The Electronic Intifada
Orientation: secular anti-Zionist
Fields of operation: media, BDS promoting
Electronicintifada.net is one of the main BDS-promoting portals in the Western world, which also serves as a communications platform for pro-BDS activists and the promotion of its ideology. It was founded in 2001 and operates out of Chicago. The portal is mostly affiliated with its co-founder Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American journalist and son of the veteran Jordanian-Palestinian diplomat Hasan Abunimah. Ali Abunimah is an advocate of the “one-state solution,” as reflected in a 2007 book he wrote, One Country and a 2009 article “Jews, Israelis, and the One Country Solution.” According to Israeli sources, Ali Abunimah supports the establishment of one democratic Palestinian state on the ruins of Israel, which “will take into consideration the affairs of the Jewish population of Israel.” He refers to Zionism as a “dying project.”405 In 2015, Abunimah wrote the foreword to a book of essays called Against Apartheid: The Case for Boycotting Israeli Universities,”406 which focuses “on the complicity of Israeli universities in maintaining the occupation of Palestine, and on the repression of academic and political freedom for Palestinians” to explain “why scholars and students throughout the world should refuse to do business with Israeli institutions.”407 Abunimah is very active in conferences, especially at universities, and on YouTube.
The U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)
Orientation: academic, anti-Zionist
Fields of operation: campus activism, BDS promoting
USACBI is the American branch of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). It is active in universities, where it organizes a large number of anti-Israel conferences. USACBI also promotes other issues like the call for a boycott of American arms supply to Israel, cultural and sports boycotts, and more. Among its advisory board members are black activist Prof. Cornel West and ex-Israeli academic, pro-boycott activist Prof. Ilan Pappé.408
The ADL notes that academic departments have sponsored or co-sponsored anti-Israel events in which USACBI took part. For example, Remi Kanazi, an organizing committee member of USACBI, spoke in September 2015 at John Jay College at an event co-sponsored by the Department of Gender Studies.409 Kanazi is a Palestinian-American poet who in his writings presents Israel as a racist Apartheid state that has robbed the rights of the country’s original inhabitants who are seeking “justice.” Kanzai has a personal website.410 He promotes BDS over YouTube as well and sometimes writes for electronicintifada.net.
Also in 2015, the ADL adds, Israeli anti-Zionist, pro-boycott author and activist Miko Peled spoke at an event at Michigan Technological University, which was sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Miko Peled is a San Diego-based ex-Israeli and son of the late IDF general and politician Matti Peled. He wrote a book called The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, which tells the story of his “transformation from a young man who’d grown up in the heart of Israel’s elite and served proudly in its military into a fearless advocate of nonviolent struggle and equal rights for all Palestinians and Israelis.”413 His personal blog is “dedicated to tearing down the separation wall and transforming the Israeli Apartheid system into a secular democracy, where Israelis and Palestinians will live as equal citizens.”414 Miko Peled was interviewed on an Israeli TV Channel 10 series that dealt with the boycotts in the United States, where he stated that his father, who was among the founders of the IDF, participated in the creation of the “most dangerous terrorist organization in the Middle East – the IDF.”415
According to Miko Peled, the switch in his views came after his niece was killed in a suicide attack in Jerusalem in 1997. His niece was the daughter of his sister, Hebrew University Prof. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, who is also one of the patrons of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP). Miko Peled’s son Eitan Peled, who completed his BA degree at UCLA in 2016, served as both the president of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the programming director of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) there.416 In June 2018, Miko Peled travelled to Iran, where he gave a talk to young Revolutionary Guards cadets. To a question from the audience, he answered that “Palestine was a peaceful place, where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived and worshiped together, until it was occupied, and today it is plagued with violence and war.”417
Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel
Orientation: Arab far-left
Fields of operation: “direct action” – anti-Israel demonstrations and rallies, BDS promoting
Adalah-NY started its activities in the New-York area in 2006, “in response to the escalation of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip at the end of June and the subsequent Israeli war on Lebanon in July 2006.”419 It previously operated under other names. Adalah-NY has been very active in promoting various fields of boycott initiatives, mainly economic and cultural. In recent years, Adalah-NY initiated activities and demonstrations for withdrawing funds from Israeli companies and performing a series of “consumer boycott” campaigns against Israeli companies working or selling products in the United States that are claimed to be connected to the confiscation of Palestinian land or resources.420 It also organizes demonstrations against the performance of Israeli artists, aiming to promote the cultural boycott of Israel. In February 2016, Adalah-NY uploaded a short film presenting artists who endorse the cultural boycott of Israel, the most co famous of whom was Roger Waters.421
The Coalition of Palestinian American Organizations (CPAO)
Orientation: Arab nationalist
Fields of operation: anti-Israel advocacy, BDS promoting
CPAO is a coalition of Palestinian-American organizations that seems to mainly comprise of secular, nationalist components. On its website, it links to online streaming of the TV broadcast of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), which acts within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. According to Maher Massis, one of its leaders, CPAO was formed within the framework of Arab and Muslim U.S. organizations in order to focus specifically on Palestinian issues.423 According to its website, CPAO aims at addressing issues that concern the Palestinian-American community. It facilitates presentations, lectures, and op-eds supporting the rights of the Palestine people, including lectures by prominent personalities at American institutions, universities, and houses of worship, as well as on television, radio, and the Internet.
