A U.S.-based nonprofit is holding rallies in major American cities to protest a recent Israeli Defense Forces counterterror operation, labeling it a “massacre.” The NGO, Al Awda has a long and troubling history of vocally supporting terrorist groups committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.
On Jan. 26, 2023, the IDF carried out an operation in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) town of Jenin. The raid, an IDF statement said, was to foil an imminent attack being planned by a cell of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
According to the Times of Israel, a local wing of PIJ claimed that its operatives shot IDF forces and used explosives. Nine Palestinians were killed, seven of whom were linked to terrorist groups, including al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The other two were civilians, including a sixty-one-year-old woman named Magda Obaid. The shootout reportedly lasted three hours and left several IDF jeeps so damaged from explosives that tow trucks were required to remove them.
Within hours, the New York branch of Al Awda condemned the “massacre committed in the Jenin refugee camp.” The NGO’s Jan. 27, statement mourned “the nine martyrs” who were killed in the “Zionist massacre.” It was, Al Awda claimed, the latest “intensification of violence by the new, ultra-fascist Zionist regime.”
Al Awda omitted that the IDF was carrying out a counterterrorist operation to thwart an impending attack. Instead, the U.S.-based nonprofit proclaimed that it “honors the resistance fighters in Jenin.” Al Awda hailed what it referred to as “our fighters” and “our resistance people” who “used explosive devices, guided bombs and bullets leading to certain injuries among the occupation forces.”
“We, Al Awda NY, will not forget the role of President Biden, the U.S. Congress and all those who facilitate the endless flow of arms and financial support to the Zionist murder machine,” the group warned.
David May, a research manager at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington D.C.-based think tank, noted that Al-Awda’s language is “part of a trend” among several anti-Israel NGOs, one in which “rhetoric has become more intense, more strident and more in favor of violence.” As May told Focus on Western Islamism, Al Awda’s recent statement “isn’t out of character.”
Al Awda called for protests “to express our collective outrage at the Israeli massacre in Jenin on January 26 and the ongoing series of massacres and assaults targeting our people.” On Feb. 3, Al Awda and the Palestinian Youth Movement held a rally in Los Angeles, “LA Stands With Jenin.” The NGO encouraged its supporters to show up in front of the Israeli consulate to “rally our community, uplift Jenin’s martyrs, and amplify our demands on the ground.”
Public support for Palestinian terrorists has long been a staple of Al Awda’s work.
Al Awda’s co-founder, Zahi Dumani, has referred to Hamas terrorists being held in Israeli prisons as “our prisoners.” And Anas Amireh, who has served as the group’s treasurer and the president of its South Florida chapter, has used social media to celebrate terrorist attacks. For example, Amireh has posted graphics of vehicles running over civilians with the slogan “by all means necessary.” However, this hasn’t stopped news outlets like the South Florida Sun Sentinel, among others, from uncritically quoting Amireh, and treating him as a credible source.
Other Al Awda supporters have an even greater public profile—and more far-reaching connections.
Abbas Hamideh, a co-founder and board member of the nonprofit, has expressed support for Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based, Iranian-backed terrorist group. He has also praised terrorists like Samir Kuntar, who murdered a four-year-old Israeli girl named Einat Haran by bashing her head against a rock in front of her father. When Kuntar was killed in 2015 while fighting on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Hamideh called him a “legendary Hezbollah martyr.”
Hamideh’s fawning over child-murdering terrorists hasn’t hindered his ability to associate with anti-Israel members of Congress. Hamideh attended the swearing-in ceremony of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in 2019. The Al Awda operative even took a selfie with the Congresswoman and declared, “I was honored to be at Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s swearing in ceremony in Detroit and private dinner afterward with the entire family, friends and activists across the country.”
Al Awda, it seems, has come a long way.
The group was founded in 2000, initially as a listserv for anti-Israeli activists. Eventually it morphed into a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit and began participating in anti-Israel rallies as early as 2001.
Unsurprisingly, Al Awda supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and calls for the dissolution of Israel. And its anti-Israel activism isn’t confined to the United States.
The NGO called for its supporters to take part in “Days of Resistance and Rage,” from February 10-12. The event was organized by Masar Badil, the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement, an extremist group that denounces the Palestinian Authority, the entity that rules over most Palestinians in the West Bank, as guilty of “treason and normalization.” Masar Badil is reportedly led by Khaled Barakat, who is allegedly a leader of the PFLP, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.
According to Masar, the multi-day rally would span cities, countries, and continents, aiming “to confront U.S., Canadian, British and European policies in support of Zionist colonialism, and confront the fascist and racist states and movements that work to cover up, justify and beautify Israeli crimes and colonialism throughout all of Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
Al Awda’s praise for slain terrorists and its support for the destruction of the Jewish state are troubling enough. But the group’s steady expansion, relationship with high-profile members of Congress, and transcontinental ambitions make the U.S.-based nonprofit one to watch.
As Andrew Pessin, a professor at Connecticut College and an editor for The Algemeiner, a Jewish news site headquartered in the United States, warns that NGOs often represent themselves as human rights organizations, invoking “their tax-exempt status as if they are good-willed charitable organizations.” It is very disappointing when such groups reveal their true colors, “not merely misrepresenting or omitting essential facts in the events they advocate about but openly supporting terrorism,” Pessin said, adding that “the idea that taxpayer dollars fund groups that promote the murder of civilians is shocking.”
Sean Durns is a Senior Research Analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis