Calls for violence against Israel were heard at the 7th annual American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) conference, which took place over Thanksgiving weekend at the Hyatt Regency Hotel outside of Chicago. The conference, billed as “Rising from Ashes: Gaza Teaches Life!,” addressed a number of topics, such as, “Do Occupied People Have the Right to Resist their Occupation?,” “Islamaphobia and Palestine,” and “Capitalizing on the changing American sentiment toward Israeli aggression.”
AMP is the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education to students and Muslim community organizations in the U.S and its conference featured a number of U.S. and international anti-Israel activists as guest speakers, including Hatem Bazian, a co-founder of AMP; Josh Rubener, the National Advocacy Director for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; and Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and an Advisory Board member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
The most extreme comments at the conference came from Taher Herzallah, AMP’s national Campus Coordinator. During his remarks, Herzallah claimed that, “The State of Israel is a lie,” and spoke about how the “Israel lobby” works to ensure that Israel’s legitimacy is not challenged. He also claimed that the focus of anti-Israel groups should be on the younger generation and ended his comments with a call for violence, stating, “Israelis have to be bombed, they are a threat to the legitimacy of Palestine, and it is wrong to maintain the State of Israel. It is an illegitimate creation born from colonialism and racism.”
Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian triage specialist and professor of emergency medicine who recently was banned from entering Gaza by Israel, also supported a call for violence when claiming that the Norwegian people do not support Hamas or Fatah, but that they do “support the fight with arms.” Gilberts, added that the struggle in Gaza is one against racism, apartheid, and political Zionism, and he also spoke positively of rocket fire into Israel, claiming that, “When we heard of each rocket from Gaza [into Israel] that gave us hope and strength.”
One speaker, Sheikh Abdelfattah Mourou, a Tunisian lawyer who founded the Tunisian Islamic Tendency Movement, remarked that Israel was “defending itself by killing innocents” during the most recent round of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. He also stated that, “When an Israeli pilot kills a family of 25, when he knows the head of Hamas is not home, it is shameful of the whole world to accept this claim of self-defense…The claim of Israeli security is a shameful one.”
Other speakers at the conference discussed the “Israel lobby” and its alleged role in “looking to protect the Zionist narrative.” Israeli anti-Zionist author Miko Peled claimed that the lobby stretches far and that, “There are spheres of Jewish influence here in the U.S., like AIPAC and the Jewish Federation.” Following Peled’s comments, Dima Khalidi, Director of Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated that, “Jewish Zionists are a powerful force, not just AIPAC.”