Category Archives: Opinion/analysis

In Douma, they miss Riham’s smiles

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog has been dormant for a long time. I’m in the process of creating a new site, which will have a broader scope and encompass many issues facing contemporary Muslims, such as Palestine, Islamophobia, identity.  I was waiting to conclude the transition before posting anything new. But this column was written in Arabic by a friend and colleague of mine, who was at Riham’s funeral. Its urgency lies in its poignancy and timeliness. So, with his permission, it is reprinted here in English. By the time Riham had died on Sept. 6, 2015 from the wounds she sustained after Israeli settlers firebombed her house, the world’s attention had moved on. Let us remember Riham, the way we remembered Ali, 18 months, and her husband Saad. Four-year-old Ahmed is still recovering from burns covering most of his little body.]

By Khaldoun Barghouti
Ramallah, Palestine
Occupied West Bank

The graves of the three members of the Dawabshe family, after Riham's funeral on Sept. 7, 2015.

The graves of the three members of the Dawabshe family, after Riham’s funeral on Sept. 7, 2015.

It’s not the smell of the Dawabshe’s burned house that will remind the visitors of what happened 40 days ago, neither will the walls of it’s original colours, which disappeared under a thick, black layer that will remind the 4-year-Ahmad of what happened to his family.

A Molotov cocktail, a bunch of Israeli settlers, and the last 40 days are enough to engrave the image Douma and Palestine of what settler terror can do.

A few days ago, Riham Dawabshe turned 27, but she didn’t finish her first day in the new year of her life. She joined her husband who died on their anniversary, and her 18-month-old son, 40 days after settlers burned him alive.

“I miss her smile, she always kept smiling, and I will miss the time I used to spend with her, asking for advice” said Alia Dawabshe, Rahim’s 13-year-old sister.

Alia turns back and disappears into the crowd of women dressed in black in her parents’ house. Their eyes are directed to the road, from where the coffin of Riham will be brought for the last good-bye.

dawabshe family

Saad, Ali and Riham Dawabshe

A few minutes later, Riham was there. The girls from Jourish school were all crying for  her. She was a math teacher, but
for these girls she was more than that.

“She treated us as if we were her daughters or little sisters. She used to spend time listening to us, and finding solutions to our problems, and now she’s gone, and it seems the killers will escape with their murder” said Nisreen, 17.

Riham’s mother had the last chance to see her covered body. She wasn’t allowed to see the face of her daughter; 90 percent of her body had been burned trying to rescue her children.

Ahmed Dawabshe, the sole survivor of the Israeli settler firebomb attack, is still recovering from his wounds.

Ahmed Dawabshe, the sole survivor of the Israeli settler firebomb attack, is still recovering from his wounds.

The relatives carried the coffin and rushed out of the house, while the cries rose higher and higher. They passed the blackened windows of the burned house. The body was laid for the funeral prayer service in the school yard. The school was renamed recently after her son Ali and her husband Saad Dawabshe. Now the name Riham will join them.

The Imam lead the prayer, and in the end he asked God for  peace to be upon her. A peace that seems so far from becoming true in Palestine.

Riham was carried on shoulders and taken to the cemetery. There were two fresh graves. A small one where Ali was buried, and the other held Saad.

While Riham was being buried, some people addressed the mourners. The loud speakers were so nearly deafening, but six feet under Ali and Saad were not listening. They were busy welcoming Riham, asking her about Ahmad, and whether he is going to heal from his burns.

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Filed under Current events, Opinion/analysis

Crying out in the darkness that is Occupied Khalil

I spent my life between occupation and occupation
And all the times of my life only know occupation and blood and fear and terror

murad.main

The above lines come from a poem written by Murad “Palestina” Amro. A young man from Hebron. His poems are published below. But first some background.

I’ve written about Murad ‘Palestina” before. This time, I’m not writing about him as much as I am just forwarding on his own words.  Words of Anguish. Words of Fear. Words of Despair. Words of Outrage at our silence; our complicity and our attempt to ignore the very real devastation wreaked at the hands of Zionist Occupation forces.

murad.butterflyI first started ‘talking’ to Murad in October 2011, a few months after my last trip to Palestine. Somehow pictures he posted of Hebron’s grape festival appeared on my facebook page and I posted a comment. From that time, I have come to know Murad as someone who finished a degree in agronomy, who loves to ride and train horses. He’s peaceful, generally happy and is not afraid to post pictures of butterflies or cats online.

