The main panel over, I moved to the planning and strategy sessions in an adjacent hall.
As soon as I entered I was confronted by another Georgetown administrator named Jim Welsh. He told me someone had said I was taking pictures of the proceedings in Gaston Hall and he wanted to take my camera away if I had done so. I denied having a camera. When I asked him what his position was at Georgetown he told me he was Director of Student Health Services. Finding it odd that an administrator in health services should be playing security guard I asked Welsh, “Do you hate Jews?” Welsh replied, “Aw, c’mon!” I rephrased my question: “Do you think Israel has a right to exist?” Welsh refused to answer.
I toured the vendor area and viewed the usual anti-Israel paraphernalia sold at these events: tomes about Israeli genocide against Palestinian Arabs and other assorted made up atrocities. But to my surprise there were two tables passing out pro-Israel literature. It turned out the JDL had paid for the tables in advance and the organizers had no legal way to remove them. I was told that Georgetown students not affiliated with the Conference had accepted all the materials on the pro-Israel table so there was nothing left at the end of the day.
Alison Weir, of If Americans Knew had changed her Nazi Holocaust denial materials accusing Jews of cooperating with the Nazis to create Israel to less anti-Semitic material. I exposed that she was a contributor to Nazi and KKK leader David Duke’s website before the Conference.
One thing I noticed was that the major players in the ISM, the leadership, was now manning the tables themselves instead of having acolytes do so. Uda Walker of Middle East Children’s Alliance shared a table with Noura Erekat. Charlotte Kates of New Jersey Solidarity also personally manned a table with pins and memorabilia of a bloody hand holding an AK-47 in keeping with the ISM’s “nonviolent” themes. Charlotte once said Israeli children were “fair game” for terrorists. I even ran into Abe Greenhouse who manned a table and he explained to me that he still had no remorse for hitting Natan Sharansky in the face with a pie even though his criminal case had been adjudicated just weeks earlier. The fact the ISM leadership was working the tables suggested the ISM was going through its own corporate-style downsizing; numbers were clearly down for this event.
Nadeem Muaddi at the opening press conference claimed there were 700 attendees at this Georgetown conference. But the conference website after the event claimed there were only 376 registered. A head count at Gaston Hall, excluding the press, gave me close to 225. In any event, perhaps Noura Erekat was right: the ISM was losing ground at least in attendance. Even their past star player who called Jews “a disease,” Mazen Qumsiyeh, wasn’t on the playbill this time. Word had it he was deemed “too moderate” by Al-Awda (the Return), one of the PSM/ISM Conference’s sponsors that advocates wiping Israel off the map.
I anxiously moved to my first seminar and, for me, the most important one: Supporting Palestinian Non-Violent Resistance to Occupation: Volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement, given by Huwaida Arraf and co-hosted by Joseph Carr and Lisa Nessan. Joseph Carr’s real name is Joseph Smith and he has committed numerous passport felonies going in and out of Israel. Joseph ran to a campus police officer and complained I was “threatening him” when I informed him I was going to see him in jail for violating felony passport laws. The Georgetown cops shrugged it off.
This was patently a recruiting event to get people to volunteer to go as human shields for at least ten days to the West Bank and interfere with the Israeli army. Huwaida drew a map on the chalkboard of locations in the West Bank where the ISM is most active, including the village of Bi’lin where every Friday the ISM joins militant imams who are paid by the Palestinian Authority in the mosques to whip the local population into a fever and stage a riot at the Security Fence.
Huwaida then screened a film of some Arabs and ISM activists interfering with an IDF patrol. Clearly, the soldiers, trying to not be violent, were overwhelmed by screaming protestors who were running all over the place. Stun grenades were then used to disperse the crowd when suddenly the soldiers are shown concealing themselves and shooting. The intent was to make it seem that innocent Arabs were being roughed up for no reason at all by Israeli soldiers who then fired on them.
The reality was that the ISM activists and their Arab friends were running interference for snipers in the hills above who shoot at the soldiers who become exposed trying to disperse the crowd of Arabs and ISM activists. When I tried to ask a question about the film I was immediately confronted by Lisa Nessam who advised me she could have me removed for asking a question inappropriately.
At the earlier Ohio State PSM Conference, Adam Shapiro told me the ISM has Palestinian handlers who guide their demonstrations in plainclothes. And now there was one at the back of the room during Huwaida’s session, an Arab male, about 40 years-old. She would defer to him for advice during the recruiting session. When I waylaid him later to ask him some questions, he replied, “I don’t want to talk to you. You are a Mossad agent.” The man’s name is probably not real, but he is Ali Omar. I persisted in asking him questions, including if he was a part of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the PFLP that Huwaida has admitted working with. He replied, “Fatah.”
