Non-profit

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)

Website:

www.ampalestine.org

Location:

FALLS CHURCH, VA

Type:

Islamist Advocacy Group

Formation:

2006

Project of:

Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation

Contact InfluenceWatch with suggested edits or tips for additional profiles.

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is an anti-Israel organization with strong ties to pro-Hamas individuals and organizations. While AMP refers to itself as an educational organization focused primarily on raising awareness for Palestinian causes,1 it has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as “the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training” in America. 2

Multiple individuals associated with AMP have ties to organizations that have been implicated by the federal government for offering support to terrorist entities such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. 3 At a 2014 AMP conference, a lecturer invited attendees to “navigate the fine line between legal activism and material support for terrorism.” 4 AMP has been accused of serving as a de facto rebrand of a group called the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) that shut down shortly after a 2004 judgment which implicated it and several similar Muslims groups in providing “material support” to Hamas. A subsequent lawsuit alleged that AMP had essentially the same leaders, mission, and initiatives as the IAP. 5 The AMP has contested these claims, denying the allegedly shared leadership and insisting that there was a two-year gap between the old organization shutting down and its own launch. 6

AMP has come into conflict with the pro-Israel left, most notably the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which accuses it of “inflammatory rhetoric and false accusations.” ADL has also attacked AMP for its support of the college campus-based radical-left group National Students for Justice in Palestine. 7

Following the Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent Israel-Hamas war in October 2023, AMP has been working to build support for the so-called “Ceasefire Now Resolution” sponsored by U.S. Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) which, as of early November 2023, had secured endorsements from more than a dozen other Democratic U.S. Representatives. 8

AMP is organized as a “corporate nonprofit,” and is exempt from publicly disclosing financial details on federal tax forms. 9 AMP receives funds through its fiscal sponsor, Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation Inc. (AJP), a 501(c)(3) organization. 10 AMP and AJP are distinct entities despite sharing offices and officers, and funding similar work. 11

History

Background

American Muslims for Palestine, according to its website, was started as a “strictly volunteer organization” beginning in 2005. 12 In 2008, it opened its national headquarters in Palos Hills, Illinois. 13 In 2016, the organization opened an office in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC to engage in congressional advocacy. 14

Between 2012 and 2016, Americans for Justice in Palestine, American Muslims for Palestine’s tax-exempt arm, took in $3.6 million in donations. It claims to be supported entirely by donations from the public and does not disclose donations by any other organization. 15 In 2016, AJP spent more than $950,000 on its activities, which included an annual pro-Palestinian conference in the U.S., print materials, organizing, and a real estate purchase of $269,000. 16

In 2017, a lawsuit against AMP claimed that the organization was responsible for providing material support to extremists in the Palestinian territories. The claimants, a Jewish couple whose son had been killed by Hamas militants during a visit to Israel, had successfully sued a number of Muslim organizations, including the Chicago, Illinois-based Islamic Association for Palestine, in the early 2000s for millions of dollars. As a result, IAP had shut down, but the new lawsuit accused AMP of being the same organization under a different name, with largely identical leadership and objectives. In particular, the claimants cited online forum posts by AMP members who allegedly discussed the “need to distance ourselves from any well-known IAP figures” during what they called “the transition period.”  17

AMP has denied these allegations, arguing that the plaintiffs’ argument is based on the premise that pro-Palestine groups provide support to Hamas by default – a claim they dispute. 18 In May 2022, a federal judge in Illinois rejected the organization’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. And while another judge had previously determined that AMP could not be considered a legal alter ego of the old group, this ruling was reversed in 2021. 19

In October 2023, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’s (R) office opened an investigation into AMP on similar premises, citing allegations that the group had also violated Virginia-specific laws on financing terrorism. AMP has pushed back against this claim, calling it a “defamatory and dangerous smear.”  20

Key People

Multiple officers of AMP and its tax-exempt arm, AJP, have ties to organizations that have been found to support Hamas and other terrorist groups. 21

Ayah Ziyadeh

Ayah Ziyadeh is the director of advocacy for AMP and for AJP Action, the political action arm of the Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation. She was previously a field organizer and campaign manager for Colorado state Representative Mike Weissman (D-Aurora), an aide in the state legislature, and an intern “working closely with the American Civil Liberties Union.” She was also the vice chair and operations director of the Arapahoe County, Colorado Young Democrats organization. Zihadeh received a master of arts degree in international human rights from the University of Denver, and also studied international affairs at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. 22 23

Tarek Khaill

Tarek Khaill is the education coordinator at AMP. He has also provided volunteer legal services to the Chicago chapter of the controversial Council on American Islamic Relations, which has been linked to global radical movements such as the Palestinian militant group Hamas. 24 Khaill has claimed that “Any sane human being would advocate the destruction of the Apartheid structure assembled in the form of a Nation State called Israel.” He has also labeled Israel as “an ethnocratic/supremacist/racist State founded on principles of settler-colonialism and Apartheid.” 25 26

