Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer will be accepting an award in New York next month from an American organization identified as an anti-Muslim hate group.
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The Center for Security Policy (CSP), which will be honoring Dermer, is included in the hate group watch list of The Southern Poverty Law Center, a prominent Alabama-based civil rights group. Dermer will presented with the CSP Freedom Flame Award at a dinner scheduled for December 13. The other recipient of the award this year is Morton Klein, longstanding president of the right-leaning Zionist Organization of America.
The CSP was founded in 1988 by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official. The Southern Policy Law Center notes on its website that the organization "has gone from a respected hawkish think-tank focused on foreign affairs to a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States."
The CSP has been known to accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of infiltrating the U.S. government and for warning against the threat of Islamic religious law to American democracy. As evidence of its extremist bent, the CSP has been banned from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) – a major gathering of conservatives each year in Washington D.C.
“For the past decade, CSP’s main focus has been on demonizing Islam and Muslims under the guise of national security,” according to the Southern Policy Center website.
Reached for comment, Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said "It’s unfortunate the ambassador has chosen to accept an award from the Center for Security Policy. CSP has a long track record of anti-Muslim bigotry that should be denounced, not sanctioned by the ambassador's presence."
Itai Bar-Dov, spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington, said in response that Dermer "is not aware of any anti-Muslim views held by the Center for Security Policy and would not endorse any such view."
He said the ambassador was, in fact, "honored" to receive this year’s Freedom Flame Award, noting that previous recipients have included the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick.
"The Ambassador also greatly appreciates the Center for Security Policy's longtime support for a strong and secure Israel," said Bar-Dov.
He added "As for the ambassador's views of Islam, he has made it clear through dozens of public speeches that Islam is not the enemy."
J Street, a pro-Israel pro-peace organization, called on Dermer to decline the honor on Wednesday. "In the course of a long career of spreading anti-Islamic hatred and fear, Gaffney has accused President Obama of having secret Muslim heritage; charged that Muslim Members of Congress should not receive classified information; accused Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of having ties to terrorist groups; and lavished praise on a prominent white nationalist, Jared Taylor," the organization said in a statement.
"The CSP has had a significant role in fueling the fire of the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant politics that have come to the forefront in the 2016 election cycle. Bogus CSP 'polling' alleging that a large number of American Muslims support violence has been cited by Donald Trump. A CSP 'report' released in 2015 called for a full moratorium on Muslim immigration to the United States," it added.
CSP could not be reached for comment.