Fatah recently committed some terrorist attacks on Israelis including killing three children at a hitchhiking post in the West Bank. Fatah usually calls its terrorist wing the Al Aksa Martyrs Briagde -- which is made up of policemen from the Palestinian Security Forces. Sure enough, Omar is a self-confessed captain in the Palestinian Security Forces. What is even more disturbing is he is also a graduate student studying security studies at Tufts University at the Medford campus near Boston.
Lisa Nessan, who also spoke at the recruiting seminar, engaged me in a heated debate afterward. When I asked her if the ISM worked with terrorist groups Islamic Jihad, Hamas and PFLP, she admited, like Huwaida, that they did, but only “nonviolently.” I asked her: "If an ISM volunteer served as a human shield for a terrorist who might throw a rock, a Molotov cocktail or shoot at an Israeli soldier or border policeman causing injury or death, was that still `nonviolent'?" She replied she considered that "nonviolent."
While I could not speak out during Arraf’s film presentation, some constructive things did happen. A young Russian Jewish student who was also at the session, one of my volunteers from Stop the ISM who was not seated with me, noticed that the seminar spokespeople had compiled a sign up sheet with twelve “volunteers” on it who were interested in going to the West Bank. This kid went around the room advising everyone that I was there in the session and had their identities to pass on to the Israeli border police as I had done in the past. Everyone on the list crossed their names off.
My next session brought me back to Nadeem Muaddi hosting “Christian Outreach: A Moral Call to Action.” The importance of this session cannot be discounted. It was to train ISM activists to get into US churches and convince them to divest from Israel. The significance of this being taught at Georgetown, a Jesuit college, was especially profound since Georgetown’s official Muslim chaplain, Yahya Hendi, actually introduced the session and its participants, even laying out the ground rules for those in attendance with questions. Hendi identified himself only as Jesuit Georgetown’s official chaplain, but not as a Muslim.
“You may only ask questions at the very end of the session and then only rhetorical questions” he advised sternly (A rhetorical question is a question to which no answer is expected).
Muaddi displayed a photograph of an old woman with a wooden cross staring toward the camera between what at a quick glance looked to be the backs of two Israeli soldiers facing the opposite direction. Muaddi explained, “This is a Christian Palestinian woman being prevented from going to mass by the Israeli army.”
Muaddi then began a power point demonstration where he explained the step-by-step process to get into American churches and convince them that Israel’s Jews are persecuting the Christians in the West Bank. The goal was to persuade the churches to divest from Israel. Muaddi correctly stated that the Christian population in the West Bank, formerly 20% of the population in 1948, had shrunk to less than 2% today, but he blamed it on Israel. The simple truth, however, is that Islamic persecution has led to Christian Arabs fleeing the West Bank and many have even sought refuge inside Israel. Hamas recently announced it intends to start charging the Koranic jizya tax against the remaining Christians in the West Bank. Muaddi, a Christian- Arab, epitomizes the bulk of the ISM leadership in the US that is composed of pan-Arab Christian nationalists that would rather see their own Christian brethren suffer under Islamic Arab domination than cede to Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state. Israel must be Palestine and Arab.
Muaddi, clad in a suit, told attendees how to dress and approach Christian churches. “Bring them a gift from the Holy Land, such as some holy water,” he advised. He named all the Arab Christian sects then advised contacting their counterparts in America and developing a “moral imperative” in their minds to boycott Israel. According to Muaddi, Israel treats Christians as “non-peoples” just as it “demonizes Muslims who have shown concern for the Christians since the Middle Ages” (he never heard of the Crusades?).
Muaddi advised attendees to get local pastors to dedicate a mass to Palestinian Christians, to invite a “Palestinian pastor” to conduct the churches mass, to introduce the church community to Palestinian questions, to host a Palestinian cultural night, to organize candlelight vigils, to write in the parish newspaper and to proselytize among sister churches. He encouraged fundraisers to raise money to send to Palestine. His presentation was positively Orwellian in its scope as it sought to portray Israel as the enemy of Arab Christians in the Middle East. He described his program as a “morally responsible outreach” to the Christian community.
With the presentation over, I asked Muaddi how he could blame Israel for Christian migration given known Muslim persecution. Was he aware, I asked, that the new Hamas government had just announced the reimposition of the jizya or Christian poll tax on Christian Palestinians. Muaddi replied that “Hamas was democratically elected by the majority of the Palestinians (without mentioning that majority was Muslim)” and that this justified anything that was done.
A sharp-eyed Stop the ISM colleague of mine and I asked to have the opening photo flashed on the screen again. We showed that the “Israeli soldiers” in the photo were in fact Arabs dressed in Israeli army surplus gear. In fact, one of them was carrying a World War 2 British sten gun. Israeli soldiers, even reservists, carry US-made M-16’s or Galil assault rifles, not obsolete surplus equipment. The other “soldier” was wearing army gear available in any military surplus shop. The photo was, in fact, a fake. True to form, the session had to come to an immediate end when things presented were shown to be untrue or questions too intrusive to show facts. People might get too exposed to the truth.
