Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) has ties to a group that includes numerous radical anti-American and anti-Israel activists on its board of directors.
Notes of support posted to the controversial congresswoman’s door include a message from the organization Witness for Peace. “Keep up the good work!” the note reads, signed, “Witness for Peace Columbia Team :).”
The note appeared the same week Omar attacked Elliott Abrams, a Jewish-American and longtime diplomat who served in the Reagan and Bush administrations. Abrams is now the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela. Omar has sided with the socialist government in Venezuela, accusing the Trump administration of leading a “U.S.-backed coup” against Nicolas Maduro.
Witness for Peace got its start fighting the Reagan administration’s anti-communist policies during the Cold War, specifically the group opposed funding the Contras in Nicaragua. Abrams, who Omar called “Mr. Adams,” pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, and was later pardoned.
“Faith-based peace activists founded Witness for Peace in response to the U.S. funding of the Contras,” its website states. In 1984 “Witness for Peace activists across the country organized events to resist Reagan’s war on Central America,” the group said.
Omar attended a delegation sponsored by Witness for Peace to Honduras in November 2017. She returned to the Minnesota House of Representatives calling for an end to U.S. military aid to Honduras, a position shared by the radical group Code Pink.
After traveling to Honduras as part of the Witness for Peace delegation, I’ve returned home with a heavy heart and deep concern for the electoral process and human rights crisis the people of Honduras are enduring.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 30, 2017
Witness for Peace is now led by a group of radical board members who have taken positions against America, Israel, democracy, and capitalism.
Members of the board include activists who have called for efforts to “dismantle U.S. militarism,” accused Israel of inflicting “institutionalized racism that equates to modern day apartheid,” and pro-Maduro activists who write “dear comrade” letters calling for war against capitalism. One board member has ties to a group founded by a Palestinian activist who called for the “eradication of Israel.”
Upon her election to Congress, Omar received a wave of glowing media coverage as the first Somali-American Muslim legislator. Since, she has come out in favor of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, and has called Israel “evil,” and accused the only democracy in the Middle East of “hypnotizing the world.”
This week Omar received widespread condemnation for again making anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter, and was forced to apologize.
Her views on several issues align with the group Witness for Peace, whose campaigns include calls to “stop ICE raids,” issuing a “solidarity statement” with migrant caravans, and calling for the return of the “illegally occupied Guantanamo Naval Base to the Cuban people!”
The group facilitates travel to Cuba, and attacks the Trump administration as “regressing us toward the old unjust, counterproductive Cold War posture of past decades.”
Witness for Peace highlighted one trip taken by Mercy Carpenter, a community organizer, artist, and farmer, who said the people of Cuba face “oppression resulting in evidence of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism.” Cuba is a communist country.
Carpenter said she “felt right at home,” though she said “every space we visited echoed that their work is committed to inspiring daily transformations against Transphobia, Homophobia, Racism, Ageism, Sexism, Ableism and Colorism.”
Nevertheless, she felt “honored to have visited a country” with free healthcare, where “housing and food are provided for all.”
Witness for Peace lists three board members on its English-version website, including Eunice Escobar, Atrayus O. Goode, and Maricelly Malave.
Escobar, the group’s treasurer, also works for the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network, and is a board member of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America.
The mission of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) is to “dismantle U.S. militarism, neoliberal economic and immigration policy, and other forms of state and institutional violence.”
Like Omar, CRLN has called America’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela a “right-wing” “attempted coup against” socialist Maduro.
Atrayus O. Goode, another board member, is the chair of Movement of Youth, Inc., and a vocal critic of Israel.
Goode gave a sermon in 2017 after traveling to the Middle East, accusing Israel of “modern day apartheid.”
“The Israeli military occupation and illegal Jewish settlements at the heart of the city have forced thousands of Palestinian residents to leave their homes,” he said. “Thousands of Palestinians were systematically uprooted and dispossessed from their land at the hands of the Israeli government in order for a few hundred Jewish settlers to walk around that land free.”
Goode continued: “This type of structural violence enacted by the Israeli government on everyday Palestinian citizens is nothing more than a regime of systemic and institutionalized racism that equates to modern day apartheid.”
Goode accuses Israel of “stealing land and displacing Palestinians by any means necessary,” and compared Israel to America as governments of “white supremacy.”
“If you change the word Israeli Jew to white and Palestinian to black, depending on the time period, you would think I was talking about America,” he said. “America’s sin was this country being founded as a white society on the stolen land of Native Americans and on the enslavement of Africans. It was whiteness being written into legislation in the late 1600s, it was all the subsequent laws and policies that reinforce white supremacy even up until this day.”
Witness for Peace has an expanded list of its board of directors on its less frequently updated Spanish-version of its website. Goode and Escobar are still listed, along with other anti-Israel activists, including Phyllis Albritton, who was identified as a “Gaza donor.”
