Rep. Summer Lee Pulls Out of CAIR Banquet

WASHINGTON (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS) — Rep. Summer Lee said Tuesday that she would not attend the banquet of an Islamic group after facing blowback from both Democrats and Republicans over antisemitism allegations directed at some of those involved in the event.

Lee said on the social media site X that she was unaware of some of the previous comments of others scheduled to speak alongside her at the Council on American-Islamic Relations Philadelphia chapter’s annual banquet this Saturday.

“To prevent the Muslim community from being the target of any more politically motivated Islamophobia and to ensure my Jewish and LGBTQ+ constituents know their concerns are heard, I will not be attending this event any longer,” she said.

Other scheduled speakers included former basketball player Ibrahim Jaaber, who called Jews “demons” and said they “cover their horns” in a post on X; and Islamic scholar Yasir Fahmy, who called Zionism a “sick and sadistic, ideological cult.” The background of these speakers were first reported by Jewish Insider.

“I do not condone or endorse any of the other speakers’ previous comments,” she said. “I have and continue to condemn antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and transphobia everywhere it arises.”

In addition, CAIR’s executive director Nihad Awad responded to the Hamas attack in a November speech to the group American Muslims for Palestine, where he said he was “happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land.” Awad later said those remarks were taken out of context, and the organization’s national board issued a letter saying, “We oppose all forms of bigoted hate, including antisemitism, and we oppose all forms of unjust violence against any community, including the Jewish community.”

The group also said Awad “also has a long record of opposing bigotry and violence.”

Lee has been one of just a handful of lawmakers — most of them members of a far-left group of lawmakers of color known as the Squad — who have voted against congressional resolutions supporting Israel and opposing antisemitism since Oct. 7, when Hamas broke an existing ceasefire and attacked the Jewish state, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages.

She also has been one of the more outspoken members calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The freshman congresswoman has been critical of Israeli policies. When she first ran for Congress in 2022, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee’s affiliated super PAC spent $4 million in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat her. The PAC has yet to get involved in the race this year.

Her district includes the Squirrel Hill synagogue that housed three congregations, Tree of Life, Dor Hadash, and New Light, which came under attack five years ago by a shooter who killed 11 people there for services.

Lee’s scheduled appearance at the CAIR banquet drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans in the state, including Gov. Josh Shapiro, Jewish members of the state Legislature, her primary opponents and the Republican candidate in the House race.

“We deserve better than a congresswoman who aligns with anti-Semites, End of story,” one of her primary challengers, Laurie MacDonald, said on X after Ms. Lee’s Tuesday announcement.

In her statement, Lee said she “wanted to join this event with other members of Congress to support our Muslim neighbors, in the commonwealth and across the country, who are desperate to be heard by their own elected officials and feel supported at a time of rising anti-Muslim hate and violence.”

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