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Where are the children?

167 children have not been released and remained jailed in Israeli prisons

(CHICAGO 10/19/2011) – No Palestinian children were among the 477 political prisoners released from Israeli jails on Tuesday and it is no longer certain whether they will be part of the deal to swap 1,027 Palestinians for one Israeli soldier, who was returned to his family this week.

An official from Ramallah-based Defence for Children International – Palestine Section confirmed to AMP this morning that 164 Palestinian children still are behind bars.

“So far, Israel didn’t release any children,” said Ayed Abu Qtaish, DCI accountability programs director. “One-hundred-sixty-four Palestinian children are still in prison and their rights are being violated during their arrests, during their interrogations and during their court proceedings.”

Abu Qtaish said he did not know whether the children, some as young as 12 years old, will be included in the second prisoner release, expected in about two months.

Earlier media reports had indicated all children would be released, along with all women and elderly.

According to the latest figures released by the Israeli Prison Service and DCI-Palestine, at the end of September there were 164 Palestinian children, aged 12 to 17 years in Israeli detention facilities, including 35 kids between the ages of 12 and 15.

Each year, Israeli military courts prosecute about 700 Palestinian children from the West Bank, according to DCI. Since the year 2000, the Israeli military occupation authorities have detained about 7,500 kids, who are often harassed or tortured.

Call your elected representatives in Congress and demand they pressure Israel to release the children. Find your representative here.


  • Holding Palestinian children in Israeli prisons violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring the population it is occupying to its own territory.
  • Incarcerating minors, especially holding them without charge in administrative detention, violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Continuing to support Israel with more than $3 billion in military aid and loan guarantees while it continues to violate international law is not in our best interest. This weakens the U.S. stance throughout the Arab and Muslim world, threatens our national security and calls into question our role as the ‘honest’ broker in the Middle East.

For more information on Palestinian child prisoners, please click here.

The American Muslims for Palestine is a national grassroots organization, whose mission is to educate the public and media about Palestine and its rich, cultural heritage. For more information, go to www.ampalestine.org.


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Anti-Defamation League attempts to marginalize pro-human rights activities

(CHICAGO 10/13/2011) – The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is a key focus in a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League, which labels AMP as an “extreme anti-Israel organization.” The report goes on to call all activism that raises awareness about Israel’s continuous violations of international law and deprivation of Palestinians’ human rights as “anti-Israel.”

The report, which was released just days before Students for Justice in Palestine chapters convene their first national conference in New York, appears to be a desperate attempt to shut down the event and smear everyone involved with it. The ADL, furthermore, tries to link AMP to this conference and decries AMP’s outreach to college students.

Framing human rights advocacy for Palestinians as “anti-Israel” completely ignores Israel’s occupation, its siege on Gaza and its ongoing and flagrant violations of international law, quite an irony for an organization that says it protects rights for all people.

“We reject the ADL’s attempt to frame this discussion in such a way that ignores Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians and instead tries to demonize those who raise awareness about Israel’s violation of international law and human rights abuses,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, AMP chairman and professor of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “Trying to label activists is a typical MO for the ADL. We at AMP are actually heartened by their scurrilous report because it shows that our work is effective and is starting to make a difference.”

Dr. Bazian co-founded the first SJP chapter on the Berkeley campus in 2001. However, each chapter is an autonomous unit and none is associated with AMP, which acts as a resource for students by providing speakers and materials.

The ADL’s report is actually just one component of a widespread network of tactics employed by Zionist organizations to shut down all Palestinian human rights activities on college campuses. Other tactics have included sending letters to hundreds of college presidents, threatening the loss of federal funding if they allow Palestinian advocacy – or even instruction – to take place; the training of Hillel students to conduct “pro-Israel” educational activities; and the funding of the “Israel Action Network,” an offshoot of the Israel Advocacy Initiative, a blatant public relations plan to sell the occupation to the American people.

“The ADL has a long history of questionable activities, which fly in the face of their moniker of standing for civil rights for all people,” Dr. Bazian said, “They’ve been caught spying on nearly 2,000 American citizens and organization, have worked against Affirmative Action, and employed stringent censorship tactics to try to keep the truth about the occupation from the American people. We are heartened by this new report because it shows our work is being effective and making a difference on the American landscape.”

AMP calls on all people of conscience to educate themselves about the how Zionist organizations function in this country and to expose their tactics that aim to maintain the occupation of the Palestinian people.

For more detailed information about the ADL, please click here.

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By Kristin Szremski
AMP director of media and communications

This article first appeared on July 29 on the Electronic Intifada.

