A member of Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action) was attacked in St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday, November 11, 2023. AJP Action Government Relations Coordinator Neveen Ayesh reported to local police that her home was broken into on Friday, and she was shot at in her car just blocks from her apartment soon after. The shot broke her driver-side mirror. Attacks on activists like Ayesh are fueled by dehumanizing language about Palestinians that is rampant in media and political portrayals of the genocide in Gaza.
We call on Missouri police to investigate this incident as a hate crime, and we ask law enforcement to prosecute the perpetrators to the full extent of the law. Attacks such as this have a chilling effect on free speech as anti-violent advocates for Palestinian rights face unchecked retribution amid the vilification of Palestinian activism in media, academia, and politics.
This incident is just one of many forms of escalated harassment AJP Action staff, the staff of its affiliate 501(c)3 organization American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), and Palestine solidarity activists of all faiths have faced amid Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has now reached its 39th day with over 11,100 Palestinians killed. AJP Action and AMP Executive Director Executive Director Osama Abu Irshaid has received multiple hate calls and text messages threatening his life and telling him to “go back to your country.” Other AMP staff and members have reported similar threats.
AJP Action condemns all violence against our team and Palestine solidarity activists, who are using their constitutionally protected right to protest against the ongoing genocide of Palestinians. We also condemn the widespread repression of Palestine solidarity activism nationwide: on college campuses, in workplaces, and in government. We likewise stand with Jewish solidarity activists in condemning the conflation of anti-Israel critique with antisemitism.
Journalists and elected leaders alike have repeatedly propagated anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim talking points that often come directly from Israeli leadership—with little to no critical examination or even fact-checking. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has similarly raised unfounded suspicions of Palestinian student groups’ ties to Hamas based simply on their condemnation of occupation and apartheid—introducing legislation to federally investigate students for their pro-Palestinian sympathies. Such discourse is actively endangering Palestinian and Muslim lives.
In just the first week of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed to death by his landlord in Illinois; in the second week, a 19-year-old Sikh man was physically attacked on a bus in New York City; in the third week, a man on the New York City subway violently attempted to pull a young Muslim woman’s hijab off and called her a terrorist; in the fourth week, a Stanford student was seriously injured as a man drove his car into the student while yelling hateful rhetoric—among many other examples. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has reported over 1200 incidents of harassment faced by Muslims since October 7th, an over 200% jump compared with last year.
Such violence against Muslim and Palestinian communities is not new: in the wake of violent rhetoric about Muslims after 9/11 and the infamous “Muslim ban” of the Trump Administration, violent hate crimes spiked against Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim. AJP Action calls on media, academics, and politicians to be accountable for inciting such violence against our communities and those in solidarity with us.
“We will continue to stand against the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and across occupied Palestine. We will continue to call for a ceasefire and an end to the root causes of violence. And we refuse to be silent as activists are wrongfully defamed and as anti-Muslim racism is weaponized once again to overlook slaughter in the Middle East and to silence pro-peace Americans,” Dr. Abu Irshaid said.
“I blame those in leadership positions for continuing to uphold racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Palestinian rhetorics that fuel these hate crimes,” Ayesh said. A police report has been filed with the Richmond Heights Police Department.
While we face these reprehensible attacks, we affirm that this will not deter our efforts to amplify the voices of oppressed people in the Gaza Strip who are being subjected to genocide at the hands of the Israeli government—aided and abetted by the Biden administration.