AMP Seeks to Coordinate Student Anti-Israel Activity
Posted: December 21, 2010
Updated: January 12, 2011
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which promotes extreme anti-Israel views and has at times provided a platform for anti-Semitism under the guise of educating Americans about "the just cause of Palestine and the rights of self-determination," is taking a more active role facilitating and coordinating anti-Israel activity on college campuses around the United States.
For this effort, AMP has specifically identified Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), one of the primary organizers of anti-Israel events on campus with several dozen independent chapters.
During the annual Muslim American Society-Islamic Circle of North America (MAS-ICNA) convention that took place over Christmas Weekend in 2010, AMP led three sessions on advocacy training to more than 160 students from a few dozen universities in order to "organize and unify the work for Palestine on campuses in the United States," according to an AMP statement. In an ad that appeared in the convention brochure, AMP called its SJP initiative a "Signature Project" and noted that it plans to act as a facilitator and resource for students engaged in Palestinian advocacy on college campuses.
SJP leaders from several universities spoke at the campus-related sessions and promoted a variety of tactics that can be employed to advance an anti-Israel agenda, including boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel, depicting Israeli policy as a violation of human rights, and an "anti-normalization" strategy, wherein initiatives to dialogue or hold joint events with pro-Israel groups are rejected.
In addition to their outreach to SJP, AMP also hosted several other sessions about Israel at the MAS-ICNA conference. Hatem Bazian, AMP's chairman, was a speaker at one of the sessions and said that "education" about Palestine is critical in the effort to counter "Zionist forces in this country [who] are spending millions of dollars to spread lies and to demonize Islam and Palestinians." At another session about pro-Palestinian activism, Bazian encouraged the audience to participate in BDS campaigns against Israel, including a total boycott of Israeli products, academics and sports.
While AMP has said that it does not intend to become an umbrella organization for anti-Israel groups on college campuses, it has showed a serious commitment to this objective by offering financial assistance to students interested in attending the MAS-ICNA convention, including free registration and reimbursements for food, travel and hotel expenses. AMP appears to anticipate that a national SJP organization will be established following its initial coordination and the convention.
AMP has also hired staff to achieve this goal. In early December, AMP announced the hiring of two new staff members to work on campus-related activity and help "strengthen AMP's impact." The individuals hired are linked to SJP and were scheduled speakers at SJP workshops during a November 2010 AMP conference in New Jersey:
Basil Ali, who was hired to be AMP's Chicago Community and Campus Coordinator, is a medical school student in Chicago and recent graduate of Benedictine University. Ali's job description for AMP will include coordinating events "put on by SJP chapters throughout the Chicagoland area," according to AMP's Web site. In October 2010, Ali participated in a protest outside a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at Northwestern University. He also tried to get into the event but was turned away because he is not a student at the university and was escorted off campus property by university police. The protest was organized by AMP, the University of Illinois at Chicago chapter of SJP and members of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Over Thanksgiving Weekend in November, AMP hosted a two-day conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey, that included two workshops for SJP students with similar titles to the workshops at the MAS-ICNA conference: "Israeli's PR and Rebranding Campaign" (sic) and "The Normalization of Zionism on Campuses." Bazian addressed students in the conference schedule's letter, noting, "I would also like to say a few words specifically to the students attending the conference: You are the future of this cause. It is with you that the real work for Palestine is being done, especially in the area of boycott, divestment and sanctions… Without you, we would not have come this far."
Taher Herzallah, who was hired as AMP's National Campus Coordinator, is a student at the University of California, Riverside, and was also involved in a campus protest against Michael Oren. He was one of the 11 students arrested for disrupting a speech by the Ambassador at UC Irvine in February 2010.
While AMP's campus outreach efforts have intensified in the past few months, AMP has sought to build a relationship with members of SJP since at least June 2010, when it helped facilitate a two-day SJP national conference in Detroit during the U.S. Social Forum, a major annual convention for left-wing causes. In an end-of-year appeal to its membership, AMP boasted about its campus efforts, noting that in the past year it has "worked with hundreds of members of Students for Justice in Palestine" and has held three regional SJP conferences.
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
AMP has promoted extreme anti-Israel views since its founding in Chicago in 2006. Its chairman, Hatem Bazian, a lecturer in the Near Eastern Studies department at the University of California, Berkeley, has been instrumental in raising AMP's profile and regularly speaks at anti-Israel events on college campuses and at grassroots anti-Israel demonstrations. During a January 2009 rally in San Francisco to protest Israel's military operations in Gaza, Bazian called for resistance against the "American-Israeli and Arab elite agenda" and noted that "there are only a few people that are resisting this program, some in Palestine, and some in south Lebanon," a thinly veiled reference to Hezbollah.
AMP has worked closely with former leaders of the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), an anti-Semitic group that served as the main propaganda arm for Hamas in the United States until it dissolved in 2004. The group has frequently invited past IAP presidents and board members to speak at AMP gatherings. In addition, one of AMP's current board members, Osama Abu Irshaid, served as the editor of IAP's newspaper, Al-Zaytounah.
AMP, which claims to have 12 chapters in eight states, is viewed by some in the American Muslim community as an important source for information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is invited to give presentations about the conflict at a variety of Muslim-American gatherings, including MAS, ICNA and the Islamic Society of North America's annual conventions.
AMP used the December 2009 MAS-ICNA convention to advocate against peace with Israel and express support for armed resistance against Israel, as well as to provide a platform for anti-Semitic messages. For example, speakers at an AMP-sponsored panel called on "all Muslims to liberate all of Palestine from the North to the South from Al Quds to the sea" and described Jews as "the worst kind of people."
During the same event, AMP board member Osama Abu Irshaid praised Raed Salah, the leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel who was imprisoned in Israel for channeling funds to Hamas. Irshaid called Salah "our great sheikh" and asked the audience what was being done "in the face of the Judaizing this state, this city," referring to Israel and Jerusalem. Sheikh Raghib Al Serjani, an author and physician from Egypt, declared in Arabic, "It is the duty for all Muslims to liberate all of Palestine from the North to the South, from Al Quds to the sea, it's a duty for all Muslims to liberate one complete full land of Palestine… It's not just about liberating Al Quds. It's all occupied!"
In addition to its conventions, AMP has circulated anti-Semitic and extremist material through its electronic mailing list, including articles by anti-Semite Jeff Gates and conspiracy theorist Alan Sabrosky. The group also initiated a "public library project" in 2009, aimed at delivering books to public libraries in order to "educate the American public about issues pertaining to Palestine." Among the books are The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by anti-Israel historian Ilan Pappe.