USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Rasmea Defense Committee statement: “Without a full and fair trial, Rasmea found guilty”

Posted by uscsjp on November 10, 2014

The following was sent out at 8:34 am this morning to the Committee to Stop FBI Repression listserve:

 

Rasmea Defense Committee statement

Without a full and fair trial,
Rasmea found guilty

In a travesty of justice, Rasmea Odeh today was found guilty of one count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. For over a year, Rasmea, her supporters, and her legal team have been battling this unjust government prosecution, saying from the start that the immigration charge was nothing but a pretext to attack this icon of the Palestine liberation movement. And although there is real anger and disappointment in the jury’s verdict, it was known as early as October 27th that she would not get a full and fair trial.

On that day, Judge Gershwin Drain made a number of rulings that made her defense virtually impossible. The government’s indictment stated that she had unlawfully gained U.S. citizenship because she had allegedly answered a number of questions falsely on her visa application in 1995 and her naturalization application in 2004. She had been in this country as a lawful permanent resident for almost 20 years, and a citizen for over nine, when she was arrested on October 22nd, 2013.

The main basis for the arrest a year ago was that she had allegedly falsely answered “No” to a question asking whether she had ever been arrested or imprisoned. The government claimed that she failed to disclose that she had been convicted by the Israelis of participating in bombings in 1969. This conviction in a military court was the result of a false confession made after she was viciously tortured and raped by Israeli military authorities for weeks. There is no due process in Israeli military courts, which “convict” over 99% of Palestinians who come before them, and “evidence” from these should not be accepted in a court in the U.S.

But Judge Drain did allow the conviction in Israel to be entered into evidence; and even though he suggested that Rasmea’s assertion that she faced torture and sexual abuse at the hands of her Israeli captors was “credible,” he still ruled that it could not be brought up in the course of her trial. So her attorneys had to scrap plans to call to the stand an expert witness, clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Fabri, who has decades of experience working with torture survivors, to testify that the allegedly false answers on the immigration forms were the result of Rasmea’s chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The judge also rejected Rasmea’s selective prosecution motion, even though it was clear that the case against her grew out of the investigation of 23 anti-war and Palestinian community organizers in Chicago and Minneapolis, who were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in 2010. Make no mistake. Rasmea came under attack by the U.S. government because she is Palestinian, and because for decades, she has organized for Palestinian liberation and self-determination, the Right of Return, and an end to U.S. funding of Israeli occupation. Palestine support work, especially the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, has made a number of recent gains, and the long arm of federal law enforcement has attempted to crack down on it, like it has on all effective and impactful movements for social justice in the history of this country. The crackdown reached Rasmea.

More than 200 people from across the Midwest, especially from Chicago, traveled to stand with her throughout the trial. They bore silent witness to her incredible testimony, for despite the judge’s rulings, she and her defense team did put the crimes of Israel on record. Her story of being exiled from the village of her birth, Lifta, in 1948; of being exiled again during the 1967 war; of experiencing the death of her sister after the raid on her home in 1969; and of being a political prisoner, one of the most famous in the history of the Palestine liberation movement—all these are stories of the crimes of apartheid Israel, crimes that continue today in the racist settler and military assaults we have seen in the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, 1948 Palestine, and the West Bank. Israel’s terrorism, and the U.S. government’s complicity, were exposed for all the world to see.

Rasmea’s honesty in the face of cross-examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel was thoroughly convincing as well. She said clearly that she thought the questions on the immigration forms were being asked about her time in the U.S., because she said she had nothing to hide and did not need to lie. She had testified about her torture at the United Nations when she was released in 1979, and as her lead attorney, Michael Deutsch, said, “It was well known that she was convicted, and traded [in a prisoner exchange]. The U.S. Embassy knew it, the State Department knew it, and Immigration should have known it.” So although the government had to prove that she “knowingly lied,” it never met that burden, regardless of what the verdict says.

For over a year, the Rasmea Defense Committee has been organizing educational events, rallies, protests, and call-in days to demand that U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and Tukel drop the charges against her. We now have more work ahead of us. Rasmea’s brilliant legal team—Deutsch, Jim Fennerty, Bill Goodman, and Dennis Cunningham—will undoubtedly file an appeal, and have strong grounds to do so, based on Judge Drain’s unjust decisions. And we will continue to support their work with our political organizing and mobilizations.

Just like our people in Palestine and across the world will never rest until every inch of historical Palestine is free, we will never rest in our defense and support of Rasmea as she moves forward to challenge this conviction. As Deutsch said in his closing statement to the jury, “It has been one of the great privileges of my long legal career to represent this extraordinary woman of great passion and dignity.” Rasmea’s story is the story of millions of Palestinians, and of millions of freedom-loving defenders of justice everywhere. Her eventual victory will be a victory for Palestine and for all the people’s movements across the world.

