Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
- Two American NGOs – Interfaith Peace-Builders and Dream Defenders – support and promote the mission of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S.-designated terror organization. The PFLP has used bombings, shootings, and plane hijackings to achieve its political goals.
- Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB), also known as “Eyewitness Palestine,” claims to have led more than 60 delegations to the Palestinian Authority. IFPB houses its participants in the homes of PFLP terrorist operatives and encourages them to participate in violent demonstrations against Israel.
- Dream Defenders and its members endorsed the PFLP and espoused its tactics by backing PFLP terrorists on social media and at various public events. It brings people to the Middle East to meet with PFLP members and PFLP-affiliated organizations.
- In March 2016, Dream Defenders put together an alternative school curriculum that includes the PFLP as one of nine “heroes” that should be used to teach “rebellion” strategies and tactics.
- The group identifies with the PFLP’s struggle, stating: “They [the PFLP] want to be free from global imperialism. They want liberation. They want equal rights. Just like the Dream Defenders.”
Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Europe and the United States are supporters of the Palestinian cause, but two American NGOs support and promote the mission of a U.S.-designated terror organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The following report describes the activities and overall agenda of the two NGOs during their visits to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in recent years. Specifically, it shows how delegations from two 501(c)3 non-profits, Interfaith Peace-Builders (also known as “Eyewitness Palestine”) and Dream Defenders, work closely with the PFLP.
Part I: The Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) – “Eyewitness Palestine”
Interfaith Peace Builders (IFPB) is a non-profit charitable organization based in Washington, D.C. The organization registered in 2006,1 gaining its tax-exempt status in 2008. Recently, it changed its name to “Eyewitness Palestine” and opened a new website with the same name.2
The organization’s self-proclaimed mission is to educate the public about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the “political, military, and economic role” that the United States plays in it by organizing delegations to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.3 The stated purpose of IFPB’s educational efforts and delegations is to provide “activist training” and to encourage participants to advocate “for a more just U.S. foreign policy.”4
Among its board members and avid supporters are individuals affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, including: Ilise Benshushan Cohen, founder of the Jewish Voice for Peace chapter in Atlanta, Katie Huerter, current member of Students for Justice in Palestine National Organizing Committee, and Linda Sarsour, a prominent BDS supporter who contributed funds to IFPB. In 2015 alone, IFPB’s total revenue was $539,532 and its assets totaled $276,706.5 Most of the funding covers costs associated with the delegations to the Palestinian Authority.
IFPB’s 2017 Delegation to Palestine
IFPB claims to have led more than 60 delegations to the Palestinian Authority since 2001 (despite being registered as a legal entity only in 2006).7 IFPB often brings its delegations to the Dheisheh refugee camp (near the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank) and accommodates participants there overnight with local Palestinian families.8 Dheisheh is a known stronghold of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).9 Of note, the PFLP is one of the most active political parties in the camp, second only to Fatah, making membership to the PFLP among the locals extremely high.
In July 2017, IFPB launched its 62nd tour to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,10 which included a delegation of 21 American citizens. The tour was named “Interfaith Network for Justice in Palestine Delegation” and was covered in the major social media outlets under the hashtag #JustFaith17. According to IFPB’s website, the JustFaith17 delegation was “co-sponsored” by two prominent BDS organizations, the American Muslims for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Palestine.11
During the JustFaith17 delegation, IFPB lodged four of its tour participants with a Palestinian host-family.12 The delegates’ host was Anas al-Saifi, identified in IFPB social media posts only as “Fashek.”13 Social media posts published by the delegates mentioned that al-Saifi was wanted at the time by the IDF for arrest,14 and he went into hiding to evade Israeli authorities. On the morning of July 30, 2017, al-Saifi returned to his home to take the IFPB delegates to breakfast with his close friend Raed al-Salhi, a known PFLP operative in Dheisheh.15 The breakfast was documented on social media and referred to by the official IFPB Facebook page.16
Al-Saifi was arrested by the IDF that same evening.17 A week later, on August 7, 2017, the IDF attempted to arrest al-Salhi. He was shot trying to evade arrest and died of his wounds later in September.18 The PFLP claimed al-Salhi as one of its own, and the PFLP’s armed wing, the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, said it “mourned” the death of the “heroic fallen fighter Raed al-Salhi,” in a statement published on its website.19
In posts on its social media outlets, the IFPB articulates support for Palestinian terrorists, describing them as victims of Israel ruthless behavior, and identifies with the demand of the Palestinians to “return” to Israel in a way that will lead the annihilation of the Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Affiliation with the BDS Movement
IFPB’s involvement in the West Bank goes beyond its affiliation with PFLP. It is also entangled with a more popular yet not any less harmful kind of resistance: the BDS movement. IFPB has identified Palestinian BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti as a “long-time partner” of IFPB.20 Furthermore, IFPB is part of a broader coalition of organizations that forms the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). It co-organizes events with USCPR and other BDS organizations including, but not limited to: Code Pink, the American Friends Service Committee, and Defense for Children International – Palestine.21
While Interfaith Peace-Builder (Eyewitness Palestine) claims that its delegations’ aim to provide an educational interfaith experience in the name of human rights, these actually serve as a vehicle for radicalization. Indeed, IFPB exposes its participants to extremist organizations, houses them in the homes of U.S.-designated PFLP terrorist operatives, and encourages them to participate in violent and dangerous demonstrations against Israel. Although participants might be well-meaning when they initially sign up for these delegations, IFPB facilitates their exposure to the PFLP’s terrorist agenda by rebranding it as a legitimate human rights effort.
