Video: Jerusalem resident assaulted by Israeli-backed US “Muslim leaders”

Update, 13 January: Assailant identified

The Electronic Intifada has identified the male assailant described in this post and seen in the video above as Mohammed Hameeduddin, the former mayor, and a current council member, of Teaneck, New Jersey.

Original post

A Jerusalem resident was physically assaulted and battered as he attempted to speak to participants in an Israeli-backed US “Muslim leaders” delegation at the al-Aqsa mosque on Monday evening.

Some of the incident was captured on video by the victim of the assault, a frequent contributor to The Electronic Intifada who goes by the pseudonym Zalameh.

Members of the delegation are taking part in the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI), a faithwashing junket sponsored by the Shalom Hartman Institute.

As The Electronic Intifada reported earlier this month, the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute receives millions of dollars from extreme anti-Muslim donors and is a major contractor to the Israeli military.

It is also involved in Israeli government efforts to undermine the Palestine solidarity movement.

Assaulted at al-Aqsa

The video above shows the beginning of the physical assault on Zalameh.

Zalameh approaches the group and asks, “You guys are here with MLI, right, the Muslim Leadership Initiative?”

Several of the participants can be heard asking “Who are you?” The first person seen clearly in the video appears to be Amanda Quraishi, a blogger from Texas.

Zalameh responds: “I’m a Jerusalemite, I live in Jerusalem.”

Within seconds a man, who has not been identified, is seen lunging at Zalameh.

(Update: the man has been identified since this report was first published as Mohammed Hameeduddin, the former mayor, and a current council member, of Teaneck, New Jersey.)

Zalameh told The Electronic Intifada that “one of the MLI participants charged immediately against me on the grounds of al-Aqsa where we were, just like the Israelis regularly do to us. He punched me and tried to grab my camera and successfully turned it off. He kept pushing as I pleaded with him to stop. It only ended when one of his colleagues intervened.”

The second video, below, shows a longer engagement minutes later with some of the MLI participants. Zalameh walks behind them asking, “Why did you hit me?”

Zalameh insistently challenges MLI participants over why they are involved with an Israeli institution in a manner that violates the boycott call from PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Members of the group hurry away from Zalameh, one of them repeating, “Don’t film, don’t film.”

The woman saying “don’t film,” who has not been identified, then apparently batters Zalameh a second time.

One person on the delegation does engage with Zalameh to justify his participation in MLI. He identifies himself in the video as Khurrum Wahid, a Miami attorney.

Denial

Wahid was contacted by The Electronic Intifada over Twitter and asked to describe what he witnessed. “There was no assault,” Wahid said in a private message.

“Very sad … how quick our community turns on itself,” he added.

When informed that The Electronic Intifada had video of the incident, Wahid asserted that Zalameh was only “yelled at to stop.”

In a follow-up phone call, Wahid categorically denied what is plainly visible to any reasonable viewer of the video – that there was a battery on Zalameh.

“I did see the person videoing the girls and then he got very close to them and then one of the gentlemen yelled at him to stop,” Wahid said. “I’m a criminal defense attorney and I can say there was no assault or battery. There was no physical contact. They were feet away.”

Wahid declined to identify the man he says “yelled” at Zalameh. He also accused The Electronic Intifada of taking an “adversarial approach.”

Amanda Quraishi did not respond to inquiries by publication time.

Zalameh’s full account

This is Zalameh’s account of his encounter with the Muslim Leadership Initiative delegation on Monday night:

As I was leaving al-Aqsa after evening prayers, I recognized the American group that is participating in the Muslim Leadership Initiative of the Shalom Hartman Institute. I had learned about this initiative last year and the issue came to my attention again this year through the exposé done by The Electronic Intifada and Sana Saeed’s excellent article on “faithwashing.”

I wanted to use this golden opportunity to challenge them directly on the harm this Islamophobic-backed initiative causes to Palestinians and to Muslims. Because they came here in defiance of conscientious calls from Muslims and supporters of Palestinian rights in America and in disdain of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), the consensus mode of struggle chosen by the vast majority of Palestinian civil society, it was only fair that I put them to scrutiny in a public manner. 

