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November 22, 2018 9:51 am

Why Won’t Hyatt Stand Up to Anti-Israel Hate?

avatar by Samantha Rose Mandeles

Opinion

A Hamas military drill in the Gaza Strip in March 2018. Photo: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

On September 26, Mark Hoplamazian, the CEO of Hyatt Hotels, announced that the chain would no longer host hate groups, declaring that if an organization “is primarily focused on disparaging a group by virtue of their identity … that’s really where we need to draw the line.”

While Hoplamazian’s statement was welcome, there are concerns that his policy will not be applied equitably. After all, over the last four years, the extremist organization American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) has hosted its annual conference at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago. These events have featured a parade of antisemitic speakers advocating the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state. Hyatt has never objected. Indeed, this year’s convention is scheduled for November 22-24 at the same location.

On November 13, armed with sourced quotes and screenshots of AMP’s extremism, Islamist Watch wrote to Mark Hoplamazian and asked him to prevent AMP from using Hyatt hotels to spread its hateful ideology. Hoplamazian did not respond.

A few days later, we wrote to Mr. Hoplamazian again. This time, we did receive a reply, but it was nothing more than a boilerplate brush-off. In the letter, a Hyatt “Senior Guest Care Specialist” advised us, “To protect the privacy of our guest, we would be unable to share information about upcoming groups at our hotels.”

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This irrelevant and impersonal response is concerning. As we pointed out to Hyatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s characterization of AMP as “a platform for anti-Semitism” is borne out every time AMP’s staff and event speakers peddle antisemitic tropes, and portray violence against Israeli Jews as honorable.

For example, AMP Associate Director Taher Herzallah declared at AMP’s 2014 Hyatt conference,“Israelis have to be bombed, they are a threat to the legitimacy of Palestine, and it is wrong to maintain the State of Israel.” In a 2018 AMP lecture, AMP-New Jersey president Sayel Kayed endorsed deadly violence perpetrated against Israelis during the intifadas. He also praised an audience member who repeated the outlandish conspiracy theory that Ashkenazi Jews are not true Jews, but ethnic Russians, descended from “Khazars.”

At another AMP event, its National Policy Director, Osama Abu Irshaid, echoed Kayed’s sentiments, claiming that most modern Jews are “not [real] Jews.” Irshaid has previously written that Hamas is “an army for liberation,” whose fighters “rise up for the blood of martyrs.” He has also praised Hamas’ “steadfastness and sacrifice,” and asserted, “Gaza is victorious. … The descendants of the Muslim David are rubbing the dust with the nose of the descendants of the Jewish Goliath.”

Examples of AMP’s antisemitism are plentiful, and we presented far more to Mark Hoplamazian than can be listed here. So it remains unclear how exactly AMP’s bigotry is not worthy of Hyatt’s “line” in the sand.

We let Hyatt and its media team know that we planned on composing this piece, sent them a request for comment, and tried to contact Mr. Hoplamazian’s assistant as well. We received no response from any members of the Hyatt staff.

Our message to Mr. Hoplamazian is simple: In a world of ever-increasing expressions of anti-Jewish hate, Hyatt has the opportunity to lead by example and demand positive change. All Hyatt has to do is adhere to the principles that it professed publicly and proudly barely two months ago.

Samantha Rose Mandeles is the Coordinator of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. Follow her on Twitter @SRMandeles.

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