OverviewAyah Ali [Ayah Elwan] harassed a Holocaust survivor, compared Israel to Nazi Germany, expressed support for terrorists and defended anti-Israel agitators. She has also promoted the eradication of Israel as well as hatred of Israel and glorified violent protestors.
Ali was the president and 2019-2020 Board Member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Benedictine University (BenU).
In November 2019, Ali reportedly was the steering committee chair of SJP Chicago, a network of “student activists organizing for Palestine on university campuses throughout Chicago."
In 2018, Ali was an activist with American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).
Ali is also a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Ali is the daughter of Ahmad Elwan, who has shared neo-Nazi propaganda, posted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist on Facebook and promoted hatred of Israel. Ahmad Elwan is also affiliated with AMP.
Nida Sahouri [Nina Ali], wife of Elwan and Ali’s mother, is the head of the AMP chapter in Chicago. Sahouri has also promoted terrorists, glorified violent protesters, expressed support for anti-Israel agitators and is a supporter of the BDS movement.
As of October 2019, Ali wrote in her Twitter bio that she was a student at BenU, slated to graduate in 2020. Ali indicated on her Facebook page that she started BenU in 2015. Ali was reportedly studying Health Science and served as Event Coordinator for the Benedictine University Pre-Dental ASDA Club.
In December 2019, Ali indicated on Instagram that she participated in a Service Learning Trip sponsored by MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru from December 14 - 22, 2019. Ali wrote that the program was a “pre-dental student’s opportunity of a lifetime...a true confirmation that dentistry is a genuine passion of mine."
As of January 2020, Ali used the name “Ayah Elwan" on Twitter and Instagram.
Harassing a Holocaust SurvivorOn October 24, 2019, Ali attended a presentation at BenU given by Holocaust survivor and Jewish scholar, Dr. Harold Kasimow. Dr. Kasimow was an emeritus professor of religious studies at Grinnell University and a visiting scholar at BenU.
Kasimow survived the Holocaust as a young child, hiding with his family from the Nazis, in a pit his father dug underneath a horse's stall in a farmer’s cattle barn. The family survived for more than 19 months in the lice-infested pit, by eating potato peelings from the farmer's family and an occasional scrap of bread.
Kasimow said that: “Most of the Jews in that area were shot...As far as I know, we are the only family that survived from that area." Almost all other families in his town were rounded up by the Nazis and shot or transported to concentration camps.
At the end of Dr. Kasimow’s formal presentation, Ali stood to address Dr. Kasimow and tried to get Kasimow to equate Israel with Nazi Germany. The interaction appeared in a video posted to BenU SJP’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
In the video, Ali expressed sorrow for Dr. Kasimow’s Holocaust experience, thanked him for sharing his “story" and said [00:00:14]: “But, I want to bring your attention towards a similar story, I wanted to draw a parallel between a very similar occurence that’s happening present day and history [sic], that’s been happening for around 71 years, now."
Ali continued [00:00:28]: “I’m sure you know about what’s happening in Palestine - and my question to you is: Do you support, or do you condemn, the establishment of the Zionist Israeli state, and whether it’s OK to exile and completely, the complete ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, the way that the Jewish people were exiled and ethnically cleansed?"
Dr. Kasimow said [00:01:55]: “it’s really both sides need to open to each other and talk to each other," adding [00:02:00] that Israelis and Palestinians who were talking to each other to solve the conflict were in touch with him.
Kasimov continued [00:02:07]: “That Israel should exist? Yes. I think Israel should exist."
Ali pressed again [00:02:13] “I’m gonna tie it back to my original question: Do you support, or condemn, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people?"
As Kasimow began [00:02:21] to answer, Ali continued: “Because the establishment of the Israeli state and the idea of Zionism ties back to the right of that Israeli state at any cost and that cost is the Palestinian people."
Again, as Dr. Kasimow tried to respond, Ali said [00:02:35]: “I am a result of experiences that you have been through. I am a survivor, of the Intifada and that is way after 1948 when Palestinian land was occupied...I went through minimal amounts of things that the Palestinian people went through and it’s disappointing to know that a Holocaust survivor would remain neutral in a situation of injustice."
Dr. Kasimow replied [00:02:57]: “it’s not a matter of neutral...it’s not total guilt or innocence on either side."
