|Pederson speaks at CAIR fundraiser|
|DEBRA MORTON GELBART
|Senate Democratic candidate Jim Pederson was a speaker at a recent annual fundraiser for the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ), an organization whose anti-Israel views are well known. He was the only candidate for public office from either the Republican or Democratic parties who attended the Sept. 9 event.
Pederson told Jewish News that he didn’t realize it was a fundraiser until his staff visited the CAIR-AZ Web site on Oct. 2, where photos and a description of the event are posted.
“We thought this was to be a candidates’ forum,” Pederson said. “I was under the impression that several candidates would be there, including Sen. (Jon) Kyl,” the Republican incumbent whose seat Pederson is seeking.
The invitation that Pederson received in June read in part: “In the eyes of Arizona you are a solid foundation in the Valley of the Sun and your participation and support will help CAIR-AZ prosper for many generations to come. With the commitment and cooperation of Arizona’s community we hope to continue our outreach and development to ensure a better home for our families and loved ones.”
Apparently, however, telephone conversations after the invitation was received created the impression for Pederson’s staff that the event was to be a candidates’ forum.
“There was a miscommunication between us and the Pederson campaign,” said Nure Elatari, communications director for CAIR-AZ. “On the day of the event, (a campaign representative) asked if Pederson could (address the attendees) and say a few words. But he did not stay for the fundraising part of the evening.”
Elatari said that Kyl and U.S. Sen. John McCain were invited to attend the event, as were Gov. Janet Napolitano, Rep. J.D. Hayworth of U.S. District 5 and Hayworth’s challenger, Harry Mitchell. She said all declined to attend.
In his remarks at the beginning of the CAIR event, Pederson said he supports hate-crimes legislation to protect minorities from being targeted because of race or religion. He also said there are significant differences between him and Kyl on issues critical to Muslims.
“Civil liberties and civil rights shouldn’t be sacrificed at the altar of the War on Terror,” Pederson said. “I believe this country is strong enough to beat this challenge and preserve our long tradition of privacy rights.”
He also said, “We must work harder to find opportunities to bring reasonable, like-minded leaders together in the Middle East to chart a better course.”
Pederson told Jewish News on Oct. 3, “We thought we were outreaching to moderates in the Muslim community through that event. I thought CAIR was a group of moderate Muslim business people.”
CAIR-AZ’s agenda concerns many in the Jewish community. “CAIR-Arizona is one of those organizations I have a hard time capsulizing,” said Bill Straus, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Arizona. “They very often say the right things, but then there’s nothing more than the original words to back up the alleged good intentions.”
“Certainly if I had known CAIR is not considered a moderate organization I would not have attended the event,” Pederson said. “My position on the situation in the Middle East is clear: U.S. support for Israel has to be unequivocal. There can never be any doubt about our commitment to Israel.”