University Presidents Speak Out

The Muslim Ban sparked outrage, and rightfully so. Thousands took to the streets to protest the racist, xenophobic and downright ridiculous ban affecting men, women, children and families throughout the country and world. This response doesn’t stop at protests in the streets – university presidents across the US have released statements condemning the ban and expressing how much they value and will work to protect their international student body. This is exciting. University leaders taking a stand not only in solidarity with their students but in response to a hateful statement that affects the entire nation!

 

The first article I saw was actually a Time magazine piece about a letter signed by 50 different university presidents from both private and public universities around the US. This letter, directly addressed to the president, expressed upset over the ban, explaining that it could be a huge threat to the entire field of higher education. It’s a powerful statement from some of the “elite” in this country! Once I saw this, I quickly did further research and found numerous other letters, but most notably, many individual statements from the university presidents themselves. These statements, though moving and warming on their own, are even more so when seen together.

 

Here are a couple of excerpts that stood out to me:

 

Drew G. Faust, president of Harvard University:

“Nearly half of the deans of Harvard’s schools are immigrants — from India, China, Northern Ireland, Jamaica and Iran. Benefiting from the talents and energy, the knowledge and ideas of people from nations around the globe is not just a vital interest of the university; it long has been, and it fully remains, a vital interest of our nation …

“In these times of change, I hope and trust that all of us committed to the strength of American higher education can pursue these efforts together. Let us do so — to borrow the words of the poet Seamus Heaney, one of Harvard’s most beloved visitors from other shores — with our gates unbarred.”

 

President Janet Napolitano, University of California System:

President Janet Napolitano, who served as secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013 under President Obama, and the chancellors of the University of California system expressed “deep concern” for President Trump’s executive order in their statement Sunday. They wrote:

 

“This executive order is contrary to the values we hold dear as leaders of the University of California. The UC community, like universities across the country, has long been deeply enriched by students, faculty, and scholars from around the world, including the affected countries, coming to study, teach, and research. It is critical that the United States continues to welcome the best students, scholars, scientists, and engineers of all backgrounds and nationalities.”

 

Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, Vanderbilt University:

Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos released a statement Sunday expressing concern that Trump’s order would have a “direct adverse impact” on the Nashville, Tenn. school. He also noted the order could limit the university’s ability to recruit “talented individuals from around the world.”

He made the following promises:

“We will continue to monitor closely this and future actions that could affect our students, faculty and staff and will continue to advocate strongly for policies that protect our vibrant, diverse academic community. We will also devote ourselves to serving those on our campus who need our assistance as we strive to support our beloved community.”

 

Dr. Michael V. Drake, president of Ohio State University:

“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. We continue to be focused on providing resources and working actively and quickly to help any other member of our community who might still be affected by this policy change …

“Ohio State remains engaged on this important issue with elected officials and national higher education organizations. While we acknowledge the importance of appropriate visa standards, we are very concerned about the broad implications of this new executive order.”

 

Some of the articles referenced and for further reading:

http://time.com/4660098/donald-trump-universities-immigration-ban/?iid=sr-link1

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/01/30/higher-education-leaders-denounce-trumps-travel-ban

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/universities-respond-to-trump-travel-ban/

http://www.princeton.edu/president/eisgruber/docs/Presidents-Letter-Immigration.pdf

http://college.usatoday.com/2017/01/29/how-universities-are-responding-to-trumps-travel-ban/

 

 

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This is What America Looks Like

By now we have all heard about the #MuslimBan. The un-American Executive Order signed by President Trump (or #NotMyPresident Trump, as many refer to him) over the weekend bars citizens of seven Muslim countries from entering the Unites States. As what has now become expected and the norm, this action sparked a number of spontaneous protests bringing together thousands of Americans to protest the clear racism and absurdity of the ban. Like the marches of last weekend, people took to the streets in downtown DC and New York City, but this time also rushed to the airports to stand in solidarity with arriving passengers who were suddenly unable to legally enter the country. It broke my heart to see the news breaking out over the weekend. Members of families unable to rejoin the rest. Men, women, children – detained and deported. They didn’t come to America for this! WE didn’t come to America for this!

 

Sometimes, I am speechless when there is an act of hate. Not today. This country is known around the world for freedom, opportunity, hope, “the American Dream.” It is a country built by immigrants, refugees, slaves. I know many families who wouldn’t be here if American hadn’t welcomed immigrants or refugees. I wouldn’t be here.

 

I know I do not stand alone with these emotions. This ban is bad. Worse than bad. It’s disgusting. We will be feeling repercussions of this act for the days, months and possibly years to come – in the US and globally.

 

Part of the problem – with the administration, with the country, with the world – is the complete disconnect from the personal sides of these issues. Completely dehumanized. So, rather than go into further detail about the ban, or my reaction, or the world’s continued reactions, I’m going to share some stories. Real people affected by the ban. True effects of a hasty decision.

 

 

 

 

  • Featured on a number of different articles, Nazanin Zinouri, Clemson University professor, was physically removed from her flight and not allowed back into the US. She had been in Iran visiting family. “During her holiday, she started to hear disturbing rumours that a ban was about to happen. ‘Even though I didn’t want to leave my family, I quickly booked a ticket to get on the next flight back,’ she posted on Facebook. ‘Only a few hours after the order was signed, I got to the airport, got on a plane and made it to Dubai. After waiting in the line to get my documents checked and after 40 minutes of questions and answers, I boarded the plane to Washington, only to have two TSA officers getting in and ask me to disembark the plane!!! Yes after almost 7 years of living the the United States, I got deported!! No one warned me when I was leaving, no one cared what will happen to my dog or my job or my life there. No one told me what I should do with my car that is still parked at the airport parking. Or what to do with my house and all my belongings. They didn’t say it with words but with their actions, that my life doesn’t matter. Everything I worked for all these years doesn’t matter.’”

 

 

  • The story of a Syrian refugee married to an American and living in Irbil, Iraq: In November 2016, before he married, Mohammed tried to smuggle himself to Sweden in the hope of a better life. On the way, he was on a boat that sank. Eleven people drowned, including five children. “I was in the water for four hours. I lost hope. I thought everything was finished. I saw the coastguards try to give CPR to a five-year-old child who had already drowned. His mother was crying and the entire scene was the most devastating thing I’ve ever seen. If I go back to Syria I have to join the army and I would have to shoot or be shot. I want to go to America to have a decent, safe life for my family, and be somewhere I can continue my studies and have a future. Now I feel offended because [Trump’s] decision is specifically targeting Muslims. I used to think America was an open-minded country with an open-minded government; but now I’ve seen it’s a racist government, and I can’t raise my children in a racist society so I’m rethinking my decision. Trump’s order must be challenged.”

 

 

 

  • Excerpt from a photojournalist from Palestine who lives in the US. “It’s like waking to a nightmare coming true, something so scary to imagine, yet my family is dragged to live through it. We are living under the threat of [our lives] all vanishing, [it’s] not safe inside and we are not able to go outside [the US] without risking not being able to come back. In an open prison you at least know where you stand; we don’t even know that. Of course I’m terrified, everything that seemed [too] insane to be happening is actually happening on the very first weeks of Trump’s presidency. I’m afraid now we will have the registration for real as Muslims and Middle Easterners. We will be tattooed with numbers and will be taken to camps like they did to the Japanese. To those who will say that’s insane or impossible, I would say we thought Trump winning was impossible, and we thought the Muslim ban is impossible.”

 

 

More stories and context:

 

http://metro.co.uk/2017/01/29/these-people-are-all-affected-by-donald-trumps-muslim-ban-6413033/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/29/trump-travel-ban-peoples-stories-from-us-and-around-the-world

http://www.complex.com/life/2017/01/heartbreaking-stories-individuals-being-detained-as-a-result-trumps-executive-order

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/protests-grow-trump-immigrant-ban-order-170129194912379.html

#WomensMarch

What a weekend

I’m still processing. I think many are still in shock. We Americans have a new President. President Trump. DC this past week had an extra electric charge running through it. Generally, during Inauguration weekend, DC is known to be crowded, flooded with tourists and filled with excitement that is almost tangible. It was the same this year. However, instead of the expected display of patriotism and pride, there was an intense feeling of fear and gloom on Inauguration day, followed by hope and power on the next. Though, like many people I know, I refused to go to the mall for the actual swearing-in ceremony, I had the chance to be downtown a number of times over the past few days.

The highlight, of course, was the Women’s March on Washington. I am still coming down from the power of the event. Hundreds of thousands of women and men protesting together in Washington, with many more thousands doing the same around the world, proved to everyone that we women will not stand idly by, and the potential impact of one original Facebook post. You could feel the energy and passion in the air – more and more people pouring in with signs, pink hats, and looks of determination on their faces.