A number of new initiatives to curtail freedom of speech by conflating opposition to Israeli crimes with anti-Semitism are underway in the United States and Canada.

The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) issued a report in early July recommending the adoption of strict new standards defining anti-Semitism and the types of speech and campus activities that would violate them. Its report urged the Canadian government to adopt the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s definition of anti-Semitism (“Report on the Inquiry Panel,” 7 July 2011 [PDF]). That definition suggests that any questioning of whether Israel has the right to exist as a state that privileges Jews over people of other religions or ethnic backgrounds amounts to anti-Semitism.


Though the Canadian group is not linked to the Ottawa government, it has 22 parliamentarians as members. Activities it deems as anti-Semitic and, therefore, calls to be banned, include events such as the Israeli Apartheid Week that was founded in Toronto and now takes place on college campuses internationally every March.

The Canadian report is just the latest attempt at stifling public discourse about Israel. Free speech and the unimpeded exchange of ideas are also under attack on America’s college campuses. Pro-Israel supporters have targeted federal funding for academic institutions, including support for research and academic conferences, under the pretext that criticism of Israel is “hate speech.”

Federal authorities from the Office of Civil Rights with the US Department of Education are investigating charges of anti-Semitism against the University of California Santa Cruz, as well as at other institutions within the California university system, according to published reports. These are the first investigations taking place since Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was re-interpreted in October 2010, allowing Jewish students, as members of a religious group, to claim discrimination under a provision that previously applied only to racial and ethnic bigotry.

A “dear colleague” letter issued by the Office of Civil Rights in October 2010 said that discrimination against a student who is a member of a religious group violates Title VI when the discrimination is based on the group’s “actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics … or when it is based upon the student’s actual or perceived citizenship or residency in a country whose residents share a dominant religion or a distinct religious identity,” David Thomas, a US Department of Education spokesman, explained by email.

Bowing to the Zionist lobby

Major pro-Israel organizations such as the Zionist Organization of America and the Anti-Defamation League have lobbied for this re-interpretation for years. Title VI now can be applied to Jewish students who claim universities create hostile campus environments if they allow pro-Palestinian events or even class lectures critical of Israeli policies.

In other words, since Israel bills itself as a Jewish state, of which all Jews everywhere are automatic citizens, Jewish students can file complaints of anti-Semitism and discrimination based upon their perceived ethnicity and citizenship or residency in a country that has a “dominant religion.”

Dr. Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian-American professor of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who founded the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) there in 2001, takes issue with the amended understanding of Title VI. While he agrees that Jewish students, as well as Muslim students, should be protected from discrimination based on their religious identity under Title VI, he believes the reinterpretation is actually being used to silence debate about Israel.

“Attempts to silence opposition to the illegal Israeli occupation and policies is un-American and amounts to political and academic censorship,” Bazian said via email. (Bazian is also the chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, the organization with which this writer is employed).

The Title VI reinterpretation and the subsequent case against Santa Cruz is part of a growing trend of stifling of protected political speech on college campuses. Several lecturers and professors have been censured and even denied tenure because they openly criticized Israeli policies or advocated for Palestinian rights.

Perhaps the most widely publicized cases are those of former DePaul University professor Norman Finkelstein and North Carolina State University professor Terri Ginsberg, both of whom were not given tenure because of their open criticism of Israeli policies in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Ginsberg initiated legal action against North Carolina State and her case is currently on appeal.

Freedom of information denied

The new interpretation has rejuvenated a 29-page complaint brought against the University of California Santa Cruz in June 2009 by lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, the contents of which have been kept secret by the Department of Education and university officials.

On 13 April, American Muslims for Palestine filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the complaint with the San Francisco Office of Civil Rights. Federal authorities declined the request on 22 April, saying that supplying the complaint would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” and that it could “reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings,” both of which are listed as exemptions under the federal FOIA statute.

What is so troubling in the University of California Santa Cruz investigation is that the amended interpretation is being applied retroactively to Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint, which she filed more than one year before the October 2010 “dear colleague” letter. No one contacted from the university or the Department of Education would discuss how an institution can be held liable for something that was not considered to be a violation at the time it occurred.

“[The Office of Civil Rights] received the UC-Santa Cruz complaint … on 25 June 2009,” Thomas wrote in an email to American Muslims for Palestine. “On 7 March 2011, OCR formally notified the university and the complainant that OCR was opening for investigation the allegations that a hostile environment existed for Jewish students at the university in 2009 in violation of Title VI and that the university had notice of the hostile environment but did not have a process to adequately respond to hostile environment complaints.”

Thomas failed to respond to American Muslims for Palestine’s direct question about how the new interpretation could be applied retroactively, though it was posed three times in three separate emails on 13 and 15 April.

