‘American Muslims for Palestine’ 2020 Annual Conf Exploited Racial Tensions to Use Against Israel
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We have covered the radical Islamist group American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) extensively, especially as the group has increasingly framed its anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as expressions of ‘intersectional’ social justice activism. In 2020, AMP has yet again used its largest annual event—the “Palestine Conference”—to hijack and foment existing racial tensions as a political warfare weapon against Israel.
Since its founding around 2006, AMP has become one of the most controversial anti-Israel groups in the United States. It maintains a certain reach into college campuses via its sponsorship of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters, and its volunteers and staff are often also involved in other like-minded organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
This 2020 Thanksgiving weekend marked AMP’s annual “Palestine Convention”. Last year, I attended the conference in person in Chicago, IL. As regular readers may remember, AMP staffers recognized me within an hour and—afraid of what I might observe and publish—booted me from the event. This year, COVID-19 has ensured that the entire affair has gone virtual for the first time, making it far easier to listen in. Naturally, I signed up as soon as registration opened.
Watching the proceedings, I saw AMP continue a well-worn theme: Israel is to blame—not only for all Palestinian suffering and misfortune—but also for American “institutionalized racism” and police brutality.
Usually, the annual AMP conference includes dozens of sessions, with break-out groups, different tracks for children and university students, shopping opportunities, and even an evening fundraising gala. This year, the virtual format forced AMP to reduce its event to just nine panel sessions, each lasting approximately an hour.
Moreover, whereas previous AMP conventions (as closed events) featured plenty of inflammaotry rhetoric, the wide accessibility of this year’s substitute video sessions meant that the English-language speakers had to measure their words more carefully. Nevertheless, AMP still managed to parrot the same tired historical falsehoods for which it has long been known—with a special focus on the so-called “parallel…systemic and institutional racism and oppression” of Blacks and Palestinians.
One session in particular was entirely dedicated to this theme. Moderated by AMP’s new “Black-Palestinian Solidarity Coordinator” Felicia Eaves, the panel featured AMP chairman Hatem Bazian (who we have covered here, here, and here): Sandra Tamari, executive director of Adalah Justice Project (whose parent organization, Adalah, we’ve noted, contributed to the Movement for Black Lives’ anti-Israel platform); Islamist activist Aisha al-Adawiya; and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) leader Bill Fletcher, Jr.
AMP advertised the panel as shown below:
Panel moderator and new AMP employee Felicia Eaves is no stranger to the world of anti-Israel activism; according to her LinkedIn page, she served for 10 years as a member and then a co-chair of the steering committee for anti-Zionist umbrella organization, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. In her Twitter bio, she calls herself a “Human Rights Stratigist-Activist-Writer [sic] working for justice and peace in the United States and globally.”
Accordingly, Eaves began her panel with AMP’s new favorite claim:
“The one thing that is crystal clear is that Black and Palestinian people have endured and continue to endure the same types of systemic and institutional racism and oppression in the United States and in Israel/Palestine.”
Naturally, neither Eaves nor her fellow panelists offered any evidence to support this assertion; instead, they spent the hour repeating similarly dubious analogies connecting Israel to (in Hatem Bazian’s words) “…a period of over 500 years” of “struggle” against “settler colonialism”, including in places such as “the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand.”
Sandra Tamari insisted on the necessity of “ending all carceral systems, and…ending U.S. imperialism—including U.S. support of Israel colonialism in Palestine.” Bill Fletcher declared, “…Israel is a settler colonial project…and…every settler colonial project from Europe has connected itself to both race and religion, arguing in every case that they are on a mission from God—and Israel happens to be only the last in a series.” Aisha Al-Adawiya agreed, contextualizing her experience as “an African-American Muslim woman” as similar to the situation of Palestinians: “We in the United States, many of us can sympathize with the oppression perpetrated against the Palestinian people by the Israeli government because the United States itself is a settler state.”
At various points in the discussion, panelists managed to evoke classic myths of outsized Jewish power and situate Jews as part of nefarious Western “whiteness”. Hatem Bazian railed against Muslim efforts to participate in “interfaith dialogue”, saying,
“It’s not interfaith dialogue. It’s interfaith with Whiteness because often those relationship[s] are either constructed with Christian churches that are White…or also we have interfaith dialogue with segments of the Jewish community that is often seen as to also be places of power and influence. And here Jewish-slash-Zionist in terms of what we call normalization.”
Bill Fletcher claimed that more Blacks would be vocally anti-Israel without the “practical and political fear that by taking a stand in favor of Palestinian rights…one will receive the wrath [of] the Zionists…” Later in the discussion, Bazian even proclaimed that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
“…is a disciplined well-funded systematic organization [that] works within the black community to recruit young black leaders and shepherd them across in a same way that…Israel is working through a normalization with the Arab world to take young individual, to shepherd them through across the process…[So] if you’re running for an office, you need $2 million in your bank account to run, otherwise AIPAC, the banking industry, the insurance industry, the medical industry, the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, all are supporting your opposition because they make money.”
Of course, while they complained about the American and Israeli “erasure” of Black and Palestinian “epistemologies”, the panelists’ own erasure of vast swaths of Jewish history—not to mention 1000+ years of Arab-Muslim religiously-motivated imperialism—went unmentioned. Moreover, the speakers only touched (as sparingly as possible) on the pervasive and well-documented culture of anti-Black racism of the Arab world in order to blame it on “train[ing]” by “Euro-centricity” and “post-colonial structure”.
You can watch the entire session here.