Albritton was listed in a to Friends of Sabeel newsletter in 2012 as a “Gaza donor” for giving between $500 and $999 to the organization. The same newsletter announced the group’s “new faith-based boycott campaign” against SodaStream, the Israel-based company.
“All Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal by international law and are also against U.S. policy as obstacles to peace,” the newsletter states. “Yet settler products are sold in the U.S. If we buy them, we contribute to settlement funding and prolong the suffering they cause.”
Friends of Sabeel supports the BDS movement, and advocates for being a “moral voice” against “Israel’s periodic offensives on Gaza and exponential encroachment in the West Bank.”
Albritton volunteered her email address to the comments on a Code Pink petition to “stop the abuse of Palestinian children,” and has called for imposing sanctions on Israel.
“Living with hope that this will happen,” Albritton commented on an article, entitled, “Will Obama Impose Sanctions Against Israel?”
“How long, O Lord, how long? How about sanctions AND cutting WAY back on the military aid we give to Israel,” she wrote. “Proud of my Jewish heritage, I am not against Israel’s right to exist but NOT beyond the 1967 border!!”
Also on the board of directors is Jeanette Charles, who worked for the Witness for Peace Southwest division. She is a member of the Chiapas Support Committee, a pro-Maduro group that blames the United States and Israel for a “coup attempt” against Maduro.
Charles participated in an event at Scripps College on “Charting Radical Futures with Black Lives Matter,” which explored ending “anti-black state sanctioned violence.”
She also has given talks pro-Venezuelan regime talks at Scripps, according to the College Fix, including one where she called Hugo Chávez “god-like.”
Charles believes socialism in Venezuela is “our greatest hope against war and capitalism.”
“Dear comrades in the U.S. and the world,” Charles wrote in 2017.
Charles said Venezuela is “leading the struggle against U.S. hegemony,” praising its socialist regime, which has resulted in hyperinflation, shortages, imprisonment of political prisoners, and starvation.
Charles supports Chávez’s socialist programs as “political and spiritual transformations,” praised its “reparations model,” while denouncing America’s “laws drafted by a white slave-owning elite class.”
“As Venezuelans struggle to overcome great challenges, our role is not to join the chorus of attacks that seek to dismantle the revolution, but rather, it is to stand with Venezuelans’ right to self-determination in defining, shaping and practicing a 21st century socialism that offers our greatest hope against war and capitalism,” Charles wrote.
Charles has written several other articles as a “Solidarity Correspondent” to the socialist regime, claiming in August 2018 Venezuela is at the “forefront of a global vision for justice, liberation and building another world.”
“In twenty or fifty years, today and tomorrow’s decisions will hopefully bring Venezuela closer to the socialist society that leaders like Comandante Chávez and the comunerxs (communards) envision,” she wrote. “However, much of the nation’s success is contingent on its ability (and of those in solidarity) to fight against US efforts to destabilize Venezuela as well as the region politically and economically.”
In September 2018 she praised “Chávez’s vision of a multipolar world and an inclusive society radically rooted in the people’s determination to lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.”
Another board member is Bette “Rainbow” Hoover, a Quaker and anti-war activist who founded CASA de Maryland, a left-wing group that supports illegal immigrants. Accuracy in Media identified CASA as a radical group with ties to Code Pink.
Hoover told the Capital Research Center the group aided illegal aliens who were communist guerrillas who fought in El Salvador’s civil war. The group was involved in creating a brochure “explaining how illegal aliens can protect themselves during immigration raids and arrest.”
Hoover claimed the Maryland State Police mistakenly labeled her a terrorist in 2009.
Board member Paul Magno is an anti-nuclear weapons activist with Nonviolence International, which was founded by Palestinian activist Mubarak Awad in 1989.
Awad called for the “eradication of Israel as a Jewish state,” according to an editorial written by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting published in the Washington Post in 1988.
“The PLO wants the entire Palestine and I agree,” Awad said. “Palestine for me is the Galilee, Akko, Ashdod, everything. This is Palestine for me.”
Magno is a “Plowshares” activist who “uses hammers and blood to convey its message” for eliminating nuclear weapons. He was arrested in the 1980s and served 20 months in prison for breaking into a military plant and damaged missile equipment in Florida.
Gail Phares is listed as a board member working for Witness for Peace Southeast. Phares is anti-military activist who began protesting anti-communist interventions in the 1960s.
“We all need to be radicalized,” she said in an interview with Indy Week, a progressive newspaper in North Carolina.
“For me, it was seeing the economic power and the military power of the U.S. government,” Phares said about her early activism in Nicaragua. “I was appalled.”
“And I came home, so angry that I didn’t read body language back then,” she said. “My dad thought I was a communist.”
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