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Anti-Israel Protesters Glorify Terror Groups, Violence

Anti-Israel Protesters Glorify Terror Groups, Violence

A flag bearing the symbol of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization — is displayed at a protest at the Rhode Island State House in Providence, RI on November 24, 2023.

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UPDATE: April 26, 2024

Explicit support for recognized terror groups and the glorification of prominent individuals affiliated with those groups continues to feature prominently at anti-Israel protests across the country. As documented by ADL, notable recent examples of this support for terror have surfaced at “Popular University for Gaza” campus encampments and Quds Day protests in April 2024 and at International Women’s Day protests in March 2024. There have been numerous additional instances of support for terror groups, for example: 

 

At an encampment protest at the University of California, Los Angeles on April 25, messages written in chalk in Arabic read: “Oh Qassam [referencing the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing], oh beloved, we want to burn Tel Aviv” and “Oh Abu Obaida [spokesperson for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades], we will show you that the Arab people are all with you.” At a protest at Columbia University in New York, NY on April 17, protesters chanted, “Al-Qassam you make us proud, kill another soldier now” and displayed signs bearing the names and images of convicted terrorists and other individuals affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.  

 

At a protest outside of a synagogue in Teaneck, NJ on April 1, Nerdeen Kiswani — an anti-Israel activist and leader of the group Within Our Lifetime (WOL) — wore a button bearing the image of Abu Obaida and at a Land Day protest in New York, NY on March 30, protesters chanted, “Abu Obaida, ya habib [love], adrab adrab [strike, strike] Tel Aviv.” At a protest in San Francisco, CA on March 24, anti-Israel protesters displayed a Palestinian flag with superimposed images of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorists. 

Anti-Israel Protesters Glorify Terror Groups, Violence

Examples of anti-Israel protesters glorifying recognized terror groups and terror group-affiliated individuals, including (L–R) Within Our Lifetime leader Nerdeen Kiswani wearing a button depicting Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesperson Abu Obaida at a protest in Teaneck, NJ on April 1, 2024; a protester displaying a Palestinian flag with superimposed images of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorists in San Francisco, CA on March 24, 2024; and a protester holding a sign bearing the name and photograph of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)-affiliated convicted terrorist Walid Daqqa in New York, NY on April 17, 2024. 

 

Nearly five months after the violent October 7, 2023 Hamas attack on Israel that included the massacre of approximately 1,200 people and the kidnapping of an additional 240 people, anti-Israel activists in the United States continue to demonstrate their explicit support for terrorism at on-the-ground protests. ADL previously documented similar expressions in the days after October 7; since then, this rhetoric has continued in the same vein, even as more details about the brutality of Hamas’s attack have come to light.

 

Protesters have regularly indicated their endorsement of groups that the US recognizes as Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) — including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — by cheering on their actions in speeches and chants or displaying those groups’ logos on flags and other paraphernalia. Support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PFLP has also been seen alongside support for the Houthis (Ansarallah), a US-designated terrorist group whose endorsement from anti-Israel activists has been previously noted by ADL. Notorious terrorist group leaders, such as Abu Obaida and Leila Khaled, have also been glorified by protesters. 

 

These expressions are not limited to a few individuals on the sidelines of rallies. Rather, in numerous cities and towns across the country, references to these terrorist groups and their violent actions have been met by raucous cheers from protest attendees and their symbols have been proudly displayed at the protests and in footage posted by organizers after the fact.

 

Terrorist group symbols

 

As of late February 2024, anti-Israel protests in at least 18 states have featured flags, headbands, or signs bearing the logos of the US-designated terrorist groups Hamas, Hezbollah, or the PFLP.  

Anti-Israel Protesters Glorify Terror Groups, Violence

Protesters display the symbols of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations — including Hamas (left), Hezbollah (center), and PFLP (right) — at anti-Israel rallies across the country since October 7, as seen in (clockwise from top left) Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Cambridge, MA; Los Angeles, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Brooklyn, NY. 

The protests at which these symbols have appeared have been organized by a variety of prominent anti-Zionist organizations. These organizers include American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), ANSWER Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), Samidoun, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), and Within Our Lifetime-United for Palestine (WOL), among others. 

 

In most cases, the identity and potential group affiliation of the individuals seen holding or wearing these terrorist group symbols cannot be determined. Nonetheless, by promoting protest photographs and video footage containing these symbols on their social media accounts, these groups indicate their tacit endorsement of designated terrorist organizations.

