The co-author of a 2009 U.S. Institute for Peace report that argues for engagement with the Palestinian militant group, Hamas — one Jewish commentator called it "pro-Hamas propaganda" — is to be the featured speaker at a local event Feb. 7.
The Illinois-based group American Muslims for Palestine is organizing the Feb. 7 event at the Overland Park Doubletree Hotel, commemorating the one-year anniversary of Israel's military campaign known as Operation Cast Lead. It's one of several events being held across the country under the banner "One Year Later: Besieged Gaza Standing Tall."
The featured speaker Feb. 7 is Osama Abu Irshaid.
Irshaid is co-author of the June 2009 USIP report, "Hamas: Ideological Rigidity and Political Flexibility," along with Paul Scham, a visiting professor of Israel studies at the University of Maryland-College Park. The report lists Irshaid as founder and editor of Al-Meezan newspaper, published in Arabic in the United States, and a Ph.D. candidate at a British university.
In an Aug. 6 column published by his Washington-based Investigative Project on Terrorism, Steve Emerson ripped the report as "pro-Hamas propaganda" that "twists reality to argue that Hamas has moderated." Emerson called the authors' best-case scenario of a temporary truce with Hamas "(not) a peace agreement in any genuine sense, but a formula for Israel's destruction."
Emerson's column also noted that Irshaid was once editor of Al-Zaytounah, an Arabic-language newspaper published by the Islamic Association for Palestine. The IAP, like Hamas, is a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egypt-based, worldwide Islamist organization.
Irshaid makes no bones about his anti-Israel animus. In a July 22 article in Foreign Policy magazine (published by Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive), he described himself as "a Palestinian Muslim whose father was expelled from his home at Israel's creation and who believes the state should not have been established."
Jewish groups urge crackdown
The Feb. 7 event is being promoted by the local group Citizens for Justice in the Middle East. The Doubletree was where CJME co-sponsored last year's visit to Overland Park by the controversial British, pro-Arab lawmaker George Galloway.
CJME's Matt Quinn's follow-up report on the July 2 event was cited by Emerson's IPT in a recently issued report on the links between Galloway's "Viva Palestina" campaign and Hamas. Quinn said Galloway raised more than $100,000 here, which Galloway said at the time would be folded into the effort to "break the siege" of Gaza. Galloway led a group that arrived in Gaza in late July and again in late December, by means of convoy through Egypt.
Two of the other speakers of the Feb. 7 event, Sara Jawhari and Mohammad El-Housiny, are said to be "participants who just returned from Gaza." According to a report by Quinn posted Jan. 7 at cjme.org, "Kansas City's own Mohamed El-Housiny was unfortunately among approximately 50 Viva Palestina convoy participants injured in attacks by Egyptian police during a standoff at El-Arish port on January 5."
In recent days, American Jewish groups have stepped up the pressure on the U.S. government to crack down on Galloway's stateside fundraisers for Hamas, which, even Irshaid's USIP report admits, has a history filled with anti-Semitism and terrorist acts.
On Jan. 21, after issuing a similar call itself, the Zionist Organization of America praised the larger Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations "for urging the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the solicitation of funds for a group called Viva Palestina at a Muslim Student Union event at the University of California, Irvine on May 21, 2009, and whether those funds were provided to the terrorist group Hamas."
ZOA's press release continued:
"In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Alan P. Solow and Malcolm Hoenlein — the Chairman and Executive Vice Chairman, respectively, of the Presidents' Conference — said, 'We strongly support an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether funds solicited were provided to Hamas, which has been designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Federal law prohibits furnishing material support or resources to U.S.-designated terrorist groups like Hamas.' "
On Jan. 19, ZOA issued a press release praising U.S. Rep Sue Myrick, (R-N.C.) the founder of the bipartisan congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, for writing to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, urging that he designate Viva Palestina "a supporter of a Foreign Terrorist Organization," and thus subject to penalty under federal law.