Rep. Summer Lee headlines CAIR fundraising banquet, alongside speakers with antisemitic history

One scheduled speaker rejoiced over the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre hours after it occurred

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA) arrives to the U.S. Capitol for the last votes of the week on Friday, January 12, 2024.

Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA) is scheduled to give remarks at a fundraising banquet for a leading Muslim advocacy group on Saturday alongside several speakers who have made antisemitic and homophobic comments.

The freshman Squad member, a vocal critic of Israel who represents the Pittsburgh area, is among four speakers invited to appear at an event this weekend hosted by the Philadelphia branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), according to an online flier.

One of the expected speakers, Ibrahim Jaaber, an author and former professional basketball player, has called Israelis “demons” who lie to “cover their horns,” as he wrote in a social media post days after the Oct. 7 attacks, invoking an age-old antisemitic trope.

He has also alleged that the war between Israel and Hamas “is being justified by evil politicians and their media puppets who get paid to tell blatant lies and deceive the public,” accusing the “media and celebrity mouthpieces” of “chucking and jiving for their Zionist masters.”

Another speaker, Nadirah Pierre, a stand-up comedian and Muslim social media influencer, appeared to rejoice over the Hamas massacre just hours after it had occurred. “May Allah destroy them even worse than they have tried to destroy others!” she wrote in an Oct. 7 post on X, formerly Twitter.

In older posts, Pierre has voiced appreciation for Louis Farrakhan, the antisemitic leader of the Nation of Islam, which hosted her first stand-up gig, and questioned the existence of gay Muslims.

Meanwhile, Yasir Fahmy, an Islamic scholar and cleric who is slated to deliver the keynote speech at the CAIR event, has in recent months condemned Zionism as a “sick, sadistic cult” whose leaders are “bribing” social media influencers, media outlets and elected officials to sell “propaganda” and “lies.”

“Tell me, the Zionist Israel cult, who do they have?” Fahmy said in a sermon in late October. “Who do they have on their side? It’s anyone they have been able to purchase. It’s elected officials, it’s media outlets. That’s what they have, and whatever cadre of indoctrinated, brainwashed, hysterical followers they have. But other than that, they have nothing.”

Fahmy has otherwise used his platform to rail against gay and transgender people for engaging in what he has denounced as a “destructive” lifestyle. “We’re lost, and a true representation of this loss and this waywardness is this LGBTQ movement,” he said in a June 2022 lecture. “You see what’s happening with Disney — Buzz Lightyear, now Buzz Lightyear is suddenly gay. Suddenly, he’s gay.”

A spokesperson for Lee did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday regarding her participation in the CAIR banquet this weekend.

In recent days, Lee has drawn criticism from a top Democratic primary challenger, Bhavini Patel, for accepting campaign donations from pro-Palestinian activists who have made antisemitic remarks about Israel, most notably including CAIR’s executive director, Nihad Awad, who has celebrated Hamas’ attacks. His comments were condemned by the White House in December.

For her part, Lee has distanced herself from such comments, even as she has ignored Patel’s call to return the donations. “If we say things that are concerning, we have an obligation to explain,” Lee told Pittsburgh’s NPR affiliate last week, referring specifically to Awad, who has said he was “happy to see” the Hamas attack. “I think that argument is for him to make.”

Lee, 36, isn’t the only Squad member now facing a primary threat to draw scrutiny for associating with controversial figures in the wake of Oct. 7. Last month, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) provoked fierce backlash from Jewish leaders for praising an anti-Israel scholar, Norman Finkelstein, who has hailed the Hamas massacre as a “heroic resistance.” 

Bowman has since apologized for his remarks, which led J Street, the progressive Israel advocacy group, to rescind its endorsement in late January, dealing a serious blow to his reelection campaign.

Lee is also endorsed by J Street, which did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday about her scheduled involvement in the CAIR banquet.

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.