 

Venerating notorious terrorists

 

Images of Abu Obaida, spokesperson for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades — Hamas’s military wing — have appeared on flags, fliers, and clothing at anti-Israel protests since October 7. For example, a flag with Obaida’s face superimposed on the Palestinian flag was seen at the national March for Gaza in Washington, DC on January 13 that saw thousands of anti-Israel protesters march through the nation’s capital. Images of Obaida have also been featured in protests in many other major US cities, including Chicago, Memphis, New York and Philadelphia. 

Anti-Israel Protesters Glorify Terror Groups, Violence

Images of Abu Obaida displayed at anti-Israel protests since October 7 in (L–R) Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; and New York, NY.

Leila Khaled, a longtime active PFLP leader who is well-known for her role in the hijacking of two civilian airliners in 1969 and 1970, is among the most popular figures repeatedly referenced by anti-Israel protesters.

 

Signs and fliers bearing Khaled’s image alongside slogans such as “resistance is not terrorism,” “resistance is justified” and “resistance is justice” have appeared at numerous protests. A sign at a New York, NY protest on November 9 bore a quote from an interview Khaled gave in 2014, with specific reference to armed resistance: “No liberation is achieved without resistance…We are calling to escalate the resistance…Using arms is also popular. We have people who are ready to fight.”

 

At an on-campus anti-Israel protest at the University of Chicago on February 16, students sang the lyrics, “Leila Khaled was a freedom fighter and she taught me how to fight.” At a protest in Harrisburg, PA in January, one of the event organizers was interviewed by a local television news station while wearing a shirt depicting Khaled.  

Anti-Israel Protesters Glorify Terror Groups, Violence

Images of Leila Khaled displayed at anti-Israel protests since October 7 in (clockwise from top left) New York, NY; Salt Lake City, UT; Denver, CO; Harrisburg, PA; Charlotte, NC; and Washington, DC.

In addition to Obaida and Khaled, other terrorist group leaders glorified by protesters include Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah and a US-recognized Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT); Ahmad Sa’adat, the imprisoned Secretary General of the PFLP; Ghassan Kanafani, the late author and former PFLP spokesperson; and Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist and leader of the Fatah-affiliated militia group Tanzim. 

Anti-Israel Protesters Glorify Terror Groups, Violence

Signs at anti-Israel protests since October 7 featuring (L–R) references to Ghassan Kanafani in Austin, TX and Los Angeles, CA; and an image of Ahmad Sa’adat and the PFLP logo in Paterson, NJ. 

Speaker statements

 

Speakers have not only excused but endorsed Hamas’s murderous actions on October 7 as a so-called “justified” response to Israeli occupation.

For example, at the “Global March for Rafah” in Washington, DC on February 17, 2024, a speaker identified as Katie Sayour, representing the DC Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (DCAARPR), repeatedly expressed full-throated support for terrorism, including naming both Hamas and PFLP by name. Praising “the brave Palestinian resistance fighters,” Sayour stated: “we know that the gallant Palestinian resistance who the imperial propagandists call 'terrorists' are completely and inarguably justified in their fight for freedom against the Zionist entity.”

 

Drawing cheers from the large crowd, Sayour further stated that solidarity between "Hamas and the Popular Front for [the Liberation of] Palestine…forms the basis of an incredible unity.” Sayour concluded by reaffirming that “we will never, never condemn the violence of the oppressed, because they did not choose to be oppressed. Those chains were forced upon them by the Zionist wing of imperialism. And so we say: it is right to resist! We say that resistance is justified when people are occupied!”

 

At a protest organized by the Palestinian Feminist Collective in New York, NY on January 12, 2024, Writers Against the War on Gaza (WAWOG) member Tai Lee celebrated Hamas’s actions on October 7: “The Al Aqsa flood operation on October 7th was an insurgency of the oppressed. It was an act of rebellion that sought to defend the Palestinian people against an unjust occupation. This struggle is righteous!” Also in New York, NY, at a protest on December 21, 2023 organized by a coalition of more than a dozen pro-Palestine and pro-labor groups, a handful of protesters directly confronted multiple visibly Jewish people standing on the sidewalk with chants of “long live Hamas!”

 

Similar rhetoric has also been seen in other cities. At a protest at the state capitol in Atlanta, GA on January 8, 2024, a speaker commented that, “the Israel military…kill you for no reason. And Hamas had enough! And they did the October 7th just to stop [Israel] and tell them, 'let the people go and pray in their mosques.'” At a Salt Lake City, UT protest on November 11, 2023, a speaker stated, “We are not going to condemn Hamas; we aren't going to condemn shit.”