Ali began to speak over [00:03:10] Dr. Kasimow and again pressed [00:03:17] him to express his personal opinion.
Dr. Kasimow, noted [00:03:26]: “Sometimes I feel people express - have a very strong opinion on issues on which they don’t have sufficient knowledge. And I’m always troubled by that. And this is an issue that I don’t have enough knowledge to say a yes-or-no answer. I think it’s very complicated." Kasimow then repeated his hope for a peaceful, two-state solution to the conflict.
Ali said she agreed, then picking up her bag, walked off saying: [00:04:07]: “Honestly, I’m so sorry to hear what happened to you, but I’m honestly very hurt by the fact that I cannot gain your support. Have a great day."
On December 26, 2019, Ali posted to Facebook following the incident, claiming that Dr. Kasimow had “refused to acknowledge Palestinian suffering and kept dodging my question." Ali concluded her post: “The oppression of MY [sic] people matters too and I refuse to allow that to be dismissed."
Ali also posted about the incident on Twitter, commenting: “I received an email from BU earlier this week with a personal invitation to this event saying that it was ‘relevant to the aims of SJP,’ and so I made it relevant to the aims of SJP. If you stand neutral in a situation of injustice, you’re taking the side of the oppressor."
BenU SJP also defended Ali’s harassment of Dr. Kasimow on Facebook, claiming: “Inspired by his [Dr. Kasmow’s] words and beliefs, an SJP Benedictine member mentioned a current situation that is ongoing: the genocide, ethnic cleansing, and exile of Palestinians living in under occupation."
BenU SJP’s Facebook post continued: “to our surprise, Mr. Kasimow was in full support of the Israeli state that is built upon the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. If we are to truly be against oppression, we need to be against ALL forms of oppression, and if Mr. Kasimow stands against ethnic cleansing, then it is expected that he be against ALL forms of ethnic cleansing, and he has failed to apply his same principles to the victims of the Palestinian Occupation."
Comparing Israel to Nazi GermanyAli retweeted a November 6, 2017 tweet containing a graphic with a fabricated quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, that read: “‘It would be my greatest sadness to see Zionists (Jews) do to Palestinian Arabs much of what Nazis did to Jews.’ ― Albert Einstein."
The November 2017 tweet read: “What some of the most intelligent an well known people have to say about what's going on. People need to open their eyes. #FreePalestine."
Ali retweeted an August 26, 2017 tweet that read: “This is everyday life for Palestinians living under occupation. Tell me if this reminds you of anything... certain people from the 1930’s."
The August 2017 tweet contained an Al Jazeera English video showing Israeli security forces conducting a search of Bilal Tamimi’s home in Nabi Saleh. The video’s Facebook description said: “(Footage provided by Bilal Tamimi, 2012)."
Bilal Tamimi is a Palestinian photographer from the village of Nabi Saleh, a Tamimi family stronghold. Tamimi is the husband of anti-Israel agitator Manal Tamimi, who has spread anti-Semitic blood libels and support for terrorists.
In 2009, Tamimi began [00:00:15] filming weekly Friday demonstrations at the request of the human rights organziation, B'Tselem, in order to document scenes of Palestinian residents and international activists clashing with Israeli soldiers.
Tamimi releases videos demonizing Israel on his Youtube channel and provides video footage to AJ+ (Al Jazeera), a Qatari-funded channel, that has spread misinformation about Israel.
Expressing Support for TerroristsOn May 6, 2017 Ali [00:00:33] participated in the BenU SJP “Saltwater Challenge."
The strike was initiated by Marwan Barghouti, who was serving five consecutive life sentences for his role in suicide bombings and shooting attacks that killed five Israelis during the second intifada. Barghouti led the Palestinian Authority (PA) terrorist Tanzim force and founded the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Barghouti also financed the guitar-case bomb used in the Sbarro Cafe massacre, where 15 civilians were killed and 130 injured. More than 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners participated in the hunger strike — most of whom were also convicted for acts of terrorism.
Aarab Barghouti, the son of Marwan Barghouti was credited with starting the “Saltwater Challenge."
Ali retweeted a March 8, 2018 tweet honoring Leila Khaled. The tweet read: “I have learned that a woman can be a fighter, a freedom fighter, a political activist, and that she can fall in love and be loved. She can be married, have children, be a mother. Revolution must mean life also; every aspect of life.’ -Leila Khaled #InternationalWomenDay"
Khaled has said that the second intifada failed because it was not violent enough, advocated for the use of children in terror activities and compared Zionists to Nazis.
