Middle East Forum crashes Palestine Advocacy Day

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-Pennsylvania) arrives for the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, in 2018.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-Pennsylvania) arrives for the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, in 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 During the week of September 14, American Muslims for Palestine, an extremist pro-Palestinian advocacy group, lobbied members of Congress as part of its virtual “Palestine Advocacy Days.”
However, instead of just hearing from AMP activists who seek to demonize Israel and sabotage recent normalization achievements, several legislative meetings were commandeered by counter-Islamist activists who briefed congressional offices on AMP’s antisemitic and extremist roots. 
Associates from the Counter-Islamist Grid, a project of the Middle East Forum, infiltrated AMP’s annual lobby day and redirected the focus of its meetings to emphasize AMP’s radical origins and documented history of anti-Jewish hate. Their sudden and unexpected participation threw AMP’s conference calls into complete disarray, with some of its lobbyists insulting their legislative hosts or prematurely ending their meetings. 
In a brief video presentation, CIG-Philadelphia associate Len Getz explained his group’s motives for disrupting the event: “By hijacking AMP’s lobby day, the Middle East Forum left an impression, which members of Congress will not soon forget. They will remember that AMP’s extremist past and pro-terrorist sympathies when considering any of its legislative proposals.”
Since 2015, AMP has rallied supporters to meet on Capitol Hill for its annual advocacy days. Year after year, its members have sought to advance a number of radical proposals, such as criminalizing Israeli military units and supporting the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. 
This year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, AMP was forced to hold its delegate training and legislative meetings in a virtual format, offering concerned counter-Islamists unprecedented access to its event. There was no vetting process for participants, and AMP relied on a single, brief training session to indoctrinate volunteer lobbyists to parrot its views in front of lawmakers. 
Prior to these meetings, CIG associates sent constituent letters and spoke with Congressional staff who were scheduled to speak with AMP. These letters cited the Anti-Defamation League, an antisemitism watchdog group that accuses AMP of promoting “extreme anti-Israel views” and providing “a platform for antisemitism under the guise of educating Americans about ‘the just cause of Palestine and the rights of self-determination.’”
Although most offices insisted on meeting with their constituents – apparently no matter how extreme – at least a couple staffers who received CIG letters failed to show up to scheduled teleconferences. In a private chat group, AMP leaders expressed frustration with canceled meetings and unresponsive legislators, and they even complained about an elected official who “hears from Jews in his district on a regular basis.”
Still, AMP claims that 800 lobbyists attended approximately 150 virtual congressional meetings. During training, each was acquainted with AMP’s legislative “asks” – lobby-speak for soliciting support for a particular bill or resolution. 
This year, AMP asked lawmakers to sign onto a bill that would deprive US funding to Israel if it moved forward with plans to extend its sovereignty over the West Bank. However, Israel’s annexation plans were tabled this summer in exchange for improved relations between Muslim-majority nations and Israel – part of reconciliation efforts that AMP refers to menacingly as “creeping normalization.”
However, CIG associates were not concerned with debating the finer points of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Their goal was merely to educate lawmakers about the extremist organization which they were hosting. 
Just minutes into its meeting with a legislative aide for Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), a CIG infiltrator interrupted AMP’s pitch, pointing out that “AMP is an outgrowth of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a group which served to advance the interests of Hamas, a US-designated terrorist entity.” 
Rather than expressing disappointment at the interruption, Toomey’s national security adviser appeared to continue where CIG left off, noting that, “Hamas has not been a suitable partner for peace,” while asserting that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. 
Exasperated, an AMP lobbyist accused the staffer of spewing “Israeli propaganda” and ignoring the senator’s constituents for refusing to extend the conversation beyond its established half-hour limit. 
IN AN effort to marry the Palestinian resistance to Black justice movements, AMP lobbyists also proposed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill passed by the House of Representatives that alleges institutional racism among American law enforcement agencies. For years, AMP has advanced the anti-Jewish conspiracy that infrequent exchange programs between US police departments and 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. 
Other legislative meetings targeting politicians in Illinois and Virginia followed the same pattern, forcing AMP to defend its bigoted track record instead of discussing its anti-Israel proposals. CIG pointed out how AMP co-founder Rafeeq Jaber described Jews as “the worst kind of people,” who came to Jerusalem “with false pretenses.” 
They noted that “speakers at AMP events often express support for armed resistance against Israel,” and that “AMP’s website features writing by known antisemites and conspiracy theorists such as Jeff Gates and Alan Sabrosky.”
A private WhatsApp chat group established by AMP’s Chicago chapter indicated just how disturbed its leaders were at having their advocacy day upended. “Traumatized is the word & I’m furious & done with these Zionist AMERICANS!” an event organizer wrote. 
In a newsletter to supporters, AMP Advocacy Director Raed Jarrer attempted to save face by blaming “racist anti-Palestinian infiltrators” for the disruption. Likewise, AMP National Director Osama Abu Irshaid accused “right-wing media and infiltrators” of interrupting “our congressional meetings to spew vile Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian sentiments.”
CIG-Chicago associate Hesham Shehab said “it is difficult to take seriously charges of racism and ‘Islamophobia’ from AMP when it continues to employ anti-black racists such as Habehh, or when it’s leaders proclaim that being Jewish is ‘a crime worthy of the rope.’” Shehab helped spoil several AMP meetings targeting Illinois lawmakers. 
On the contrary, CIG’s anti-AMP messaging focused on the advocacy group’s history of hawkish antisemitism, and on how it’s extreme legislative proposals stem from its belligerent opposition to Israeli Jews. So long as AMP seeks to legitimize its radical agenda by camouflaging its extremist roots and manipulating America’s democratic institutions, CIG activists remain committed to stopping them. 
Having concluded their lobby day, AMP members were left to ponder just how deeply their organization was penetrated. “I wonder if the infiltrator is in this chat,” a participant wrote.
The writer is the director of the Counter-Islamist Grid, a project of the Middle East Forum.