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U.S. Anti-Israel Activity  
Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Chronology
Updated: September 14, 2009

Introduction

Chronology

Support for Terrorism
Background and Ideology

Since its inception in 2000, Al-Awda has been a key organizer of anti-Israel events around the U.S., many of which feature comparisons between Zionism and Nazism, accusations that Israel is guilty of ethnic cleaning, genocide and apartheid and legitimize violent resistance against Israel.

  • June 21, 2009: At a protest against a Tel Aviv centennial celebration taking place in Central Park in New York, demonstrators shouted “Zionist Murderer” and “Nazi pig” at a woman waving Israeli and American flags. One young protester yelled at her: “You’re doing what the Nazis did to your people.” Protesters also waved Palestinian flags and signs that read, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free” and “Palestinians are Freedom Fighters.” The protest was organized by Al-Awda-NY and attended by several anti-Israel groups, including International Action Center (IAC), CODEPINK and the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition. The event alert Al-Awda-NY circulated to announce the protest described the Tel Aviv event as a “celebration of ethnic cleansing and genocide.”
  • May 22-24, 2009: Al-Awda held its seventh annual convention near Anaheim, California. The convention, titled “Freedom for Palestine,” featured several controversial speakers, including Yvonne Ridley, a British convert to Islam and journalist for the Iranian news agency Press TV; George Galloway, who attended the conference to promote Viva Palestina, a convoy to Gaza that previously donated money to Hamas and William Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Robinson, who came under fire for sending an e-mail message to his students during the Gaza war that compared Israelis to Nazis, argued that he is the “latest victim in the campaign by the Israel lobby and its backers to harass and attack and silence critics of Israeli state conduct.” He also defended the content of his e-mail, asserting that there is a “definite parallel between the Warsaw ghetto and Gaza” and that Israel has turned Gaza into a “concentration camp, a massive ghetto.”
  • May 17, 2009: Hundreds of individuals attended an Al-Awda-organized rally in Midtown Manhattan to protest the 61st anniversary of the “Nakba,” the Arabic term for ‘catastrophe’ that is used by many Palestinians and Arabs to refer to the 1948 war and the establishment of the state of Israel. Representatives from several groups spoke, including Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist group, and New York City Labor Against the War. One Neturei Karta representative described Israel as a “heretic state” and alleged that “the seriousness of this catastrophe is that this is not a past history, this is something that’s going on ‘till today’s day.” A large banner signed by Al-Awda-NY read, “Resistance, Liberation and Return: By Any Means Necessary.”
  • December-January 2009: Regional chapters of Al-Awda organized many of the demonstrations that took place nationwide during Israel’s three-week-long military operations in Gaza. In particular, Al-Awda chapters in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Cleveland were responsible for organizing some of the more offensive demonstrations, with signs comparing Israelis to Nazis and accusing Jews of being “blood suckers” and controlling the media and the U.S. government. At an Al-Awda-endorsed rally in Times Square in New York City on January 3, individuals chanted anti-Semitic slogans and waved Hezbollah flags. Al-Awda member Samia Halaby warned protesters to put pressure on the international community to stop Israel because otherwise, “the whole world will go into Intifada and disarm Israel.”
  • May 16, 2008: Al-Awda held a large rally across from the United Nations in New York to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the “Nakba.” The rally drew a large crowd and featured banners accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing, calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and comparisons of Zionism to Nazism. Several anti-Israel and antiwar groups participated in the rally, including the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; and International Action Center (IAC).
  • May 16-18, 2008: Al-Awda held its sixth annual convention in Southern California. The convention, titled “Palestine: 60 Years of Forced Exile, Time for Return,” was promoted as a “Nakba” commemoration and event organizers and speakers argued that Palestinians are in a current state of “catastrophe.” Various speakers at the convention also accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, occupation, and committing a Holocaust against the Palestinian people. Like the “Nakba” rally held in New York, Al-Awda’s convention featured a large representation of support from the antiwar movement, including ANSWER, IAC, and the Troops out Now Coalition.
  • March 18, 2008: Al-Awda organized a protest of a Friends of Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) fundraiser that was being held in New York. Speakers accused Israel of state-sponsored terrorism, of committing a Holocaust against the Palestinian people, and called for the elimination of the Jewish state.
  • January 2008: Al-Awda, along with several other groups, held demonstrations in front of Israeli embassies and consulates, U.S. Federal buildings and other locations around the country to oppose Israel’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza. The protests, held under the campaign “End the Criminal Israeli Siege of Gaza Now!” included signs that read, “Zionism is Jewish Apartheid,” “Sixty Years of State Terror” and “WWII Nazism, WWIII Zionism.”