We took over the National Mall. Though it was nearly impossible to hear the speakers because of the sheer number of people in the space, I was able to catch parts of speeches in between wandering through the crowd and trying to figure out where to go. One speech in particular, that I sadly only caught the last few seconds of, filled me with more pride than I have felt in a long time. Linda Sarsour, a proud Palestinian-American and one of the key organizers of the march, energized the crowd for five minutes without any apology for who she was, how she dressed or what she stood for, and received the largest applause I have ever heard. She ended with the only statement that I was able to hear, but brought tears to my eyes: “Because I organize for my mother, I march for my daughters and all my children. But most of all, I am my Palestinian grandmother who lives in occupied territory’s wildest dreams, my sisters and brothers and I am so proud to be here with all of you. Justice for all.” She is such an inspiration to all Muslim-Americans, Palestinian-Americans, and women around the world. Here is a link to the speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnaT8JxUTY0

Throughout the day, and the eventual marching up and down every major street in downtown DC and near the White House, I was able to see the thousands of signs with everything from clever puns to inspirational quotes to somewhat vulgur but brutally honest pictures and statements in support of women’s rights.

We chanted all day till my voice was sore. “Fired up, ready to go” down one street, “This is what America looks like” down another, and “We won’t go away, welcome to your first day” near the White House. The incredible feeling of marching side by side with women and men from every nationality and religion will never be erased from my memory.

This march was historic. We have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do, but I am now confident that we will do it.

Here are two pictures that I snapped, but there are millions more worth seeing online:

foto_no_exif-1foto_no_exif-2

A little culture, a little positivity #SMBUS

Last week I came across this great little initiative to better display to the world the beauty, and also the neglect, of Palestine. The Social Media Bus has already made a number of tours throughout Palestine – taking bloggers, journalists and photographers to multiple spots that they might not have been to otherwise. Most of the sites visited were in a state of disarray and in desperate need of care. Though there were a number of goals for the trip, one in particular stood out: to publicize and draw attention to the needs of Palestine in a way not done before. Participants of the trip posted pictures on Instagram and social media, produced blogs and wrote short articles using the hashtag #SMBUS to get the word out.

What a great way to not only show off some of the stunning landscape in Palestine, but also to push leaders, fellow citizens and people around the world to step up and help preserve the history and culture of the land! According to the tour guide of the trip, “The youth tours are reviving the Palestinian homeland and presenting it through a different lens using live observations and real contact. This leads to experiences that educate [participants] in terms of geography and history. A cultural youth activity that is unaligned with any political side is using social media to present the Palestinian homeland to the largest audience possible.”

As a blogger, this initiative is so inspiring to see in action. Activities like this need to not only be encouraged throughout Palestine, but promoted both here in the US and worldwide. Keep up the good work and let’s make this even more common in 2017!

To read more, here are two articles:

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/11/west-bank-social-media-bus-archaeology-suffering-areas.html

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/trip-palestine-social-media-bus-161102114845306.html

What a Year!

 

As many have noted all across the internet, 2016 has been a year of celebrity deaths, insane politics and general disappointment in the US and worldwide. On the other hand, activism has taken on new forms and people have joined together in solidarity and protest in ways that give cause for hope!

In a number of my previous posts, I have noted some of the wonderful boycotts fighting against Israeli occupation that have been occurring all over the country, and sometimes abroad, in recent months. I’m not the only one! In honor of the new year, Electronic Intifada came out with the “Top 10” boycotts of 2016. Though this list is by no means extensive, it gives a great overview of some of the successes the BDS movement have had this year. What a great way to move into 2017!

The great thing about this list, and article, is that it breaks down the boycotts into categories – truly showing the impact and variety! Boycotts like the HP Boycott and on-campus BDS resolutions, which I have talked about, made the list and it’s clear that so much more has happened as well.

The big question now, however, is how can we activists have even greater effect this coming year? The article focuses on the successes of the BDS campaigns and a way to think positively for this coming year. Which is fantastic. But what about the failures? It goes without saying that there would be, and will be, failures with anything we fight for. But how can we prevent some of the repeated ones? Looking back on our failures, as well as our successes, can help us strengthen as a movement, and lead to even greater victories in the future!

Here’s to fighting the good fight!

Happy New Year everyone!

Top 10 BDS Campaigns article: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/what-were-top-10-bds-victories-2016

Just Kidding: UN Resolution vote passes

In a last minute twist, four countries took it upon themselves to bring the UN Resolution to vote, and successfully passed it 14 to 0 Friday afternoon. This, unsurprisingly, incited a media storm and significant response from the global community.

In a follow-up to his article posted on Thursday, Ali Abunimah, editor of the Electronic Intifada, published another piece maintaining his original argument. He explains how despite any optimism that the passing of the resolution might spark, he stands by his earlier thoughts that no real action will occur as a result of the resolution passing. He ends stating that “Israel continues to seize Palestinian land and build settlements, while the UN Security Council issues words on paper.”

