Co-founded in 1988 by Sami Al-Arian, Hussam Jubara, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, and a number of others, the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) was an outgrowth of the Islamic Concern Project, an initiative ostensibly dedicated to “helping the poor, the refugees, the displaced, the orphans, the sick, the handicapped and the homeless.” While promoted as a philanthropic advocacy group that sought to alleviate the suffering of widows and orphans in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, ICP in practice was an American front for the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which funded the activities of Muslim suicide bombers and the families they left behind upon their deaths. As investigative journalist Steven Emerson established conclusively in a 1994 documentary, ICP was the “primary support group in the United States for Islamic Jihad.”
ICP functioned as a sister organization to another Al-Arian creation, the World & Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). Both of these groups were headquartered in Tampa, near the University of South Florida campus where Al-Arian was a tenured professor. According to INS Special Agent William West, both were “fronts for the purpose of fund-raising activities for the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas terrorist organizations.” They also engaged in “other support-type activities,” said West, “primarily to allow for the perceptually legitimate entry of foreign nationals, aliens into the United States who are leaders and/or operatives” of such groups.
A 1991 ICP fundraiser in Cleveland featured an opening statement by Fawaz Mohammed “Abu” Damra, Imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland. Damra was also the former Imam of the Al-Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn, where he had set up the flagship office of al-Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam’s Alkifah Refugee Center, a jihadist entity. When introducing Sami Al-Arian to those attending the Cleveland event, Damra referred to ICP as “the active arm of the Jihad movement in Palestine.” “We prefer to call it the ‘Islamic Committee for Palestine’ for security reasons,” he explained. Later in the proceedings, Damra invoked a recent PIJ terrorist attack and urged audience members to help bankroll similar operations in the future. “And whoever wants to write a check,” he said, “he can write it in the name if the Islamic Committee for Palestine, ‘ICP’ for short.” Al-Arian, for his part, exhorted the attendees: “Let us continue the protests. Let us damn America. Let us damn Israel. Let us damn their allies until death.”
Al-Arian spoke in similar tones at an ICP rally in Chicago that same year, where he characterized Jews as “monkeys and pigs” who were “cursed in the Quran.” “The Koran is our constitution,” he thundered. “…Jihad is our path.… Victory to Islam…. Death to Israel…. Revolution till the victory.”
At ICP’s second, third, fourth, and fifth annual conferences, which were held in Chicago each December from 1989-92, guest speakers included such notables as:
WISE co-founder Khalil Shikaki;
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Kamal Helbawi;
terrorist mastermind Omar Abdel-Rahman;
Islamic Jihad Movement co-founder Sulayman Odeh;
Islamic Jihad “spiritual leaders” Abd Al-Aziz Al Awda and Abdel Aziz Odeh, the latter of whom helped Fathi Shikaki form PIJ in 1981;
Al-Hashemi al-Hamdi, a member of Tunisia’s militant An-Nahda party and an advocate of violent jihad against Israel;
Rashid Ghannoushi, the An-Nahda leader who in 1989 was convicted of attempting to assassinate Tunisia’s president and overthrow its government;
Bashir Nafi, who gave refuge to a suspect in Anwar Sadat’s 1981 assassination and was considered as a possible successor to Fathi Shikaki as PIJ leader in 1995;
Muhammad al-Asi, an incendiary agitator who urged military attacks against American forces in the Persian Gulf in 1991;
Sheikh Muharram of Lebanon, who vowed that “the Intifadah” carried out by “The Armies of Muhammad” would ensure that Muslims “will not be Judaised and will not kneel to the Zionists”;
Leith Shbeilat, a Jordanian militant who was repeatedly imprisoned for inciting anti-government riots;
Anwar Haddam, an Algerian Islamic Salvation Front spokesman whom the U.S. ordered deported because of his terrorist ties;
Sheikh Saeed Sha’aban, leader of Lebanon’s jihadist Tawheed Movement;
Muhammad Umar, whose Islamic Liberation Party sought to overthrow secular government institutions throughout the Middle East; and
The registration form for ICP’s 1992 annual conference began with a quote from the Koran stating that “Jihad is ordained” for all Muslims. In his introductory remarks at the start of the gathering, Abid Catovic declared: “We as Muslims of course, long range, would like to have the Khilafah [Caliphate] back.”
Condemning the Oslo Peace Accord of 1993, ICP was a signatory to a statement describing Israel’s establishment in 1948 as “a crime” that “involved the unjust and illegal usurpation of Muslim and Christian lands and rights.” Fellow signers included the Islamic Association for Palestine, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Arab Youth Association, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Muslim Students Association.
In 1995 the FBI began to aggressively investigate ICP and WISE alike, on suspicion that they were PIJ front groups. That November, federal agents raided the offices of both organizations and seized all of their belongings, among which were some 500 videotapes of past conferences they had sponsored. In one confiscated video, Sami Al-Arian proclaimed: “We assemble today to pay respects to the march of the martyrs and to the river of blood that gushes forth and does not extinguish, from butchery to butchery, and from martyrdom to martyrdom, from jihad to jihad.” Federal agents also found a letter Al-Arian had written in 1995 urging a Kuwaiti associate “to try to extend true [financial] support of the jihad effort in Palestine so that operations such as these [suicide bombings] can continue.” Given the serious nature of these and other materials unearthed in the federal raids, the U.S. government permanently shut down both WISE and ICP.