Incorporated in 1999 and inactive since 2005, the now-defunct American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ) — a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine — was a nonprofit organization headquartered near Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. AMJ defined its mission as:
“to ensure [that] … the concerns of the American-Muslim community regarding Jerusalem and its environs are understood and respected by the formulation of U.S. policy; to present accurate and timely information to the mass media and other interested parties; to educate, inform, and mobilize the American Muslim community; to raise the awareness of the American society in general and work for a just and comprehensive solution to the issue of Jerusalem; [and] to cooperate with other organizations having similar objectives.”
While AMJ endorsed the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees—a policy that would have effectively spelled the end of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state—the organization strove, by and large, to publicly project a moderate tone. For example, AMJ called for “a Jerusalem that symbolizes religious tolerance and dialogue”; recognized Jewish historical ties to that city; advocated free access for people of all faiths to its religious sites; and elected not to echo the radical Arab claim that Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine rather than of Israel.
But as Islam scholar Daniel Pipes points out, at private events AMJ adopted positions that were much more combative. For instance, the organization’s first major gathering—a November 1999 fundraising dinner—featured such guest speakers as Nihad Awad (a founding member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and Abdurahman Alamoudi (the American Muslim Council founder who would later be incarcerated on terrorism charges). These and other speakers derided the State of Israel and American Jews, accused the latter of exerting undue influence on U.S. politics, and emphasized that only a united Muslim-Christian front (led by Muslims) could break the Zionist lock on America.
On May 29, 1999, AMJ hosted a Santa Clara, California conference titled “United for Al-Quds,” sponsored by a number of U.S.-based Islamist groups including the Hamas-linked Holy Land Foundation. Several speakers at the event alleged that the eradication of the Islamic Caliphate had been orchestrated by a Zionist/Western conspiracy. Keynote speaker Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) said: “So, now we can see why the Jews were punished so severely … [T]hey were cursed because of their lack of obedience.”
In August 1999, AMJ co-organized a boycott campaign against Burger King, to protest the fast-food franchise’s decision to build a restaurant in Ma’ale Adumim, an Israeli settlement community in the West Bank that AMJ described as “Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.” “This settlement was built illegally on land seized from Muslims and Christians by Israel after it conquered the territory around Jerusalem in 1967,” said AMJ. The boycott was called off after three weeks, when Burger King agreed to cancel the Israeli franchisee’s right to operate the business establishment in question. But in a July 2000 press conference, AMJ executive director Khalid Turaani stated that the Ma’ale Adumim franchise was still in operation, and that AMJ was therefore “renewing the boycott” because “we feel that Burger King has started to stonewall us.”
In October 1999, AMJ organized a demonstration protesting the official opening of Walt Disney World’s Millennium Village in Florida. Specifically, the organization objected to an exhibit that depicted Jerusalem as the “Jewish capital” of Israel, because AMJ regarded the eastern section of that city as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Stationing themselves at the entrance of Walt Disney World, the demonstrators distributed leaflets condemning the exhibit. They also displayed large banners reading, “Disney & Israel: Partnership for Propaganda,” and “Israel: Exhibit of Falsehood.”
AMJ was a signatory to a May 2004 “Joint Muslim/Arab-American Statement on Israeli Violence in Gaza,” which “strongly condemn[ed]” Israel’s “demolition of Palestinian homes” and its “indiscriminate killings of innocent Palestinians, including many children.” Other signatories included the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Task Force for Lebanon, the American Task Force on Palestine, the Arab American Institute, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
In August 2004, AMJ spoke out in support of a hunger strike that was being conducted by Palestinian prisoners seeking to promote “awareness of the dire humanitarian condition[s]” they were forced to endure in Israeli jails. AMJ also called on all Islamic places of worship to devote their weekly sermons to this matter, and urged Muslims everywhere to observe a day of fasting in solidarity with the hunger strikers.
Islam scholar Stephen Schwartz described AMJ as a member of the “network” of groups closely affiliated with the Holy Land Foundation. Similarly, terrorism expert Steven Emerson characterized AMJ as an organization that “routinely involves anti-Zionist campaigns and has featured calls at its conferences for the killing of Jews.”
AMJ was a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition.