On December 29, 2008, Hamas supporter and CAIR representative Jawhar Sadallah Badran – “Joe” to those closest to him – was interviewed by the Palm Beach Post about his thoughts on Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip. On December 29, 2008, the same day, Jawhar Badran died of what appeared to be a heart attack. It seemed an appropriate end for a man whose heart was filled with hatred and rage. But will his legacy live on beyond his death?
Towards the end of his life, controversy surrounded Jawhar Badran. In July of 2006, in an article published in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Badran described himself as a suicide bomber. Speaking as the Vice President of the South Florida chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC-South Florida), he stated “Hamas and Hezbollah are committing acts of defense against the acts of the Israelis. The only weapons that we have are to strap bombs on our bodies and do whatever damage and destruction we can.”
Then, in March of 2008, outside an event for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held at the Broward County Convention Center, Badran was caught on video pledging his support for Hamas. Speaking into a microphone bearing CAIR's logo and name, whilst standing next to the Executive Director of CAIR-Florida Altaf Ali, Badran declared “Hamas is not a terrorist organization.” As well, he stated “Hamas is a defender of the Palestinian people,” and “Hamas is better than Fatah, because there's no corruption. Hamas takes care of the people.”
Given such contemptible statements, it was shocking for many to find out that Jawhar Badran had been an appointed member of the Diversity Committee of the Broward County School Board.
Following a demonstration against the School Board organized by Americans Against Hate (AAH), a group chaired by this author, the decision was made not to reappoint Badran, thereby ending his four year reign on the committee. AAH argued that supporters of terrorism, such as Badran, should not be able to hold government posts, especially ones dealing with the education of children.
In the December 4, 2008 issue of the South Florida Jewish Journal, Badran lamented about the School Board’s decision. The reporter described him as being “disappointed and disheartened.” That, while he once again stated that Hamas was not a terrorist organization. But his grief didn’t end there, because soon Israel would go to war with Hamas.
On December 27, 2008, in response to rocket and mortar fire targeting Israeli civilians by Hamas, Israel launched a military campaign in the Gaza Strip. Two days later, the Palm Beach Post asked Badran for his thoughts on the matter. The Post stated that Badran felt “outrage” at what was occurring. And just as before, Badran took up the defense of Hamas, saying “Hamas is the democratically-elected representative of the Palestinian people.”
This was Badran’s final known recorded words, as he died the same day as the Post interview. According to his colleague, Jack Lieberman, Badran took the events in Gaza “personally and emotionally” and told the Post that “stress probably contributed to” his death, which he referred to as a “tragedy.”
Up until his passing, both Badran and Lieberman were the co-chairs of the Jewish Arab Dialogue Association (JADA), an anti-Israel group based in South Florida operating under the guise of interfaith understanding. Taking Badran’s place as co-chair was Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout.
Zakkout, the former Vice President of the Hamas-affiliated Health Resource Center for Palestine (HRCP), helped organize pro-Hamas rallies to protest Israel’s Gaza invasion. He did this via his American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), an extremist organization which he began to cultivate shortly before HRCP was shut down in early 2003.
One of Zakkout’s rallies featured a chant of “Nuke Israel,” a woman shouting “Go back to the oven,” and a rally-goer threatening “We’ll get you.” Another of his rallies turned violent, leading to a dozen arrests.
Following a flood of bad press on the events, Zakkout and Lieberman attempted to use JADA to cover up and/or exploit the problem – acting as a kind of anti-Israel ‘good cop/bad cop.’ The group created a “meeting” to “denounce the violence in Gaza and in South Florida.”
This fictional duality was not unlike Jawhar Badran, himself. While Badran has been, at times, portrayed as a man of peace, the anger and hate that flourished inside of him offered an entirely different reality. Eventually that reality led to his demise.
In his obituary in the Post, Badran’s sister remembered him as being an individual in search of “justice.” However, the justice that Badran sought was a misguided one, in support of terrorist groups overseas. If he is to be memorialized, it should only be in a way that explains how evil in the world exists and how one must look beyond a person’s cover to find it. In the case of Badran, his own words revealed his true identity.