Tag Archives: occupation

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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#Inequality – Targeting a beloved women’s rights activist simply because of her heritag

rasmea odehIn just a few short weeks, a beloved and respected community organizer from Chicago will begin an ordeal that will determine whether the US government will strip her of her citizenship, imprison her for 10 years and ultimately deport her to country unknown.

On Nov. 4, 2014, Rasmea Odeh will appear in federal court in Detroit to face one charge of ‘unlawful procurement of naturalization,’ for allegedly omitting an answer on her citizenship application. The end results could be devastating: Odeh, 67, faces a decade in prison and the revocation of the citizenship she gained 10 years ago.

Odeh, an attorney by trade, is known throughout the country for her activism, particularly for defending civil liberties and immigrant rights. She’s been a staple in Chicago activism circles for years. Her Arab Women’s Committee has more than 600 members and she’s a mentor to hundreds of immigrant women. She is well loved and respected, not only in Chicago, but throughout the United States.

To understand how a woman, who just last year was the recipient of the Chicago Cultural Alliance’s “Outstanding Community Leader Award,” came to this point, one must understand the geo-politics of America’s “special relationship” with Israel and how being Palestinian, as Odeh is, can sentence someone to a lifetime of inequality.

The life she successfully created for herself in her adopted country came crashing to a halt on the morning of Oct. 22, 2013, when agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested her in her home. In one quick court appearance later that morning, where she was charged with lying on her citizenship application, past memories of physical and sexual torture by Israeli military officials, a confession compelled by that torture, which she later recanted, and 10 years of brutal and illegal incarceration came back to haunt the beloved community organizer.

“Rasmea was horrifically tortured for 25 days, she was denied access to a lawyer for 45 days. She – as were all the other (500 people) arrested – confessed under torture and then recanted her confession, but nonetheless, spent 10 years in prison. Then she was released in a prisoner swap,” and she came to join her father and brother in Detroit, who were naturalized US citizens,” her defense attorney Michael Deutsch told Flashpoint radio.

Odeh eventually relocated to Chicago, where she became the associate director of the Arab American Action Network. Ten years after arriving in the United States, she applied for citizenship. It was in this context that Odeh answered questions regarding previous arrests and detentions.

“She had been in the US for 10 years when she answered those questions and it was obvious to her the questions were about ‘were you ever arrested in the US?’ ‘Were you ever convicted and imprisoned in the US?’ They were trying to see how she comported with US society over those 10 years,” Deutsch said. “Nevertheless, they are going back 45 years and saying that she lied about the fact she had been arrested in a war situation and convicted of charges that were part of a systematic use of torture by the illegal occupation courts that the [Israeli] military set up on the West Bank,” he added.

The fact the Department of Justice is pursuing a case nearly half a century old, based upon a confession forced by torture in a foreign country, shows just how the US’ “special relationship” with Israel can hurt American citizens. Other notorious cases in the US have relied upon secret evidence supplied by Israel, such as the case against American citizen Mohammed Salah and the case against what had been the country’s largest Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation. In the latter case, the court also allowed Israeli witnesses to testify under disguise and in secret. Mohammad Salah eventually was acquitted of the charges against him, while five men from the Holy Land Foundation were convicted and are serving unusually lengthy sentences ranging from 15 years to 65 years.

Recently, Judge Drain dismissed a motion to dismiss Odeh’s case on the grounds it’s based on illegal evidence obtained in a four-year-old investigation into 23 anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists. In the latest development, prosecutors are trying to create the impression that Odeh and her supporters present a danger to anyone serving on the jury and, therefore, are asking for an anonymous jury that would be sequestered. Calling her supporters, ‘hordes” and “mobs,” the prosecutor also is showing a bias against Palestinians and their supporters.

“There is a distinctly racist, anti-Arab undertone to the prosecutor’s motion, where spirited and dignified protests,” said key defense committee organizer Hatem Abudayyeh, who was one of the 23 activists targeted in the investigation. “Again, the federal government is trying to sow fear among people in the U.S. by criminalizing and stereotyping Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. As one of Rasmea’s lawyers said when he was informed of the motion, it ‘is only intended to play the ‘terrorism’ card and is unacceptable.’”

For her part, Odeh is continues her work with the women’s committee and her work at the Arab American Action Network to keep her mind off the impending trial. Looking at a flyer for an upcoming event at the end of the November, schedule two weeks after her trial is expected to end, she sighs.