  • May 25-27, 2007: Al-Awda held its fifth annual convention, “Uniting for the Return,” at a hotel in southern California. During the opening speech, Alia Hasan, an Al-Awda representative from Los Angeles, stated, “the Zionists [were] trying to silence all Palestinians and our supporters because we refuse to accept an illegal state built on lies and theft.” Hasan alleged that “Zionist” pressure forced Al-Awda to move the event from the University of California, Riverside, to the hotel, which some Al-Awda supporters also used to explain the low attendance. Workshops addressed a range of topics, including the importance of refugee support and boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns, as well as integrating the Palestinian right of return into the antiwar movement.
  • July-September 2006: Al-Awda organized and co-sponsored rallies in several cities in response to the Lebanon war and violence in Gaza. The events were marked by support for terrorist groups, calls for the destruction of Israel, messages equating Zionism with Nazism and a proliferation of anti-Semitism.
  • July 14-16, 2006: Al-Awda held its fourth annual convention at San Francisco State University. The gathering focused on two main campaigns: the “political and material isolation of the Genocidal Zionist State of Israel” and the “political and material support of the Palestinian refugee population.” A book by anti-Israel writer Lenni Brenner, “51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis” was available for purchase and convention speaker Eyad Kishawi, Al-Awda San Francisco organizer, made similar charges of Zionist-Nazi ties during his presentation. Kishawi also spoke about supporting divestment programs against Israel and argued that Israel oppresses even its Jewish residents. Salman abu Sitta, longtime right of return activist, said that “Zionists, now called Israelis” are responsible for “the largest planned and foreign-supported ethnic cleaning in modern history.”
  • April 15-17, 2005: Al-Awda held its third annual convention at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). One of the speakers, UCLA English professor Saree Makdisi, said, “Jews are practicing racial superiority” and called Israel “a fantasy.” A map of Israel hanging in the event’s main conference room was captioned, “this is the largest planned ethnic cleansing in modern history.”
  • October 15-17, 2004: Al-Awda Wisconsin organizer Fayyad Sbaihat was a national contact for the fourth annual conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM), an umbrella organization of anti-Israel groups that promoted divestment from Israel, which took place at Duke University. Sbaihat blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on “a colonialist mentality on the part of Zionists that the natives don’t matter” and charged that “the Palestinians are left on reservations and in ghettos. There was never really the possibility of a two-state solution.” Al-Awda co-founder Mazin Qumsiyeh called Zionism “a disease” and claimed that the violence in the Middle East started with “the idea that the land belongs to the Jewish people.” Qumsiyeh also asked the audience, “If apartheid was a problem in South Africa, why do we consider it a solution in Palestine and Israel?”
  • April 16-18, 2004: Al-Awda held its second annual convention at Hunter College in New York City. One of the speakers, Lamis Deek, co-chair of Al-Awda New York, referred to Israeli soldiers as “Zionist henchmen authority” and “Nazis.” Al-Awda, he said, embodies the “ultimate rejection of Zionism.” At the convention, Al-Awda adopted a Points of Unity, which refers to Israel as a “settler state” and claims that Zionist ideology is inherently racist and discriminatory.
  • June 20-22, 2003: Al-Awda held its first annual convention at the University of Toronto in Canada. The event was co-sponsored by the Arab Student Association and billed as “Palestinian Right of Return and Self-Determination in a New Colonial World: Strategies and Actions.” It included sessions titled, “Apartheid Israel and its Misrepresentation in U.S. Discourse” and “History of Palestinian Resistance to Colonialism and Zionism.”
  • October 12-14, 2002: During the second PSM conference, held at the University of Michigan, Al-Awda representatives sold T-shirts inscribed with its slogan, “Intifada! Palestine will be free from the river to the sea,” an indication of the group’s refusal to accept Israel’s existence.
  • February 2002: Al-Awda members created a lobbying arm called Citizens for Fair Legislation (CFL). Through alerts on its Web site, CFL encouraged visitors to contact elected officials on relevant issues and promoted anti-Israel events. While such efforts were promoted by CFL consistently for several years, these efforts have since petered out.
  • April 7, 2001: Several thousand people attended an Al-Awda- sponsored “Right of Return” rally in New York City. The event featured speeches by Edward Said; George Habash, former secretary general of the PFLP (via telephone); and Rafeeq Jaber and Raeed Tayeh, representatives from the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). The anti-Semitic IAP, which was among the rally’s endorsers, has been described by the U.S. government as part of “Hamas’ propaganda apparatus.” Other endorsing groups included IAC, the Trans-Arab Research Institute (TARI), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Solidarity events took place in Canada, Spain, Australia, Jordan and Lebanon.
  • September 16, 2000: Al-Awda held its first large event, a march and rally in Washington, D.C., that attracted an estimated several thousand attendees. The event, held before the second intifada broke out, was organized to demand the right of return for Palestinians and to commemorate the date of the September 16, 1982, massacre at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut. Among the 150 endorsing organizations were the Arab American Institute, IAC, TARI, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Sabeel, and chapters of ADC and the Muslim American Society (MAS). Speakers included Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the pro-Palestinian news site Electronic Intifada; radical Imam Abdul Alim Musa; and Al-Awda co-founder and rally co-chair Zahi Damuni. Organizers included Hussein Ibish, then-ADC communications director, and Rania Masri and Mazin Qumsiyeh, Al-Awda media co-chairs. Solidarity events took place in London, Lebanon and Jordan, according to Al-Awda.
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