Still other sessions that day were led by the hardliners in the ISM, the professionally paid activists like Alison Weir and Will Horton. Horton, the former leader of SUSTAIN–LA is now employed by Saudi Arabia as a public relations flack for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a Newsweek clone put out by the Saudis that is in reality a propaganda rag for militant Islamists and the PLO. These professionals advised student activists to work closely with the Muslim Students Unions on their campuses as close allies. MSU chapters are also funded through Saudi Arabia. Saudi funding and linkage has become more brazen as the ISM fights to continue its struggle and finds it difficult to get newcomers with as much passion as its dyed-in-the-wool professional activists who keep insisting the ISM is just a grassroots movement.
The other sessions pushed the tactics of former ISM conferences. Defrauding Birthright was pitched once again for free trips to the Middle East for ISM activists. Apparently the Birthright people just don’t want to be bothered screening people. All other past tactics of previous conferences were covered: Will Horton taught how to stage lectures, write editorials, get into classrooms for presentations, street theater, films and the ubiquitous checkpoints and wall demonstrations seen on US campuses nearly every week.
One thing that was newly emphasized was how to recruit new people to the cause due to dwindling numbers. Attendees were told to always recruit “new young people” through activity fairs and what was nicknamed “Dorm Storming,” pitching to every single person in a dorm and inviting them personally into the fold for participating in helping to dismantle Israel, only it was not to be explained to the public that way. Freshmen were considered viable targets to invite out socially to indoctrinate to the cause, especially since they might be unfamiliar with the facts and offered four future years at their college to devote to similar efforts. Organizers were told to work on sound bytes and to use the same message over and over, to appear as “human rights activists” because it sounds better and how to deal with the media.
Horton was clearly a man on a mission too. Now funded by a job in “public relations” with the Saudis, he’s free to make a career out of being an activist with the ISM. Horton even emphasized that anti-Israel activists in the ISM study the programs of pro-Israel groups to counter their every move. Horton and Weir are both professionals who are making a living out of the destroy Israel campaign and are more than willing to teach their tactics to anyone who will join them.
I ran into Dr. Porterfield at one point. I had gone up against him on the Bill O’Reilly Show. I asked him who it was he had spoken to at the FBI and Homeland Security who told him the PSM was in no way involved with terrorism. He admitted he hadn’t spoken to anybody and referred me to GU’s Vice President for Student Safety Dave Morrell. Morrell refused to tell me who he spoke to about the nearly 50 or so groups that make up the Palestine Solidarity Movement that Porterfield had said on TV were cleared by national security agencies. Morrell would not or could not tell me who made such a statement. The simple truth is the best he might have gotten from US intelligence agencies was public relations officers who might say someone is not on a terrorist watch list. But, when I pointed out Huwaida Arraf’s letter in the Washington Post admitting she and the ISM work with terrorist groups, he had no comment.
Sunday morning brought morning caucuses together to plan strategy away from the eyes of the press. A Jewish caucus brought those in the ISM of Jewish descent together to plan ways to try and destroy a Jewish state in the Middle East while regional caucuses got together to decide how to work in every corner of the United States. By everyone was back at Gaston Hall to hear guest of honor Omar Barghouti, an Israeli-Arab professor at Tel Aviv University who is so persecuted as an Arab-Israeli that he freely is able to advocate the destruction of Israel halfway around the world at Georgetown. The Barghouti clan, including Marwan Barghouti in jail in Israel for murdering Israeli women and children, makes attacking Israel a family affair.
A final session that day featured Mohammed Abed, one of the key leaders of the ISM at U Wisconsin where Fayyad Sbaihat used to attend. Abed also bemoaned the fact that the divestment movement is faltering and that activists needed to revive it. He is a Philosophy Major at U Wisconsin and recently joined the teaching staff there where he will be able to work within the administration as part of the University and can have greater control of ISM activities. And Fayyad Sbaihat also lent his past expertise to another Georgetown seminar to create divestment movements on campuses across America to starve out the Jews.
There was nothing remarkable about what went on inside on Sunday, just the usual “bash- Israel-and-call-for-her-destruction–while-claiming-to-be-a-peace activist” nonsense. Organized tactics and theater for the cause on campus were reiterated ad nauseum. It was what went on outside at this conference that Sunday that was truly remarkable.
The day before was the Jewish Sabbath, so not many Jews attended. But on Sunday busloads of Russian Jews arrived along with members of the JDL, Jewish students from nearby George Washington University and George Mason University, Christians from as far away as Kansas City from the Israel Christian Unity Coalition, local residents and even the head rabbi from the prestigious National Synagogue in Washington, D.C. who all showed up to protest the Conference outside or to go inside. Georgetown’s administration and police once again acted disgracefully as an enforcer for the PSM/ISM when Rabbi Shmuel Hertzfeld of the National Synagogue was roughed up by Georgetown police who even demanded to see his rabbinical license. People with Jewish surnames who attempted to register and go inside were not permitted into the event and in many cases run off by campus police.