Ali retweeted a January 30, 2019 tweet from Gazan agitator Muhammad Smiry that read: “Samah Mubarak, 16 years old, murdered today by israeli forces when she was returning from school in Ramallah. Of course, israeli soldiers have planted a knife to justify their crime."
A January 19, 2019 article in the Times of Israel included video testimony from Israeli police reporting [00:00:17] that Mubarak got out of a taxi at a checkpoint outside Jerusalem and attempted to carry out a stabbing attack on bystanders, some of whom were security personnel.
Defending Anti-Israel AgitatorsAli retweeted a December 19, 2017 tweet that featured a video about Ahed Tamimi and said: “Remember the Palestinian girl who tried to defend her younger brother from Israeli soldiers? She's just been arrested."
Tamimi is the daughter of Bassem Tamimi, who is known for exploiting young children as political props in staged confrontations with Israeli soldiers. In 2011, he was jailed for organizing violent rallies and inciting minors to commit violent crimes such as rock-throwing.
Ali retweeted a February 13, 2019 tweet that read: “keep @IlhanMN on the House Foreign Affairs Committee!! sign the petition." The tweet also had the petition attached.
Ali retweeted a February 14, 2019 SJP University of Chicago tweet that said: “SJP-Chicago is proud to support @IlhanMN in her brave callout of the Israel lobby & its attempts to purchase American support for the occupation. We salute Omar's unwavering commitment to human rights, & welcome the change that she brings to Washington."
Ali retweeted a February 21, 2019 tweet from AJ+ with an attached video, which said: “Marc Lamont Hill talks about accusations of anti-Semitism and whether Rep. Ilhan Omar is being singled out for her critique of Israel."
In the video, Hill claimed [00:01:05] “Everyone who’s offered a principled, balanced and, I think, honest position on Israeli-Palestinian relations and the occupation of Palestine, is being labeled anti-Semitic."
Hill condemned anti-Semitism and went on to suggest: [00:01:30] that those who condemned Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic comments did not value “Jewish lives and Palestinian lives" similarly.
During the meeting, Hill reportedly whitewashed Palestinian violence and accused Israel of “state violence and ethnic cleansing." He also called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea."
Promoting Eradication of IsraelOn July 19, 2017 Ali had a conversation on Twitter about Israel and a two-state solution. Ali tweeted: “But that doesn’t justify a two state solution. When agreeing to that, we’re basically giving them permission to step all over us."
A user named “Ameer" had stated: “I misworded ‘2 state solution’ I don’t mean giving Israel any of Palestines (sic) land, but we can’t eradicate them. Impossible but possible." Ali responded: “You say that as if it’s so simple."
Ali asked: “How exactly do you expect to eradicate them?" Ameer responded: “Like I said... without another mass genocide- impossible."
Ali responded: “That’s what we would all love to see, obviously. But you can’t claim to believe in a 2 state solution when you know nothing about it."
Two years later, in 2019, after references to the exchange started appearing on Twitter, Ali deleted her conversation with Ameer from her Twitter feed.
Promoting Hatred of IsraelOn March 28, 2019, Ali featured in a BenU SJP video posted to Instagram. BenU SJP commented on the video: “Reclaiming the Palestinian culture, one embroidered stitch at a time #ThreadsofResistance. "
In the video, Ali presented a dress to exemplify what she called “the cultural misappropriation of Palestinian embroidery." Ali said the dress dated from 1933, during the British Mandate of Palestine, also known as Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) and accused Israel of “cultural appropriation of Palestinian embroidery," due to someone selling fabric with a similar-looking stitch on the website Etsy.com as an “Israeli tapestry."
Ali continued: “We always say that the Palestnian land was occupied in 1948 but the culture has been occupied as well."
On February 13, 2019, Ali tweeted: “Since we’re all talking about AIPAC now, I think it’s time to recognize the fact that legislators don’t know enough about how they’re harming the Palestinian people through the bills AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Commitee] is convincing them to sign, partly because there aren’t enough Palestinians educating them."
The stated mission of AIPAC is to “strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel."
