Perseverance

While more and more people are waking up to the brutal reality of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, we must continue to galvanize a new wave of support across the United States, and plan for new and effective campaigns, calling for NO American support for Israel and the occupation. Alliances between various minority groups are all the more important these days under the Trump administration. As young Palestinian Americans, it is our duty to stand up and fight because no one is going to fight OUR fight if we aren’t on the front lines beside them.

The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights will host a week of action from June 5-10. You can check out the Facebook event here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1953145034915140/

There will be 50 actions nationwide during this week, to demand an end to Israel’s brutal military occupation, as part of our commitment to justice for all Palestinians, in exile and in our homeland.

Check out this link for action ideas and to sign up so USCPR can support your action and promote it: https://uscpr.org/campaigns/50actions/

Amazing events like this give me hope, and now could not be a better time for such action, as Israel continues to be supported by Americans and politicians who are not being held accountable. We need to figure out how to hold these politicians responsible for their continuation of the Israeli occupation. It is up to us, young Palestinian Americans, who are willing to stand up and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Palestinians deserve freedom and justice and we will prevail.

Share this post with your friends, tell them about this event and support this righteous cause!

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Palestine Advocacy Day

For many of us, there are endless opportunities to engage, protest, and demonstrate and too often, important events are overlooked because we are simply too overwhelmed. However, don’t get overwhelmed this time! If you plan to be in the DC area at the end of the month, then this one is definitely worth attending.

AMP and the Palestine Youth Movement will host the third annual Palestine Advocacy Day and Training from April 29-May 1. Ahlam Lbara, Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny are all set to speak. The advocacy day this year will include two days of intensive training, in which participants will learn how to engage with elected officials. The Palestinian Youth Movement is working with AMP to get more Palestinian American students to attend and for those students who are reading this—you must participate! It is a unique opportunity to received training from legislative affairs experts and learn about the legislative process at the local, state and federal levels.

Nothing is more important than advocating for what you believe in and this is a great opportunity for students and young activists to become involved. No one is going to stand up for us if we don’t stand up for ourselves first!

For more information about the advocacy day, you can contact Taher Herzallah at taher@ampalestine.org or check out the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/308853562851008/

Also, if you aren’t already involved in AMP, you can find your chapter here: http://www.ampalestine.org/events/palestine-advocacy-day-2017

 

ATTENTION: UN Report Calls Israel An Apartheid State

Finally! This past week the UN published a report declaring to the world what Israel actually is: an Apartheid State. Though this report is long overdue, it comes at a time when support for Palestinian rights is growing and people are starting to internalize the facts that many of us activists have been saying for years. The report goes into detail about the oppression of Palestinians and years of Occupation, giving clear justification for the BDS movement and activities. As expected, the publishing of the report was met with significant backlash from the pro-Israel community. Everyone from the Israeli UN Envoy to US Israel Lobbies to the US Ambassador to the UN immediately condemned the well-researched and detailed report claiming falsehoods and demanding the report to be withdrawn.

Unacceptable.

It is ridiculous that senior officials in the UN would not only allow outside groups to influence UN decisions while at the same time apply pressure themselves on their fellow colleagues. Additionally, the head of Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Rima Khalaf, resigned from the UN after she was pushed to withdraw the report. While I applaud Khalaf’s strength to make such a statement against the undue pressure she received, I think it is such a tragedy that she would even have to take this kind of action. We should all look to her as an example – we must NOT break in the face of lies and adversaries; rather we must make the right choices for ourselves, for our people and for the world at large.

Thank you, Rima Khalaf, for showing the world the true face of Israel and for ensuring that this report receives the proper place in the UN and the recognition it deserves.

My reading recommendations:

Israeli Apartheid Week – Worldwide!

Every year, around this time in the early spring, campuses in the US hold an Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). Though each campus is unique in terms of the actual activities held, generally there is a mock apartheid wall put up covered in facts about Israeli Apartheid and the Israeli Occupation. Many campuses also have multiple events focused on Palestine and student activists table on campus regularly to promote the events and bring awareness to the oppression committed daily against Palestinians.

