The local chapter of the American Jewish Committee called on Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) yesterday to return $2,000 in political contributions from a Muslim activist and renounce all ties to the man, and Moran said last night he would.
The activist, Abdurahman Alamoudi, of Falls Church, was at the center of similar controversies in 2000 during the campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton and George W. Bush, both of whom returned Alamoudi's money after he was shown declaring his support for the anti-Israel groups Hamas and Hezbollah during a rally outside the White House. Alamoudi, who founded the American Muslim Council, said he has never supported terrorism but does support Palestinian statehood.
Hamas has been implicated in numerous suicide bombings in Israel, and Hezbollah bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983, killing 243 Marines. President Bush denounced both groups as part of the "terrorist underworld" in his State of the Union message.
Moran, in Munich for a NATO defense conference, said he would return the two gifts of $1,000.
"I don't want to be supported by anyone who would give unqualified support for Hamas and Hezbollah," Moran said, "and I understand . . . that Mr. Alamoudi has given that level of support. I have to consider his remarks to be reckless and really very harmful to the Muslim American community, when many Muslims feel somewhat discriminated against because of September 11."
The local Jewish community's unease with Moran has been simmering for years, several Jewish leaders said, and Moran acknowledged that "there's a lot of fence-mending I need to do." The discontent increased in November when the American Jewish Committee discovered a videotape of a June speech by Moran to the American Muslim Council.
During the speech, Moran said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington "probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for." He also made what the Jewish leaders considered to be uneducated remarks about Zionism.
Moran, a six-term member of Congress, said his remarks were "irresponsible," delivered without thinking. "Probably more than anything else, it's what embarrasses me the most -- when I pander to an audience, and I've done it too often."
Moran also spoke to a forum of Muslim groups at the National Press Club on Jan. 4, 2001. The next day, according to federal election records, Alamoudi donated $1,000 to Moran's campaign. Alamoudi also donated $1,000 to Moran in May 1998.
Then on Wednesday night, Alamoudi appeared on the CBS television program "48 Hours" and was asked about his comments at an October 2000 rally outside the White House, where he said: "We are all supporters of Hamas. I wish they added that I am also a supporter of Hezbollah."
Alamoudi said in an interview that he regretted the comments, "not because I said it. Because I did not qualify it. I should have said I support Hamas, I support Hezbollah . . . but I don't support terrorism."
Officers of the Washington chapter of the American Jewish Committee wrote a letter to Moran yesterday, saying, "Based on these remarks, one can only conclude that Mr. Alamoudi does not regard suicide attacks against innocent Israeli civilians as terrorism."
Alamoudi repeated yesterday that "I would never associate with terrorists and I will never support terrorism. No way." He said the rift between Jews and Muslims in the United States is widening. "The danger is this is not healthy," Alamoudi said, and he called on Moran to organize more dialogue.
Some Muslim groups protest that pro-Israel groups are waging a campaign to marginalize Muslim leaders.
"If there was a pro-Israel litmus test for the Muslim community, we'd all fail it," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Alamoudi also has donated $1,000 to Rep. David E. Bonior (D-Mich.), who is running for governor of Michigan. Bonior has refused to return the money.
David Bernstein, director of the American Jewish Committee's Washington chapter, called Moran's decision to return Alamoudi's donations "a constructive move. We're glad that he's taken a decisive stand against a supporter of terrorism."