In the past several months, Murad and his colleague in Youth Against Settlements have been arrested, some multiple times, harassed, threatened, beaten and, in the case of Issa Amro, tortured and threatened with death.  About 500 Jewish settlers are living illegally within the city of Hebron. Another 6,000 or so live in settlement blocs surrounding the outskirts of the city. Because of them, the Old City market – an area of a mere .6 miles –  now has 101 closures; more than 20 security cameras, some of which are mobile and follow you around. More than 1,700 shops have closed either by military order or because the closures keep shuhada streetout customers. The main thoroughfare – Shuhada Street – is off limits to Palestinians, who are relegated to a dusty path alongside the street, demarcated by cement barriers. In the pictures on the right, you can see Shuhada Street, taken during my visit in October 2010. In the second picture, you’ll see that internationals can walk down the street. These were members of the Christian group I traveled with. However, I was not allowed on Shuhada Street either. Not because I’m Palestinians – because I’m not. But because I wear a headscarf.

shuhad street2

After Baruch Goldstein, an American Jewish physician, gunned down 29 Palestinians in cold blood a they were prostrate in prayer in the Ibrahimi mosque in 1994, Occupation Authorities closed the Muslim worship center. When it reopened, a third of it was left for Muslims, who now must go through three security checkpoints to access their prayer hall, where 12 cameras record every move and every word.  Jewish worshipers are able to access the two-thirds of Ibrahimi mosque – now off limits to Palestinians – freely and without having to endure any security measures.

Since my first visit to Hebron in October 2010, things have gotten steadily worse, thanks to rampant settler violence and Zionist military incursions and night raids. During President Obama’s recent trip to the Holy Land, IOF forces rounded up school children in Hebron, all without comment from the purportedly  most powerful man in the world.

A new report by the United Nations Human Rights Council about the impact of settlers on Palestinian life categorizes the interlopers into three categories. This one best describes the settlers who daily intimidate and harass residents of Hebron:

 A third group seems to be motivated by political and religious ideologies; they live in the central part of  the West Bank, often very close to Palestinian communities.

The report lists some of the methods settlers use against Palestinians, especially those who live in Hebron:

The mission heard numerous testimonies on violent attacks by settlers, including  physical assaults, the use of knives, axes, clubs and other improvised weapons, as well as shootings and the throwing of Molotov cocktails. The testimonies also recounted the  psychological impact of intimidation by armed settlers trespassing on Palestinian land, at  Palestinian water springs or in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods in Hebron and East Jerusalem. In some cases, testimonies described years of violence and intimidation directed at the same Palestinian family living in proximity to settlements that had pushed it to abandon its properties.

The Israeli army also has a hand in evicting Palestinians from their homes and villages surrounding Hebron, according to the report:

The Israeli army routinely demolishes their shelters and  property, including those provided by or built with the assistance of aid agencies and  international donors. In the South Hebron hills, eight villages are at risk of eviction to make way for a new firing zone.

Murad has lived with this for most of his life. But his poems came shortly after his cousin Issa was released this week from Israeli custody, where he was tortured and threatened with death. I’ve reported in the past that one of the wifi networks used by settlers is named, “Kill Issa.”

Issa founded the non-violent youth movement called Youth Against Settlements. In addition to protesting the occupation non-violently, YAS also runs a community center where  youth are taught skills and coping mechanism. Because of his activism, Issa has been marked for arrest and intimidation.  In fact, prior to his most recent arrest, he had been taken into custody at least 20 times. His situation is so dire, the Geneva International Centre for Justice issued an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine on his behalf.

issaOne of the most prominent cases is that of Issa I.H. Amro, a Palestinian residing in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Issa Amro is the coordinator of a youth movement (Youth Against Settlements) opposed to occupation and settlements and strongly committed to purely non-violent protests.

He started his activities while he was a student in 2003, after the army had forcedly closed the Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU), claiming it would only provide knowledge to terrorists. Together with international supporters, Issa fought the decision until six months later the PPU was finally re-opened. Since then, Issa has become the most prominent face of the popular resistance in Hebron, closely working with international and Israeli organizations.

His activities make Issa a constant target for occupation forces and settlers alike. 

In 2012 alone, he was arrested over 20 times, for periods between several hours and five days, once during a trip to Jordan, as part of a broader policy of intimidation, aimed to stop his activities.

Numerous times during his arrests he was left blindfolded and handcuffed for hours, while Israeli soldiers, incited by settlers, launched death threats and curses against him, calling Baruch Goldstein, the author of the 1994 massacre, a hero.