Jewish demonstrators who arrived early were relegated to a caged-in area outside and Georgetown police were clearly in a mean mood. Courtesy was not the rule of the day as one woman recounted to me how Georgetown police officers had terrified her into leaving the scene. Mike Smith, a Washington Metro Police Lieutenant who I interviewed, told me there was a group of elderly Holocaust survivors who had bussed in to protest. Arrangements had been made in advance with GU’s administration to allow these people, most in their 80’s, to use the bathroom campus facilities. But when Smith intervened with the campus police to allow this, they refused to let the dangerous old people on campus, telling Smith “You don’t belong here.”
But the Jewish crowd that managed to get on campus was inspirational. One organizer told me a young girl, a Georgetown student, came up to him crying and thanked him and the Russian crowd for being there that day. According to the organizer, “She said, you have no idea how bad it is for Jewish students on this campus these days. We live in fear of even speaking out in support of Israel and the United States.” Some American Jews for once were showing they have had enough of anti-Semitism on campus as being a legitimate practice subject to academic debate. As one student told me, “ The divestment and boycott campaign is designed to starve out Jews in the Middle East, not make peace, and can’t be considered acceptable only because it excludes Jews in America.” A JDL spokesman told me, “We’re putting the word out: From now on, any time the Palestine Solidarity Movement stages something on a US campus like this, the JDL will be there. American Jews have had enough and we’re not taking it any more.” I learned the JDL had hired the buses that brought Jews to campus to speak out.
Past PSM/ISM national divestment conferences always concluded on Sundays with “A Call to Action,” a demonstration outside the conference to “make a final statement.” Usually the attendees would march out ensemble and turn their backs on the few protest demonstrators that may have shown up during past events and hold a one minute silent vigil. After the minute was over they would turn around and shout “Tear down the Wall!” or “End the occupation!” referring to Israel’s existence. The difference this time was as the Conference broke up and the attendees saw this crowd, something not seen lately on college campuses—really angry Jews and Christians—they ran away in fear. Jewish students from George Washington University and the Russians called after them to engage some of them in debate, but the ISM activists would have none of it. They just ran.
The poor attendance at this event revealed some interesting points about the International Solidarity Movement in the United States: the divestment program on college campuses is not working after five years, despite all the claims to the contrary stated at the Georgetown press conference, the only part of the Conference the media was allowed to tape and record for public consumption. To augment this lack of interest, the ISM is working to get college administrators to join them as activists in their program like what occurred at Duke University.
Saudi donations to administrations in our colleges can no doubt help encourage this along with Saudi influence over Muslim student groups on campus. In other words, the college divestment program is faltering, but by no means dead. Meanwhile, Christian churches in America will be the new focus, a means to drive a wedge between American support for Israel’s existence and its right to live peacefully within its own secure borders. While divestment in US churches has been more successful than campus divestment, it also has a long way to go. But given the training offered to Arab and American Anarchists at Georgetown, we can still expect to see a lot more of this in the near future. The ISM is down, but not out with Saudi Arabia coming to the rescue when needed and pusillanimous administrators such as at Georgetown more than willing to institutionalize anti-Semitism against Jews in the Middle East for donations.
At issue also is that many of the student leaders like Fadi Kibalwi, Noura Erekat and Charlotte Kates are all in law school and when they graduate look out for all manner of frivolous lawsuits against Israel and Jewish communities. This was a war conference, not a peace conference, and it will not go away that easily.
The end result of all this is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will roil on forever at the cost of lives on both sides and the waste of endless US tax dollars. If anyone wonders why, after 13 years of an Oslo Peace process that guaranteed a Palestinian state by 1998 that the war still roils on and Hamas was elected as the new Palestinian government, they need only look at the ISM movement in America.
Hope springs eternal among the pan-Arab nationalists, Muslims and anarchists in the “Palestinian-led” PSM/ISM who believe that by deceiving future generations of American college students and churchgoers their idea of “peace” will come. But “peace” to them means only when all of Israel (what is really meant by “the occupation”) becomes Arab dominated Palestine. The United States will come next. This is truly a war movement. We are seeing how Saudi funding can keep such a movement alive forever on US campuses and in our communities when it wanes. And our own government is partially to blame by not enforcing the Patriot Act when ISM leaders boast openly of working with known terrorist groups, even “nonviolently.” Rest assured, as long as the PSM/ISM is allowed to function on American campuses and in American churches the war will go on.
The ISM is definitely down, but not out.
Standwithuscampus.com contributed to this report