September 24, 2020
News Press Release

ZOA: HIAS’ PR Firm Makes Inaccurate Claims & Urges Newspapers Not to Publish Accurate Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) Article Criticizing HIAS’ New Focus on Non-Jewish Refugees

HIAS Works With Muslim Groups on Israel’s Terrorist List; Has Sued Israel & Defends/Praises/Accepted Funds From Jew-Hating/Israel-Hating Linda Sarsour

ZOA President Morton A. Klein, Chair Mark Levenson, Esq., and Director of Special Projects Liz Berney, Esq. released the following statement: 

On September 14, 2020, the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) published a feature article entitled “With HIAS Changing Longtime Focus, Supporters Question Some of its Priorities,” by reporters Deborah Fineblum and Sean Savage. The article’s subtitle asked, “Will its new mission and its fundraising dollars, especially during a time of global uncertainty and rising antisemitism, detrimentally affect the Jewish people?” HIAS’ PR firm then sent letters to newspapers to try to censor the article, urging newspapers not to publish this accurate JNS article. Below are statements in the JNS article; HIAS’ PR firm’s inaccurate claims about those statements; and the actual facts.

1) JNS Article States: Today, nearly all of the refugees HIAS resettles on an average each year are non-Jews—many of them Muslims from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia, and other Middle Eastern countries.

HIAS’ Claim: The fact is HIAS resettles refugees of many religions, including Muslims, in partnership with and vetted by the U.S. government. HIAS helps refugees based on need, not creed. HIAS’ mission is to advocate for and serve refugees—people who are persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Many persecuted refugees are Muslims. They are also Christian, Jewish, and from a vast array of other faiths. They are all seeking safety and a future for their children. In fact, HIAS works in 16 countries, and only one – Chad – is majority Muslim (and where people fled from Darfur).

The Facts: The JNS article is correct. HIAS does not even contradict JNS. HIAS simply attempts to obfuscate. 

In fact, less than 1% of the refugees HIAS resettles today are Jewish. The U.S. State Department Refugee Processing Center (RPC) database shows that only 38 Jewish refugees entered the U.S. in 2019.  That is less than 1% of HIAS’ clients. 

The numbers and percentage of Jews that HIAS helps has dramatically decreased over the years.  HIAS admitted in a 2017 Forward article that in 2016, only 4% of HIAS’s clients were Jewish (169 Jews out of 4,188 refugee clients). A 2016 letter to the editor in the Forward, co-authored by Hetfield and Dianne Lob, revealed that none of the Syrians and Iraqis HIAS resettled into the U.S. are Jews (and that 90% of Syrians and 65% of Iraqis HIAS resettled here are Muslim). 

Moreover, HIAS’s own complaint (in a lawsuit opposing the Trump administration’s efforts to protect American safety) states: “HIAS’ client base includes refugees abroad and in the United States who are from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Ukraine, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda, Russia, Belarus and Burma, among other countries. Many of these clients are Muslim.”

ZOA has requested that HIAS reveal its exact 2019 and 2020 number, percentage, and expenses for Jewish versus non-Jewish clients, but HIAS refused to do so. HIAS needs to be transparent about who it is really helping, by revealing the numbers. 

2) JNS Article States: In 2014, HIAS dropped the word “Hebrew” from its name…. (The insinuation is that HIAS did this to hide their Jewish roots and mission and is no longer a Jewish organization).

HIAS’ Claim: HIAS is and always has been thoroughly Jewish at its core. HIAS believes that Jewish tradition teaches there is no higher commandment than to save a life and the mission serves that goal. Not coincidentally, more than 450 Jewish congregations have joined HIAS’ Welcome Campaign, which includes a Refugee Shabbat, and over 2,000 rabbis have supported HIAS to aid refugees; additionally, HIAS has a rabbi-in-residence, and as it did in its beginnings, prioritizes advocacy for Jews who need their help. One example is HIAS’ work to extend the Lautenberg Amendment each year to assist Jews and other religious minorities migrating from Iran and the former Soviet Union. Additionally, HIAS’ U.S. network consists mainly of agencies of the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA).

The name change came about because it was clear the word “Hebrew,” was an anachronistic term for the Jewish people; that said, HIAS celebrates its Jewish identity, such as throughout its website, and in such elements as this video for the high holidays: https://www.hias.org/highholidays2020.

The Facts: “Hebrew” is not an anachronism: It is the language of the Jewish state, and unites Jews throughout the world. 

HIAS misinterprets Jewish law (which prioritizes safety of our nation and Israel above immigration) in order to advocate for and bring lawsuits to bring 100,000 unvettable refugees from terrorist nations where ACL polls show that 74% to 93% of the population is antisemitic. Bringing in unvettable and antisemitic refugees is NOT a Jewish value.