Hatem Al Bazian

Hatem Bazian is the chairman of the AMP national board. 27

Earlier in his career, Bazian was a fundraiser for a pro-Palestinian organization called KindHearts, which had its assets frozen by the federal government amid allegations that it provided “support for terrorism behind the façade of charitable giving,” specifically for allegedly providing aid to the terrorist organization Hamas. 28

Bazian was one of two featured speakers at a 2004 KindHearts fundraising dinner in California. 29 The other speaker was Mohammed el-Mezain, who was sentenced to prison for his role in the Holy Land Foundation, which provided financial support to Hamas. 30

In December 2014, Bazian spoke at an event31 sponsored by a UK-based charity called Interpal, which the U.S. Treasury designated as a terrorist entity in 2003 for funding Hamas. 32

In addition to his ties to these organizations, Bazian supports other controversial organizations in the United States. He is the co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization known to protest Jewish speakers on college campuses. He is a supporter of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. 33

A Jewish student appointed to San Francisco State University’s Student Judicial Council alleged that Bazian blocked his appointment on the grounds that the student supported the State of Israel. 34

Rafeeq Jaber

American Muslims for Palestine’s tax-exempt arm, the AJP Educational Foundation, lists Rafeeq Jaber as its tax preparer on recent IRS filings. Jaber formerly served as the president of the Islamic Association for Palestine,35 which was found in federal court to have provided support for Hamas.

Jaber has been identified in the Palestinian press as the “spiritual father” of American Muslims for Palestine’s coalitions,36 and he signed a September 2015 petition in support of Syria as a representative of AMP. 37

Jaber’s financial services business is currently listed at the same office building where Islamic Association for Palestine was located before it was shut down by the federal government. 38

Abdelbasset Hamayel

Abdelbasset Hamayel is AMP’s registered agent in Chicago. 39 He served as KindHearts’ Illinois and Wisconsin representative. 40

Hamayel also served as secretary general for the Islamic Association for Palestine an organization found civilly liable in 2014 in a federal district court for offering material support for Hamas. 41 The judgment was upheld by a federal appeals court in 2008. 42

Osama Abuirshaid

Osama Abuirshaid is the executive director of AMP. He is also a member of the organization’s board. 43 In August 2015, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services deemed Abuirshaid “ineligible for naturalization” for failing to disclose his connections with Islamic Association for Palestine , the organization found liable for supporting Hamas. 44

Abuirshaid also has alleged ties45 to the founder of a fraudulent charity known as Help the Needy, which illegally sent funds to Iraq in violation of U.S. sanctions and also sent funds to charities designated by the U.S. Treasury for funding al-Qaeda. 46

Ashraf W. Nubani

Ashraf W. Nubani is a Virginia-based immigration attorney that works as AMP’s legal agent. He currently heads AWM Point Law, a law firm in Virginia which specializes in green card, visa, and deportation cases. He came to the United States from Kuwait at the age of four. 47

In 2016, the Washington Post reported that Nubani has represented at least “21 people accused of terrorist ties.” 48 One notable individual was Osama bin-Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith. He was accused of “giving voice” to bin-Laden’s recruitment of young suicide bombers and was with bin-Laden in the hours following the September 11th terrorist attacks. 49

Nubani has also defended several members of the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Northern Virginia, of which he is also a member, and was dubbed by outsiders as “The Virginia Jihad Network.” 50 One member, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, was sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting the assassination of President George W. Bush and providing material support for al Qaeda. Another member represented by Nubani, Randall “Ismail” Royer, pled guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison for assisting Americans in joining a Kashmir-based terrorist group. 51

Activities

American Muslims for Palestine lists its primary activities as the creation and promotion of educational materials. According to the Anti-Defamation League, its educational efforts have been “primarily geared toward providing the Muslim community with inflammatory rhetoric and false accusations against Israel to promote advocacy for Palestine.” 52

American Muslims for Palestine also hosts an annual conference on Palestinian activism in America, which regularly attracts Islamic fundamentalist speakers and approximately 2,000 attendees. 53

At the opening ceremony in the 2011 conference, Jamal Said, an imam who was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas financing trial, hailed “the activists and freedom fighters who gave up their personal ambitions and their own lives so our cause may live.” 54

In previous years, American Muslims for Palestine’s conference has pledged to train attendees to navigate the legal rules forbidding support for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. 55 Speakers at AMP’s conferences have called Muslims convicted of supporting terrorism heroes and victims of injustice. In 2013, speakers stated that AMP’s goal was to delegitimize the State of Israel in America. 56

AMP has also placed a heavy emphasis on campus activism.  Speakers at AMP seminars have said that the fight for a Palestinian state will “center on American college campuses.” 57 AMP offers support for and helps coordinate the activity of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which AMP founder Hatem Al Bazian co-founded. The Anti-Defamation League has identified SJP as the “primary organizer of anti-Israel events” on U.S. campuses. 58

AMP also has a record of inflammatory anti-Israel activity in the U.S., including targeted at neighborhoods with large Jewish populations.