Today, we thank everyone who stood with Rasmea this past year, and ask you to continue fighting with us until we achieve that victory.

www.uspcn.org and www.stopfbi.net

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EI: “‘A political prosecution’: inside the trial of Rasmea Odeh”

Posted by uscsjp on November 10, 2014

“The Rasmea [Odeh] Defense Committee has asserted that the US attorney’s prosecution of Rasmea is a political prosecution — it’s because Rasmea is this iconic and legendary Palestinian figure,” reporter and contributor to The Electronic Intifada Charlotte Silver said on Friday from Detroit after the week-long trial of Palestinian American human rights activist Rasmea Odeh concluded. Jurors have begun deliberation.

Odeh was indicted last year “for allegedly giving false answers on her application for citizenship, which she was granted in 2004. The four questions she is alleged to have answered falsely inquired about her criminal record,” Silver reports.

“You have to really think about the fact that the Detroit US attorney’s office [has] been working for four years with the Department of Homeland Security to build this case against Rasmea Odeh,” she told The Electronic Intifada on Friday.

Silver has been reporting each day from the week-long trial in Detroit for The Electronic Intifada and other media outlets.

Verdict expected on Monday

In her latest report, published on Saturday, Silver writes that “After a week in court, the last day brought some relief to Odeh and her lawyers, who have been preparing for this trial for a year.”

Silver added in her report that “Before the jury entered Judge Gershwin A. Drain’s Detroit courtroom on Friday morning, Odeh’s lead attorney Michael Deutsch asked the court to have a directed verdict of not guilty; this was was denied by Drain. A directed verdict is when a presiding judge decides that no reasonable jury could arrive at a guilty verdict.

“For the last week, her defense team has stoutly contested the allegation that Odeh ‘knowingly’ answered falsely, arguing instead that her brother first filled out her application for a visa in 1995 and that she misinterpreted the questions on her application for citizenship in 2004.”

The jurors are expected to return a verdict on Monday.

Listen to the interview via the media player above, or read the following transcript.

“Peoples’ hopes are high”

Charlotte Silver: What the trial has been focused on is Rasmea’s immigration applications — her visa application that she filed in 1995 and her application for naturalization that she filed for nine years later, in 2004. The judge has made the parameters of the case extremely narrow, so really the jury is just supposed to look at her application, look at the four questions she’s alleged to have answered falsely, and determine if she knowingly answered them falsely.

So whereas before, the defense had a very extensive argument to make in Rasmea’s defense as for why those four questions were answered the way they were, they’ve had to really focus on proving that Rasmea Odeh’s interpretations of those questions — or the questions as they’re written — are ambiguously written. So it’s been very focused on that.

The prosecutor, the US government, has brought into court nearly 100 Israeli documents that were used to convict Rasmea Odeh in 1969 of participating in two bombings, a series of bombings in Jerusalem — one which resulted in the death of two people.

Rasmea Odeh was convicted of this charge after enduring 25 days of torture by Israeli security, and this has been documented several times over the course of the last 45 years. She gave a testimony in Geneva about this torture, she has spoken to various media outlets, to various human rights organizations about the torture she endured, and again she told a clinical psychologist, Mary Fabri, who’s based in Chicago, has worked with torture victims for over thirty years, told how she was tortured in 1969 to Mary Fabri, and none of that is being allowed into the trial.

Yet, the jurors are hearing over and over again that Rasmea Odeh was convicted of bombings that killed two people. What I think is significant is that in the gallery, there are dozens of supporters of Rasmea. There is also the brother of one of the victims of the bombing in 1969, and he’s sitting on the bench of the US attorneys, not at the table, but at the bench in the gallery that’s been reserved for US attorneys. And he has been following this case very closely, and he’s obviously in close contact with the US prosecuting attorneys — so even though the judge has strictly instructed the court to minimally refer to the 1969 conviction that Rasmea Odeh is now being brought up against, it’s very clear that the prosecutor is being motivated by this charge that was brought about by 25 days of torture.

And on the part of the defense, Rasmea Odeh has worked in the Chicago community of Arab and Muslim immigrant women since 2004, in this sort of spectacular way. And yesterday, testifying for the defense was Nadine Naber, who’s a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who testified to Rasmea Odeh’s incredible work helping immigrant women from Arab and Muslim communities integrate among themselves and mount this challenge of isolation. Rasmea Odeh has been working with the Arab American Action Network for nine years with women, but also more generally with the youth, trying to reduce violence in the community, and this is why she has dozens of people driving out from Chicago, staying in Detroit to watch this trial, to support her throughout this. Because she has become such a prominent leader in the Chicago Palestinian and Arab community.