Jim Burns, a University of California Santa Cruz spokesman, also would not address that issue and instead referred it back to the Department of Education’s civil rights office. He did tell American Muslims for Palestine in an email, however, that the Office of Civil Rights is reviewing a complaint that “speech on campus that is critical of Israel creates a hostile environment for Jewish students.”

“We believe that [the Office of Civil Rights’] investigation will ultimately conclude that [the University of California Santa Cruz] diligently enforces laws, policies and practices that protect our students’ civil rights. But we also believe that our review of the matter with OCR will provide us with an opportunity to examine our relevant policies and practices to ensure that is the case,” he added.

If federal investigators find a university to be in violation of Title VI and the institution does not remedy the situation satisfactorily it could lose federal funding. This is a worst-case scenario to be sure, but it is one that seemingly threatens the open exchange of ideas on college campuses.

“While some of the recent allegations … might well raise a claim under Title VI, many others simply seek to silence anti-Israel discourse and speakers. This approach is not only unwarranted under Title VI, it is dangerous,” Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Presidents (AAUP), and Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee, wrote recently in an open letter on AAUP’s website.

“The purpose of a university is to have students wrestle with ideas with which they may disagree, or even better, may make them uncomfortable. To censor ideas is to diminish education, and to treat students as fragile recipients of ‘knowledge,’ rather than young critical thinkers,” they added.

American Muslims for Palestine’s Hatem Bazian said the implications of the re-interpretation go far beyond free speech in the classroom and at extra-curricular events. Funding for scholarly research and academic conferences that bring up “legitimate criticism of Israel” may be at stake, he said.

“The new interpretation will directly, first and foremost, impact those who administer Title VI funding, and they for sure will be more hesitant and will engage in self-censorship in funding research or activities that are critical of Israel,” Bazian said.

Indeed, the Anti-Defamation League was one of 12 national organizations that urged the Department of Education to amend its Title VI interpretation. It may have just been a co-signer in that battle but the ADL has taken the lead in many high-profile cases to stifle free speech and public debate in its hundred-year history.

In March, the ADL, along with the American Jewish Committee and the Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council, protested an academic conference at the UC Hastings College of the Law in March entitled “Litigating Palestine: Can Courts Secure Palestinian Rights?” Their protest was so effective the university board voted to remove its name and endorsement for the event and it prevented university Chancellor Frank Wu from making opening remarks.

Challenging Israel on campus

Writing about the incident in the San Francisco Chronicle, Cecilie Surasky, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, stated that “Perhaps for the first time in US history, there is an aggressive challenge to a one-sided narrative that covers up or justifies ongoing Israeli repression of Palestinians” (“Pressure on law conference threatens free speech,” 21 April 2011).

Surasky added, “The center of that challenge is on campuses, which is why those who have traditionally adopted knee-jerk defenses of Israeli policies are attempting to stigmatize or shut down alternative viewpoints.”

The same threats of losing federal funding because of an “anti-Semitic and hostile environment” are being leveled at Rutgers University in New Jersey, thanks in large part to a 15-page letter written to the university by Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein, and copied to the state’s governor, its US senators and representatives and other officials.

These recent moves, according to Surasky, “suggest that legitimate criticism of Israeli policy is being conflated with anti-Semitism. If this is allowed to happen, then serious debate on Israel’s illegal actions in the Palestinian territories will be shut down.”

Rossman-Benjamin’s complaint against University of California Santa Cruz could very well be a test case under the new interpretation of Title VI. The reinterpretation, when viewed against the backdrop of professors being censured or denied tenure because of their political views, could have an adverse affect on the free exchange of ideas on college campuses at a time when debate and concrete examinations of US foreign policy in the Middle East is needed more than ever.

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Gaza commemoration events focus on becoming active in the cause for Palestine

Laila El-Haddad, author of "Gaza Mom," her new book based upon her blog of the same name, speaks at the Islamic Community Center of Illinois in Chicago on Jan. 8. Photo/American Muslims for Palestine

(CHICAGO 01/10/2010) – The best way to honor the victims and survivors of Operation Cast Lead is to become active in the cause for Palestine. That was the main message at events in Milwaukee and Chicago commemorating the passage of two years since the Israeli onslaught against the Palestinians of Gaza that killed more than 1,400 people and wounded 5,300.

“Two Years Later: Besieged Gaza Still Standing Tall,” is the theme of a series of nationwide events hosted by the American Muslims for Palestine, which kicked off during Christmas weekend at the MAS/ICNA convention in Chicago. Throughout the weekend, several hundred guests filled the halls at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, the Islamic Community Center of Illinois in Chicago and Al Aqsa School in Bridgeview to listen to presentations by Laila El-Haddad, author of “Gaza Mom,” her new book based upon her blog of the same name.  She was joined by attorney and activist Othman Atta in Milwaukee and Bridgeview.