This week, there has been a lot of media coverage surrounding IAW in the UK. Despite pressure and attempts to cancel events all across the country, pro-Palestinian activists managed to still successfully organize and hold many activities at 30 UK universities! What a job well done. This is what perseverance and activism truly looks like and should be used as an example across the US, as well.

Additionally, this article caught my eye immediately when looking for more coverage of IAW and I had to hold back tears: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/02/palestinian-students-apartheid/ This ending is something that should be blasted around the world: “Go further to make this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week as strong and well attended as you possibly can, and use it as a platform for building the BDS movement. No matter what you face, take courage from us and we will take hope from you.”

To the students on American campuses: Now is your time! I believe in you and support you.

Feel free to check out some of the articles I read:

And the winner of Arab Idol is… Palestine!

This is pretty cool. Actually, more than pretty cool. This is AWESOME. Yacoub Shaheen made history this weekend as he became the second Palestinian to win Arab Idol. This competition, which may sound familiar to my fellow Americans growing up with American Idol, brings together competitors from all across the region to show off their talents as singers – all while representing their hometown with pride.

 

And that’s just what Shaheen did.

 

Originally from Bethlehem, Shaheen has participated in a number of competitions in the past, but none with a following like Arab Idol. With millions of viewers throughout the Arab world and across the globe, his win helped put Palestine back on the map. Though the finale itself took place in Beirut, Palestinians gathered around a huge jumbotron in the center of Manger Square in Bethlehem, where the show was being broadcasted, to watch Shaheen win first place. I wish I could have been there! Viewers celebrated together dancing in the streets late into the night. The song Shaheen sang after he won, draped in a huge Palestinian flag, surrounded by the first Palestinian to win Arab Idol in 2013 and a fellow Palestinian finalist from this year, is a beautiful song of hope of Palestine.

 

Needless to say, I was in tears.

 

Mabruk ya Yacoub! Thank you for showing the world through song how beautiful our homeland is and for being a positive light when it often feels like a time of darkness.

Check out this great short video Al-Jazeera put together for the final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12kEr2T8WAw

 

The event was widely covered in the media:

 

Protests: Senate Chamber Edition

Last week Palestine made the news in more ways than one. On Thursday, David Friedman’s controversial confirmation hearing took place in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ever since Trump announced his selection of Friedman as new US Ambassador to Israel, there has been constant and significant, and completely warranted, backlash from the pro-Palestinian and anti-Occupation movements. Friedman’s positions not only represent an extreme far right wing approach to Israel/Palestine, but also alienates so many of us who are on the left, Palestinian-American, or simply advocates for human rights. Additionally, there has been a noticeable rift within the Jewish community surrounding Friedman. Despite the horrific effect Friedman’s appointment would have on the Palestinian people, the silver lining here is the clear sense of solidarity that goes beyond differences in religion, gender, or background.

 

Friedman’s confirmation began with excitement. Several activists, not just one or two, stood up in protest with signs, wearing t-shirts and holding Palestinian flags while loudly exclaiming Freidman’s anti-Palestinian views and how he doesn’t represent them. These protesters were Palestinians, Jewish Americans and members of other groups coming out to oppose the appointment. These groups included the American Muslims for Palestine, Code Pink and a Jewish group called IfNotNow. Known as a left-wing anti-Occupation group, IfNotNow members disrupted Friedman’s opening remarks by blowing a horn, singing Jewish songs of peace and adding their own perspective to the shouting. Here is a quick video clip showing this part of the protest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcezeSIGnXI

 

All I have to say is….wow.

