While America is staunchly pro-Israel, there sits at the foot of the power base of the U.S. government a radical element that wishes to change that reality. The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) is that radical element. But as elected officials gladly jump to attend the group’s affairs, ATFP leaders connected to criminal and/or terrorist activity mysteriously vanish from the group without a word of their leaving, in hope that no one is paying attention. On October 15, 2009, ATFP held its fourth annual gala – a black tie affair – in Washington, D.C. National Security Advisor James L. Jones gave the keynote address for the event; House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Representative Howard Berman provided a letter of support and commendation; and ten current United States Senators and Representatives were named as parties to the gala’s Honorary Host Committee.
This, while ATFP was allowing the participation at the gala of one of the leaders of a group the U.S. government has long considered a terrorist organization. The group was the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the leader was Chief Representative to the PLO to the United States Maen Ariekat. Ariekat was part of the Honorary Host Committee and he gave the introduction to General Jones. As well, Ariekat read a letter of support from global PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas. The letter, as well as Aiekat’s gala remarks, is found on ATFP’s website.
According to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987, which was signed into law by President Ronald Wilson Reagan in December 1987, “[T]he Congress determines that the PLO and its affiliates are a terrorist organization and a threat to the interests of the United States, its allies, and to international law and should not benefit from operating in the United States.”
The Act is still in effect today, albeit it’s been hampered by signed Presidential waivers circumventing its enforcement. The waivers provide convenient excuses for politicians who wish to attend such functions as what’s sponsored by ATFP and give cover to a group that wishes to affiliate itself with extremists.
But while the U.S. President can protect ATFP when it wishes to honor the PLO, he cannot protect the group from its own leadership, a leadership that has been comprised of terrorists and criminals.
ATFP was established in Washington, D.C. in 1995, under the name American Committee on Jerusalem (ACJ). It held its “inaugural public activity” in November of that year, a briefing given by the group’s then-President, Rashid Khalidi. Khalidi had previously been identified in news reports as “a PLO spokesman” and “a director of the Palestinian press agency, Wafa,” (Wikalat al-Anba al-Filastinija), which Khalidi himself has described as “the P.L.O.’s news agency.”
Eight years later, the group changed its name to the American Task Force on Palestine. On the ACJ site, in August 2003, the following message was found: “ACJ is now the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP). Please visit our new website!” And the group provided a hyperlink to it, attached to a ‘thumb nail’ of the new ATFP site.
Immediately, though, the group would completely disown the ACJ. The same month, August 2003, the new website stated the following, “The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) was founded in 2003 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.” Yet, even the group’s current Washington, D.C. corporate status shows ATFP – as ATFP – incorporating in May 1995.
A number of the board members of the ACJ stayed on with ATFP. They included ACJ Chairman Ziad Asali and ACJ President Rashid Khalidi, who became respectively ATFP’s President and Vice President. But one name of particular interest was left off of the new board, that being Abdurahman Alamoudi.
At the time that ATFP was being “founded,” Alamoudi was coming to the end of a terrorist plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah using money obtained from foreign sources, including the Libyan government. On August 13, 2003, Alamoudi, while heading to Damascus, Syria, had $340,000 seized from him in London. On September 28, 2003, Alamoudi was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport.
Alamoudi had been on the ACJ Executive Board for well over five years – of which a good part was spent involved in the terror plot – and the group’s name change could very well have taken effect due to the potential fallout from Alamoudi’s actions.
Another individual who suddenly left the ATFP’s board was Rafaat “Rafi” Dajani. Dajani was Executive Director of “both” ACJ and ATFP. That is, until he was caught robbing ATFP of over $100,000 in donations to the group and forging signatures on ‘thank-you’ letters to the donors. He was sentenced last May to eight years in prison.
And yet another was Tereq Salahi, who was named to ATFP’s Board of Directors in July 2005. Salahi served on the board for well over four years, and he and his wife, Michaele, attended functions for the group that included a number of high profile diplomats. In one photo, which was taken during a December 2006 ATFP delegation trip to the Middle East, Tareq is pictured, along with ATFP President Ziad Asali, shaking hands with Mahmoud Abbas.
However, Salahi’s bio has now been removed from ATFP’s site. Salahi and his wife are currently the subjects of a criminal investigation into how the two were able to breach security in a successful attempt to gain access to the White House this past November. If it is determined that the Salahis knowingly made false statements to the Secret Service – a felony – the two could face up to five years in prison. When questioned by the Congressional Homeland Security Committee on January 21, 2009, they refused to testify.
Much has been made in the media of the Salahis being “gate crashers” and wannabe ‘reality TV’ stars, but little to no coverage has been given to their involvement with a group that associates frequently with a terrorist organization – a group whose own co-founder, Rashid Khalidi, was in the PLO himself. Though, as of March 2005, his bio and photo have been scrubbed from the ATFP website as well.
Question: Who else will leave the ranks of the radical ATFP?
In truth, it may not matter, because it seems, regardless of all the sinister individuals involved, the American Task Force on Palestine will continue to attract those sitting in the highest echelons of government, ready and willing to be used by the terror lobby.