“I hope I will be able to come. I am keeping busy to keep my mind off things. And I have hope. We must have hope.”

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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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Height of irony: SodaStream ad attached to video showing Israelis arresting 18-month-old infant

An ad for SodaStream attached itself to this video showing Israeli soldiers arresting a mother and her baby.

An ad for SodaStream attached itself to this video showing Israeli soldiers arresting a mother and her baby.

Google Ads for SodaStream, the carbonated beverage maker produced in Israeli settlements, seem to be hounding my every move on the Internet these days. That’s most likely because I’m in the midst of working on a nationwide interfaith collaborative boycott campaign against the newest kitchen-tech gadget to hit the American market.

One such appearance recently, however, reached the heights of perfect irony. Were it not so sickening, it could almost be funny: Google placed a SodaStream ad on the bottom of a video that captured Israeli soldiers arresting a young Palestinian woman and her 18-month-old baby.

SodaStream is marketing itself as a holistic and environmentally friendly alternative to established sodas, such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. It’s supposed to help cut down on plastic bottles in landfills and its syrups are supposed to be less expensive and healthier than pop you’d buy in the store. All advertorial hyperbole, based upon one investigation.

The biggest reason Palestine solidarity activists around the world are boycotting SodaStream is because it is produced, in part, in an Israeli settlement, which is built illegally on stolen Palestinian land. Settlements entrench Israel’s colonizing and apartheid  policies by confiscating ever more land, roads and buffer zones meant only for Jewish residents. Because settlements are protected by the Apartheid Wall, checkpoints and Israel’s security apparatus, Palestinians have lost their freedom of movement. Many of them have lost their jobs as a result because they cannot travel into 1948 Palestine anymore, or because the Wall has cut them off from their fields and other livelihoods. As a result, many Palestinians  — including children as young as 12 — work in settlements. They are routinely underpaid and overworked, according to a new study by  WhoProfits.org, an organization that tracks companies that profit from the occupation.

Another reason activists boycott products made in settlements is because these items support the settlement industry, which in turn helps nourish Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine.

Another practice that shores up the occupation is Israel’s random arrest and detention of Palestinians. Currently, more than 4,600 Palestinians are incarcerated illegally in Israeli prisons. Every year, some 700 children, as young as 10 years old, are arrested and processed through Israel’s military court system, according to Swiss-based organization Defence for Children International – Palestine Section. As of December 2012, nearly 180 children were behind bars.

Apparently, 18 months isn’t too young to be jailed. On Jan. 19, Israeli soldiers, acting to help illegal settlers appropriate Palestinian land and olive orchards, arrested Qamar, her mother Rima Ismail Awad, and several others as they attempted to access their land.

Ma’an News reported that the infant was released that night, while Rima was released the following day.

What kind of democracy takes a baby into custody?

The fact a SodaStream ad appeared on the video of the violent arrest breaches credulity. SodaStream is a product that supports an occupation apparatus that allows for the incarceration of an infant – and indeed thousands and thousands of innocent Palestinians, many of whom are being held without charge or trials. Samer Al-Issawi is one such prisoner. He is in critical condition and near death, after having refused food for 184 days to protest Israel’s use of administrative detention, torture and other human rights abuses.

SodaStream needs to go away, and settlements along with it. Boycott, divestment and sanctions is the one way to make this happen. BDS is a peaceful method to pressure Israel to comply with international law in the absence of global diplomatic or political pressure.

Do you part. Join BDS. Boycott SodaStream. Fight for justice for Palestinian prisoners. And stand in solidarity with Palestinians as they work for their internationally guaranteed right of self-determination.

The interfaith boycott committee, housed within the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is a group of Jewish, Christian and Muslim activists committed to working for justice in Palestine. American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for PeaceUnitarian Universalist for Middle East Justice, Quakers and other Christians groups are involved. We’re gearing up to kick off our campaign on SuperBowl Sunday, when SodaStream plans to have a splashy commercial during the fourth quarter. Get involved by entering a ‘spoof commercial’ video contest, holding a Fizzies For Freedom house party on Super Bowl Sunday, or join our Twitter campaign. For more information and the list of all the fun ways you can help boycott SodaStream, click here

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Chicago students walk out on Israeli apartheid

