Muslim appeals court nominee’s confirmation imperiled amid antisemitism accusations

Leading centrist Jewish organizations have rejected the accusations against Mangi, but enough Democrats reportedly harbor concerns to sink the nomination

Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA via AP Images

Circuit Court Judge Nominee Adeel Abdullah Mangi testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on judicial nominations, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 13, 2023.

The confirmation of Adeel Mangi, a judicial nominee who would be the first Muslim-American to serve on any federal appeals court, appears increasingly imperiled, as he faces accusations of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment from Senate Republicans, among other charges.

Leading nonpartisan Jewish organizations have rejected the accusations against Mangi and Mangi pushed back aggressively against insinuations that he supports terrorism or antisemitism, but enough Senate Democrats reportedly share concerns about Mangi to potentially sink his nomination. Republicans are pushing the administration to withdraw the nomination.

Republicans’ campaign against Mangi, who has been nominated for the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit, emerged during his confirmation hearing, when he repeatedly faced questions about his views on antisemitism and Israel.

Critics seized on Mangi’s membership on an advisory board for the Rutgers University Center for Security, Race and Rights, which they said hosted speakers who support terrorism and celebrated the Oct. 7 attack or blamed it on Israel. The center’s director has also shared Oct. 7 denialism.

Mangi said that his role with the center was limited to once-annual meetings to advise the center on academic research, and that he had no insight into or oversight over speakers, events or comments by its director.

“I will condemn, without equivocation, any terrorism, any terrorist or any act of terrorism, or any defense of any act of terrorism,” Mangi said, in response to questions about speakers sponsored by the center. “I don’t know anything about this event, or who these people are. I’ve never heard of any of them. If someone on there is a terrorist, I condemn them.”

He unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Oct. 7 attack as “abominable, and against everything I stand for,” saying he has “no patience, none, for any attempts to justify or defend those events.”

Pressed on whether he views Israel as a colonialist state, and other similar comments by the center’s director, Mangi said repeatedly that Middle East policy issues fall outside his remit as a judicial nominee and that he did not have the expertise to answer. He did say, however, that Israel has a right to exist.

Republicans subsequently accused Mangi of supporting “cop killers,” citing his membership on the board of a criminal justice reform group. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) cited Mangi’s affiliation with that group, which sponsored a fellowship named for a member of the Weather Underground terrorist group and the release of individuals convicted of killing police officers, in comments on Tuesday opposing Mangi’s confirmation

Cortez Masto is the only Democrat publicly opposing Mangi so far. A spokesperson indicated to JI that she does not share Republicans’ concerns relating to Israel and antisemitism, telling Jewish Insider that her reservations relate to his “law enforcement record.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said on Wednesday that he would not support any judicial nominees who lack Republican support, a possible death knell for Mangi’s nomination.

Several other Democratic swing votes are publicly undecided on Mangi’s confirmation.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) told JI on Monday that he’s “looking at” Mangi’s nomination, and that there are “a lot of considerations,” declining to elaborate further or say whether he shared Republicans’ concerns about Israel and antisemitism.

He noted that no vote has been scheduled yet on Mangi.

Pennsylvania’s other senator, Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), meanwhile, told JI that Democratic leadership should bring Mangi’s nomination up for a vote and suggested he’d be supportive.

Nonpartisan and liberal-leaning Jewish organizations have come out in Mangi’s defense, rejecting the accusations and line of questioning that Mangi faced.

The Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that Mangi was “berat[ed]… with endless questions that appear to have been motivated by bias towards his religion,” which the statement called, “profoundly wrong.”

It described the questioning as “an attempt to create controversy where none exists” and “urge[d] leaders to refrain from fueling discrimination and hate — and urge[d] the Senate to offer Mr. Mangi a fair vote, based on his qualifications and fitness for the job.”

The American Jewish Committee likewise said in a statement that the questions had “thin pretext” and turned “serious issues into a tool of partisan attack,” noting that Mangi had clearly expressed his support for Israel and opposition to terrorism and antisemitism. It also implied that the questions had stoked “fears of and against American religious minorities.”

“American Jewish Committee (AJC) has joined several U.S. Supreme Court briefs led by Mangi and find him to be an able jurist, a person of integrity, champion of pluralism, and adversary of discrimination against any group,” the statement continued. “Ultimately, the Senate must determine Mangi’s fitness for the job, and we expect that Senators will disregard the untoward implications underlying that unnecessary and unhelpful line of questioning.”

Neither the ADL nor AJC explicitly endorsed Mangi’s confirmation.

The National Council of Jewish Women led a letter with 15 liberal-leaning Jewish organizations expressing support for Mangi’s confirmation, asserting, “the Senate has the opportunity to confirm one of the most preeminent lawyers with an impeccable career and credentials that more than prepare him for a lifetime position on our federal courts.”

Conservative-leaning Jewish groups, meanwhile, are opposing Mangi’s confirmation.

RJC National Chairman Norm Coleman and CEO Matt Brooks blasted Mangi’s “radical affiliations,” including to the Rutgers center, which they said should have “disqualified him from being nominated for a lifetime judicial appointment.” They said that accusations that the questioning of Mangi was driven by Islamophobia are groundless “deflection tactics.”

A joint statement by the Zionist Organization of America, Americans Against Antisemitism, StopAntisemtism and Students Supporting Israel compared Mangi’s service on the Rutgers board to involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, and described Mangi’s claims of ignorance about its activities and leadership as not credible.

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