Meeting Mentor Magazine

June 2024

Middle East Conflict Impacts U.S. Meetings, Travel

As the war between Israel and Hamas continues to rage, the impact of the conflict reaches far outside the Middle East — including leading to cancellation of meetings and events in the U.S.

The war currently raging in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas continues to draw controversy around the world. One thing that is not up for debate is that the impact of the conflict ranges far and wide beyond the battered area of conflict.

As the world continues to follow the ravages of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, some effects of that conflict are hitting much closer to home. For example, an Arlington, Va., hotel cancelled a scheduled annual banquet it had planned to host for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) after receiving several terror threats that targeted the group, American Muslims, and the hotel and its staff, according to an article. The hotel, which had hosted the group’s annual banquet for the past decade, reported receiving anonymous calls that threatened to plant bombs in the hotel’s parking garage, murder specific staffers in their homes, and storm the hotel. The banquet was moved to another venue with additional security, and was merged with a separate event that had to be cancelled at a different hotel in Maryland.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said, We strongly condemn the extreme and disgusting threats against our organization, the Marriott hotel and its staff.”

Another hotel, this one in Houston, announced just 10 days out that it would not host the annual conference of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which was contracted to be at the property from October 27 to 29.

“The safety and security of our team members and guests is our top priority,” the hotel said in a statement. “Given escalating security concerns in the current environment, the hotel has determined that it cannot serve as the venue for this event because of the potential risks to our team members and guests. Our priority is and will remain the safety and security of everyone we welcome at our hotels.”

In addition to threats against Muslim organizations, antisemitic threats in the U.S., which already were rising alarmingly, also are reaching “historic levels,” according to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. “We assess that the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago,” Wray told senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee during a hearing about worldwide threats to the United States, according to The New York Times.

“The ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level,” he added. The biggest concern for the agency is attacks from violent extremists or lone actors in the U.S. inspired by hateful messages and calls to violence.

While no cancellation of U.S.–based Jewish-related meetings or events have been reported as yet, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently said, “Hate directed at Jewish students, communities and institutions add to a pre-existing increase in the level of antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world.” To determine ways to stop the threat, the Biden Administration plans to meet with American Jewish leaders, according to this report.

In addition to taking extra precautions to protect attendees from outside threats, planners should perhaps consider adding threats to the ever-lengthening list of things that should be covered in their force majeure clauses, as well as who needs to pay for extra security should specific threats be leveled against a group or its host venue around the group’s scheduled meeting dates.

State Issues Travel Advisory

As is the case in most cases of war, the current conflict is causing the U.S. State Department to warn U.S. citizens to take extra precautions for travel to any international destination, even if it’s far from the Middle East. “Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” the agency said in an alert in late October.

Among the agency’s recommendations are that U.S. citizens traveling abroad should remain alert when in areas frequented by tourists; enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to be located in the event of an emergency; and follow the Department of State for alerts issued on Facebook and X. The last time the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert was last summer after the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

 

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