Issa was warned several times by Israeli soldiers either to cease his activities or they would raid his house or shoot him. Complaints were never pursued. Instead, he was convicted of “incitement” and released under harsh bail restrictions even in cases when video evidence was given that he had never been involved in aggressions.

And so,  on the day the media report about Issa’s release came out, Murad sent these poems to me. The very least I can do is to help bring help facilitate his voice. The world isn’t listening. But maybe you will hear what Murad has to say.

murad1The story of a young Palestinian man
I really do not know where to start and how
I really do not know how you ought to be a prelude to talk with you to reach your hearts and your minds
I really want to reach the message of the Palestinian people for the world
I really want you all to know how we live here in occupied Palestine
I really want to know how life is within us
I really want you all to know how to spin organs of the human body in us
How the digestive system works and the respiratory and nervous and skeletal systems and all organs of the body
How life goes inside our bodies, not only on the nature and on the ground and the reality
I want you really want to know how we think and what we think and how to be our mood
I want you to know what is our own
I want you to know what we like and read
I want you to know that the most difficult story on the face of the earth since that human habitation of this land
I want you to know how  the occupation [affects] our hearts and minds
On our men and our children are our future and our dreams
I want you to all [know] accurately for the Palestinian cause and the reality in which we live
I am a young Palestinian from the general public
I’m not the president and I’m not a minister
I’m not a leader and not a famous man or a star
I, Murad, young Palestinian: simply living a simple life
I am a young Palestinian man I have many dreams
I am a young man dreaming of peace, security and stability, justice and freedom, friendship and love and hope
I am a young Palestinian man to die every moment a thousand times because of the occupation and because of the difficult and bitter [reality] in which we live
I am a young Palestinian man like millions of young Palestinians who live a hard life and harsh circumstances in the political, economic and security and all the conditions that all Palestinians live
I am a young Palestinian man carries painful memories
Memories kill me every day
I feel sad memories when I remember that I die
Detailed memories of murder and blood, suffering and loss of loved ones, displacement and displacement
Memories of terror and fear because of the Israeli occupation
Memories made my heart bleed every day crying we lost friends and loved ones were killed in cold blood and for no reason.

************************************

murad3.horseKilled by occupation
Wandering memories in my mind every day when I remember my cousin when he was killed in cold blood in 2002 in front of my eyes and I’m a small child.
Memories, I remember my cousin the other who greeted the refrigerated [morgue] after his death in Israeli jails.
I was a young man, I forget, when I was five years old and Israeli soldiers searched the house and break everything –
Doors, furniture, glass and electronic equipment and I grabbed gown my mother and my mother was crying.
Mom, Dad

The soldiers who look at me with all the anger and hatred; and I do not know of them what they want.
Why look at me that way and I’m just a child at the age of five?
Why get all this way with me?

What is the crime committed by the child is 5 years old?

I am a young man did not forget [how they] arrested me and I am 11 years old.
That was on September 13, 2001
When the soldiers beat me for eight hours continuously and the reason the charge committed at that time because I carry my backback from school to home and I’m tired of study and school quotas.
The dream that brought me home to eat lunch and see my mom
But unfortunately I went to prison and I am a child.
I kid did not forget how you experience the tank with my body and I am a child and I said to the soldiers in the tank ‘kill me, you villains.’
I am a young man in every day I have a story with the occupation and the suffering that I hold, so large and not borne by mountains.
I am a young man I spent my childhood to the sound of tanks and aircraft bombing
I am a young man I spent my childhood to the sound of the guns and bullets
I grew up after a young man that I was several times shot  and cases of choking tear gas
I am a young man I spent my childhood between fear and terror and suffering and blood pouring
I am a young man I spent my childhood to the sound of bombing the homes of Palestinian civilians.
Among these houses was my uncle’s house

I am a young man I spent my childhood between nightmares and fear of occupation
I am a young man occupation woke me up out of sleep many times when you broke into the house
I am a young man I spent all the time of my life thinking that the occupation will come to attack
I am a young man I spent much of my time at military checkpoints waiting to cross from street to street
I am a young man and fear faced many difficulties
I am a young man taught me a harsh occupation on many things
I am a man to bring the experiences of my life, and I was 80 years old, but I was 24 years old
I am a young man and the occupation killed all my dreams and my ambitions and all hope
I had a young man, with a lot of sad stories.