And it’s why the Rasmea Defense Committee has asserted that the US attorney’s prosecution of Rasmea is a political prosecution — it’s because Rasmea is this iconic and legendary Palestinian figure. You have to really think about the fact that the Detroit US attorney’s office has spent four years, they’ve been working for four years with the Department of Homeland Security to build this case against Rasmea Odeh.

They filed this indictment nine years after she filed her immigration forms, after she became a citizen. The defense wrote that this was an example of selective prosecution, specifically for Rasmea exercising her First Amendment rights, which was being an active participant in the Palestinian American community. And none of that is being allowed in.

So the jurors don’t know that the FBI had conducted this mass investigation into Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists in Chicago, and that’s how they discovered this very small false answer on her application. All of that’s being excluded from the trial — but it’s important background for people outside of the trial to understand.

Nora Barrows-Friedman Finally, Charlotte Silver, today, Friday was the last day of the trial — there was a cross-examination and now the jury has gone into deliberation. In speaking with her supporters and Rasmea Odeh’s lawyers, what do people expect? I know it’s always hard to speculate in terms of what a jury decides, but based on your experience inside the courtroom this week, what are her supporters and her lawyers expecting?

CS: Well, peoples’ hopes are high. I think that the defense has done a really fantastic job developing a defense strategy given the constraints that they were under, and I think they’ve done a very good job at presenting Rasmea Odeh as who she really is in the community, as not a criminal. They have been able to touch on the background to her conviction in 1969, and they have been able to put forth an argument that she could reasonably have misinterpreted the questions as she answered them, so that she did not knowingly give false answers, she misunderstood the questions that were provided and answered them according to how she interpreted them. And they’ve been able to show inconsistencies within the application and the language of the application itself, and also over the different versions of the applications.

They’ve developed what I think is a strong argument to be made. Of course, there are no Muslim or Arab jurors — it’s eight women and four men, mostly white, and so those are the demographics of it. But it’s hard to know how they are going to rule.

The jurors will return to deliberate on Monday.

–Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, Sun, Nov 9, 2014

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Israeli Right-Wing Activist Killed and other updates from Democracy Now!

Posted by uscsjp on October 30, 2014

Israel Closes Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound After Shooting of Far-Right Activist

Israel has shut down the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem for the first time in 14 years following the shooting of an Israeli far-right activist. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the closure as a “declaration of war on the Palestinian people.” The site, known by Jews as the Temple Mount, houses both the mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Jamal Tawfiq, a resident of Jerusalem, said he was turned away after arriving for his morning prayers.

Jamal Tawfiq: “This is a collective punishment [for something] we had nothing to do with. This is injustice. There’s no fair government here. Justice should be the basis for governance. But there is no justice here. A problem happens with a person over there, they close the mosque here. Why is it OK to allow Jews to go pray at the Wailing Wall without any harassment, while a Palestinian is killed every day? Every day, a Palestinian is killed. Every day, holy olive trees are burned and pulled out because they belong to Arab Palestinians. Why are we the ones being punished?”

On Wednesday night, U.S.-born activist Yehuda Glick was shot and wounded outside a conference on promoting Jewish access to the Al-Aqsa site, where he and others want to build a Jewish temple. Hours later, Israeli police shot and killed a Palestinian suspect in the shooting, who they said resisted arrest.

U.N. Holds Emergency Meeting on Illegal Israeli Settlements

The latest tensions came as the United Nations held an emergency meeting on Israel’s plans to build 1,000 new settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The settlements in an area which Palestinians seek as part of any future state are considered illegal under international law. Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with construction.

Sweden Recognizes State of Palestine in First for EU

Sweden has officially recognized the state of Palestine, becoming the first member of the European Union to do so. In a newspaper op-ed, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom called the move “an important step that confirms the Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” adding, “Some will say today’s decision comes too soon. I’m afraid, rather, that it is too late.”

Malala Yousafzai to Donate $50,000 for Gaza Schools

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has promised to donate $50,000 to rebuild schools inGaza that were damaged by this summer’s Israeli offensive. After receiving the World Children’s Prize in Sweden, Yousafzai said she would donate all the prize money to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

Malala Yousafzai: “This money will totally go to the rebuilding of schools for children in Gaza. So I think it will definitely help those children to continue their education, to get quality education, and it will help them to continue their life and to know that people are supporting them and they’re not alone. And I’m really happy that this funding will help in the rebuilding of 65 schools in Gaza.”