HIAS has almost no Jewish clients:  As noted above, less than 1% of HIAS’ refugee clients are Jewish.  Who HIAS helps is what counts – not how many Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues HIAS persuaded to support HIAS’ agenda. Moreover, many “Jewish social service agencies” also primarily serve non-Jewish clients. Note that HIAS obtains support from such groups by subcontracting resettlement work to such groups, using grants of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

HIAS advocates & litigates to bring more non-Jewish (largely Muslim) refugees into the U.S. from areas with antisemitic attitudes, who are not vetted for antisemitism: 

(i) HIAS brought multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration to try to overturn the administration’s travel bans to protect Americans (including vulnerable Jewish Americans). The travel ban suspended entry from six Muslim majority Middle Eastern countries and two non-Muslim countries that do not share adequate information with the U.S. and/or present other serious risks of foreign terrorists entering the U.S. These countries included three designated state sponsors of terrorism and five countries where violence shut down the U.S. embassy, rendering vetting impossible, according to numerous bipartisan experts, including top Obama administration officials. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the Trump administration. 

(ii) HIAS acknowledged at the outset of its suits that the Trump administration’s position was legally correct. HIAS then adopted an aggressive “embarrassment” public relations strategy. Hetfield stated: “[I]t is not at all clear that there is any way to overturn the [U.S. President’s] executive order. The 1980 Refugee Act … gives the president broad control over immigration … The strategy HIAS is adopting now is ‘to be as public and as aggressive as we can. The only way we can change this policy is to embarrass the president.’”

(iii) HIAS’ advocacy and lawsuits to bring more Syrian and Middle East Muslims to the U.S. endanger U.S. Jews. ADL’s survey shows that 74% to 93% of the population in 16 majority Middle East countries is antisemitic. Studies of Syrian school textbooks reveal that Syrians are indoctrinated that Jews are evil, racist and a false people that stole Arab land, that Zionism is like Nazism, that Israel is a cancer, that it is honorable to fight against Israel, that martyrdom and violence towards “enemies” are the path of justice and glory, and that making peace with Israel is treasonous. JNS’ Jonathan Tobin wrote and Matthew Mainen reiterated: “As in many other European countries, the recent wave of immigrants from Muslim and Arab countries has created a vast new constituency for Jew-hatred.” Caroline Glick noted: “By bringing Muslims from Syria and Iraq to the U.S., HIAS is in all likelihood bringing antisemites to America.”

(iv) HIAS also initiated a lawsuit opposing state and local governments’ ability to control resettlement in their districts.

(v) HIAS publicly condemned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people) for withholding consent for more resettlement in his overburdened state.

HIAS opposed cutting UNRWA funding. HIAS ignores that UNRWA is a fraud-ridden agency that improperly passes down “refugee” status to new generations to continuously expand Palestinian “refugee” rolls, to use as a weapon against Israel (instead of resettling refugees). UNRWA schools teach hatred of Israel and Jews, and promote “martyrdom.” Terror group Hamas stores weapons in UNRWA facilities. UNRWA employs Hamas members. (See Report)

HIAS Promotes United Nations’ interests over U.S., Jewish, and Israeli interests: HIAS’ website contains numerous HIAS articles defending, expressing solidarity with, and discussing HIAS’ collaborations with the UN agencies. HIAS collaborates with the UNHCR and antisemitic UNICEF (which falsely accused Israel of killing and wounding Palestinian children). We found no criticism of the UN on HIAS’ website, despite the UN’s numerous anti-Israel actions. Even after the UN Security Council passed Res. 2334 (Dec. 2016), which contained dangerous anti-Israel lies and promotes anti-Israel blacklists, HIAS actively opposed pro-Israel Congresspersons’ efforts to penalize the UN for passing this anti-Israel resolution. 

3) JNS Article States: Most notable among criticisms is that several HIAS partners have been linked to organizations with ties to terrorism, including Islamic Relief USA and the Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), whose leadership recently called Jews “the grandchildren of monkeys and pigs” and referred to the terrorist group Hamas “the purest resistance movement in modern history.”

HIAS’ Claim: In January 2018, HIAS and Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), the U.S. arm of the humanitarian assistance and advocacy organization, announced a joint initiative to provide improved legal services to refugees in Greece in 2018. The partnership, called the Greece Refugee Rights Initiative, was developed in response to the growing humanitarian and legal challenges for refugees.