But there are[other]  young men and the Palestinian families with  outlines of more stories
I am a young for many things in life
I am a man and I have nothing but my stories.
**********************************************
Occupation lives in our hearts
I’m thinking every moment and every step that the occupation will come
I sleep, I wake up and occupation occupies all my thoughts and my emotions
Occupation is not only the occupation of land and resources
Occupation occupies the minds and hearts and love and hope
Occupation destroys the dreams and kils thel hope of everything
Occupation controls everything
Water, air, and food
The trees and stones and people.
The economy and border, industriy, trade and agriculture.

Occupation controls children and the future.

Every day brings Israeli barriers between the street and another street … Between one village and the other
Between the cities are the barriers and settlements.
I am a young unemployed.
Like a lot of young people I could not complete my graduate studies because of the economic situation
I could not pursue master’s and doctoral study because of poor economic conditions

I am a man never to find a job because of the occupation and its impact on policy, borders, economy and everything.

I am a young and cannot progress one stepin  my life
A lot of young people like me
Dream like all the youth everyehere of the world –  a happy life, happy marriage, happy  home, safety and love.
Dream of a comfortable job
Dream of a better tomorrow … Dream to return home every day without risk or any problems of the occupation and the settlers
I do not really know that when I leave the house, will I come back? Will I  return safely, wounded or as a  martyr?
I do not know what awaits me.
Death surrounds us everywhere, fear and horror.

Occupation killed our future and our lives
Occupation destroyed everything
The  psychological impact kills us every moment and we feel nothing but  insecurity and fear.
And I want you just to imagine  for a moment – How would you feel if you were under occupation???

murad2.1948

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Rejoice with prisoners’ release but remember the thousands left behind in Israeli prisons

(CHICAGO 10/11/2011) — The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) hails the news that Israeli occupation forces will free more than 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners in return for the release of one Israeli soldier. Palestinian and Israeli officials announced the deal separately on Tuesday.

At the same time, we condemn plans to deport 40 Palestinians to an unnamed foreign country, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from deporting the people it occupies from their homeland. We must also remember that despite the release of 1,027 Palestinians from unlawful detention, thousands more are still languishing in Israeli prisons.

At the end of August, 5,204 Palestinians were incarcerated in Israeli prisons; and 272 of them were being held indefinitely without charge, according to Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem. Other human rights organizations have reported there are more than 6,000 Palestinians being detained. More than 200 prisoners have been on a hunger strike to protest the substandard conditions in which they are forced to live.

“These arrests and detentions are vestiges of Israel’s cruel and inhumane occupation of the Palestinian people,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, AMP chairman. “Since Israel occupied the remainder of Palestine in 1967, they have incarcerated 20 percent of the Palestinian population, in direct contravention of international law. This is unjust and is a strong obstacle to achieving peace in the region.”

Among Palestinians to be released are at least 27 women, 180 children and those who have been given life sentences and/or have spent more than 20 years as political detainees in prisons within Israel, according to media reports.

AMP urges people to remember that the thousands of Palestinians left behind in Israeli prisons are more than statistics. They are human beings with names and families. They are people with lives full of stories and memories, hopes and fears, laughter and tears; and, like us, they have dreams of the future.

One of children being released most likely is 15-year-old, Ahmed D., who was violently yanked from his bed in East Jerusalem at 2 a.m. on Sept. 14, the Swiss-based Defence for Children International – Palestine Section wrote. Sameer S., 12, of Azzun village, is another child who was arrested recently, also at 2 a.m. And Ayed Dudeen is a father of six, who was released in June after being held without charge for 3 and a half years. He was rearrested in August and again is being held without charge, according to prisoner rights organization Addameer.

“Palestinian political prisoners are a byproduct of occupation, which is the source of all injustice and instability in the region,” Dr. Bazian said. “International laws guarantee all people the right to resist their occupation and to see their own freedom and self-determination.”

It is time for the last and longest occupation in the modern world to end. America was built on the universal values of freedom, liberty and dignity. We, Americans, have been fighting for these values around the globe for centuries.

AMP stands in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners. We continue to call on Congress to pressure Israel to release all political prisoners. Congress must also end military aid to Israel and continue to pressure Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian people and lift the siege on Gaza. Congress, whose very existence is owed to the struggle for freedom, liberty and justice more than 200 years ago, must ultimately agree that Palestinians deserve these inalienable rights, too.

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After 10 years, time for the healing to begin

I can hardly wait for Sept. 12.

For the last 10 years, I’ve managed to avoid almost everything related to Sept. 11, 2001. After the images of the Twin Towers cascading to the ground were seared into my memory; after agonizing over the despair on the faces of bewildered New Yorkers pasting up flyers of their missing loved ones; after trying to digest the surreal pictures of people free-falling to their deaths; and after getting through those first few horrendous days when the skies were quiet but the streets were quieter, I stopped paying attention.