SodaStream to Move West Bank Settlement Factory After Boycott

The company SodaStream has announced plans to move its factory out of an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank following an international boycott. SodaStream said its move was “purely commercial.” But supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement have claimed the move as a victory, saying their efforts caused SodaStream’s share prices to drop as retailers were pressured to abandon their products.

U.N. Votes 188 to 2 Against Embargo of Cuba; U.S., Israel Only Dissenters

The United Nations General Assembly has voted nearly unanimously to condemn the U.S. embargo on Cuba for the 23rd year in a row. Just like last year, the vote was 188 to 2 with only Israel joining the United States. Three countries abstained: Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

 

–Democracy Now!, 30 October, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/30/headlines#10306

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Amy Goodman Interviews Chomsky after his Address to the UN General Assembly

Posted by uscsjp on October 24, 2014

…AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the most—the single most important action the United States can take? And what about its role over the years? What is its interest here?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask, but live up to its own laws. And there are several. And here, incidentally, I have in mind advice to activists also, who I think ought to be organizing and educating in this direction. There are two crucial cases.

One of them is what’s called the Leahy Law. Patrick Leahy, Senator Leahy, introduced legislation called the Leahy Law, which bars sending weapons to any military units which are involved in consistent human rights violations. There isn’t the slightest doubt that the Israeli army is involved in massive human rights violations, which means that all dispatch of U.S. arms to Israel is in violation of U.S. law. I think that’s significant. The U.S. should be called upon by its own citizens to—and by others, to adhere to U.S. law, which also happens to conform to international law in this case, as Amnesty International, for example, for years has been calling for an arms embargo against Israel for this reason. These are all steps that can be taken…

–Democracy Now!, October 22, 2014

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/10/22/noam_chomsky_at_united_nations_it

 

 

 

 

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AFP: “Gaza donor states urge peace talks as millions pledged”

Posted by uscsjp on October 13, 2014

International donors pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to rebuild the battered Gaza Strip on Sunday, as they urged Israel and the Palestinians to renew peace efforts.

Gas-rich Qatar led the way at a donors conference in Cairo with a promise of $1 billion in aid for the coastal enclave, devastated by its 50-day summer conflict with Israel.

Washington pledged $212 million and European Union member states 450 million euros, but there was clear concern at financing the reconstruction of Gaza yet again without a peace deal in sight.

The crowded coastal enclave, ruled by the Islamist militant Hamas movement since 2007, remained a “tinderbox,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned, announcing plans to visit Gaza on Tuesday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Gaza was facing an “enormous” challenge.

A truck loaded with goods enters the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in southern Gaza on October 12, 2014
A truck loaded with goods enters the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in southern Gaza on October 12, 2014
“The people of Gaza do need our help, desperately, not tomorrow, not next week, they need it now,” Kerry told the gathering of some 30 global envoys.

Kerry, who failed to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians earlier this year, urged renewed talks and said the two sides needed to make “tough choices”. The call was echoed by Arab and European envoys.

The Palestinians asked for up to $4 billion in international aid after Gaza suffered heavy damage in its conflict with Israel in July and August.

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait also pledged $200 million each on Sunday.

There is widespread concern that — after three destructive conflicts in the past six years — any help to Gaza will eventually be lost in more violence.

(L-R) Norway’s Foreign Minister Borge Brende, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri, Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas pictured at the opening session of the Gaza Donor Conference in Cairo on October 12, 2014
(L-R) Norway’s Foreign Minister Borge Brende, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri, Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas pictured at the opening session of the Gaza Donor Conference in Cairo on October 12, 2014
Ban expressed the fears of many when he told the conference the situation in Gaza remained potentially explosive.

“Gaza remains a tinderbox, the people desperately need to see results in their daily lives,” Ban said.

“This must be the last time. There is clearly some fatigue,” he later told reporters.

- ‘Neighbourhoods destroyed’ -

The Palestinian government unveiled a 76-page reconstruction plan ahead of the conference, with the lion’s share of assistance to build housing.

“Gaza has suffered three wars in six years. Entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed,” Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas told the conference.

Kerry said the new aid brought Washington’s contribution to helping Gaza to more than $400 million over the last year alone.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (R) greets Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid al-Sabah during the Gaza Donor Conference in Cairo on October 12, 2014
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (R) greets Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid al-Sabah during the Gaza Donor Conference in Cairo on October 12, 2014
Kerry was due later to meet Abbas to press for further peace efforts.