 

Standing up for the rights of others, of men and women in the US and Israel/Palestine who will be negatively affected by Friedman’s right-wing policies, of Palestinians – and doing so in such a public way – is so impressive and something to be admired. Capitol Police arrested six people after escorting them from the room for protesting. We have seen the protests on the streets and on campus across the country, but this takes it to a new level. Though they may not stop the confirmation, these actions show the Senate, the public, and perhaps most importantly, David Friedman, that there are voices to be heard that cannot be ignored.

 

So, what’s next? How will this confirmation affect those of us here in the US – Arab-Americans, Palestinian-Americans, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, White Americans – and what does this mean for our brothers and sisters over in Palestine? Will our voices continue to be shut out so we can no longer express our feelings, our concern, our discontent over what is happening? NO. We must find new ways to protest, new ways to resist, new ways to stand in solidarity side-by-side to fight for what is right!

 

Here are some of the many articles I found covering the protests and hearing:

“Bibi, Go Home!”

Yesterday, both in Washington and other major cities across the US, protests against Trump continued. This time, however, the topic was Palestine. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with Trump yesterday at the White House and held a joint press conference. Before, during and especially after the meeting, hundreds of people – including Jews and Muslims standing together – marched in the streets with signs and chants. Everything from “Free Palestine” to “Bibi Go Home” to anti-wall and anti-ban slogans were prominently displayed in front of the White House and Trump properties. These are not new ideas, this is not a revolutionary protest. That being said, with all of the media attention on the ongoing protests around the country, it is about time that there is more focus put on Palestinian rights! What makes yesterday’s protests unique – and help further my point about what an incredible time we are living in – is not the impact we may or may not be having on US policy decisions, but rather the impact we are having on one another. This is a time when we not only have the ABILITY to fight for what is important to us, but also the STRENGTH to do so in solidarity with so many others..

The meeting and press conference was heavily covered by the media, while many of the articles discussing the protests focused on the large number of Jews and Jewish groups that were present, and less on the protest themselves. Despite the news, these protests are significant. They finally show that despite the vast spectrum of ideas that can be found in the US, there are so many that unite us as well. These protests specifically addressed many of the policies in Israel/Palestine, opposition to the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the appointment of far-right David Friedman to become US Ambassador to Israel, and simply the visit of Netanyahu in its entirety.

Let’s join together to continue the fight for justice and against the Israeli occupation – in DC, on the streets and even online!

Here are a few articles directly discussing the protests:

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/hundreds-protest-trumps-meeting-netanyahu-1739463824

http://www.albawaba.com/loop/not-our-presidents-jewish-protesters-demonstrate-against-netanyahu-and-trump-938638

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/02/16/510764/Americans-protest-policies-of-Israel-Netanyahu-visits-DC

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/trump-netanyahu-meeting-lays-ground-one-state-solution

More Bans: Protection of Society or Even Less Freedom?

 

Last week, while the US continued to protest Trump’s immigration ban, a completely different ban was taking place. Abbad Yahya, a known Palestinian author who has published numerous books, is now facing a ban of his most recent book, Crime in Ramallah. Though not comparable to the Muslim Ban in terms of scale or effect, this ban from the Palestinian Authority directly against a Palestinian, one of their own, troubles me. Yahya himself explained that it was more than just a book ban: this is an act of censorship and directly preventing him from returning to his home and family in Ramallah.

 

This is a tough one.

 

On the one hand, the PA seems to be trying to maintain a certain sense of unity and protection of Palestinians, while remaining optimistic in the public eye. This is a notion distorted by the media at every opportunity. We are always seeing the harsh negatives of the PA, rather than trying to look at situations in a more positive light. Though only some of the articles mention it, the Palestinian culture minister, Ehab Bseiso, posted on Facebook his interest in reading the book and his opposition to the ban.