In addition to supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of companies and institutions operating “within the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” CPAO aims at lobbying elected officials to support “a more balanced U.S. peace-making effort that would lead to a fair and just peace between Palestine and Israel.”424
In August 2014, it was reported that Rahif Lafi Awadallah, a member of the “BDS committees” and CPAO, met in Ramallah with the aforementioned Taysir Khaled at the PLO’s Expatriate Affairs Department.425 A video of a speech by Awadallah is available on the Facebook page of Fatah supporters in Chicago.426 The meeting reportedly discussed the role of the Palestinian community in the United States in pro-Palestinian advocacy, as well as on the necessity to widen the BDS campaign in various fields. This meeting was part of a greater outreach effort by Khaled’s Expatriate Affairs Department at the PLO. Later that month, another meeting with U.S.-based activists (see below) was also reported.
An edited video of the CPAO’s 2015 Banquet Gala is available, featuring several leading Coalition figures and guest speakers. Maen Areikat, the ambassador and PLO’s chief of mission to the United States, spoke about the importance of raising awareness of Palestinian causes in the United States specifically, and the necessity to utilize the almost half a million Palestinians in the country. Chris Henzel, Director of Israel and Palestinian Affairs at the State Department, surveyed the situation of reconstruction efforts in Gaza, The keynote speaker at the Gala was Laila Ghannam, governor of Ramallah and Al-Bireh,427 a senior Fatah figure and the first Palestinian woman to have been elected to the position of governor (in 2010).
Laila Ghannam was interviewed by Al-Monitor, probably after this tour. In the interview, she repeated a statement of hers that her most precious moments were the ones in the eyes of the mothers of the martyrs and prisoners. Ghannam referred to a controversy that erupted during her tour, when Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez deleted some photos taken with her after “pressures [were] placed on her” “by the media and the pro-Israel lobby.” Ghannam added that some of the papers picked up Quinones-Sanchez’s remarks and spread the story that she didn’t know the nature of Ghannam’s job, that she may have been deceived, and that she didn’t know that Ghannam “supported the families of the martyrs and that I’m proud of prisoners and their families.”428
CPAO cooperates with other U.S. Arab organizations like the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)> In November 2015, for example, the two organizations held the Palestinian-American Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. The Day was presented as a “great opportunity for Arab-Americans (and anyone who cares about human rights, peace, and justice) to participate directly in our democracy.” It was opened with a session to learn “about issues that primarily affect Palestine and the Arab-American community,” and continued with meetings with members of the U.S. Congress “who have the power to shape these issues.”429
Al-Awda – the Palestine Right to Return Coalition
Orientation: Arab far-left
Fields of operation: BDS promoting
Al-Awda – the Palestine Right to Return Coalition has been operating since 2000 in New York City and California. It was reportedly launched an a conference in Boston that featured guests like the late Edward Said and the late Palestinian-American scholar Naseer Aruri,430 a former PLO member, harsh critic of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in general, and the Palestinian Authority. The conference had been organized by the Trans Arab Research Institute (TARI), which comprises of Palestinian-American academics and promotes a “one state solution.”431 The founders of Al-Awda came from nationalist/Marxist backgrounds, like the Palestinian-American academic and medical doctor Mazin Qumsiyeh, or Zahi Damuni, an anti-war activist and academic from San Diego,432 who also participated, for example, in rallies organized by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and the MAS.433
According to Al-Awda’s website, “Our name, Al-Awda or ‘return’ refers to the central cause of the Palestinian movement – Palestinian refugees’ right to return home to all of their lands and properties stolen since 1948, with full rights and sovereignty – and more broadly, to the return of all of Palestine, the people, the land, and their rights and freedom and justice, from oppression and occupation.”434
Al-Awda has been active in anti-Israel and “anti-Colonialist” demonstrations, conferences, and conventions, and has been promoting BDS on international companies having ties with Israel.