Unlike pre-vote, where most of the pro-Palestinian voices were in favor of the vote passing, there have been numerous articles, opinion pieces and blogs coming out with concerns of what the resolution means for the Palestinians. Yes, it appears to reinforce how illegal the Israeli settlements are, and seems to emphasize the importance of distinguishing the occupied territories from other parts of the land. Several articles touch upon the idea that the resolution actually justifies, and even could encourage, legitimacy of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement – specifically from the settlements. According to an Al-Jazeera article, great significance should be given to paragraph 5, which calls on “all States … to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” This, according to ’Nadia Hijab, executive director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, “is effectively a call to cease trade, economic and financial transactions with the settlements.” This is likely to boost growing efforts to subject Israel to various forms of boycotts, including the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign – especially since, as Hijab notes, “the settlements are an integral part of the Israeli economy.”

On the other hand, as Abunimah points out, this is not new. Previous resolutions have explained just this – so where is the pressure to make this a reality? Will it change anything, especially going into a Trump administration? On the positive side, if little else, the resolution passing seems to have shocked the pro-Israel community in Israel and the US and sent many into panic about the effect it will have on Israel. One author explained that “while the resolution contains no sanctions, Israeli officials are concerned it could widen the possibility of prosecution at the International Criminal Court. They are also worried it could encourage some countries to impose sanctions against Israeli settlers and goods produced in the settlements.” Both of these points could be great for Palestine, but it is unclear whether they will actually occur.

Hope everyone celebrating had a Merry Christmas here in the US, in Palestine and around the world and may we all have a wonderful New Year!

Al-Jazeera posted a video clip of Palestinian reactions to the vote – most strongly in favor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=625YI9sFk18

Here is the reaction of Abunimah:

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/us-lets-security-council-pass-resolution-against-israeli-settlements

Two Al-Jazeera articles referenced above:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/envoy-israel-summoned-settlement-vote-161225161135636.html

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/12/symbolic-resolution-israeli-settlements-161225090953898.html

 

POSTPONED: UN Resolution Against Settlement Building

Yesterday, Thursday, the UN was supposed to vote on a resolution to help put an end to Israeli settlement building. Leading up to the vote, over the past week or so, there have been a number of interesting articles on the resolution both in favor and against. Today, after the vote was postponed – seemingly indefinitely – the tone of the articles seemed to shift to better explain what happened, some blaming Trump for interfering, some Benjamin Netanyahu, others the Obama administration, and others simply expressing their frustration at the system and lack of action in general. Until today, while following this situation, I agreed with many of the articles that I found supporting the resolution and looking towards it with hope to further oppose the Israeli occupation.

Until today, that is.

When beginning to write this post, I came into it frustrated at the prospect of yet ANOTHER blow to the Palestinian people. Then I came across an article published on the Electronic Intifada about how the resolution could actually be harmful for the Palestinians, the opposite of most opinions. The main argument is simply that most of the language in the resolution is not new and can be found in other resolutions, therefore not generally beneficial. The article continues adding that the resolution takes no action. It “only commits the Security Council to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions.” Examination meaning the continued colonization of Palestinian land. So why is the language put forth in these resolutions all about “examining” and not about “doing”?

This ties back to my earlier posts with “What If” questions. What if this resolution, championed as something positive for Palestine and anti-occupation, was, in fact, something detrimental?

Now that it has been postponed, the issue is less pressing, but far from over. The real question is how can we turn this into real actionable plans for a Palestinian state?

Here are some of the articles I found on the topic:

The Electronic Intifada article: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/why-un-resolution-settlements-would-be-bad-palestinians

Al-Jazeera: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/unsc-vote-israeli-settlement-activity-161222035742518.html

 

Everyone is talking about it.

Everyone is talking about how no one is talking about it. Syria – the country whispered about but not truly acted upon. The main question across the internet, the news, the people is “why?” Did the world forget about Syria, and if so, how?

Over the past week, I have noticed an increasing number of articles, blogs, video clips and general social media presence regarding the crisis in Syria. A recent New York Times article showed images from Syria in addition to other terrible situations from history to prove the point of the world’s lack of action today. Interestingly, this cannot fall to the blame of one country’s inaction or negligence, but rather both the western world and even the entire Arab world. An Al-Jazeera opinion piece published last week titled “The ‘Palestinisation’ of the Syrian people” went into detail about the lack of action taken worldwide to help the Syrian people. He summarized explaining that, “With good reason, the revolutionary thinker Yassin al-Haj Saleh wrote of the “Palestinisation” of the Syrian people. Sixty-eight years after failing to defend Palestine, Arab states have proved incapable of defending Syria from Russian, Iranian and ISIL occupation.” When the world constantly tries to forget Palestine, we work to join together to show solidarity and unification.

