When a Hamas Front Lobbies Congress
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Mere days after the United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO, an Islamist umbrella coalition), descended upon Capitol Hill for National Muslim Advocacy Day, one of USCMO’s founding groups, the virulently anti-Semitic American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), returned to lobby Congress yet again. AMP and its partner organization, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), claim to be motivated by universal human rights, but the truth is more alarming; as a recent court case has made clear, AMP is the direct successor organization to the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which was sued into oblivion for being a propaganda front for the terrorist group Hamas.

While the USCMO lobby day focused on domestic issues of concern to Islamists, AMP’s fifth annual Palestine Advocacy Day focused on eroding American relations with Israel — complete with two days of training, and presentations from Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Arizona state representative Athena Salman — and an entire day of Hamas-connected activists holding meetings with members of Congress.

Ms. Salman is a relatively new addition to the AMP scene. She was first elected to the Arizona legislature in 2016 and is already serving as minority whip. Salman is an avowed atheist, but her father is Palestinian and Salman publicly defended the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction the state of Israel (BDS) during a contentious debate on an anti-BDS bill in the Arizona legislature in early April. (She had voted against the earlier version of the bill as well in 2016, which earned her the endorsement of the Arizona State chapter of SJP.)

Participants in the event seem to be more extreme. One example of excellence is Joe Catron — a blogger at the viciously anti-Semitic site Electronic Intifada — who calls himself a “reluctant citizen of the American empire.” Catron maintains a Twitter account emblazoned with images glorifying terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), such as a map of Israel inside crosshairs, with an Arabic caption that reads, “Hell awaits you.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Catron fits right in with AMP. As has been established in court and in Congressional testimony, AMP’s board is composed of alumni from not only the Hamas front IAP, but also the terror-finance charities KindHearts for Charitable Development (shut down by the Federal government) and the Holy Land Foundation (its executives convicted in court), both of which laundered donations to Hamas.

Indeed, one major player in the event was AMP’s National Policy Director, Osama Abu Irshaid. Abu Irshaid previously served as the editor of Al Zaytounah, the official newspaper of Hamas front IAP. Abu Irshaid has written that the terrorist group Hamas is “an army for liberation” whose fighters “rise up for the blood of martyrs.” In another post, Abu Irshaid praised Hamas’s “steadfastness and sacrifice.”At a May 11, 2018 AMP speaking engagement, he parroted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory by telling his audience that most modern Jews are “not [real] Jews.”

Also looming large in the crowd were activists from the infamously Islamist Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), including Jinan Shbat, CAIR’s national outreach manager. Like Abu Irshaid, Shbat is an avowed supporter of the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas, having tweeted her preference for that organization over the Palestinian Authority. As a spoken-word performer, she has delivered her poems at several Islamist events — including a 2017 “Muslim Law Symposium,” where she claimed credit for violence against Israeli Jews with the line, “My first act of defiance — a rock thrown.”

Shbat’s Twitter feed is replete with openly anti-Semitic statements. In one instance, she responded to a simple news headline about Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day with outrage, tweeting, “Wow. The nerve! Palestinians are now in a Holocaust!” In another instance, she responded to a photo of the Emirati cycling team’s training in Israel by tweeting, “You should burn in hell along with Israel.”

Shbat doesn’t reserve her ire for only the Jewish state. After the judge ruled in favor of Florida police in the case of the mismanaged Parkland shooting response, Shbat tweeted simply, “I hate my country.” That doesn’t stop her from maintaining a friendly relationship with some of its leadership, at least if you count Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Shbat was recently the subject of some internet buzz when a CAIR video showed her in an altercation with Muslim reformer Asra Nomani, who was attempting to record a group of Islamists visiting Tlaib’s office.

According to AMP’s website, the lobbying event drew more than 500 attendees, who held meetings with 191 members of Congress. That is disappointing. AMP attracts overt supporters of Islamist terrorism and provides them with a sheen of legitimacy. American lawmakers should be cautious about lending credibility to Islamist supremacists — especially those connected to the terror group Hamas.

Dr. Oren Litwin is the associate director of Islamism in Politics, a project of the Middle East Forum.

Samantha Rose Mandeles is the coordinator of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. You can find her on Twitter @SRMandeles.

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