Regarding the above anti-Semitic comments, the piece fails to mention that the board member was immediately held accountable and dropped from Islamic Relief as soon as those comments surfaced (and the group immediately condemned the remarks). The article also relies on quotes from Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch, a well-known anti-Muslim extremist.

The leadership of IRUSA and HIAS frequently speak together about their cooperation at synagogues and events, including one sponsored by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which culminated in a meaningful visit by the leader of IRUSA to Auschwitz. This innovative Jewish-Muslim partnership has demonstrated that Jews and Muslims share values and goals and together can defend the rights of and assist the most vulnerable among us.

The Facts: Numerous joint projects: HIAS admits in its claim that it engages in joint initiatives with Islamic Relief USA. HIAS-IRUSA partnerships include HIAS’s joint program with IRUSA, initiated in 2018, to provide legal assistance to Muslim migrants flooding (usually through Turkey) into Greece (and hence into the European Union); HIAS and IRUSA’s joint video in 2018 and joint press release in 2020 about the HIAS-IRUSA “partnership”; and Islamic Relief honoring HIAS at an Iftar dinner, for suing President Trump on behalf of Muslim refugees from six (later changed to five) majority Muslim countries. (In those countries, bi-partisan experts, including Obama administration officials, stated that vetting refugees is impossible, because the U.S. embassies in those nations were taken over or forced to close.)

HIAS also engages in joint projects directly with Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW). HIAS and IRW joined together in a diverse partnership to develop a joint response manual. HIAS’ and IRW’ CEOs “joined forces” to speak to Congressional leaders.

IRUSA and IRW’s terror ties are well documented. IRW’s and IRUSA’s ties to terrorist groups Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are detailed in: Clarion Project report on IRUSA; Center for Security Policy report on IRUSA; and NGO Monitor report on IRW.  

An additional International Project on Terrorism article includes photos and information tying IRUSA’s Chairman Khaled Lamada to the Muslim Brotherhood. Lamada has also praised the “jihad” of the “Mujahidin of Egypt” for “causing the Jews many defeats,” and republished claims on Facebook praising Hamas for inflicting a “huge defeat” against the “Zionist entity.”

Israel, other nations, and banks designate Islamic Relief as a terror organization and terror-financing organization.

IRUSA is the American branch of, and has extensive financial and leadership ties to and interchanges with, Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW). Per IRW’s annual report, IRUSA provides 23% of IRW’s funding. 

Israel banned IRW, and stated: “The IRW is one of the sources of Hamas’ funding and a means for raising funds from various countries in the world. We do not intend to allow it to function and abet terrorist activity against Israel.” An International Project on Terrorism article includes photos and information tying IRUSA’s Chairman to the Muslim Brotherhood. 

An anonymous U.S. Dep’t of Justice source told the media that money is now going to Hamas “through groups like Islamic Relief.” 

An Egyptian list of 30 alleged Muslim Brotherhood operatives in the United States included five current or former senior IRUSA leaders.

The UAE designated Islamic Relief-UK and “Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) of the Muslim Brotherhood” to be terrorist organizations. Bangladesh also barred IRW from working with Rohingya refugees due to concerns that IRW would radicalize them. The UK-based USBC bank shut down IRW’s banking operations because funds were likely to fall into terrorist hands. IRW also has ties to IHH (the Turkish terrorist organization and Muslim Brotherhood branch that perpetrated the Gaza flotilla attack on Israeli inspectors).

Israel’s Security Agency’s announcement of its arrest of IRW project director Iyaz Ali explained:

“He [Ali] admitted . . .  he worked to transfer funds and assistance to various Hamas institutions and organizations, including the Al Wafa and Al Tzalah associations, which have been outlawed in Israel. He also admitted that he worked in Jordan and cooperated with local Hamas operatives. Incriminating files were found on Ali’s computer, including documents that attested to the organization’s [IRW’s] ties with illegal Hamas funds abroad (in the UK and in Saudi Arabia) and in Nablus. Also found were photographs of swastikas superimposed on IDF symbols, of senior Nazi German officials, of Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas military activities. The IRW was established in 1984 in the British city of Birmingham. It has branches in Gaza and Ramallah.”

“The IRW provides support and assistance to Hamas’ infrastructure. The IRW’s activities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are carried out by social welfare organizations controlled and staffed by Hamas operatives. The intensive activities of these associations are designed to further Hamas’ ideology among the Palestinian population. These associations’ educational and religious institutions incite against the State of Israel and advocate terrorist actions against it and its citizens. The associations provide support to the families of terrorists who were wounded in actions against Israel, and to Hamas prisoners and detainees. These associations thus promote Hamas’ goals, including the destruction of the State of Israel. Ali admitted that he was aware that several of the organizations supported by the IRW in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza were indeed identified with Hamas.”

