ORLANDO, FLORIDA — This Christmas, a prominent anti-Israel organization with ties to global terrorist organizations is set to hold its 2022 convention at the Omni Orlando Resort in Championsgate, Florida.
Headquartered in Orlando, Al-Bireh Society is a prominent and handsomely funded non-profit comprised of expatriates from the Palestinian town of Al-Bireh, whose membership is tied to the upper echelons of Palestinian society. While the organization’s self-described mission is to “perpetuate the Al-Bireh family by means of providing educational, humanitarian, financial, charitable and cultural programs,” its true purpose is to undermine and assail the state of Israel and the Jews who call it home.
Among Al-Bireh Society’s ranks are members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), as well as financial institutions that have been directly implicated in financing Palestinian jihadists in pay-for-slay martyrdom operations.
The main sponsor of Al-Bireh Society’s previous convention in 2018 was the Al-Quds Bank, based in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank. In October 2016, Al-Quds bank signed an agreement with Intissar al-Wazir, the chairwoman of the “Fund for Families of Martyrs of the Injured” which approved of the transfer of pensions to the families of jihadist “martyrs” in the Gaza Strip.
In 2020, a lawsuit was also filed by the Shurat HaDin organization against the Palestinian Authority (PA) on behalf of the families of terrorism victims of the PA’s “pay-for-slay” program in which the PA would pay monthly stipends to the families of terrorist “martyrs” belonging to groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. According to the Jerusalem Post:
“The Shurat HaDin president directly referred to [Mahmoud] Abbas, PA Finance Minister Dr. Shukri Bishara, the head of bodies responsible for Palestinian prisoners and terrorists and the CEO of the [Al-Quds] Bank, as responsible for the crimes.”
Al-Bireh Society’s 2018 convention also featured two prominent members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. While the PLO does not appear on the U.S. State Department’s list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), per US Code, Congress has determined 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.”
Among the PLO members present at the 2018 convention was Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO executive and the daughter of Daoud Mikhail, a founding member of the PLO. Dr. Ashrawi is a well-known and vocal apologist for Islamic terrorism. She is known to frequently refer to suicide bombings as “military operations”, she blatantly justifies the Second Intifada, and she has said that every Israeli who lives beyond the 1949 Armistice Line is a “legitimate and select target of Palestinian resistance.” In 2019, Ashrawi was denied a visa to enter the United States.
Also speaking at the 2018 convention was former PLO senior official Riyad H. Mansour, who worked in 1983 at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United Nations.
The mayor of Al-Bireh, Azam Ismail, only reaffirmed the organization’s ambitions at the 2018 convention. During his remarks addressed to the expatriates of Al-Bireh, Ismail plainly declared his support for “challenging and confronting the ongoing blockage and closures imposed by the Zionist occupation against our people.”
The featured keynote speaker of this year’s Al-Bireh Society convention is the prominent Al Jazeera Jerusalem correspondent and anti-Israel propagandist-in-chief, Walid al-Omari. In May 2022, the head of Hamas’s Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, personally reached out to Omari to offer him and the entire Al Jazeera network his condolences on behalf of Hamas for the “martyrdom” of his colleague, fellow Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aqleh, who was killed in the crossfire during an Israeli counterterrorism operation in early 2022. “We offer our condolences […] on the martyrdom of the righteous daughter, Sherine [sic] Abu Aqleh,” he told Omari in a private phone call.
When asked what the security protocols are currently in place to ensure that the multiple thousands of dollars raised at the convention do not end up in the pockets of Islamic terrorists, Al Bireh Society did not respond to a request for comment.
Ahnaf Kalam is an independent journalist and counter-extremism analyst based in Denver, CO. Follow him on Twitter: @AhnafKalam