Glorifying Violent ProtestersOn May 15, 2018, Ali tweeted a screenshot of a protest in Chicago called: “Emergency Rally: Reject US Embassy Move & Israeli Massacres" and commented: “Today, we mourn. Tomorrow, we protest. #Nakba70 #GreatMarchOfReturn."
Nakba is generally translated as “catastrophe" in Arabic, referring to the outcome of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It is a term often used to delegitimize the creation of the State of Israel by defining it as a catastrophe.
In May 2018, violent riots, instigated by Hamas on the Israeli-Gaza border, saw thousands of rioters attempting numerous breaches of Israel’s border fence, with participants declaring their intention to harm Jews across the border under the pretext of “peaceful resistance."
Media reports confirmed [00:00:20] the March of Return protesters’ breached and attempted breaches of Israel’s border fence, some by armed Palestinians. One Hamas leader declared [00:00:30]: “We will take down the border [with Israel] and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies."
On May 16, 2018, senior Hamas official, Salah al-Bardawil, stated that 50 out of 62 protesters killed during the May 14 Gaza border protest were Hamas operatives. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also claimed that three of its members were killed at the same protest.
On June 4, 2018, Ali again tweeted in support of those who died in the riots on Israel’s Gaza border: “We can’t just look at the martyrs as an increasing number. Read their names, their stories, the families they left behind, the goals they haven’t even achieved yet. Make their deaths personal to you, and be their voice."
The violent riots continued until the end of 2018, accompanied by military-style attacks carried out by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other terrorist organizations. The attacks included gunfire, armed rioters penetrating Israeli territory, throwing IEDs and hand grenades and launching incendiary kites into Israel.
Anti-Israel ActivismOn November 30, 2019, Ali represented SJP Chicago in a discussion at AMP’s 12th Palestine Convention, titled: “Election 2020 Palestine Working for Justice" and held in Chicago on November 28 - 30, 2019.
Speakers at the conference included, among others, Hatem Bazian, the founder of anti Israel organizations SJP and AMP, Taher Herzallah, the Associate Director of Outreach & Grassroots Organizing of AMP and U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
On November 20, 2019, Ali reportedly helped organize and led a SJP Chicago die-in. An activist at the die-in held a sign that said: “Zionism is Racism" while a banner on the ground said: “GAZA Open Air Prison." Protesters also held an Israeli flag with the word “GENOCIDE" and bloody hand prints.
In November 2019’s Operation Black Belt, Israel targeted Baha Abu al-Ata [Bahaa Abu Al-Atta], a senior commander of the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Abu Al-Ata was reportedly in the midst of planning additional attacks.
In response to the targeted killing of Abu Al-Ata, PIJ sent a barrage of rockets, numbering in the hundreds all over Israel, including its biggest civilian population centers.
PIJ, whose objective is “the destruction of the State of Israel," has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings, as well as rocket attacks and other attacks.
Mac SPHR - Israel Apartheid WeekSPHR Mac hosted and ran a two-week long “Israel Apartheid Week (IAW)" from March 6 until March 17, 2017.
On March 20, 2018 Ali tweeted a photo of an AMP delegation she was a part of in Washington and commented: “Went from Palestinian activists to Palestinian advocates real quick."
AMP’s annual Palestine Advocacy Day (PAD) has been held in Washington, D.C., since 2015. Activists, including multiple former SJP leaders, are trained by AMP officials and also promote the BDS movement in meetings with Members of Congress, their staff and other government officials.
On June 5, 2018, Ali tweeted a screenshot of an event called: “Protest Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer in Chicago" and commented: “The ambassador of Israel will be speaking at a synagogue in Chicago tomorrow. Let’s show em who’s boss and shut it downnn."
On January 26, 2018 Ali tweeted an ad for an AMP event featuring anti-Israel activist Tarek Khalil, who appeared in a group photo of board members of AMP-Chicago, has promoted incitement, trivialized anti-Semitism, expressed support for violent protests and spread hatred of Israel.
Ali commented: “We’ve gone silent once again about the current events in Palestine...speak up and educate the people of Chicago about the Palestinian occupation, please join AMP at this great event. Dm me for details."
On February 16, 2018, Ali tweeted: “PSA to anyone who’s interested in taking part in civic engagement for Palestine. You’ll be trained by AMP for 2 days on political engagement and community mobilization, then lobbying on Capitol Hill the final day. There are scholarships being provided, if necessary.
