Last week, the Florida branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which bills itself as “a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding,” published a press release condemning Sarasota House candidate Tommy Gregory for attending an event apparently organized by seasoned Holocaust denier Peter Gemma. “Tommy Gregory owes an apology to the Florida Jewish community and to all Floridians. We condemn his attendance at a party organized by people associated with Holocaust deniers and white nationalists. Instead of uttering frivolous excuses, Gregory should apologize for his bad judgment in attending this repugnant event,” trumpeted CAIR-Florida communications director Wilfredo Amr Ruiz.
To those who are unfamiliar with CAIR and its particular brand of duplicity, Ruiz’s impassioned defense of Florida’s Jewish population might seem like a sincere, heart-warming manifestation of interfaith solidarity. But a closer examination of Ruiz’s history (not to mention CAIR’s frequent tendency to ignore Islamist expressions of bigotry) shows that CAIR and Ruiz’s concern for Jewish welfare is just as fake as the rest of the group’s carefully curated progressive image.
A Puerto Rican convert to Islam, Wilfredo Ruiz has long parroted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of a type similar to those espoused by the very people Ruiz publicly condemned: Peter Gemma and his associates. Indeed, in 2010, Ruiz published an article on the Islamist website WebIslam parroting classic anti-Semitic falsehoods. One was the popular Nazi canard that the Talmud, an ancient Jewish text, instructs Jews to bury Jesus next to the grave of Muhammad, where Jews then “throw dead dogs and monkeys.” Ruiz also claimed that the Talmud refers to Christians as “idolaters, murderers, fornicators, filth and beasts” and that it includes repeated calls to intolerance and mistreatment, exhorting the Jew to deceive the Christian and “not assist him during illness, pregnancy or death.”
Ruiz’s bizarre claims are easily proven false; there is no mention of Muhammad in the Talmud (as it was written before he was born), and only a few passing references to Jesus or Christians. Presumably unwilling to read the Talmud himself, Ruiz instead mined the work of Justinas Pranaitis, a 19th century defrocked Russian Catholic priest, to support his claims. Pranaitis is remembered for advancing the blood libel against Jews by testifying about supposed Talmudic hatred in a court case against a Jew accused of using Christian children’s blood for Passover cooking.
Pranaitis remains infamous for The Talmud Unmasked, a classic anti-Semitic text that claims to reveal Jewish hatred and Talmudic justification for murder of Christians. Inspired by notorious German anti-Semitic writer August Rohling, the book contains exactly the falsehoods Ruiz presents as fact. Indeed, Ruiz even went so far as to recommend a website with a digitized version of the text—a site whose webmaster notes: “This unchanged, online version of Fr. Pranaitis scholarly book, The Talmud Unmasked, is dedicated to the Holy Infant Martyr St. Simon of Trent, who was mercilessly slayed by the Jews in Trent, Italy on the 21st March, 1475 A.D.”
If it seems odd that these examples of classic anti-Jewish hatred didn’t give Ruiz—a self-styled “civil rights activist”—any pause, allow us to put Ruiz’s bigotry in context.
Ruiz assumed the post of CAIR Florida’s communication director in 2011, after serving as legal counsel and director of the Puerto Rico office of the Miami-based group American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA). Like CAIR, AMANA bills itself as an organization focused on civil rights and serving the community, yet has repeatedly spread anti-Semitic content.
AMANA was founded and is still led by Palestinian-Arab activist and virulent Hamas supporter Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout. In 2010, the Anti-Defamation League publicly condemned Zakkout and AMANA for using its website to promote an anti-Semitic video by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. Almost 10 years later, a David Duke video in which he accuses Jews of orchestrating the Holocaust in order to justify the creation of Israel remains posted on AMANA’s website.
Since Ruiz joined CAIR-Florida, he has continued to serve as AMANA’s legal advisor, and the groups have worked together to organize pro-Hamas rallies. At one such rally in Miami in 2014, protesters screamed, “We are Hamas” outside the Israeli consulate; Zakkout later posted photos of the rally accompanied by the caption, “Thank God, every day we conquer the American Jews like our conquests over the Jews of Israel!”
Meanwhile, despite Ruiz’s carefully sanitized public image—for instance, his Huffington Post bio cites his participation in the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education at Hebrew College, and his Twitter account includes impassioned pleas on behalf of religious freedom—he has continued to leave indications of his bigotry on social media. In one case, Ruiz “liked” a Facebook comment denying the Holocaust and asserting, “Hitler wasn’t so bad after all.”
In another case, Ruiz appeared in a 2017 video produced by HispanTV, the Iranian regime’s state-run Spanish-language channel, and then used CAIR’s Spanish-language Facebook page to post it. In the video, a journalist claims that the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers and Israeli government officials fly to Washington, D.C., together, equipped with “bags of money” to buy American politicians. Then, the journalist continues, those officials reimburse themselves with American taxpayer dollars.
Given how often CAIR goes out of its way to condemn what it characterizes as anti-Muslim bias—and how fervently Ruiz tries to appear as an advocate for Jews—one might think that CAIR would deal just as harshly with anti-Semitism among its own ranks as it does with white nationalists, or “Islamophobia” in the ranks of others. Instead, CAIR has proven time and time again that it will accept and excuse hatred against Jews whenever CAIR can get away with it. If CAIR is truly interested in advocating for American communities—Jewish or otherwise— perhaps it should look inward and remove Wilfredo Amr Ruiz from his post.
Nicci Thomson holds an M.A. in International Security from Massey University. She is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
Samantha Rose Mandeles is the Coordinator for Islamist Watch. Follow her on Twitter at @SRMandeles.