A young Palestinian journalist described as the youngest press card holder in the world was on a tour of the United States last month, with a stop in Chicago. But critics say the teenager is little more than a spokeswoman for anti-Israel propaganda promoted by groups with extremist ties.
The syndicate has a reputation for spreading anti-Israel propaganda over factual reporting. In a conference sponsored by the Syrian regime in 2017, Nasser Abdullah Salim Abu Baker, the syndicate's secretary general, stressed that "the Israeli occupation is the main enemy of the Arab world and was behind the so-called 'Arab Spring' with the intention of dividing and fragmenting the Arab world."
Much has been written on Jihad's family history. Jihad's cousin Ahed Tamimi, now 18, became famous after a viral video of her slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier at the age of 16. Jihad's aunt is Ahlam Tamimi, convicted in a terrorist attack that killed eight children, a pregnant woman, and six other adults in Israel in 2001. Ahlam is on the FBI list of the Most Wanted Terrorists in the USA with a $5-million reward.
Janna Jihad was hosted in her Chicago speaking engagements on August 8–9 by the Al-Nahda Center and the American Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), both of which have concerning history of ties to Islamist ideology and support for terrorism.
The Al Nahda (Arabic for "revival") Center was founded around three years ago by Ghassan Ballut, a well known supporter of the Palestinian terrorist organization Islamic Jihad. Ballut, also the current center president, was arrested and accused in 2003 of helping lead Islamic Jihad's U.S. operations and helping its members enter the country. Ballut was later acquitted, although his co-defendant, Sami al-Arian, was convicted on one count.
The joint host, USPCN, used the opportunity of the August 8 event to have convicted and recently deported terrorist Rasmea Odeh introduce Janna Jihad to the audience at the Al Nahda Center, on Skype from Jordan.
In 1970, Odeh was convicted of two bombings in Jerusalem, including one that killed two young men at a supermarket. She was sentenced to life in prison but was released in 1979 as part of a prisoner swap between Israel and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). With family in Michigan, she applied for a U.S. visa in 1994 but didn't disclose her criminal record. Convicted in a U.S. federal court for lying about her terrorist past, Odeh was deported in August of 2017.
Despite this, Odeh remains something of a hero to many Chicago-area Islamists and Palestinian radicals. USPCN proudly features Odeh on its website.
Earlier in her tour, Jihad interviewed Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who recently introduced legislation "to promote human rights for Palestinian children by ending abusive Israeli military detention practices."
Janna Jihad's speaking tour in the Chicago area thrust into the spotlight extremism that too often hides just beneath the surface. Groups like the Al-Nahda Center and USPCN are willing to use a young girl to promote radicalism and support for convicted terrorists like Rasmea Odeh. This is another example of American Islamists marketing the broken and damaging politics of the Palestinian resistance to American Muslim youths.
Hesham Shehab is the Chicago-area associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid (CIG).