Laila El-Haddad and attorney Othman Atta prepare to speak to hundreds gathered at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee on Jan. 7. Photo/American Muslims for Palestine

El-Haddad, who is from Gaza but now lives in Maryland, presented a Power Point filled with unique videos and compelling pictures from her recent visit to Gaza. While documenting the still-deteriorating conditions in the Strip, which Israel has held under siege for four years, El-Haddad also focused on signs of rebirth and the indestructible spirit displayed by the Palestinians living there.

“People there really resent it for Gaza to be called a place with no food. There’s a siege on freedoms, not a siege on food,” El-Haddad said.

El-Haddad was in Gaza for several months last summer conducting research for her next book.  She interviewed dozens of people and mood was the same everywhere, she said.  “People are sick of the siege. They just want to live normal lives,” she said.

Yet, the spirit of the Palestinians of Gaza is not broken, which is proven especially by the creative ways in which they are adapting to the facts on the ground.

From fish and oyster farms and dairy farms to the manufacturing of ovens from clay and grinding gravel from debris left over from Israel’s demolition of thousands of homes, factories, schools, mosques and municipal buildings, the residents of Gaza are showing true entrepreneurship and fortitude in dealing with the inhumane situation in which they are living, El-Haddad said.

AMP exhibited dozens of pictures with captions in chronological order that told the story of the four-year-old siege and Operation Cast Lead, Israel's three-week offensive two years ago that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. In the picture above can be seen Furkan Dogan, the 19-year-old Turkish American whom Israeli commandos killed aboard the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010; also Israeli commandos shoot and club Mavi Marmara passengers in a photograph captured by one of the humanitarian activists and smuggled off the vessel. Photo/American Muslims for Palestine

These measures are necessary because despite Israeli occupation authorities’ promises last June to ease the blockade, the clamp down in many cases has only become worse, according to the United Nations and various NGOs. Most building supplies and many foodstuffs are still prohibited, and except for a few truckloads of strawberries, exports from Gaza still are not allowed.

“The stated policy of the siege is to keep Gaza on the brink of economic collapse,” the journalist and mother of two told the crowd. “But the Palestinians of Gaza are adapting. They have no choice. They just want to live a normal life, like everyone else.”

“Palestinians are steadfast. They will prevail.”

Those were the word with which Atta opened his portion of the presentation. Even so, it is incumbent upon people of faith and conscience to become active in the cause and to work to try to change U.S. foreign policy, he said. Commemorating the victims of Israel’s three-week assault that took place from Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan. 18, 2009, is honorable, but with that commemoration must come action, he said.

AMP offers a variety of published booklets, brochures and fact sheets free of charge to fulfill its mission to educate the American people about issues relating to Palestine. Photo/American Muslims for Palestine

“Are we here to just mourn dead people, or are we here to learn what we can do?” Atta asked.

Atta encouraged the audience to educate themselves and to become active in any number of ways, from interacting with the media to contacting elected officials. He encouraged those in attendance to avail themselves of the free information and booklets provided by AMP and to join AMP’s mailing list so they’ll be informed of action alerts, events and other activities.

Joyce Guinn, of Germantown, Wis., attended Milwaukee’s event. She is one person who takes Atta’s words to heart. She’s been active in the cause since 2005, when her curiosity lead her to take her first trip to Palestine.

Information about the Middle East conflict provided by mainstream media “didn’t seem to make sense,” Guinn said, so she traveled there to see the situation for herself. She’s made that trip three times now and has plans to return this winter.

Joyce Guinn, of Germantown, Wis., discusses her pro-Palestinian activism in Milwaukee on Jan. 7. Photo/American Muslims for Palestine

“I’ve never met nicer people than the Palestinians,” she said. “Seeing the situation once was enough to convince me. I’m extremely into the Palestinian issue.”

Other featured speakers during the weekend included Sheikh Jammal Said, director of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview; Imam Zaid Hamdan, of ICCI; and journalist Deanna Othman.

Future AMP Gaza commemoration events will be held in Minnesota, California, New York and Virginia.

AMP also is facilitating book signing events for El-Haddad through February in various states, including California, Washington and Oregon.

The American Muslims for Palestine is a national, grassroots organization, whose mission is to educate the American public about issues related to Palestine and its rich, cultural heritage. For more information, visit www.ampalestine.org, email info@ampalestine.org or call 888.404.4AMP.

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