On December 15, 2017, Ali posted information to Twitter about a rally in Washington, D.C., called: “Jerusalem- Forever the capital of Palestine," that was sponsored by organizations such as AMP and CAIR.
Ali’s tweet said: “UPDATE: The first bus is officially full, BUT there’s a second bus available for anyone who’s still interested. There are only 30 spots left, though, so reserve your spots ASAP!"
On December 6, 2017, the date the U.S. government announced its decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Ali tweeted: “World leaders: Jerusalem must remain the capital of Palestine - Sign the Petition! http://chn.ge/2BNzv9j via @Change."
Supporting BDSOn June 13, 2017 Ali tweeted: “We're sitting here trying so hard to pass BDS movements in America while our cousins in Pali only buy Israeli products for better quality."
On January 8, 2018, Ali shared a list on Twitter of organizations whose members will be barred from entering Israel, according to the Strategic Affairs Ministry, including JVP, PSC and National SJP.
Ali tweeted: “Just know that being associated with an organization on this list is a badge of honor. Clearly, the Israeli government feels threatened by an organization whose mission is to educate the public about the Palestinian occupation and who supports BDS. AMP’s going places."
SJP was co-founded in 2001 at the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) by Professors Hatem Bazian and Snehal Shingavi. Bazian served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) while studying at San Francisco State University (SFSU) and headed the Muslim Students Association (MSA) while earning his M.A. at UC Berkeley. In 2004, while the second intifada was already winding down in Israel, he called for an intifada in the United States.
Shingavi, an activist tied to the International Socialist Organization (ISO), has been criticized for using his literature course as a vehicle for promoting anti-Israel propaganda. SJP has grown to become the primary student movement advancing the Palestinian national agenda on North American campuses and is the primary force behind BDS campaigns at most schools.
SJP activists frequently intimidate and harass Jewish and pro-Israel students. SJP members have physically assaulted Jewish students, aggressively disrupted pro-Israel events and possibly vandalized communal property. SJP rallies regularly include hate-speech and chants such as “Long Live The Intifada" and “From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free" — calls for violence and for the destruction of the Jewish state.
SJP chapters frequently run inflammatory campaigns against Israel, including BDS resolutions, rallies, Israel-Apartheid initiatives, propaganda comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, mock checkpoints and “die-ins."
On its website, the organization lists Bazian as the chairman of its national board and describes itself as “a national education and grassroots-based organization, dedicated to educating the American public about Palestine and its rich cultural, historical and religious heritage."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has accused AMP of promoting “extreme anti-Israel views and has at times provided a platform for anti-Semitism under the guise of educating Americans" about Palestinians. The ADL further stated that AMP is directly involved in campus-based anti-Israel activity through Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
Prior to founding the AMP in 2006, Dr. Bazian created SJP together with fellow UC Berkeley Professor Snehal Shingavi in 2001. The close working relationship between AMP and SJP has been documented several times over the years by several organizations, including NGO Monitor and StandWithUs.
In addition to providing financial, public relations and legal assistance to SJP, AMP has also been accused of having connections to Hamas. The AMP national board includes former members of both the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) and Holy Land Foundation (HLF), both of which were found liable for aiding and abetting Hamas. The IAP was founded by Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a senior member of Hamas.
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement was founded by Omar Barghouti in 2005 as an allegedly “Palestinian-led movement" to challenge “international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism."
In 2015, Barghouti was quoted saying that “BDS aims to turn Israel into a pariah state, as South Africa once was, and to isolate its regime of oppression in order to achieve our UN-stipulated rights."
The dominant organization in the BDS Movement is the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC), founded by Barghouti in 2007, during the First Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel.
The movement’s most notable achievement has been the infiltration of university campuses through lobbying for “BDS resolutions." In these cases, student governments, backed by anti-Israel affiliates, have proposed resolutions on some form of boycott of — or divestment from — Israel and Israeli-affiliated entities.
These boycott resolutions, although non-binding, have been passed by student governments on numerous North American campuses.
BDS activity is often aggressive and disruptive. It has been noted that universities that pass BDS resolutions see a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents on campus. In 2013, when the student government of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) debated a BDS resolution, reports emerged of violent threats and the spitting on a student wearing a Star of David necklace.
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