(Reprinted in Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch Report on Islamic Relief.)

One antisemitic IRW director’s resignation did not change the fact that IRW is permeated with antisemites: While IRW Director Heshmat Khalifa—who called Jews the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs”; called Egypt’s president a “Zionist pimp”; and praised Hamas as “the purest resistance movement in modern history” —has now resigned, Khalifa’s antisemitism is merely the tip of the iceberg at Islamic Relief.

Another top director and trustee of the Islamic Relief terrorist organization has made antisemitic, Israel-hating, pro-terror statements. Almoutaz Tayara, the chair of Islamic Relief Germany and a trustee of Islamic Relief Worldwide, stated on Facebook that the leaders of Hamas are “great men” who responded to the “divine and holy call of the Muslim Brotherhood.” (Hamas is a U.S. State Department-designated foreign terrorist group; Hamas’ parent, the Muslim Brotherhood, is another terrorist group). Islamic Relief Germany permitted Tayara to continue as its chair for years after becoming aware of this post. Tayara also posted a cartoon of Barack Obama with a Jewish Star on his tie, with Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Syria’s Assad, and Yemeni rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi all sitting on Obama’s lap, while proclaiming “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

Tayara also praised Hamas’ violent al-Qassam Brigades as heroes, while disparaging moderate Arab leaders, saying: “The al-Qassam heroes did not graduate from the military academies of the UK and the U.S., unlike the rulers and royals of the Arab world who, there, were nurtured on cowardice and allegiance to the foreigners — the UK and the U.S.”  See also: “ZOA: HIAS Must End Partnership With Terrorist-Financier “Islamic Relief” Group After Another Jew-Hating, Israel-Hating Revelation There.”

HIAS wrongly relies on SPLC’s false labels: It is shameful that HIAS’ PR firm cites the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) defamation of Ann Corcoran’s factual Refugee Resettlement Watch as an “anti-Muslim extremist.” SPLC has no credibility regarding this, and is known for labeling anyone who tells the truth about left wing or radical Islamic antisemitism and/or terrorism as an “anti-Muslim extremist.”  SPLC has been sued for this defamation, and had to pay $3.3 million to one of the groups that SPLC defamed as “anti-Muslim.”

4) JNS Article States: HIAS’ blatantly anti-Israel position….

HIAS’ Claim: As a Jewish organization, HIAS highly values its work in Israel, which is led and staffed by a team of Israelis who work closely with Israeli civil society to ensure the protection of asylum seekers in Israel under the Refugee Convention of 1951, to which Israel was one of the first signatories. HIAS has operated in Israel since before its founding as the Jewish state, and has always worked to support Aliyah. HIAS signs onto Conference of Presidents statements against BDS and condemning UN biases against Israel, and considers those positions to represent HIAS policy. 

The Facts: In Israel, HIAS’s primary activity is representing non-Jewish illegal African Eritrean migrants against the Israeli Government.

(i) HIAS repeatedly opposes and undermines (using protests, campaigns, legal action, and public letters to Netanyahu) Israel’s efforts to contend with and repatriate thousands of illegal Eritrean economic migrants. The migrants’ criminal activities have made life virtually unlivable for south Tel Aviv residents, especially elderly Jews, who can no longer leave their homes at night. Israelis overwhelmingly oppose allowing the illegal migrants to remain in Israel. Police data show that the illegal migrants were accused of 4.3 times more sex offenses, 3 times more property offenses and 3.4 times more violent offenses than the general public. There are also violent intra-group clashes and murder. 

(ii) Yet HIAS provides free legal assistance to non-Jewish migrants to enable them to remain in Israel, and trains Israeli lawyers and law students to also do so. 

(iii) HIAS also launches protests against Israel: Caroline Glick explained: “In Israel, HIAS works with other leftist extremist groups to prevent the deportation of illegal aliens from Sudan and Eritrea. This week they launched a protest with the Anti-Defamation League in Israel demanding that Israel expand the rights of illegal aliens who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

As noted in item B above, HIAS in fact supports the United Nations’ interests over those of Israel and the Jewish people. HIAS’ website contains numerous HIAS articles defending, expressing solidarity with, and discussing HIAS’ collaborations with the UN agencies. HIAS collaborates with the UNHCR and antisemitic UNICEF (which falsely accused Israel of killing and wounding Palestinian children). We found no criticism of the UN on HIAS’s website, despite the UN’s numerous anti-Israel actions.   HIAS also publicly opposed defunding UNRWA, despite UNRWA’s involvement with Hamas.