In March 2013, on the first day of Passover, AMP unveiled a billboard campaign in suburban New York accusing Israel of “apartheid.” The ad features the silhouette of an Israeli soldier aiming a gun at a Palestinian child. 59

In November 2012, the AMP issued a statement that condemned Israel for retaliating against barrages of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, accusing Israeli leaders of “using Palestinian blood for election purposes.” 60

American Muslims for Palestine also supports the controversial Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement, which calls for an economic boycott to isolate Israel. In his 2016 Congressional testimony, Jonathan Schanzer described AMP’s support for BDS “as a concerted campaign to delegitimize and wage economic warfare against the state of Israel.” 61 In 2018, the Israeli government officially barred members of American Muslims for Palestine from entering Israel due to its support of the BDS movement. 62

Organizing with IfNotNow (INN)

Starting in 2017, AMP began to work with far-left organization IfNotNow in organizing anti-Israel protests and demonstrations. AMP and INN disrupted the 2017 Senate confirmation of David Friedman as the United States ambassador to Israel. 63 Within the same year, AMP and INN organized joint demonstrations in front of the Trump Hotel and the White House in Washington, D.C. opposing President Donald Trump and “the occupation of Palestine.” 64

Rep. Ilhad Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib

In April 2019, Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) met with members of AMP as well as Joe Catron, an anti-Israeli activist. In addition, AMP and INN were amongst several pro-Palestinian organizations which showed support for both Rep. Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) when the Representatives faced criticism due to anti-Semitic comments. 65

July 2019 Protest

Between July 8th-9th, 2019, AMP joined with several anti-Israel groups in organizing a joint protest of the annual summit for Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in Washington D.C. Labeled as “Rise Against Racism: Counter CUFI,” the protest included participation from anti-Zionist groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), and the U.S Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). 66 In addition to organizing disruptions inside and outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the joint protest organized “non-violent direct action training along with a series of panel discussions which included speakers such as anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour and JVP activist Lesley Williams.” 67

2023 Israel-Hamas War

In October 2023, following the attack on Israel by Palestinian militants and the ensuing Israel-Hamas war, AMP organized a rally to support Palestine in Washington, DC. Participants demanded that the Biden administration end financial support to Israel’s armed forces and accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “war crimes.” 68

AMP has also attacked the administration for allegedly downplaying the Palestinian civilian death toll from Israeli airstrikes and shelling. In a November 2023 statement, AMP advocacy director Ayah Ziyadeh called President Biden’s apparent dismissal of the Gaza Health Ministry’s casualty statistics “dehumanizing.” Speaking to the Turkish government’s Anadolu Agency, Ziyadeh also accused Israel of “genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and collective punishment.” 69

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), made statements expressing apparent sympathy with the Hamas attacks to the AMP annual convention. Awad stated, “And yes, I was happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land, and walk free into their land, which they were not allowed to walk in. And yes, the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense, have the right to defend themselves, and yes, Israel, as an occupying power, does not have that right to self-defense.” 70

Financials

American Muslims for Palestine receives funding through the Americans for Justice in Palestine Educational Foundation, the entity set up as its fiscal sponsor. 71 In 2021, the foundation received more than $1.5 million worth of contributions, an increase of more than 80 percent from the previous year, when its total revenue was a little over $800,000. The foundation’s expenses also increased significantly, from less than $900,000 to more than $1.1 million, and its net assets in 2021 were just under $750,000. 72

AMP has issued grants to National Students for Justice in Palestine and its chapters including through its fiscal sponsor, reportedly amounting to at least $100,000 in 2014. 73

References

  1. “About AMP.” Ampalestine.org. Accessed on May 6, 2019. https://www.ampalestine.org/about-amp
  2. “American Muslims for Palestine.” Anti-Defamation League. Accessed May 23, 2019. https://www.adl.org/resources/profiles/american-muslims-for-palestine .
  3. Schanzer, Jonathan. “Congressional Testimony at Hearing before House Homeland Security Committee Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee.” May 12, 2016. Accessed May 20, 2019.
  4. Shane Harris, “Pro-Palestinian Group Lectured On Skirting Terror Laws,” The Daily Beast. December 5, 2014. Accessed May 20, 2019. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/05/pro-palestinian-group-lectured-on-skirting-terror-laws.html
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  11. Internal Revenue Service, Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, “AJP Educational Foundation Inc.,” 2014. Accessed via GuideStar May 20, 2019. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments//2014/271/365/2014-271365284-0ba3397f-9.pdf
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American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)

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