• 22 Jul, 2024

Islamophobic smear campaigns aimed at silencing pro-Palestinian voices incite hatred and violence against our communities.

Osama Abu Irshaid
Executive Director and a board member of Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action) and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)

Israel has been waging a war against Palestine in the Gaza Strip for 80 days with the full diplomatic, economic and military support of the US government. Israeli troops killed 21,000 people. Acting as legal experts agree could lead to numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide. But the growing moral outrage in the United States and around the world is facing a dangerous smear campaign that harmonizes racism to silence the Palestinian liberation movement.

Extreme rhetoric fueling Islamophobia and anti-Palestinianism has led to unprecedented violations of the civil rights of Palestinians, Arabs and Americans, and even deadly violence against members of these communities. But the negative consequences of this intolerable persecution are not limited to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. Rather, they threaten the basic moral and civic values ​​that underpin democracy.
Slander and witch hunt

Over the past two and a half months, we have witnessed massive street demonstrations, the unveiling of indictments, official resignations, and other demonstrations aimed at a ceasefire, equal rights for Palestinians, and accountability for war crimes. However, this mobilization has been countered by efforts to label pro-Palestinian movements and criticism of Israel's genocide as "anti-Semitism" and support for violence and terrorism.

While this tactic is not new, the campaign has grown in size and scope to resemble a McCarthyite witch hunt, mercilessly targeting Palestinians, Arabs and Muslim Americans in particular, and allies who oppose US-funded troops. Israel's policy of violence and apartheid. Since last October, thousands of people have been victims of massive smear campaigns. On American college campuses, student activists have been disciplined by administrations, banned from student groups, trolled online, had their faces and names plastered on fake defamatory billboards, and lost job offers. Others who spoke out against the genocide were silenced, faced threats, harassment and intimidation online and in the street, as well as economic consequences, including losing their jobs.

But this harassment has not been limited to the private sector and online spaces. It also spread to the centers of power. There was a hearing before the US Congress in November where "witnesses" made false claims from US-registered charities, including the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), of which he is a board member, and the Americans for justice in Palestine (AJP) . Action ) ) – "Support" Palestinian resistance groups.

These false accusations have expanded into outrageous claims that these organizations are calling for "genocide against Israel." MPs who spoke out against Israeli atrocities in hearings or simply met with constituents on the annual Palestine Day were singled out and shamed.

These toxic "testimonies" seek to poison our political contributions and voices in the halls of power, spreading lies and pushing Islamophobic tropes based on decades of anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias. Fighting media defamation and misinformation is one thing, attacking Congress with false accusations is another and very disturbing. Allowing this testimony, which includes false and bigoted claims, to continue shows that our government agencies have failed to protect Americans' right to protest while our tax dollars are being used to support pro-Israel genocide in Gaza. . Islamophobia and violence

These slanderous and high-pressure tactics have dangerous consequences. They promote hate and encourage people to act on it. According to the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, anti-Muslim hate speech has increased 417 percent since the war began.

Civil rights groups such as Palestine Law and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have also reported an unprecedented number of complaints of attacks and discrimination against Palestinians and Muslims in the past two months. This is an increase of over 200% from last year, which may be an understatement.

In addition to verbal attacks and threats, there was also physical violence that resulted in death. On October 14, Wadea al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy, was stabbed 26 times with a military knife by a man who shouted, "You Muslims must die." His mother survived dozens of stab wounds.

On November 25, three Palestinian students were shot dead for speaking Arabic and wearing a kefieh. All three suffered bullet injuries and one is now paralyzed from the chest down. On November 11th, our personal employee, Nevin, shot and killed Ayesh in his car and robbed his home.

In addition to calls for violence and intimidation against Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim Americans, smear campaigns reinforce the post-9/11 climate of suspicion, mass surveillance, and collective victimization. We've worked for decades to expose the racist, double-standard and anti-Muslim policies of successive presidential administrations, from watch lists and capture systems to registration and bans.

We exposed the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars, programs and initiatives that harmed and hurt communities but failed to "strengthen our national security." We have worked to ensure that no community is monitored and disproportionately monitored, regardless of what they look like or where they come from.

As pro-Israel groups wage a smear war against our communities to hide and distract from Israel's crimes in Gaza, we are losing progress toward an inclusive, anti-racist democracy because slander and lies trump the truth. There is a risk. We therefore urge the media, politicians and progressive leaders to shun anti-Arab and anti-Muslim tropes that portray our community as an extension of any Middle Eastern government or political group that discredits and threatens us.

There are three main ways to respond to these smear campaigns: First, we must acknowledge the long history of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism and Islamophobia in the United States and elsewhere, as well as other forms of racism and criminalization.

Second, we must protect the right of individuals to defend Palestinian rights and oppose attempts to carve out exceptions for Palestinian freedom of expression. Third, we must join with Jewish peace allies to insist that criticism of Israel and Zionism should not be equated with anti-Semitism. Our common fight against anti-Semitism must not be weaponized to incite Islamophobia and censor voices for justice in Palestine. This issue must become an urgent part of the anti-racist and progressive agenda. Otherwise, we risk undermining everyone's freedom of expression.

History shows that oppression, defamation, and bigoted attacks may begin with minority groups such as Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims, but they do not end there. These efforts create social and legal precedents to suppress any political dissent.

This is why all voices supporting the rights of our Muslim Americans and the Palestinian people must stand together as a bulwark against attempts to recreate a dark era of history when the killing and victimization of racist "others" is justified. The truth has been lost to militant propaganda. Our ability to defend the rights of Palestinians to protest the genocide and the rights of moral people to support them is a key test of our commitment to justice, equal rights and freedom for all. We cannot compromise these values. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the editorial position of Voice of Urdu.