People fed their insatiable appetite for news; musicians created sentimental or retributive anthems; and politicians wrapped their dishonest policies in the American flag, creating a “with us or with the terrorists” paradigm. I busied myself with other things.

But now here we are, and the 10th anniversary of the worst attack on American soil is standing as tall and formidable as the towers that once stood on the banks of the Hudson River. The clock is winding down. And I’ve found the road of denial I’ve been on has made a sudden U-turn and has dropped me right back at the maw of this interminable ache I have tried so hard to ignore.

I stopped paying attention, not because I didn’t care but because the wound that Sept. 11 opened in me was so deep and searing, it couldn’t be probed or prodded. I was — and still am — sad for the innocent people who were killed that day, for the way we recklessly traded some of our civil liberties for “security,” and for the ceaseless wars that have killed thousands of U.S. soldiers and so many more Arab and Muslim civilians — including children, oh, so many children — in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

But mostly I ache not because I’m Muslim and perceived to be somehow responsible for those terrorist attacks — and I’m not. Rather, it makes me sad because the national debate about Islam is filled with such self-serving rhetorical noise, misunderstanding and bigotry that people can’t hear the quiet beauty of the religion I have come to love.

I became Muslim in July 2001. Despite everything, I have never regretted my decision. Islam has empowered me as a woman. It has centered and grounded me as a human being and has turned my focus from being concerned only with fulfilling my individual desires to living as one interrelated member of the entire human family. This paradigm shift has brought with it immeasurable joy and freedom from the constraints of consumerism and the material world.

As I stare in the face of the 10th anniversary, I realize it is all these qualities that have helped me to bear the pain of Sept. 11 that I’ve been carrying all these years. Perhaps facing this pain will be easier than running from it.

It is my time now to grieve for all that we as a nation have lost. But through my tears shines my faith in God, my belief that there will be a better tomorrow, and my hope that others will be able to hear the same quiet beauty that called to me 10 years ago.

So, yes, I can hardly wait for Sept. 12. It will be the day I begin to heal.

This was first published in The Daily Journal.

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Does anyone else find this offensive?

Chicago-area Muslims again this year are going to flock to an event called “Iftar in a Synagogue.” This year it’s at Temple Shalom in Chicago. The Temple has pictures from a student trip to 48 Palestine, and this picture of their kids posing on a tank is on their website.

Does no one else find this offensive? How many Muslims and Christians have been killed or made homeless by that very tank? There are ways to conduct interfaith events, but I don’t think that breaking bread with people who support the occupation of Palestinians is one way to do it.

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Challenging AIPAC and confronting “US interests”

By Kristin Szremski, Monadel Herzallah, Sara Kershnar and Max Ajl and Kristin Szremski
First published on The Electronic Intifada

