MARYLAND — CASA, a prominent Maryland-based immigrants’ rights organization, has come under attack by state and local officials for its criticism of Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip and its expression of solidarity with Palestinians.

In a recent statement, CASA condemned the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. But politicians in Montgomery County pressured the group to issue a public apology for including criticism of Israel’s policies in the same statement.

Not content with only an apology, a group of Democratic state senators from Montgomery County also threatened to strip state funding from CASA.

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CASA, headquartered in Silver Spring, is far from alone in getting threatened for its criticism of Israel’s policies.

Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups have been suspended or banned from college campuses for speaking out against Israel’s attack on Gaza. People have been fired from their jobs for criticizing Israel’s policies and expressing solidarity with Palestinians.

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The days of when people were attacked for expressing any sort of solidarity with Palestinians are “back with a vengeance,” James Zogby, co-founder and president of the Arab American Institute, told Patch.

The current environment — people losing their jobs, student groups getting banned from campuses and threats to withhold funding from organizations — “reeks of McCarthyism,” Zogby said.

Groups such as CASA, along with the younger generations of activists, recognize the connection between the plight of Palestinians and other marginalized and oppressed groups, Zogby said. But public officials are now telling CASA and others to stay in their lanes and not highlight the intersection of issues — or else face funding cuts, he said.

READ ALSO: MD Hate Crimes Commission Member Suspended For Anti-Israeli Posts

Joining Black Lives Matter marches or expressing support for trans rights, Zogby said, is viewed as acceptable by many politicians and colleges. But showing support for Palestinians has always been a “bridge too far,” he added.

CASA was founded in the mid-1980s by activists opposed to U.S. interference in Latin America and the funding of military and paramilitary assaults on the communities of Central America. Over the past four decades, the organization has grown into a large group that provides assistance to recent immigrants from Central America and lobbies against certain anti-immigrant laws.

On Nov. 6, two days after tens of thousands of people had gathered in D.C. for one of the biggest pro-Palestinian rallies in U.S. history, CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres issued a statement condemning both Hamas’ attack on Israel and Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

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“Like much of the world, we join in condemning the outrageous attack by Hamas in Israel. Our hearts go out to the innocent children and families caught in the midst of this horrendous conflict,” Torres said in the statement.

“We also reject the notion that any act of violence can ever justify the heinous practice of terror currently unleashed by Israel in Gaza, including on refugee camps, medical and UN aid workers, and more,” Torres said.

In the statement, CASA recognized the intersection between Palestinian rights and the conditions faced by its members, many of whom immigrated to the U.S. from Central America.

“We strongly support the struggle for decolonization, affirming the rights of Indigenous peoples and historically colonized nations to reclaim their land,” Torres said. “The Palestinian struggle mirrors our own; with many CASA members fleeing governments and countries wrecked by the damage of US economic and political intervention.”

Montgomery County Council Member Andrew Friedson, a Democrat, said Torres’ statement criticizing Israel’s policies was “deeply offensive and hurtful.”

Friedson accused CASA of “using antisemitic language that denies Jews as being indigenous to their own ancestral homeland and failing to recognize that over half of Israel’s population are people of color.”

In response to these accusations, a group of local Jewish activists condemned Friedson and other lawmakers from Montgomery County for “weaponizing Jewish pain in the wake of the recent atrocities by Hamas to attack and undermine CASA in response to its tweets criticizing Israel and calling for a ceasefire.”

“To be clear: As Jews, there was nothing in CASA’s statements that we found to be antisemitic or hateful,” the Jewish activists said in a letter to the editor.

In his Nov. 6 statement, Torres also said: “We call for an immediate ceasefire to save all precious life and halt the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.”

Israel’s attacks on Gaza over the past six weeks have displaced about 1.7 million residents of Gaza, according to United Nations data. It remains unclear whether the displaced Palestinians will ever be able to return to their homes.

The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also condemned the letter issued by the Montgomery County Senate Delegation that rebuked CASA.

“Advocacy groups with the moral clarity and courage to condemn war crimes against innocent civilians including the killing of over 4,500 children in Gaza deserve support and praise, not rebuke and criticism,” CAIR Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry said in a statement.

Chaudry herself has come under attack for criticizing Israel’s bombings of Gaza. On Tuesday, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown suspended her from the Maryland Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention over posts she made on social media.

On her personal Facebook page, Chaudry said the unverified claim that 40 Israeli babies were beheaded by Hamas fighters on Oct. 7 was fake. In the days after news organizations reported the alleged atrocity, an Israeli official said the Israeli government could not confirm the claim that 40 babies were beheaded.

In a statement released Tuesday, CAIR urged Brown to reverse Chaudry’s suspension, calling it a “blatant act of censorship.”

“Zainab’s suspension is … a betrayal of the very values that the Hate Crimes Commission is supposed to uphold,” the statement read. “Her outspoken criticism of the Israeli government’s human rights abuses and her unwavering support for Palestinian rights have made her a target for anti-Muslim extremists, but they should not be allowed to silence her.”

In another attack on CASA, the American Jewish Committee called on Jews United for Justice to cancel plans to present CASA Maryland with its Heschel Vision award on Nov. 19.

“CASA Maryland issued a virulently antisemitic and anti-Zionist screed on Nov. 6 accusing Israel of engaging in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza,” the AJC said in response to the statement that CASA made about more than 1 million Palestinians being forced from their homes by Israel.

“Though CASA belatedly issued an apology 10 days later, granting them an award in Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s name is ill-conceived,” the AJC said.

Jews United for Justice, a group that works to advance economic, racial and social justice in the D.C. and Baltimore areas, did in fact honor CASA Maryland with the Heschel Vision award on Sunday.

Zogby said efforts by groups to stem the tide of solidarity with Palestinians, especially among young people, “is like putting a finger in the dike.”

“The tide is changing due to the intersectionality of these issues,” Zogby said.

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