“Make no mistake. What was compelling about a two-state solution a year ago is even more compelling today,” Kerry said.

Kerry’s dogged pursuit of an agreement to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel collapsed in acrimony in April after a difficult nine-month process, and there is little prospect of fresh talks any time soon.

Israel and Hamas militants have yet to even translate their open-ended August ceasefire into a long-term truce.

In his meeting with Abbas, Kerry is expected to try to dissuade him from seeking further recognition of the Palestinians at the United Nations, a move vehemently opposed by Israel.

This summer’s conflict killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, while attacks by Gaza militants killed 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi (R) speaks with Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair during the Gaza Donor Conference in Cairo on October 12, 2014
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi (R) speaks with Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair during the Gaza Donor Conference in Cairo on October 12, 2014
It also left the densely populated enclave in ruins, displacing more than a quarter of Gaza’s population of 1.7 million and leaving 100,000 people homeless.

- Israel consent needed -

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has described Gaza’s financial needs as “unprecedented”.

The United Nations already has plans for $2.1 billion of the funds, with $1.6 billion going to UNRWA and the rest to other agencies including children’s organisation UNICEF and development arm UNDP.

One crucial question will be how the aid is delivered, especially given Israel’s strict blockade of the territory since 2006.

Palestinian children sit in the window of a partially destroyed building in al-Tufah, east of Gaza City on October 11, 2014
Palestinian children sit on the window of a partially destroyed building in al-Tufah, east of Gaza City on October 11, 2014, ahead of a donors conference in Cairo
Israel was not invited to the conference but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said any effort would need his government’s consent.

“Gaza cannot be rebuilt without the cooperation and participation of Israel,” Lieberman said in an interview with news website Ynet, though he added that Israel would be “receptive” to plans for “the reconstruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza”.

Internal divisions among the Palestinians are also a matter of widespread concern and they strived to present a united front in advance of the conference.

On Thursday, a new unity government held its first cabinet meeting in Gaza, months after a reconciliation deal between rivals Fatah, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which is in de facto control of Gaza.

–Jo Biddle and Jay Deshmukh, Agence France-Presse, October 12, 2014

Posted on Alternet:

http://www.alternet.org/progressive-wire/gaza-donor-states-urge-peace-talks-millions-pledged

 

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AFP: US slams Abbas UN speech as ‘offensive’

Posted by uscsjp on September 27, 2014

The United States on Friday slammed Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas’ speech at the United Nations, saying it was “offensive” and undermined peace efforts.

“President Abbas’ speech today included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing and which we reject,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“Such provocative statements are counterproductive and undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties,” she said.

In his address to the UN General Assembly, Abbas demanded an end to occupation, accused Israel of waging a “war of genocide” in Gaza and asserted that Palestinians faced a future in a “most abhorrent form of apartheid” under Israeli rule.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also blasted Abbas, accusing him of “diplomatic terrorism.”

–Agence-France Press, Sept 27, 2014

http://www.afp.com/en/node/2881681

Judge for Yourself: Full Text of Abbas Speech Here.

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Juan Cole: Must Muslim Americans Condemn IS? Must Turkish Jews Condemn Gaza War?

Posted by uscsjp on September 17, 2014

This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page.

During the recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, a controversy broke out in Turkey about whether Turkish Jews were required to condemn Israel’s actions, as some pro-Palestinian Turks suggested.

  Turkish Jewish intellectuals wrote in an open letter to the newspaper Hurriyyet [“Liberty,” Istanbul]:

“”Israel’s latest attack on Gaza led, once again, to cries of ‘Why does the Jewish community remain silent?’ A campaign was even launched that claimed that the Jews of Turkey bear responsibility for what Israel does in Gaza.

“No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.

“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views.”

Many Jewish organizations stigmatized the demand as Antisemitism.

Asking people to take stances based on their ascribed identity (what they were born into most often) rather than on the basis of their individual choices in life goes against everything that modern human rights thinking stands for.  It is like forcing all Russian-Americans to say publicly what they think about Vladimir Putin.

So if all this is correct, and it certainly is, why do right wing Americans continue to demand that Muslim-Americans condemn Muslim extremists in the Middle East?  They have nothing to do with the latter and aren’t responsible for them.  Some of the inhabitants of the American Southwest in the early modern period were secret Muslims from southern Spain who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Inquisition.  My birthplace, Albuquerque, is an Arabic word (al-Barquqi).  Some 10% of the some 4 million Africans kidnapped and trafficked to Southern landowners as slaves in the U.S. before the slave trade was abolished were Muslim.  Hundreds of thousands of people practiced Islam in North America long before there was a United States.  The White House was built with slave labor and likely some of that was Muslim labor.  Some of the founding Fathers likely owned Muslim slaves.  As late as the 1930s, elderly ex-slaves reported in interviews that they remembered their mothers bowing toward the east at dawn.  Some Arab-American Muslims can trace their family roots in the U.S. back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  The religion is an American religion, deeply interwoven with American history and Muslim-Americans are not responsible for developments in the contemporary Middle East.

