Islamist groups, like many others, are doing what they can to adjust to life during the coronavirus. Conferences and fundraising dinners are off the table, so many are turning to online gatherings.
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a group that in many ways mirrors defunct Hamas-support network, is holding an "online gala" Saturday evening. Despite the rhetoric common at AMP events, the "Beyond Quarantine: Palestine Connects Us" event will feature two Democratic congresswomen.
AMP has co-sponsored rallies featuring the chant, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." In that vision, Israel is erased from the map.
Its fall convention featured the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) equating "racism, Islamophobia and Zionism." Anti-Semitic political activist Linda Sarsour, who has blamed Jews for police shootings of unarmed black people, spread another lie when she told the same AMP convention that Israel "is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everybody else."
This kind of rhetoric makes Dingell's appearance confusing. She withdrew her support last fall for HR2407, regarding the arrests of Palestinian children, saying the bill was "counterproductive to a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Lee, on the other hand, has a clear anti-Israel voting record and is among the 23 co-sponsors of the resolution from which Dingell withdrew. Dingell and Lee have endorsed other anti-Israel groups, writing congratulatory letters, for example, for CAIR's 2018 fundraising banquet.
Both representatives joined U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in voting against a resolution last July condemning the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions ("BDS") movement targeting Israel. The resolution, which passed 398-17, criticized BDS for working against a two-state solution and trying "to exclude the State of Israel and the Israeli people from the economic, cultural, and academic life of the rest of the world."
It quoted BDS founder Omar Barghouti saying the movement rejects "a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine."
The AMP gala also will hear from the group's national policy director, Osama Abuirshaid.
He blamed Israel for the Syrian civil war and for the Egyptian military's 2013 ouster of a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government. "Israel," he told the 2016 Muslim American Society/Islamic Circle of North America convention, "is a direct challenge to the entire region. Israel is risking the entire region ... remember that Israel was not created just to take and to swallow Palestine. It was created to divide and to weaken that part of the world."
Before there was an AMP, Abuirshaid edited a magazine called Al-Zaitounah, which was published by the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). He also served on the board of the American Muslim Society (AMS), which was another name for the IAP. He is listed as "Research Fellow at the United Association for Studies and Research" (UASR) in a 1999 article published in the Middle East Affairs Journal.
Internal records seized in the early 2000s by the FBI during a terror-financing investigation show that the IAP and UASR were part of a Hamas-support network called the Palestine Committee. A committee report described its mission as "defending the Islamic cause in Palestine and support for the emerging movement, the Hamas Movement."
UASR was created by Mousa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas political leader. While it presented itself as an academic outlet, prosecutors say it was "involved in passing Hamas communiques to the United States-based Muslim Brotherhood community and relaying messages from that community back to Hamas."
The IAP served a propaganda role, publishing Hamas communiques.
"In fulfilling that function," federal prosecutors wrote in 2008, the IAP published the Hamas charter in English and distributed Hamas communiques. The IAP also published, each month, Arabic language magazines called Al Zaytouna and Ila Falestine which focused on Palestinian issues with an emphasis on support for Hamas."
Litigation pending in the U.S. District Court in Illinois alleges that AMP is a continuation of the IAP, which shut down after a 2004 judgment held it liable for $52 million in damages connected to an American student's death in a Hamas terrorist attack. The move aimed to duck out on the court's judgment, the lawsuit claims.
AMP's record and rhetoric consistently steer in one direction – it doesn't seek peace. It opposes Israel's existence. Yet Reps. Dingell and Lee appear comfortable lending their names and credibility to help the organization raise money.
Research Analyst Teri Blumenfeld contributed to this report.