I turned on the camera on my phone and filmed our interaction. I wasn’t even given a chance to initiate a dialogue. As soon as I approached the group, as you can see in the video, one of the MLI participants charged immediately against me on the  grounds of al-Aqsa where we were, just like the Israelis regularly do to us. He punched me and tried to grab my camera and successfully turned it off.

He kept pushing as I pleaded with him to stop. It only ended when one of his colleagues intervened. It shocked me how this so called faith delegation could be so dismissive of Palestinian concerns when put to them unfiltered, and in complete disregard to the holiness of the location we were at. The word “faithwashing” suddenly gained a new meaning. 

Once I recovered, I turned the camera back on and continued to question members of the delegation. You can see the exchange that transpired in the second video. 

It was clear from this experience and from the narratives they are putting out on their blog posts that they are here for their self-interest and look down and even orientalize Palestinians and the struggle.

I read Amanda Qureishi’s blog post this morning and felt insulted at how she makes Jerusalem her personal nirvana, in stark contrast to the ethnic cleansing I witness Israel carrying out daily at my doorstep.

They come here and think they know better with no qualms in serving the agenda of the oppressors and with no respect and even disdain to the local struggle as defined by Palestinians.

This arrogance was clear in the last interview on the video. The guy [Khurrum Wahid] kept quoting unnamed “Palestinians” to make his case, the “fig leafs,” as I refer to them in the video, something PACBI has warned BDS bashers against.

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Comments

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If there was no assault then how did they get a hold of his camera and turn it off? Lousy 'lawyer'. Glad these frauds are being exposed. They do harm and no good.

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Dear mr. Abunimah,
With great respect I read your account. This reminds me of words uttered by Rashid Khalidi in The iron cage. It hurts that some people prefer money above humanity towards their brothers. It is unjustifiable that others use this fact, especially against Palestinians, with all international laws on their side.
You are a brave man, fighting an almost impossible, but extremely just cause.
I bear Palestine in my heart.

Marijke

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I guess law schools don't teach jurisprudence anymore. Check out this lawyer's faulty analogy when speaking about the fatwa to visit Jerusalem.

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This is what Richard Silverstein refers to as attempts to "poach" Muslim-American "leadership" and/or "convert them to Zionism or pro-Israelism.” I for one am fed up with the anonymity that some Muslim "leaders" undertake be it in documents and policy where they prefer not to be identified, or by keeping a secret regarding meetings and participation with particular organizations and entities/subjects.

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Honestly, just based on the video one can't conclusively say that the person filming was "battered" or "assaulted." It appears to be night, with very few people present at the sanctuary. The woman looks a bit surprised and/or scared. The guy filming chose a provocative and creepy way to engage the participants. Why not do it normally, in light, not in al Aqsa, without a phone in their face?

That being said, some sort of scuffle appears to ensue. Without good visibility, it's inconclusive.

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It seems clear that the person filming was battered. In most jurisdictions battery can be established when a person comes into contact with something that is being held or worn by another. For example, hitting someone's hat off their head can be battery. In this case, hitting a camera, which is clearly being held close to the body, can be battery.
However, regardless of the legal elements of battery, the person who hit the camera/person acted in a shameful way.

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What if his intent was noble to protect the women from unwanted harassment?

Ali Abunimah's picture

What if his intent was ignoble, to protect MLI participants from public scrutiny and accountability? Either way, assaulting someone is unjustified.

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Amanda Quraishi, an eyewitness present at the altercation, disputes this version. She says that the cameraman was not assaulted, insisting that only the phone was obscured.

Honestly, ask yourself for a moment how you'd present this episode if a random, creepy Israeli man was obtrusively recording a Palestinian woman at night, rudely asking her questions.

I'm not sold on the MLI approach, but I think the mud-slinging is getting distasteful and callous.

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Good job brother. Keep exposing these fitnahs. May the Almighty bless and protect you.

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How can it not be assault/battery? All he did was ask them if they were members of MLI, said he was a Jerusalemite and that he would like to ask them....Bam! No question in my mind. I read the comments first and went to the videos with an open mind! I haven't seen the second one yet, but the first one says it all. Assaulted without a shadow of a doubt.