 

On the other hand, this looks like a blatant attempt to strictly control language and perceptions of everyday Palestinians. The book, which was quickly removed from shelves across Palestine, describes some of the hardships Palestinians face – even within their own communities and with the government. The biggest concerns that Ahmed Barak, Palestine’s attorney general, brought up in opposition to the book included the book’s “indecent texts and terms that threaten morality and public decency, which could affect the population, in particular, minors”. While this book, perhaps, is not appropriate for children, this is an absurd cover-up for censorship.  As a writer and a Palestinian, this hits close to home. Rather than a positive portrayal of Palestinian society, this seems like a significant step in the opposite direction. Freedom of expression is a right that I not only value greatly, but also hold very dear. For years, my people have been living under Israeli oppression and occupation – sometimes using our speech is the only way to feel free. Why not rise up to provide additional encouragement to the Palestinian people? Freedom is becoming increasingly more difficult to come by these days – why add further limitations?

 

End this ban. Send Yahya home safely to his family, to his life, and allow the world to see a perhaps new perspective of Palestinian society in his book. I, for one, will be researching how to get myself a copy. Join me!

 

Articles:

Our New Reality

 

It’s an activist’s world out there these days. Protests have become the new norm, and suddenly those who aren’t taking a stand are becoming the minority. This is especially true in the big cities – DC, New York, LA, etc – where activists are taking to the streets daily.

Over the last few days, I have read countless articles, statements, and stories of Americans standing up to help refugees, university presidents fighting for the protection of their students and families, and everyone from elected officials to freshmen in college engaging in protests. I feel empowered but also frustrated watching all of this happen – there is clear overlap between all of these different groups which should instill a sense of unity and common goal.  Instead, we let our differences separate us. The president statements I wrote about yesterday are a good example. Universities all over the country are drastically different from one another – especially in regards to the student body –yet the statements all send the same message, demonstrating the solidarity taking place.

A few universities stuck with the messaging, but addressed campus-specific cases. The statement by the President of Ohio State University, for example, stuck out. The president begins by expressing relief that the wife of a student, who had been detained for hours and threatened with deportation after arriving back to the US from a trip to Iran, was allowed safe re-entry into the country. He drew on this sentiment of working together: “We are grateful for the hard work of so many over the weekend, including our elected officials, to help secure the release of our student’s wife detained in New York. Our focus is, and always will be, the safety and well-being of our students and the Ohio State community.” This story, though similar in plotline to others I had seen and mentioned in previous posts, is unique in the way it attracted attention from the university and was addressed publicly in an official capacity.

I got curious. So I dove into the story: Mohamad Zandian, a current doctoral student at The Ohio State University, was waiting for his wife Parisa in New York to return from a family visit to Iran when she was detained and then told she would have to go back to Iran and could not re-join her husband. Immediately, Mohamed and others scrambled to figure out how to have her released. This is when the university president and elected officials stepped in. They worked together to not only have her released, but also able to come back into the US. Wow. What a show of strength to help a singular student so drastically and efficiently! The Ohio State University has had a tough academic year so far – with an active shooter in the fall and now a dramatic public situation covered by local and national media.

The students took a stand as well! This past Friday, students across campus wore black in solidarity with Muslims affected by the ban, explaining that “in the face of division let’s stand together.” Organized by the Arab Student Union, this event drew hundreds and hundreds of students together in solidarity and was promoted by many groups on campus helping represent a larger student body. Through this research, I was thrilled to see that groups are also joining together on campus for another relevant cause – divestment! There is no better time to rally for such an important cause, and one that not only opposes hate and oppression, but also fights for human rights! Students on campus: you are the voices and you have the opportunity now to truly make a difference. There is nothing more empowering than that!

 

OSU President’s official statement: https://president.osu.edu/presidents/drake/news-and-notes/2017/note-from-president-about-immigration-policy.html

More stories, including Mohamed and Parisa’s: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/01/politics/immigration-ban-stories/

Local newspaper article giving more context and information about the story: http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170128/wife-of-ohio-state-student-detained-released-from-trumps-travel-ban

Article in OSU school newspaper about the on-campus protest: http://thelantern.com/2017/02/student-orgs-plan-blackout-to-protest-trump-immigration-order/

Clip about protest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMYnqM-yeq4