This week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel lobby organization in the United States, is holding its annual policy conference in Washington DC.
The roster of speakers — from Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to Christian Right paragon Ralph Reed, President Barack Obama and several members of Congress — is clear evidence that the relationship between and interests shared by AIPAC, the religious right and the US government continue unabashed and unchallenged.
For too long this stronghold of the US-Israel alliance has rolled forward unimpeded, funding, defending and capitalizing on Israeli policies and the Israeli settler-colonial enterprise in Palestine.
Challenging AIPAC is part of our larger effort to stop the United States’ financial and military support for, corporate investment in and political coverage for Israel. If the goal is to expose and ultimately restrain the role that Israel plays in US foreign policy, focusing exclusively on AIPAC is an insufficient project.
The $60-million-per-year organization certainly represents a lot of financial clout in favor of what are called “Israeli interests.” But it is not AIPAC alone that secures more than $3 billion a year in unconditional military aid and an additional $2.5 billion in other forms of aid and loan guarantees for the State of Israel.
AIPAC and “US interests”
We must look carefully at whose interests in the United States are served by the US-Israel alliance and whose interests are harmed. For only then can we develop an effective strategy to successfully expose and challenge the network of Zionist organizations, the ultra-right wing and religious right, American corporations and the military and foreign policy interests that are served by this alliance.
Moreover, with an understanding that the interests of the vast majority of people and communities in the United States are not served but are, in fact, harmed by this alliance, we can build the movement necessary to form this successful strategy.
Casting AIPAC as a foreign contaminant poisoning US foreign policy and interests is inaccurate. The global power of the American military, government and corporations largely relies on exporting weapons to the Middle East, extracting profits from elevated gas prices, and opening doors for US trade and multi-national corporate profit.
The US strategy for maintaining control in the region has included US military aggression and occupation of countries whose governments challenge American interests; the creation of dependency on US aid and the economic and political alliances with repressive regimes; and building and protecting Israel’s ability to act as a military force to defend these interests.
In turn, Israel has become one of the world’s most powerful militaries, which it uses not only to maintain the occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands, but also as a threat against its neighbors. As important, it enjoys uncritical support from the US government and its representatives in the United Nations.
US, Israel and the religious right
This mutually beneficial relationship then capitalizes on the interests of the conservative religious right. An extreme but significant and well-funded fundamentalist network supports Israel as part of its belief that this will herald the return of Christ.
One of these groups is the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a Chicago-based group that donated as much as $70 million to Israel in 2009 alone, according to published reports.
The US-Israel alliance serves powerful interests and therefore AIPAC and the network of Zionist organizations have powerful allies. But these interests serve a small percentage of the people and communities in the US who are paying the taxes to maintain that alliance. Moreover, the parallel domestic policies in place that protect the interests of this alliance are damaging and repressive to the majority of people in the US.
The domestic practices funded and mobilized by a range of Zionist organizations, including but not limited to AIPAC, include anti-Arab and Islamophobic attacks and unconstitutional prosecution of communities and organizations; anti-immigrant policies and militarized borders; FBI raids and grand jury investigations and indictments; and increased surveillance and policing of communities of color in the United States.
In addition to AIPAC, many right-wing Zionist organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), have a direct interest in fomenting Islamophobia and anti-Arab bigotry in the United States to create ideological cover for American and Israeli militarism and occupation in Muslim and Arab countries.
The PATRIOT Act, related anti-immigrant policies, and the ability to implement unconstitutional FBI raids and grand jury investigations and indictments come directly out of anti-terrorist laws that were instituted in the 1980s. Now, as then, Zionist think tanks and institutions, such as the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the US government partner in drafting and passing this legislation and play a role in the unconstitutional surveillance of individuals, communities and human rights, anti-war, international solidarity and community-based organizations.
A similar situation was uncovered in 1993, when federal agents discovered the California offices of the ADL held thousands personal and confidential files — many obtained illegally from law enforcement officers — on more than 1,300 private individuals and organizations. The ADL admitted to selling some of this illegally-obtained information on anti-apartheid activists to the apartheid South African government.
Security Solutions International, a US-based private security firm which advises the Department of Homeland Security, has a reputation for hiring Israeli military veterans. They have advised over 700 law enforcement agencies since 2004. Their “curriculum” includes a good deal on the threat posed by radical Islam.
The Israeli military itself is contracted by numerous US police forces across the country and by the Coast Guard for training in domestic “population control.” The racialized approach to security that Israeli military personnel have been indoctrinated with translates into dehumanizing people of color here in the US.
More generally, the billions of dollars spent on Israel are taken from desperately needed health care, the revival of our faltering public education system, housing and employment programs, to name a few. These are as central to security for the people of the US as is a shift in our foreign policy.
Meanwhile, AIPAC, like other Zionist institutions, is attempting to enlist communities of color to defend its agenda. A recent example involves a letter from a black academic excellence student group, the Vanguard Leadership Group (VLG), criticizing campus organizing against Israeli apartheid for “appropriating” the history of the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
VLG leadership was honored at an annual AIPAC banquet following a Zionist-funded trip to Israel. In carrying out AIPAC’s agenda, VLG not only betrays the Palestinian and popular movements for self-determination, democracy and rights and the history of the South African anti-apartheid struggle and South African solidarity with Palestine, but also the interests of the vast majority of people in the communities of color they claim to speak for and serve.
Thus, an effort to truly confront and ultimately strip the power of the pro-Israel lobby must become part of a broad, grassroots, mass movement. This movement must based on the interests shared by the many communities impacted by the devastation and repression caused by the alliance between Israel, Zionist organizations in the US, the US military, corporations and the fundamentalist religious and conservative right.
Challenging business-as-usual in Washington
As has been proven time and again, communities in the US or elsewhere will never be secure with a US foreign and domestic policy driven by the interests of its military, military profiteering, war and occupation, and multi-national corporations.
Whether in the Middle East, Central and South America or at the US-Mexico border, American policy will not produce just outcomes until it is made to do so. To that end, we do not think our efforts should be pitched to cajoling domestic elites into adopting a just-slightly more sane policy in the Middle East. If they do so, and this gives the Palestinian people a bit more breathing room, that is all to the good.
But we must look to further horizons. Rather than pitching Palestinian emancipation as amenable to imperial US national interests, activists and community organizers must take our role seriously and recognize that there is an inherent problem with negotiating Palestinian rights in Washington.
We must follow the lead of the Palestinian movement domestically and in Palestine, and heed the logic of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions — movement to movement, person to person, local government to regional government to national government.
It is this work that will make the costs of continuing the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel, and Washington’s support of dictatorships blighting the Middle East, higher than the costs of giving them up.
We have much work ahead, but writing from the US, we take tremendous inspiration from movements across the Middle East. While still in flux, in some cases they have successfully taken down US-supported dictators.
The lesson is clear: only a powerful grassroots movement rooted in community and transformative in its goals and organizing will bring Israel and its Zionist guardians in the US and US imperialism to its knees.
Monadel Herzallah is a labor organizer and a member of the Coordinating Committee of the US Palestinian Community Network.
Sara Kershnar is an international organizer with the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
Max Ajl studies development sociology at Cornell and works with the ISM in the Gaza Strip. He also blogs at http://www.maxajl.com.
Kristin Szremski is an independent journalist and currently the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine.

