Just two weeks after Hamas terrorists stormed Israeli neighborhoods, massacring families in their homes and parading bloodied hostages through the streets of Gaza, an anti-Semitic hate group with multiple documented links to Hamas visited U.S. Congress members during its annual "Palestine Advocacy Days." Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action), the lobbying arm of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), promotes policies that hamstring Israel and preserve the terrorist regime that rules over the Gaza Strip.
Scheduled on Oct. 23-24, the anti-Israel lobby came just days after radical demonstrators tore through Capitol Hill, illegally occupying the Cannon Rotunda, vandalizing congressional offices, and assaulting Capitol Police. Since Oct. 7, AMP has organized multiple Capitol Hill protest marches featuring fiery speeches condemning Israel and denying Hamas atrocities.
Participants promoted debunked accounts of an Israeli airstrike on a Gazan hospital and even referred to the Oct. 7 killings as "alleged massacres in settler communities around Gaza [emphasis added]."
Appearing just days after the terrorist attack in a live CBS News interview, AMP advocacy director Ayah Ziyadeh repeatedly refused to condemn Hamas. Ziyadeh, a lead organizer of AMP's lobby day, called the massacre "more of a response than an attack" and referred to hostages who were "taken from concerts," and "raped in the streets" as "collateral damage."
Despite these radical views, AMP historically receives a welcoming reception from legislators, who have opened their office doors to the suspected Hamas front during similar advocacy events going back 2015. This year, Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Democratic Reps. Bill Pascrell (NJ) and Jan Schakowsky (IL) were among the lawmakers confirmed to host AMP lobbyists.
In the past, AMP organizers typically publicized plenary speeches from supporting lawmakers and boasted about attendance. However, the few statements and images emerging from last week's "Palestine Advocacy Days" suggest Congress members are finally beginning to sour on the extremist group.
Instead of securing a face-to-face discussion with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY), AMP took part in a disruptive "sit-in" inside the Democratic minority leader's office. At the entrance to Jeffries' office, AMP Director Osama Abuirshaid appeared in a photo with a "Free Palestine" banner placed above the Congressman's nameplate. AMP activists wallpapered the office entrance with dozens of post-it notes featuring the names of Palestinian "martyrs."
Such antics are not generally tolerated at organizational "Hill Days," where special interest groups schedule closed-door meetings between constituents and their elected officials. Exchanges are typically cordial and professional. Yet, AMP seemed more interested in harassing pro-Israel lawmakers than changing minds and wooing supporters.
Taher Herzallah, AMP's outreach director, admitted in a Facebook video that he "had a run-in briefly in the hallway" with Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), where he "confronted her" for refusing to sign onto a House resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
McCollum is perhaps AMP's most steadfast supporter. In 2020, she received the "Champion of Palestinian Rights Award" from AMP for introducing anti-Israel legislation and advancing claims of "apartheid" in Israel. According to Herzallah, the congresswoman expressed "disappointment" at the "angry phone calls" she was receiving from anti-Israel activists.
AMP struggled to find a senator willing to introduce a companion bill to Rep. Cori Bush's (D-MO) so-called Ceasefire Now Resolution, which Herzallah found "very disheartening." Endorsed by over a dozen far-left Democrats, Bush's bill demands that the White House "immediately call for and facilitate deescalation and a cease-fire to urgently end the current violence."
"The Senate has not been very good on this issue at all," Herzallah said, adding, "and we've only gotten some lip service about Palestinian rights" in meetings with senators.
Passing a ceasefire resolution, or "de-escalation," is part of a larger effort to blame Israel for Hamas atrocities and deprive the Jewish state of its ability to defend its population, a result that policymakers agree would only benefit Hamas and extend its terrorist reign over the Gaza Strip.
AMP's links to the Gazan terrorist group are not theoretical. Last year, a federal judge in Illinois allowed a civil lawsuit to proceed that examines AMP's connections to a U.S.-based Islamic organization that was shut down for funding and supporting Hamas. The plaintiffs, parents of the late David Boim, a 17-year-old murder victim of Hamas, won a hefty 2004 judgment against the shuttered Hamas financier – a group called the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP).
Founded by Hamas deputy chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, IAP was the public voice of Hamas in the U.S., holding workshops and distributing Hamas literature that justified suicide bombings and called for violent jihad against Israel. IAP operatives funneled millions of dollars to Hamas through a Texas charity whose leaders are currently serving out lengthy prison terms.
Instead of paying the Boim family, IAP dissolved under the burden of federal investigations. AMP was founded the following year, and the Boim family claims it is an "alter ego" or successor of the shuttered IAP, and therefore responsible for $156 million in damages.
The evidence is convincing. At least four senior IAP leaders went on to serve on AMP's national board of directors. In private communications, leaders of the newly-formed group discussed the importance of publicly distancing themselves from their IAP colleagues during a period of "transition." Indeed, the Boim family claims that AMP and IAP are indistinguishable in terms of strategy, agenda, and operating structure.
Today, AMP maintains its connections with Hamas. Abuirshaid, the group's fiery leader, visited Hamas leaders as recently as 2021, when he attended a conference in Jordan. Abuirshaid and fellow panelists – including at least two senior Hamas leaders and a convicted terrorist – discussed "the need to ... adopt plans to build military and economic power ... while supporting the armed and popular resistance and political and legal efforts."
"The Arab apostates allied with the despicable Jews and the hating Crusaders. But Allah is more powerful than them," Abuirshaid wrote on Facebook in 2014. "They want to defeat Hamas and disarm Gaza. However, they forgot that Gaza's men only know victory. For them it is either jihad, victory or martyrdom," he added.
A Hamas operative also sits on AMP's National Board of Directors. Salah Sarsour reportedly spent eight months in an Israeli prison for his connections to Hamas, where he allegedly met and befriended Adel Awdallah, the West Bank commander of Hamas's militant Izz ad-Din al Qassam Brigades. In 1988, Sarsour's brother Jamil told Israeli police that the pair laundered money to Hamas through their U.S.-based furniture company.
In the week since AMP's less-than-successful "Palestine Advocacy Days," the group has faced extreme setbacks. First, AMP's annual convention at Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Chicago was canceled after the hotel faced a public backlash. Then, on Oct. 31, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced an investigation into AMP, alleging it "may have used funds raised for impermissible purposes under state law, including benefitting or providing support to terrorist organizations."
Despite facing multiple investigations and cancellations, a pro-Hamas lobby organization remains welcome on at least one stage: Capitol Hill. A dwindling number of Congress members continue to view AMP as a legitimate lobby that represents the concerns of Palestinian and Muslims Americans. Yet, AMP's presence in America's highest corridors of power, so soon after Hamas's slaughter of Israeli innocents, threatens to stain U.S.-Israel relations and empower extremists.
Benjamin Baird is the director of MEF Action, an advocacy project of the Middle East Forum.