Students and community members stage simultaneous walkouts of Israeli political events at Northwestern and DePaul Universities

(CHICAGO 11/11/11) — On the evening of Nov. 10, students and community members staged two simultaneous walkouts at events promoting Israel’s narrative of its history and politics. At Northwestern University’s Evanston campus, demonstrators held a silent walkout during a presentation by Gil Hoffman, an Israeli military reservist and journalist. Meanwhile, on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, students and community members used the “People’s Mic” technique – popularized by Occupy Wall Street – to disrupt a presentation sponsored by the organization Stand With Us. Organizers say that they protested because the presentations omitted the disturbing reality of Israel’s repeated violations of international law and countless human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

At DePaul, a group of about thirty concerned individuals “fact checked” an event called “Israel 101,” sponsored by Stand With Us, an organization that seeks to brand Israel in a friendly and positive light. Watch the video. Demonstrators interrupted the presentation, stood up, and announced a statement about Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. According to one of the participants, University of Chicago student Ishan Chakrabarti: “We used a version of the ‘People’s Mic’ technique, recently utilized by the Occupy Wall Street movement. We challenged Israel 101’s propaganda and selective history and spoke truth to power by amplifying our voices.” The “fact check” was followed by a walkout and teach-in.

At Northwestern University, around thirty students and community members protested a presentation entitled “63 Reasons to Like Israel: Why American Jews should be Optimistic about Israel,” featuring Gil Hoffman, a reserve soldier and spokesman for the Israeli military as well as the chief political correspondent/analyst for The Jerusalem Post. Watch the video. Co-sponsors of the event included the Coalition for Accuracy of Middle East Reporting in America and the Zionist Organization of America. The university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter staged a walkout on Hoffman’s speech, inspired by the example of other student groups around the Midwest, including The University of Michigan, Benedictine University and Wayne State University. Outside, a diverse crowd demonstrated in support of the walkout.

DePaul student Agnieszka Karoluk explained, “At DePaul, we made up about three-quarters of the audience. At Northwestern, they filled a third of the room. We made it obvious that the community at large does not tolerate the promotion of Israel at the expense of Palestinian human rights.” A handful of protesters at both events decided to stay behind to engage in civil debate and discussion.

Organizers say these actions are part of the recent rise of a new global political consciousness about Palestine. This is reflected not only through non-violent protests and walkouts, but also through the growing “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, which reuses the methods that helped dismantle apartheid in South Africa. For the third year in a row, international solidarity activists non- violently challenged Israel’s six-year blockade of Gaza. These events reflect the success of civil disobedience in achieving concrete political change across the world, from the US civil rights movement to the South African anti-apartheid struggle. Palestinians and their supporters are part of this history.

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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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AMP slams media attacks against SJP national conference

(CHICAGO 10/12/2011) – The American Muslims for Palestine condemns in the harshest possible terms attacks made by the Anti-Defamation League against the organizers of the national Students for Justice in Palestine conference, which is taking place at Columbia University this weekend.

The ADL, which says it works to protect civil rights for all, instead works diligently to deprive Americans of their guaranteed right of free speech when that speech questions policies and practices of Israel that are illegal under international law and which deprive the Palestinian people of their basic human rights.

“SJP chapters across the country are autonomous student groups with no national structure,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, AMP chairman and co-founder of the first SJP chapter at the University of California, Berkeley. “These students came together, on their own, to organize this conference. They need to be commended for their dedication and commitment, not vilified and threatened by a multi-million-dollar organization, which has a vested interest in conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”

The ADL, along with other right-wing individuals, are spreading malicious, libelous and Islamophobic propaganda to smear these students and to pressure Columbia University to prohibit the conference from taking place. AMP calls upon Columbia President Lee Bollinger and his administration to stand firm against this pressure and to uphold his university’s commitment to the free exchange of ideas that have made our universities among the best around the world.

Columbia must stand behind these students because by doing so this venerable institution is also standing for the freedoms of speech and assembly, which are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights for all people.

For AMP’s newest booklet: The Anti-Defamation League: Protector of civil rights or silencer of free speech?, click here.

For AMP’s letter to President Bollinger, click here.

For recent article about anti-Semitism charge against Columbia, click here.

The American Muslims for Palestine is a national grassroots organization, whose mission is to educate the public about issues related to Palestine and its rich cultural and historical heritage. 

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Filed under Activism, Current events