U.S. Coalition to Boycott Israel
In Arabic: Tahaluf Munazamat Muqata’at Israil fi-l-Wilayat Al-Muttahida Al-Amrikiyya
Orientation: Arab far-left
Fields of operation: “direct action” – anti-Israel demonstrations and rallies, BDS promoting
This apparently non-formal coalition is apparently based in Chicago. Its coordinator is Senan Shaqdeh, who, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, has been described on a PLO website as a former PFLP “mountain fighter” in Lebanon.436 Shaqdeh had been quoted in Arabic reports in the context of student bodies’ endorsement of BDS437 and on his Facebook page (currently unavailable) promoted various BDS-related events.438 In early September 2014, Shaqdeh was interviewed following a trip to Ramallah, during which he held meetings with members of the PLO’s Executive Committee, with the PLO’s Expatriate Affairs Department, with which, he added, they coordinate their activities, and with President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. According to Shaqdeh, the meetings were aimed to move forward and become pro-active and start initiating various actions rather than being reactive as was the situation until then, and form a joint framework for cooperation with American Left-wing and student bodies.
He also spoke about the plans to form a new U.S. body called Americans for Justice in Palestine, aimed to bring together Palestinian businessmen, academics, and social and political activists. This body was to include three branches – one for liaising with the American administration and lawmakers, another for uniting and mobilizing the Palestinian community abroad around issues like the foundation of a Palestinian state, the right of return, and bringing down the separation wall, and a third for promoting BDS.439 It is unclear whether this body was eventually formed, and Shaqdeh himself appears to be less active lately. In any case, Shaqdeh referred to developing cooperation with the Palestinian authorities.
A report is available on Shaqdeh’s meeting with Tayseer Khaled,440 alongside Ghassan Barakat, a long-term journalist in a Chicago Arabic language paper called Al-Bustan and member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC).441
In April 2017, parallel to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, a campaign in solidarity with the prisoners had been launched in the United States, probably with cooperation or coordination with the PLO’s Expatriate Affairs Department. The campaign was to include demonstrations, political lobbying with Congressmen, and initiating phone calls with the relevant people at the State Department. Senan Shaqdeh, a “political activist,” said that they are aiming to produce statements on the subject with Congressmen, adding that Bernie Sanders was also contacted.442
General Union of Palestinian Students San Francisco State University (GUPS SFSU)
Orientation: Arab far-left, PLO
Fields of operation: BDS, campus activism, “direct action” – anti-Israel demonstrations and rallies
In the United States, GUPS’s main presence has been at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where it was founded in 1973. In April 2016, GUPS SFSU members took part in the “shouting down” of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat who came to speak at the campus. The protesters held a Palestinian flag, shouting “Free Palestine!”443 The university held an investigation that found that this protest was disruptive. To this, GUPS SFSU answered that it only targeted the mayor for his policies, that no one had been targeted because of their race, ethnic or religious identity, and there was no threatening behavior by protesters. It added that GUPS SFSU members have themselves been targeted with death threats, rape threats, online profiling, and in-person harassment, and concluded that –
…for students of conscience, the real disruption was the mayor of occupied Jerusalem coming to campus. His explicit agenda is to remove Palestinians from the city and he was given a platform to whitewash and propagate his policies. Not only were we subjected to this hate monger, but we were investigated for months and publicly smeared as violent and anti-Semitic.444
In December 2013, several Jewish media outlets reported that the GUPS SFSU’s then-President Mohammad Hammad posted a picture of himself holding a knife, uttering how much he loved his knife, and that it made him want to stab an Israeli soldier.445 In early 2014, it was further reported that the FBI and a Joint Terrorism Task Force was looking into this.446