Where are the rallies for Syria?

“None of this stays in Syria. So how do the Arabs respond? Hamas organised a protest in Gaza, Kuwaitis demonstrated outside the Russian embassy, and Qatar cancelled its national day celebrations. It’s not nearly enough.” The Al-Jazeera author is right. It’s not nearly enough. Last Thursday, on December 15, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) organized a rally to bring together a few hundred people to listen to speakers about the crisis, show solidarity and work to find ways to better support the Syrian people. “Proponents called on the gathered supporters to offer whatever aid they can to the people of Syria and their struggle, including writing their elected representatives in Congress and donating money to relief organizations.” This should be happening in every major city across the US! It was so great to see AMP planning such a successful event, but we should all be encouraging, attending and even helping organize these kinds of activities.

In the UK, some moves to protest have been made as well: http://www.news.com.au/world/breaking-news/thousands-protest-syrias-war-in-uk/news-story/c83ae60cf148de37e2c42daeab252a98

NY Times article with pictures: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/14/world/middleeast/kimmelman-images-of-aleppo.html?_r=0

Al-Jazeera Opinion article: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/12/palestinisation-syrian-people-161217083427475.html

Chicago AMP rally: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-bridgeview-aleppo-rally-st-1216-20161215-story.html

Entering Darkness – One Ambassador Pick at a Time

As Trump continues to select far right extremist racists to head key cabinet positions, his recent pick for the new ambassador to Israel has raised concern and outrage from many parts of the American community. There have been countless articles explaining how the selection of David Friedman, Trump campaign advisor and lawyer, will not only cause harm to the Palestinian people, but also significantly alter long-standing US policy. One of the main things Friedman has been quoted on is his desire to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from its current location in Tel Aviv. He also has been published saying that he supports settlement building and other right wing perspectives that contradict US policy, including the support of a two-state solution. 

This is a disaster. In earlier posts I lamented about the true problems that could arise under a Trump administration – and this only further confirms those concerns.

Though there has been a loud outcry from the pro-Palestinian world and from progressive movements in the US, this is yet just another proof of how much worse things will be for the future of Palestine. To make matters worse, according to a Time article published yesterday, Friedman is the perfect selection in the eyes of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The right-wing attitudes around the world are only growing stronger by the day, and this helps top it off. Those of us who are activists must encourage those who are more silent to come out and demonstrate in opposition to the atrocities that are inevitable in the coming months and years for the Palestinians and Palestine. Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem – a city sacred to the Palestinians despite claims declaring the opposite – would cause turmoil in Jerusalem, in Palestine. Palestinians should not and would not sit quietly if the US completely shifted its policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite many administrations, organizations and many of us in the population exclaiming the opposite. This move would send the message to the world that the US no longer advocates for the two-state solution, or even one that will end well for the Palestinians.


We are entering dark times for my people, for Palestine, for the world.

Here are a couple articles outlining this situation even further:

Time: http://time.com/4605223/donald-trump-israel-david-friedman/

CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/15/politics/trump-picks-campaign-adviser-friedman-as-us-ambassador-to-israel/

Electronic Intifada: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/group-headed-trumps-israel-envoy-pick-sued-war-crimes

Al-Jazeera: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/palestinians-decry-trump-choice-israel-ambassador-161217050117312.html

Let’s Talk About Education

During my normal peruse of the news related to my beloved Palestine, I came across this lovely, hopeful piece and decided today I would write about something a bit more light-hearted. The Vanguards of Hope School in Nablus recently won a $1 million prize dedicated to reading at the school and they plan to use it to help expand their library and provide more books in the classrooms. According to the article, the teachers at the school came together several years ago to discuss how students at Vanguards of Hope, and in the Arab world in general, aren’t reading for fun. They set out on a mission to change this. After being selected to participate in Dubai’s Arab Reading Challenge (ARC), and eventually winning prize money, the teachers have noticed a significant change in the students – they have started to bring books with them simply for pleasure and not for assignments.

Education is the core of everything. It’s absolutely wonderful to see people so dedicated to their students and paving the way in the Arab world. These young students, mostly in primary and elementary school, are proving the statistics wrong. Though studies have shown that Arab children read far less on average than those in the West, initiatives like this work to improve the education and general life of students in Palestine. We need to not only encourage these directives, but also bring attention to them, so that more people can get involved in these types of initiatives.

Here is the article: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/west-bank-reading-fun-palestine-161120072240726.html