So they shouldn’t have to, but they do:

VOA: “U.S. Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State” 

 

Juan Cole, Truthdig, September 16, 2014,

 

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/must_muslim_americans_condemn_isil_turkish_jews_condemn_gaza_war_20140916

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UNRWA: Why are Gaza’s kids so eager to get back to school?

Posted by uscsjp on September 9, 2014

Greetings!

 

The children of Gaza have suffered greatly during this war – for losing lives, parents and homes. They’ve lost enough. When you donate, you ensure that as the school year begins on September 14, they won’t miss out on continuing their education.
Izziddin doing a sprint in the school yard

Izziddin Hamada, 11 and Amal Al Omari, 13 are currently taking refuge in the Beach Elementary Boys School, which serves as a shelter for those displaced by this war. Izziddin’s wish to return to school is for a rather simple reason, “I want a long ceasefire to return to school. I want the blockade to end so that I can travel abroad. I want to study medicine in the future so that I can treat my sick mother.

As for Amal, her father died of cancer before the war. But before he departed, he built them a fabulous home. The home was completely flattened during the current war, leaving Amal, her mum and four siblings homeless. Amal’s wish for an education is like Izziddin’s – to make a better future for herself and others. She says, “I want to have our house rebuilt. I want peace. I want the borders to open so that my mother can travel abroad to undergo her eye surgery and I can continue education. After finishing high school, I would like to study Journalism.

Amal writing ‘Palestine’ on the blackboard of the school serving as her family’s shelter

When you give, you can educate a child like Izziddin or an entire classroom of kids like him. You can allow a Gaza student like Amal to undertake distance learning if she is experiencing difficulty accessing a school. And for the tens of thousands that require specialized psychosocial support, you can provide them with counseling sessions to help them deal with the horrors of a pitiless war.

You can make a difference in the present and future of a child of Gaza. The math is simple.

USD 30 provides a child with an hour of psychosocial support.
USD 44 will provide a student distance learning materials.
USD 135 will provide a school with arts and handicrafts materials.
USD 1,026 will provide school desks for an entire classroom.

Donate now. Your donation may be tax-deductible.

Watch Gaza’s children speak of dreams and wishes amongst the rubble

Remember, supporting education for a child of Gaza also brings her stability and gives her hope for a brighter future, for herself, her loved ones and for Palestinian society.

In solidarity,

Lionello Boscardi
Chief, Partnerships Division
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)

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Naomi Shihab Nye: On growing up in Ferguson and Palestine

Posted by uscsjp on September 5, 2014

I grew up in Ferguson, Mo. No one ever heard of it, unless you lived elsewhere in St. Louis County.

Then my family moved to Palestine – my father’s first home. A friend says, “Your parents really picked the garden spots.”

In Ferguson, an invisible line separated white and black communities. In Jerusalem, a no-man’s land separated people, designated by barbed wire.

* * *

My father and his family became refugees in 1948, when the state of Israel was created. They lost everything but their lives and memories. Disenfranchised Palestinians ended up in refugee camps or scattered around the world. My dad found himself in Kansas, then moved to Missouri with his American bride. He seemed a little shell-shocked when I was a child.

Ferguson was a leafy green historic suburb with a gracious red brick elementary school called Central. I loved that school, attending kindergarten through sixth grade there. All my classmates were white, of various derivations – Italians, French-Canadians, etc. My father was the only Arab in Ferguson. But he ran for the school board and won.

At 12, I took a berry-picking job on “Missouri’s oldest organic farm” in Ferguson. I wanted the job because I had noticed that the other berry-pickers were all black boys. I’d always been curious about the kids living right down the road whom we hardly ever got to see.

We had contests to see who could pick the most in the searing humidity. I had obliterated Ferguson’s “line.” I felt a secret pride.

My mom often warned, “Be your best self.” This seemed odd.

It would be 1968 before the Supreme Court ordered U.S. states to dismantle segregated school systems and Ferguson began mixing it up. We were gone by then.

In 1966, my father took our family to the West Bank. I was the only non-Armenian attending the ancient Armenian school in Jerusalem’s Old City. It was fine to be “the other” for a change, but I wished we could have Jewish friends too. And I wished the Jewish Israelis we weren’t seeing across that line could know the families of Palestine as we did, sharing their humble parties under blossoming almond trees.