5) JNS Article States: HIAS, along with other progressive Jewish groups, has also defended anti-Israel activist and BDS supporter Linda Sarsour.

HIAS’ Claim: HIAS CEO Mark Hetfield joined over 170 signatories on a 2017 letter condemning threats against Linda Sarsour and her family. The letter is explicit that it is not an endorsement of Linda Sarsour’s opinions or perspectives; it does however support her right to express her opinions and perspectives without fearing for her life or the lives of her children. At the time the letter was written, she and her kids were receiving death threats. That short letter, linked here, represents the full extent of HIAS’ connection to Linda Sarsour.

The Facts: HIAS’ commitment to & defense of Linda Sarsour: HIAS’ PR firm is mischaracterizing the letter HIAS signed. In the letter, HIAS specifically defended antisemitic Israel-hater Linda Sarsour against supposed “smears,” and pledged to work with Sarsour, saying ““We . . . publicly state our commitment to working alongside her [Sarsour] for a more just and equal society” and “we are committed to bridging communal boundaries and standing in solidarity with one another. With Sarsour and others, we work as allies on issues of shared concern. . . .” 

Further, HIAS co-signed the letter with anti-Israel groups JVP, IfNotNow, J Street, T’ruah, and NIF, giving these anti-Israel groups credibility.

HIAS also failed to disown Sarsour’s fundraising for HIAS. 

Sarsour is infamous for calling throwing rocks at Israelis “the definition of courage”; praising Jew-murderer Rasmea Odeh; saying she wished she could take Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s vaginas away; saying “nothing is creepier than Zionism”; and blaming Jews for American police shootings of unarmed Blacks.

Moreover, HIAS promotes other Israel-haters.

  • HIAS promotes & praises antisemite, Israel-opponent & terrorist-sympathizer Ilhan Omar:

(i) HIAS posted a picture of Ilhan Omar with HIAS President Hetfield, with this statement: “We’re so honored to have hosted Representative Ilhan Omar for meetings at The White House and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) this week! Representative Ilhan Omar is an inspiration to refugees around the world. Learn more about her [link to Omar’s bio and Omar for Congress page].”

(ii) HIAS’s website post entitled “On World Refugee Day, HIAS and Partners Spread Welcome” (June 2018) portrayed Ilhan Omar as a partner, and included video speeches by Omar and a HIAS representative. 

(iii) HIAS praised and featured Omar’s Congressional election win.

(iv) HIAS accepted Omar’s non-apology for spouting antisemitic tropes, and at the same time HIAS condemned supposed anti-Muslim hate speech. 

(v) HIAS publicly opposed Israel’s decision to block BDS-promoters Ilhan Omar’s and Rashida Tlaib’s 2019 anti-Israel propaganda visit. 

Omar is infamous for calling Israel “evil”; blaming U.S. “involvement in other people’s affairs” for terrorism; complaining that Americans say “Al Qaeda” “Al-Shabaab” and “Hezbollah” as if those names were bad; demanding reduced sentences for Somali ISIS terrorists in Minnesota; and sponsoring pro-BDS Congressional legislation. 

HIAS rally featured Israel-hater Keith Ellison:

In February 2017, HIAS organized an anti-Trump rally featuring Israel-basher Keith Ellison. (Also see picture)  Ellison is notorious for making numerous anti-Semitic comments and false anti-Israel accusations (e.g., falsely accusing Israel of “apartheid” and of treating America as Israel’s ATM; working for Farrakhan’s antisemitic Nation of Islam for over a decade; voting against pro-Israel legislation including Iron Dome assistance; defending radical Islamist groups connected to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood on the House floor; speaking at those groups’ conferences and fundraisers and receiving funds from their members; attempting to purge the 2016 Democratic national platform of pro-Israel planks and to add anti-Israel planks to the platform; and spearheading anti-Israel Congressional letters, including the infamous “Gaza 54” letter to end the Gaza weapons blockade – which would enable Hamas to import more rockets to kill Israeli civilians. 

Above: MI Rep. Keith Ellison Speaking at a HIAS-organized pro-refugee rally in New York (The Jewish Star)

  • HIAS collaborates with Israel-hating, pro-BDS, Hamas-affiliated CAIR:

(i) HIAS announced that it is a partner in a program that “works closely with” CAIR to resettle Syrian refugees in Florida. Per HIAS’ Form 990, HIAS granted $604,002 to its partner (Gulf Coast JCFS) in this program in 2016.

(ii) HIAS held joint protests in Washington, D.C. with CAIR.

(iii) HIAS PA and CAIR also organized and sponsored a protest in Philadelphia. 

CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial for funneling money to Hamas.