This week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel lobby organization in the United States, is holding its annual policy conference in Washington DC.

The roster of speakers — from Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to Christian Right paragon Ralph Reed, President Barack Obama and several members of Congress — is clear evidence that the relationship between and interests shared by AIPAC, the religious right and the US government continue unabashed and unchallenged.

For too long this stronghold of the US-Israel alliance has rolled forward unimpeded, funding, defending and capitalizing on Israeli policies and the Israeli settler-colonial enterprise in Palestine.

Challenging AIPAC is part of our larger effort to stop the United States’ financial and military support for, corporate investment in and political coverage for Israel. If the goal is to expose and ultimately restrain the role that Israel plays in US foreign policy, focusing exclusively on AIPAC is an insufficient project.

The $60-million-per-year organization certainly represents a lot of financial clout in favor of what are called “Israeli interests.” But it is not AIPAC alone that secures more than $3 billion a year in unconditional military aid and an additional $2.5 billion in other forms of aid and loan guarantees for the State of Israel.

AIPAC and “US interests”

We must look carefully at whose interests in the United States are served by the US-Israel alliance and whose interests are harmed. For only then can we develop an effective strategy to successfully expose and challenge the network of Zionist organizations, the ultra-right wing and religious right, American corporations and the military and foreign policy interests that are served by this alliance.

Moreover, with an understanding that the interests of the vast majority of people and communities in the United States are not served but are, in fact, harmed by this alliance, we can build the movement necessary to form this successful strategy.

Casting AIPAC as a foreign contaminant poisoning US foreign policy and interests is inaccurate. The global power of the American military, government and corporations largely relies on exporting weapons to the Middle East, extracting profits from elevated gas prices, and opening doors for US trade and multi-national corporate profit.

The US strategy for maintaining control in the region has included US military aggression and occupation of countries whose governments challenge American interests; the creation of dependency on US aid and the economic and political alliances with repressive regimes; and building and protecting Israel’s ability to act as a military force to defend these interests.

In turn, Israel has become one of the world’s most powerful militaries, which it uses not only to maintain the occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands, but also as a threat against its neighbors. As important, it enjoys uncritical support from the US government and its representatives in the United Nations.

US, Israel and the religious right

This mutually beneficial relationship then capitalizes on the interests of the conservative religious right. An extreme but significant and well-funded fundamentalist network supports Israel as part of its belief that this will herald the return of Christ.

One of these groups is the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a Chicago-based group that donated as much as $70 million to Israel in 2009 alone, according to published reports.

The US-Israel alliance serves powerful interests and therefore AIPAC and the network of Zionist organizations have powerful allies. But these interests serve a small percentage of the people and communities in the US who are paying the taxes to maintain that alliance. Moreover, the parallel domestic policies in place that protect the interests of this alliance are damaging and repressive to the majority of people in the US.

The domestic practices funded and mobilized by a range of Zionist organizations, including but not limited to AIPAC, include anti-Arab and Islamophobic attacks and unconstitutional prosecution of communities and organizations; anti-immigrant policies and militarized borders; FBI raids and grand jury investigations and indictments; and increased surveillance and policing of communities of color in the United States.

