Contact: Jewish Voice for Peace - Philadelphia |

Candidates Jim Kenney and Anthony Williams condemn anti-Muslim hate, but Williams fails to cut ties with Islamophobic Zionist Organization of America

Philadelphia, PA (May 14, 2015) - Public pressure from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) - Philadelphia activists induced mayoral candidates Jim Kenney and Anthony H. Williams to take a public stand against Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry yesterday. More than six hundred and fifty voters signed a petition organized by JVP - Philadelphia asking mayoral candidates to actively oppose Islamophobia and to distance themselves from organizations that promote it.

JVP - Philadelphia member Matt Berkman stated, “When anti-Muslim hate speech is plastered on buses in the City of Brotherly Love, we need to know that our future leaders are committed to opposing Islamophobia. We are grateful to candidates Kenney and Williams for responding to our campaign. However, we continue to ask candidate Williams to cut ties with the Islamophobic Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).”

In 2013, State Senator Williams accepted a "Friend of Zion Award" from the right-wing Zionist Organization of America. “The ZOA is one of the only national Jewish organizations willing to host Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim activist responsible for the recent SEPTA ads that were widely condemned by the mainstream Jewish community,” said JVP - Philadelphia member Ezra Nepon. In a statement to the Jewish Exponent, ZOA’s Morton Klein refused to condemn the ads and instead sympathized with Geller’s position.

In 2013, members of JVP - Philadelphia and others delivered a letter from more than one hundred community members of all faiths to the Senator’s staff, detailing the ZOA’s record of bigotry and requesting that he decline the award. In response, “not only did Senator Williams inform us that he would accept the award in the name of ‘understanding and tolerance’—an Orwellian thought, given the ZOA's intolerant agenda—but he doubled down, using his platform at the award ceremony to denounce the petitioners, his own constituents, for daring to express their concerns, telling us ‘Don’t ever show up in my office again,’” said Rabbi Linda Holtzman (of Mt. Airy, member of the Jewish Voice for Peace national board.) Sitting next to Williams as he delivered his remarks was fellow award recipient Nonie Darwish, a key speaker on the anti-Muslim lecture circuit known for spreading the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and claiming that the President “has a Socialist/Islamic centered worldview.”

Berkman adds, “It is disturbing that Williams would declare these people his ‘friends,’ as he did at the ZOA ceremony. The right thing to do is for the Senator to return the award he accepted from this hateful group, despite prior warning about their agenda."

JVP - Philadelphia asks candidates Kenney and Williams to follow through on their declarations opposing hate should they be elected Philadelphia’s next mayor, and calls on all mayoral candidates to reject Islamophobia and groups like the ZOA that promote it. The recent SEPTA advertisements are only the most flamboyant manifestation of this increasingly fashionable hatred. Confronting it head-on is the best way to ensure a safe and inclusive Philadelphia for all its residents.