Part II: The Dream Defenders
In April 2012, Umi Selah (also known as Phillip Agnew), Ahmed Abuznaid, Gabriel Pendas, Ciara Taylor, and Nelini Stamp organized a march from Daytona to the Sanford police station in Florida in protest of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Laws” in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting.22 In the aftermath of the protest, this group of activists from across Florida joined together and founded the “Dream Defenders.”23 Dream Defenders aims to “confront systemic inequality”24 through community empowerment and training youth and students in nonviolent civil disobedience, civic engagement and direct action.”25 Its main objectives include: an immediate end to all wars domestic and abroad, the end of capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy, free education, the immediate release of all U.S. prisoners, and the end to federal, state, and private prisons.26 As such, Dream Defenders takes up various minority causes within the United States under an “intersectional” philosophy, that all struggles of marginalized people and minorities are inherently related.27 At its core though, Dream Defenders is part of the Black Solidarity Movement and Black Lives Matter Movement, supporting and standing up for Black and Brown communities around the world.28
Despite being a relatively small organization, Dream Defenders has several U.S. chapters, also known as “squaDDs,” in Miami, Broward, and St. Petersburg (all situated in Florida),29 as well as in the Bay Area, Gainesville, and Tallahassee.30 The organization is established on eight Florida college campuses and in 2013 claimed to have about 250 members.31 In terms of funding, its budget is less than $50,000/year,32 mostly generated through small donations paid in its website.
Dream Defenders also receives money from a fiscal sponsor, the Tides Foundation. Tides is a public charity, which, through donor-advised funds, acts as a fiscal sponsor to smaller grassroots charities to advance progressive efforts in the United States.33
Among the supporters and benefactors of Dream Defenders are Remi Kanazi34 and Linda Sarsour,35 two prominent BDS activists.36,37 Kanazi previously referred to Israel as an apartheid state and does not think Hamas or the PFLP, two U.S.-designated terror organizations,38 are problematic. Sarsour is a known American-Muslim public figure and an avid supporter of the BDS movement.
Promoting a School Curriculum Based on PFLP’s Violent Agenda
In March 2016, Dream Defenders put together an alternative school curriculum called “Blacked Out History: Rebellion Curriculum” that “focused on revolutionary organizations from around the world to highlight their elements of rebellion” and glorify “overlooked heroes.”39 The curriculum includes the PFLP as one of nine “heroes” that should be used to teach “rebellion” strategies and tactics.
Looking into the curriculum, the specific section on the PFLP describes it as a “secular Palestinian Marxist-Leninist and revolutionary socialist organization.” While it acknowledges that the United States, Canada, and the European Union have designated the PFLP as a terror organization, it doesn’t condemn the PFLP’s tactics since other countries have not designated it.
The curriculum describes the PFLP’s main objectives, long-term goals, and ideology, stating:
The PFLP aims to liberate all of Palestine by establishing a democratic socialist Palestinian state that includes the destruction of Zionism and the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland… Their collective goal is to break down conservative Arab states, destroy Israel, and apply Marxist doctrine to the Palestinian struggle… [The] PFLP seems to have a love/hate relationship with their community. They want to “free” Palestine but are using violent methods to achieve it…when the leader of PFLP (Abu Ali Mustafa) was assassinated by the Israeli military forces, three days of national mourning was declared, and thousands of Palestinians attended his funeral. His death was avenged by killing the Israeli Minister of Tourism, so it seems that the PFLP receives support from some people in their community.40
Dream Defenders then goes on to identify with the PFLP’s struggle, stating:
They [the PFLP] want to be free from global imperialism. They want liberation. They want equal rights. Just like the Dream Defenders.41
Moreover, when publishing the “Blacked-Out History” toolkit, Dream Defenders posted a photo of PFLP “comrade” Shireen Abu-Oun, chairwoman of the 42nd anniversary rally of the PFLP, held December 12, 2009 in Gaza. The picture of Abu-Oun came from the PFLP’s website, and Dream Defenders superimposed the words, “Palestine, all of Palestine. From the River to the Sea.”