In addition to AIPAC, many right-wing Zionist organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), have a direct interest in fomenting Islamophobia and anti-Arab bigotry in the United States to create ideological cover for American and Israeli militarism and occupation in Muslim and Arab countries.

The PATRIOT Act, related anti-immigrant policies, and the ability to implement unconstitutional FBI raids and grand jury investigations and indictments come directly out of anti-terrorist laws that were instituted in the 1980s.

Now, as then, Zionist think tanks and institutions, such as the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the US government partner in drafting and passing this legislation and play a role in the unconstitutional surveillance of individuals, communities and human rights, anti-war, international solidarity and community-based organizations.

A similar situation was uncovered in 1993, when federal agents discovered the California offices of the ADL held thousands personal and confidential files — many obtained illegally from law enforcement officers — on more than 1,300 private individuals and organizations. The ADL admitted to selling some of this illegally-obtained information on anti-apartheid activists to the apartheid South African government.

Security Solutions International, a US-based private security firm which advises the Department of Homeland Security, has a reputation for hiring Israeli military veterans. They have advised over 700 law enforcement agencies since 2004. Their “curriculum” includes a good deal on the threat posed by radical Islam.

The Israeli military itself is contracted by numerous US police forces across the country and by the Coast Guard for training in domestic “population control.” The racialized approach to security that Israeli military personnel have been indoctrinated with translates into dehumanizing people of color here in the US.

More generally, the billions of dollars spent on Israel are taken from desperately needed health care, the revival of our faltering public education system, housing and employment programs, to name a few. These are as central to security for the people of the US as is a shift in our foreign policy.

Meanwhile, AIPAC, like other Zionist institutions, is attempting to enlist communities of color to defend its agenda. A recent example involves a letter from a black academic excellence student group, the Vanguard Leadership Group (VLG), criticizing campus organizing against Israeli apartheid for “appropriating” the history of the South African anti-apartheid struggle.

VLG leadership was honored at an annual AIPAC banquet following a Zionist-funded trip to Israel. In carrying out AIPAC’s agenda, VLG not only betrays the Palestinian and popular movements for self-determination, democracy and rights and the history of the South African anti-apartheid struggle and South African solidarity with Palestine, but also the interests of the vast majority of people in the communities of color they claim to speak for and serve.

Thus, an effort to truly confront and ultimately strip the power of the pro-Israel lobby must become part of a broad, grassroots, mass movement. This movement must based on the interests shared by the many communities impacted by the devastation and repression caused by the alliance between Israel, Zionist organizations in the US, the US military, corporations and the fundamentalist religious and conservative right.

Challenging business-as-usual in Washington

As has been proven time and again, communities in the US or elsewhere will never be secure with a US foreign and domestic policy driven by the interests of its military, military profiteering, war and occupation, and multi-national corporations.

Whether in the Middle East, Central and South America or at the US-Mexico border, American policy will not produce just outcomes until it is made to do so. To that end, we do not think our efforts should be pitched to cajoling domestic elites into adopting a just-slightly more sane policy in the Middle East. If they do so, and this gives the Palestinian people a bit more breathing room, that is all to the good.

But we must look to further horizons. Rather than pitching Palestinian emancipation as amenable to imperial US national interests, activists and community organizers must take our role seriously and recognize that there is an inherent problem with negotiating Palestinian rights in Washington.

We must follow the lead of the Palestinian movement domestically and in Palestine, and heed the logic of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions — movement to movement, person to person, local government to regional government to national government.

It is this work that will make the costs of continuing the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel, and Washington’s support of dictatorships blighting the Middle East, higher than the costs of giving them up.

We have much work ahead, but writing from the US, we take tremendous inspiration from movements across the Middle East. While still in flux, in some cases they have successfully taken down US-supported dictators.

The lesson is clear: only a powerful grassroots movement rooted in community and transformative in its goals and organizing will bring Israel and its Zionist guardians in the US and US imperialism to its knees.

Kristin Szremski is the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine.

Monadel Herzallah is a labor organizer and a member of the Coordinating Committee of the US Palestinian Community Network.

Sara Kershnar is an international organizer with the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.

Max Ajl studies development sociology at Cornell and works with the ISM in the Gaza Strip. He also blogs at http://www.maxajl.com.

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If you choose one video to educate people with, this one is it!

Crisp. Clear. Succinct.

This shot video captures the Palestinian narrative and issue so perfectly that I think it will be a good tool to use when speaking with people entirely uninformed and unaware of the issue.

Please watch and pass this on.

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Filed under Activism, Opinion/analysis