and conspiracy theories.
Dermer will be guest of honor, along with president of the Zionist Organization of America Morton Klein, at the Center for Security Policy’s annual Freedom Flame award dinner to be held on December 13.
The civil rights group Southern Poverty Law Center described the Center for Security Policy as a promoter of conspiracy theories. “In recent years the CSP has gone from a hawkish think tank on foreign affairs to a promoter of baseless conspiracy theories and groundless accusations,” it wrote in its Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.
SPLC claimed that by accepting the award, Dermer gives legitimacy to the right-wing organization and that his attendance “could be read as an endorsement of anti-Muslim hate by the Israeli government.”
The Anti-Defamation League has also criticized the Center as a promoter of anti-Islamic conspiracy theories..
Frank Gaffney, the founder and president of the Center, was a top Pentagon official during the Reagan administration. He has made it his mission, he says, to expose creeping Islamism in the American establishment. He also has ties to conservative pro-Israel groups and websites.
In December, GOP nominee Donald Trump cited a poll of Muslims conducted by the Center showing that “25 percent of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad, and 51 percent of those polled agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to shariah.” Politifact described that claim as “mostly false.”
In response to the criticism, the Israeli embassy in Washington said Wednesday that “as somebody who strongly believes that Israel is an outpost of democracy and freedom in a Middle East that largely rejects both, Ambassador Dermer is honored to receive this year’s ‘Freedom Flame Award,’ whose former recipients include Margaret Thatcher and former US Perm. Rep. to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick. The Ambassador also greatly appreciates the Center for Security Policy’s longtime support for a strong and secure Israel.”
The embassy denied that Dermer holds a negative view of Islam, citing a speech he gave last November to the Zionist Organization of America in which he said, “The enemy we face has a name. It’s called militant Islam. Not militants. Not Islam. Militant Islam.”
The embassy statement said that Dermer “is not aware of any anti-Muslim views held by the Center for Security Policy and certainly would not endorse any such view.” Furthermore, it said that “accepting this award does not mean that the Ambassador subscribes to every point of view expressed by individual members of the Center, as would be true of any other organization.”
J Street called on Dermer to refuse the award from the group it described as “an organization that traffics in repulsive Islamophobia.” In a statement, J Street said “We call on Ambassador Dermer to decline this award and to condemn the dangerous activities and views of the CSP and its president and founder, Frank Gaffney.”
JTA contributed to this report.