Thus, while it claims to believe that non-violent resistance is “the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom,”42 Dream Defenders continuously supports the PFLP,43 an organization that has used extremely violent methods, including bombings, shootings, and plane hijackings to achieve its political goals. Last but not least, it aims to teach these “strategies and tactics” to children from grades 6 through 11.44
Delegations to Palestine, Strong PFLP Affiliation
Once a year, Dream Defenders organizes a delegation to the Palestinian Authority. In January 2015, Dream Defenders led its first delegation, which included 14 members. This delegation hosted several notable attendees, including: Former CNN commentator, Marc Lamont Hill,45 Patrisse Khan-Cullors of Black Lives Matter, Cherrell Brown of the African American Policy Network, Tef Poe (Kareem Jackson) and Tara Thompson of Hands Up United, and Christopher Hazou of the Institute for Middle East Understanding .46 Similar to IFPB’s delegations, members of DDPalestine visited the Dheisheh refugee camp, an exposure that is likely to influence the stances they take on important political issues and the causes they promote back home (in the United States). As such, it seems that Dream Defenders is providing an outlet for the PFLP to influence civil rights groups inside the United States, therefore promoting “agenda laundering” for a U.S.-designated terror organization.
Another indication of the affiliation with PFLP’s personnel can be found in the 2016 Dream Defenders’ visit to east Jerusalem led by Afro-Palestinian activist and former member of the PFLP, Mahmoud Jedda.47 Jedda served 17 years in an Israeli prison before he was released in 1985 during a prisoner exchange deal. Jedda’s past links with the PFLP were known and highlighted while he was leading the group and were a cause for admiration.
In the summer of 2017, Dream Defenders organized the latest DDPalestine delegation. The group visited Dheisheh as well as Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a PFLP affiliate organization.48 Of note, Addameer is governed by multiple members of the PFLP. Addameer’s vice-chairperson Khalida Jarrar is a senior PFLP official,49 and Sumoud Sa’adat, an Addameer staffer,50 is the daughter of PFLP general secretary, Ahmad Sa’adat, who is in an Israeli prison for his role in the assassination of an Israeli minister.51
On several occasions, Dream Defenders and its members endorsed the PFLP and espoused its tactics by backing PFLP terrorists on social media and at various public events. Here are a few examples:
- Ahmad Abuznaid, Dream Defenders co-founder, lauded Leila Khaled, former PFLP terrorist who attempted to hijack two Israeli (El Al) airplanes in 1969 and 1970.52
- Abuznaid also advocated for convicted former PFLP terrorist, Rasmea Odeh, who was deported to Jordan in 2017 because she failed to disclose in her U.S. citizenship application her conviction in Israel on terrorism charges.53 Abuznaid served as the keynote speaker at a fundraising event held for Odeh by the Americans for Justice in Palestine (AJP) Educational Foundation, Inc. AJP is the fiscal sponsor for American Muslims for Palestine, which is one of the largest BDS organizations in the United States.
Ties with the BDS Movement
Dream Defenders’ 2015 and 2016 delegations met with Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the BDS Movement54 and member of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) secretariat,55 to discuss the importance of BDS in the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Barghouti is also a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).56
Moreover, Dream Defenders regularly coordinates projects with the Institute for Middle East Understanding57 and Students for Justice in Palestine,58 and the co-founder of Dream Defenders, Ahmad Abuznaid, has been given a platform at Jewish Voice for Peace events.59
Dream Defenders is not simply another organization in the Black Solidarity Movement. Dream Defenders brings people to the Middle East to meet with PFLP members and PFLP-affiliated organizations. Alarmingly, through the Rebellion curriculum, social media posts, “report back” events, and activities with other BDS organizations, Dream Defenders allows PFLP ideology to infiltrate into the United States. With its sway and connection to the Black Lives Matter Movement and BDS Movement, and under the guise of “racial oppression” and “human rights activism,” Dream Defenders spreads the agenda of a designated terror organization, giving legitimacy to an illegitimate entity.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
- The PFLP is a secular Palestinian socialist organization founded in 1967 by George Habash.
- It has consistently been the second-largest of the terror groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO, founded in 1964), the largest being Fatah (founded in 1959).