Our father said that, when he was a boy, Jews and Arabs had been mixed together, neighbors. Now there was power and domination at stake.

Dominate – to exercise control over. Black kids in streets. Thousands of Palestinian families.

In 1967, with the Six Day War brewing, my family left Jerusalem. We settled in San Antonio, a majority Latino city, which felt like a relief. White and black people were minorities. There weren’t any lines. Maybe in the air, and in history. But people kept crossing them.

My father, a newspaper journalist, eventually left San Antonio for another paper, I ended up attending college here and have remained until now. We have our first African American female mayor in history.

Back in Israel/Palestine, nothing improved for the Palestinians and they were always blamed for it. A gigantic ominous “Separation Wall” was built. Americans elected a half-and-half president twice, which gave many of us great hope.

Summer 2014, the news exploded.

Massacres in Gaza – not the first time – people who looked exactly like our Arab families. Regular people. Kids. Sleeping kids. No tanks, no army, no due process of any kind, but they were blasted out of their lives.

Was anyone civilized? A Jewish friend sent me a one-word message that he seemed to be sending out to everyone he knew: STOP!  

What could we do?

Of course, we wished Hamas would stop sending reckless rockets into Israel, provoking oversized responses. Why didn’t the news examine those back stories more? Oppression makes people do desperate things. I am frankly surprised the entire Palestinian population hasn’t gone crazy. If the U.S. can’t see that Palestinians have been mightily oppressed since 1948, they really are not interested in looking, are they? And we keep sending weapons and money to Israel, pretending we’d prefer peace. 

We send weapons to Ferguson, too.

After unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot, quiet old Ferguson took over the news. Citizens marching, chest placards, “I’M A MAN TOO” “DON’T SHOOT.” It’s easy to see how delusions of equality in Ferguson – where a white officer might raise a gun against an unarmed black kid – are simply wrong.

Why is that harder for people to see about Gaza? 

People in Gaza actually sent messages of solidarity to Ferguson – Internet petitions signed by Gazan citizens. I thought I was hallucinating. What if they could all march together? 1.8 million Gazans would really clog old Florissant Avenue. 

To my knowledge, Israelis have never yet been called militants by the American press, even when they blast whole families to oblivion.  It’s just “defense.” A newscaster described Ferguson as “a series of stings and hurts.” Try the open-air prison enclave of Gaza for stings and hurts.

On the news, a Kuwaiti running a Ferguson grocery says his store has been looted. I think, “He’s the Arab there now.”

Things will change again in Ferguson. Historic inequities in that community will be reexamined, no one will be able to pretend they don’t exist. But will we examine them in other communities too?

Will things change for Gaza? If they don’t, this nightmare of worst selves will keep happening and happening. Look, it already has. And what gets better? Will the United States ever speak out in solidarity with scores of exhausted people burying their dead, staring up with stunned eyes, mystified?

–Naomi Shihab Nye, The Washington Post, August 28, 2014

Posted in Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

Jonathan Cook: Partisan reporters criticise Gaza coverage

Posted by uscsjp on September 1, 2014

I have noted in several previous articles the unusual, possibly unique, problem relating to media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The reporting corps is awash with “partisan reporters” – that is, Jews who have an ideological, social or familial connection and sympathy with one side, the Israeli side.

I have no objection to reporters having views, even strong ones, about this conflict, or any other issue in the news. I do myself. In fact, I believe journalists cannot be “objective”, as I have explained at length elsewhere.  But in the case of Israel-Palestine, many reporters are being chosen precisely for their partisanship – and these reporters are being selected because they are partisan in one direction only. Just check how many Palestinian reporters (I don’t mean glorified fixers or undervalued stringers) report for the US media on the conflict.

Editors possibly justify their policy to themselves by assuming that Jewish reporters, especially ones with family in Israel, will improve their access to Israeli elites. Given the rampant chauvinism in Israel, this may be so. But it means only one side of the elite debate is being accessed – the Israeli one.

Illustrations of the partisan reporter’s mindset have been thrown up afresh in a debate about media responsibility during Israel’s attack on Gaza. A prime example is Matti Friedman, who worked for many years at the US news agency Associated Press. AP has a pretty terrible record in its coverage of the conflict, as well as documented examples of its local staff censoring stories that reflect badly on Israel.