Same Stuff; Different Day
While AMP and its allies have promoted these and similar bizarre ideas for years (see our exhaustive coverage of JVP’s Deadly Exchange campaign, for instance), 2020—with the Ahmaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd tragedies and subsequent resurgence of Black Lives Matter—has seen AMP super-charge efforts to hijack and foment American racial tensions even beyond their annual convention.
Statement of “Solidarity”
For example, earlier this year, we reported on an AMP email blast sent after George Floyd’s death. In it, AMP declared,
Centuries of institutional oppression against Blacks have been bolstered in recent decades by thousands of US law enforcement personnel being trained in Israel. They are trained by and share “lessons learned” with Israeli counterparts to implement practices of control, surveillance, discrimination, restrictions of movement, repression of social and political movements, torture, and police violence.
“Let’s Talk BLM” Series
In addition, AMP launched a monthly webinar series dedicated to conflating the quest to destroy the Jewish state to the continuing fight against American racial injustice. AMP glowingly described the series as a manifestation of its so-called “commitment” to “anti-racist work”.
AMP did not mention, of course, that many of the guest speakers it has hosted as part of its “anti-racist” webinars are themselves longtime bigots. I live-tweeted the first installment of the webinar series, noting the past and current statements of the speakers involved.
For instance, this particular session included notorious hate preacher Amir Abdel Malik Ali, who is well-known for his involvement with the Nation of Islam, his open support of Hamas and Hezbollah, and his long-standing classification as a “nakedly anti-Semitic” “domestic jihadist” by (of all groups!) the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
— Samantha R Mandeles (@SRMandeles) June 16, 2020
Malik Ali has praised Islamic “martyrdom”; been glowingly profiled on a website called “Jews Hate Blacks”; delivered a lecture called “America Under Siege: The Hidden Agenda of Zionism”; and spread numerous myths centered on insidious Jewish power.
During the panel, Malik Ali declared that he had felt “uplifted seeing a precinct on fire” during recent rioting, and discouraged voting in lieu of solving problems “on the streets”. His co-panelist, Iesha Prime, blamed Israel and IDF “training” for instances in which American police used tear gas on peaceful George Floyd protesters. And, his other co-panelist, the Reverend Graylan Hagler (a popular guest on the Iranian-regime-owned PressTV), referred to Donald Trump as a “cracker” during the discussion.
Congressional Lobby Days
In another post, we covered AMP’s September 2020 congressional lobbying week, during which the organization introduced its new Black-Palestinian Solidarity Coordinator, Felicia Eaves.
As part of her lobby days presentation, Eaves sermonized about the “intersections” between American “police brutality” and the Israeli “system of Apartheid”:
As the United States continues to struggle through the worst violence since the days of the civil rights movement,…it is not only necessary for us to continue dialogue about our failure to obtain racial justice, but more importantly, to intentionally delve into the root causes of racism and heal the wounds that are deeply embedded in the soul of America. The brutal and unnecessary deaths of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and most recently, the shooting of Jacob Blake, have forced us to examine more closely the intersections of militarism, police brutality, and racial justice.
We can place this at the crossroads of U.S. domestic and foreign policy by way of the strategies and tactics that have been used to suppress the full participation of Black Americans in the American democratic process and the complicity of the U.S. government in the system of Apartheid that has been created and implement by the Israeli government against Palestinians. This is all the more reason why we must continue to put pressure on our elected officials in Congress for the United States government to sever its relationship with Israel, by discontinuing the military aid that Israel receives from our tax dollars that is supporting Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine and its overall Apartheid regime.
Accordingly, a further lobby day presentation by Hilary Shelton (senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the NAACP) emphasized one of AMP’s congressional “asks”: support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act—a measure entirely unrelated to AMP’s stated purview of Palestinian welfare. Preparatory emails AMP sent its lobby participants included links to the NAACP’s work on the bill.In a recent Jerusalem Post piece, Benjamin Baird described these efforts:
In an effort to marry the Palestinian resistance to Black justice movements…AMP has advanced the anti-Jewish conspiracy that infrequent exchange programs between US police departments and [the] IDF is responsible for police brutality targeting Black Americans.
Yet, legislators should be wary of AMP’s attempts to appropriate social-justice causes involving African-Americans. During a meeting with Rep. Madeleine Dean’s (D-PA) office led by AMP National Development Coordinator Mohamad Habbeh, CIG activists discredited the pro-Palestinian group’s support for racial-justice causes.
“Habbeh has referred to Blacks as ‘abeed,’ the Arabic word for slaves,” a CIG associate interrupted. “He has made racist jokes [on social media] about the physical appearance of Somalis and later tweeted that his mother would think he had the AIDS virus if he ever dated a ‘Black girl.’”
Stuttering apologetically, Habehh quickly terminated the lobby session without disputing his record of anti-Black racism.
In reality, AMP’s efforts to capitalize on the resurgent movement for Black civil rights is not based in altruism or genuine concern for Black folks anywhere. Instead, AMP—like its sister organizations JVP, SJP, or CAIR—has simply continued in its long tradition of “movement hijacking“.
By declaring itself to be part of “intersectional” “solidarity” movements, AMP can then center its own fraudulent victimhood narrative within those movements—and engineer artificial wedges between its “allies” and communities it designates as “oppressive”.
AMP’s fight for Black civil rights isn’t about “equality” or “liberation”. It’s just about power and control.
Samantha Mandeles is Senior Researcher and Outreach Director at the Legal Insurrection Foundation.DONATE
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