- The organization was responsible for more than a dozen high-profile airline hijackings, bombings, and shootings starting in the late 1960s and ‘70s, including the Lod Airport massacre, which led to the deaths of 28 people. Leila Khaled and Rasmea Odeh are among the organization’s most familiar terror activists. Odeh was deported from the United States in 2017, after she failed to disclose in her immigration papers that she was involved in terror attacks (on behalf of the PFLP) before her arrival to the United States.
- Since 2000, PFLP has carried out at least 13 suicide bombings, stabbings, shootings and ax attacks, including the murder of Israeli Minister for Tourism, Rehavam Ze’evi.
- Altogether, the PFLP is responsible for the murder of more than 90 Israeli civilians.
- Ahmad Sa’adat serves as Secretary-General of the PFLP since 2001, succeeding Abu Ali Mustafa who took office in 2000 but was killed by Israeli forces shortly after. Sa’adat was sentenced in December 2006 to 30 years in an Israeli prison due to his involvement in the killing of Israelis during the “second Intifada”, including the assassination of Ze’evi.
- In August 1997, the PFLP was declared by the US Department of State as a Foreign Terror-designated Organization. It is also considered a terror entity in Canada, the EU, and Israel.
- Over the past 20 years, the PFLP added to its terrorist struggle against Israel a more political one – struggle conducted through so-called civil rights organizations. To fulfil its mission, the PFLP supports and dominates several Palestinian non-governmental organizations, including: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Samidoun, Al-Haq, Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and the Palestinian branch of Defence for Children International (DCI-P), through which it executes and further promotes its anti-Israel agenda.
- These organizations play a major role in the campaign to delegitimize and demonize Israel, and they maintain strong relations with other Western so-called human rights organizations with global reach. Moreover, all of these organizations are part of the Palestinian BNC (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee), the leading organization that promotes the BDS against Israel.
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1 The organization’s website suggests it was established in 2001.
9 There is a PFLP Facebook page run specifically by its Dheisheh branch. The page is called the “Popular Front – Dheisheh- The Red Castle,” and the page’s profile photo is the PFLP symbol featuring the label, “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- Army Faction-Dheisheh Refugee Camp” in Arabic. https://www.facebook.com/1572075136373118/photos/a.1572080746372557.1073741827.1572075136373118/1847445968836032/?type=1&theater
13 Although Anas al-Saifi was only ever referred to as ‘Fashek’ in the social media posts of the tour participants, we were able to ID him. His brother created a Facebook page to commemorate his friendship with Raed al-Salhi. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1981195165500961&id=1974072569546554
20 Interfaith Peace-Builders, “Omar Barghouti says ‘IFPB Delegations are more Needed Now than Ever,” accessed 09/18; Eyewitness Palestine, Facebook post, published 12/15, accessed 09/18
27 Dream Defenders, “Dream Defenders Statement on the Condemnation of M4BL Platform by Some Pro-Israel Groups,“ accessed 09/18
33 Tides is a network of institutionally related companies, which include Tides Network, Tides Foundation, Tides Center, Tides INC, and Tides Two Rivers and a few other non-Tides charities. Each company has its own EIN and files separate 990’s though the jobs of the distinct corporations towards the overall goals of the Tides project are interchangeable; Propublica Nonprofit Explorer, “Tides Network,” accessed 09/18; Propublica Nonprofit Explorer, “Tides Foundation,” accessed 01/18; Propublica Nonprofit Explorer, “Tides Center,” accessed 09/18; Propublica Nonprofit Explorer, “Tides INC,” accessed 09/18
38Office of Foreign Assets Control, US Department of the Treasury, “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN),” https://www.treasury.gov/ofac/downloads/sdnlist.pdf, Updated as of 02/23/18, accessed 09/18
43 Office of Foreign Assets Control, US Department of the Treasury, “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN),” https://www.treasury.gov/ofac/downloads/sdnlist.pdf, Updated as of 02/23/18, Accessed 09/18
46 Anna Isaacs, “How The Black Lives Matter and Palestinian Movements Converged,” Moment Magazine, Published 03/16, accessed 09/18
49 PFLP, “Ordering the leader Comrade Khalida Jarrar to administrative detention will not suppress the resistance,” published 07/17, accessed 09/18
51 PFLP, “Sumoud Sa’adat: Negotiations do not free prisoners,” published 01/12, accessed 09/18
54 Palestinian BDS National Committee, “BNC Statement on Israel’s Ongoing Campaign to Silence Omar Barghouti & Repress BDS,” BDS Movement, published 03/17, accessed 09/18
55 Palestinian BDS National Committee, “Report on The Fourth National BDS Conference, 8 June 2013, Bethlehem,” BDS Movement, published 06/13, accessed 09/18
59 Nadia Hijab, “At a Jewish Voice For Peace Conference: This Is What Solidarity Looks Like,” published 03/15, accessed 09/18