Preposterously, Friedman asserts in his essay for the Tablet magazine that the media’s disproportionate interest in Israel-Palestine reflects an unhealthy and “hostile obsession with Jews”. In fact, it indicates something else entirely: the West’s long and unhealthy interest in supporting the Zionist movement’s dispossession of the Palestinian people in their homeland, and a deep sense by Western elites of their political and military investment in the Jewish state project.

The media’s obsession with Israel results both from Israel’s place at the heart of the West’s perceived strategic interests in the region and from a need to pander to influential domestic Jewish readerships. There is a reason, after all, why the New York Times is probably the most Israel-obsessed newspaper in the world outside Israel itself – and it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

Most of Friedman’s article is so patently one-sided, and detached from reality, it barely warrants addressing. One only needs to read his claim that the big story overlooked by the media is: “The fact that Israelis quite recently elected moderate governments that sought reconciliation with the Palestinians”. Yes, in your dreams, Matti.

Similarly, Friedman apparently also knows enough Palestinians to argue that the real story they want covering is corruption within their own society. Maybe the two Palestinians you befriended think like that, Matti, but I guess that may be a rather self-selecting group. Why do you think they befriended you?

As someone who has lived among Palestinians for more than a decade, I can assure you that, however much corruption there is in Palestinian society (and there certainly is), it is considered a far less pressing concern than the occupation of the West Bank, the siege of Gaza, the continuing dispossession of Jerusalem, and the abandonment of the refugees. You may think Palestinians have their priorities wrong, Matti, but there is no disputing that those are their priorities.

Friedman also wants the conflict recharacterised as a Jewish-Muslim one rather than Israeli-Palestinian. The media apparently collude in this mistaken framing. Thus, Friedman argues:

A knowledgeable observer of the Middle East cannot avoid the impression that the region is a volcano and that the lava is radical Islam, an ideology whose various incarnations are now shaping this part of the world. Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano. Hamas is the local representative of radical Islam and is openly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish minority enclave in Israel.

Except the conflict existed well before anyone had heard of Hamas, al-Qaeda or Isis. Religion was never at the root of the conflict, though Israel – hoping to exploit Western prejudices about a clash of civilisations – has been working hard to make it so.

Friedman again:

Jerusalem is less than a day’s drive from Aleppo or Baghdad, and it should be clear to everyone that peace is pretty elusive in the Middle East even in places where Jews are absent. But reporters generally cannot see the Israel story in relation to anything else.

But Western interests, and the resulting Western interference, Western-backed puppets, and the West’s fair-weather, Islamic allies, are never far away from wherever one is in the Middle East. That is why peace is and remains elusive. Israel is one central prong in this Western policy of interference. The real story is that reporters like Friedman – in fact, all reporters in the mainstream – are either oblivious to the West’s indelible impact on the region, or career-minded enough to avoid mentioning it.

Today in a Haaretz commentary, a former partisan reporter for the BBC, Richard Miron, added his support to this heavily distorted picture of media malfeasance. Being a former BBC journalist, he tries to be a little more “balanced” in his views than Friedman, but finds nothing in Friedman’s screed to distance himself from.

As if confirming Friedman’s claims, Miron lambasts reporters for “emoting” on the Palestinians’ behalf, citing Jon Snow of Britain’s Channel 4.  Whatever one thinks of Snow – and I think he ultimately failed his viewers by chiefly packaging Palestinian suffering in Gaza in humanitarian terms – Miron, like Freidman, is grossly misrepresenting the true picture of Western media coverage of Gaza. That rare bout of soul-searching from one prominent presenter was but a drop in the ocean of wall-to-wall sympathy for Israel in the US media. The story there echoed the assumption of President Barack Obama that Israel has a right to defend itself from … Palestinian resistance to decades of Israel’s belligerent occupation and an eight-year siege of Gaza. That part of the story was hardly ever mentioned, even by Snow.

Miron does make one sensible observation:

Knowing Gaza’s physical geography, it’s safe to conclude that if Hamas operatives did come out from the territory’s packed urban confines, they would have been quickly struck by an Israeli drone or aircraft fire.

But blinded by his partisanship for Israel, he then wants to use this observation to support Israel’s story that Palestinians in Gaza were being used as “human shields”. In fact, he specifically criticises BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen for writing that “he saw no evidence … of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields”. But contrary to Miron’s assumption, avoiding committing suicide (on a battlefield determined by Israel’s siege policy) is not the same as turning other Palestinians into human shields. At least Bowen understands that point, even if Miron, blinded by his partisanship, cannot.

–Jonathan Cook, The Blog from Nazareth, September 1, 2014

 

http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2014-09-01/partisan-reporters-criticise-gaza-coverage/

Posted in Analysis, Opinion/Editorial | Leave a Comment »

 
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