The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) are calling on US congressional representatives to take action against Israel for the March 12th assault of two American sisters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.
During a press conference held at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Virginia, CAIR and AMP representatives criticized the Israeli government for its “disrespect” and mistreatment of American citizens, especially those of Palestinian descent, while visiting the occupied Palestinian territory.
The conference was held to address the violent assault of American sisters Nour, 21, and Safa Hawash, 18, and their mother Germeen, while the three were visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque on March 12th.
The Hawash family found themselves in the middle of confrontations between Israeli police forces and Palestinian worshipers, after the former stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after a nearby Israeli police station was allegedly firebombed.
In videos that were circulated widely on social media, Noor Hawash can be seen being pushed and shoved by Israeli police forces and a female officer attempts to put her in handcuffs.
Speaking at the press conference, Noor’s sister Safa recounted the events that transpired last week:
“We went to take pictures of the Dome of the Rock when we heard sounds of gunfire and saw Israeli soldiers chasing people in all different directions. Within seconds the fire department arrived and great numbers of backup soldiers swarmed the area. The worshipers began to seek refuge and run for their safety, while simultaneously recording and documenting the events as they unfolded.
The Israeli forces raided the Dome of the Rock and proceeded to physically remove worshipers from the mosque. They then lined up at every door and gate and forcefully shut down Al-Aqsa.
An elderly woman in wheelchair was being hurried out of the mosque, when my sister eralized she was about to slip and fall. Another lady was trying to help her, but my sister realized that lady was also being attacked. Noor went in and attempted to help the old lady, when a female soldier grabbed her arms and placed one hand in handcuffs and pushed her to the ground.
Consequently, my mother who was holding onto my sister fell down with her. The soldier sat on my sister and continued to be aggressive with her so that she could successfully place both hands in handcuffs. My sister was holding her US passport in hand when the female soldier threw it to the side, and continued to handcuff her and say ‘I don’t care about your ID’.
Several soldiers gathered around my sister and barricaded her with their feet and bodies forcefully pushing away the men and women who were trying to help her. Another soldier physically assaulted my mom, handcuffed her and pushed her to the wall so she wouldn’t be able to help her daughter.
I was also near my sister and mom but was also aggressively pushed away…I was repeatedly pushed and kicked…”
Safa went on to say that what happened to her family was “only a fragment of what Palestinian people face on a daily basis.”
“We are not first nor last people to face the brutality of Israeli forces,” she said, adding that “supremacy was the common theme” in the attack on worshipers at Al-Aqsa and the massacre at the New Zealand mosques over the weekend.
Following her remarks, AMP Director Osama Abu Irshaid spoke to reporters, saying “this incident before us is just another reminder of Israel’s disrespect to the United States and American citizens.”
Abu Irshaid highlighted the cases of Palestinian-American teenager Tariq Abu Khdeir who was violently beaten by an Israeli soldier in 2014, and 16-year-old Palestinian American Mahmoud Shaalan, who was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at a Ramallah checkpoint in 2016.
He expressed outrage over the fact that in the case of Abu Khdeir, the accused soldier was only sentenced to 45 days of community service, and in the killing of Shaalan, no one was ever held accountable.
“The US never demanded an investigation. No one was punished for murdering that American citizen,” he said.
Abu Irshaid went on to call on congress to invoke the Leahy Laws, which were passed in 1961 and prohibit the State Department and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights with impunity.
“We are giving 3.8 billion dollars of our tax money, money that is being used to subjugate another people and to defy international law,” he said.
“We demand that the Leahy Laws be invoked, we demand an investigation into this incident, we demand that the administration revisits the whole approach in relation to Israel, in relation to the occupation, and in relation to the recent human rights report that dropped the word occupation from the west Bank, Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip.”
Echoing Abu Irshaid’s sentiments, CAIR’s executive Director Nihad Awad said that “Israel has been enabled through billions in military aid to inflict harm on the indigenous population.”
He called on the American public to raise awareness about the Israeli occupation, adding that “it is not going to be easy,” given the influences of the pro-Israel lobby on American politicians.