What it means to be a student for justice in Palestine

Guest contribution by Dana Saifan


Thousands of students organizing for justice in Palestine fill schools and universities across the globe, dedicating countless hours to discussing the Palestine question. Students attend conferences and lectures, organize rallies and events, and flood Facebook and Twitter feeds with Palestine-related news in hopes of educating themselves and others. They fall in love with leading life as an activist, but too often, they don’t reflect on the meaning of activism and put their work into perspective.

For the past two months, I, a Palestinian-American who has been actively involved in a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter for the past three years, have been traveling across Palestine, examining the occupation from the ground and being at the receiving end of dozens of individuals’ life stories. I have also spoken with internationals, heard Palestinian perspectives on internationals, and, although I’m Palestinian, walked the streets of Palestine viewed as an international.

Several times throughout my trip, I’ve heard elderly Palestinians repeat concerns that the younger generation of Palestinians is not doing much to fight the occupation, that they are caught up in materialism and other superficial things. I myself have had moments of hopelessness, questioning the energy I put into the movement for Palestinian rights all the way in the States when the ones suffering in Palestine were themselves seemingly caught up in worldly things, appearing to not acknowledge the occupation and suffering around them. There have been points when I’ve questioned why we dedicate so much time to advocating for the boycott of and divestment from corporations such as Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, Nestle and more when these things are commonly found in Palestinian homes and stores. Seeing these corporations across Palestine, coupled with my conversations with my elders, forced me to put my work into perspective. [Read more...]

No Headwear Allowed

Guest contribution by Marwa Abed


I remember someone once asking me why I wore a ‘headdress,’ and I almost had to stop and ask them what they meant, before realizing they were referring to my hijab. Headdress?

Today while logging onto Facebook, I scrolled through my newsfeed and saw mention of ‘headwear.’ The comments weren’t in reference to football and helmets; rather this was yet another one of the odd names people make up when trying to categorize hijab.

A Muslim woman from Massachusetts had posted a photograph of a note she received from a test proctor while taking her Bar exam. The note read: “Headwear may not be worn during the examination without prior written approval. We have no record of you being given prior written approval. Please remove your headwear and place it under your seat for the afternoon session.”

Really? [Read more...]

Sixty-five years ago, Ramadan happened during the Nakba

Guest contribution by Jumana Al-Qawasmi

On July 8, 1948, Ramadan was just beginning all across the Muslim world. As Palestinian Muslims get ready for Ramadan this year — set to begin July 9, 2013 — we look forward to the usual: the beautiful nightly prayer congregations, the flickering colored lamps, the unimaginable amounts of cooking, and the time to develop our faith, patience, and capacity for introspection.

In the Palestine of 1948, however, Ramadan meant continued expulsions from a homeland and a heritage reaching back countless centuries. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were made refugees between April and June of 1948; thousands more still were forced out of their homes in July and on.

As I fast in training for the coming long days, I can’t help but think back to what it must have been like for my grandfather fleeing his hometown of Barkusia in Al-Khalil. He was only a teenager at the time, barely older than my youngest brothers. My grandfather remembers the townspeople hearing reports of murders and rapes in neighboring towns. These reports often scared Palestinians into running, as it did in my hometown’s case. [Read more...]

Nationalizing Mohammed Assaf’s success is problematic

Guest contribution by Deema Alsaafin


It’s post-Arab Idol season yet the fever that has gripped Palestine over the past few months is still making my head spin. The name on everybody’s lips is Mohammed Assaf, the humble 22-year-old singer from the Khan Younis refugee camp in the besieged Gaza Strip that pleaded with and bribed Hamas and Egyptian authorities into allowing him a chance at traveling to realize his dream and become crowned the second-ever Arab Idol.

Despite his victory and overwhelming support, Assaf’s journey has inspired many conflicting and often disappointing sentiments that show how readily the line between the individual and the national will be attacked. The view that accomplishments such as Assaf’s can only be appreciated or given any worth if held within the context of Palestinian liberation is at fault here.

The rife nationalist stance that gripped the ground throughout Assaf’s journey holds that Assaf is either worthy of support because of his dedication to Palestine by uniting the ground, or that he is an evil person because he “distracted” us from other more important issues. Nationalizing Assaf also placed irrelevant expectations on him, causing some to believe his Arab Idol success deserves support only under the pretext of Palestinian liberation. These ideas simply don’t match up because they fail to separate Assaf’s individual dream from the greater national goal. [Read more...]

Palestinian necklaces of clove

Guest contribution by Wedad Yassin

Clove Necklace - W Yassin 1

Summertime is wedding season. But for many Palestinian-Americans, the season brings out more than just parties.

During my last semester in college, I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis on the Palestinian Diaspora in America. My research and writing was based on fifteen interviews of Palestinian-Americans across the country and focused on identity and culture. When presented with the question, What aspect of your life would you say is clearly Palestinian? the most common answer, expectedly, was food. But the second most common answer – weddings – was more of what I was expecting.

Living in a land so far from Palestine and feeling the need to preserve one’s identity and history forces one to sacrifice many things on both sides of the cultural spectrum in order to live a balanced enough life. Nevertheless, I feel the easiest way to keep the Palestinian cultural identity alive and well is through our weddings.

Families have taken the smallest of cultural practices and preserved them from summer to summer through our wedding festivities. Although we may have adopted the Western white dress and fancy banquets, many traditions still thrive in different parts of the wedding process. The most outward example is the henna party where traditional attire is worn, folk songs are sung, and traditional jewelry is also worn. Writing about the Palestinian wedding experience would take more space than we could afford but there is a tradition I want to bring attention too, a tradition that I feel has become forgotten in my circles of Palestinian-American life and is not celebrated as much as others. [Read more...]

To Israel, one man’s journalist is another man’s terrorist

Guest contribution by Deanna Othman

As Palestinians prepare to mark the 65th anniversary of al-Nakba on May 15, the date that symbolizes the beginning of the methodical dispossession and oppression of Palestinians, they have been greeted with a slap in the face by Washington, DC’s Newseum in another attempt to delegitimize and stifle their struggle.

The Newseum, which features exhibits both on news history and contemporary media technology, announced the names of 82 journalists who died covering the news in 2012, and added them to the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial in a ceremony held May 13 in the Journalists Memorial Gallery. Among the honored were Marie Colvin and Anthony Shadid, who both died in Syria.

Absent from the list of 82 journalists were an additional two names originally slated to be included — Hussam Salama and Mahmoud Al-Kumi, who were doing camera work for Al-Aqsa TV when they were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza in November 2012.

The Newseum announced Monday that the museum will “re-evaluate their inclusion as journalists on our memorial wall pending further investigation.”

Although many held out the hope that the Newseum would stand by its decision, it is a grave disappointment, but not a complete surprise, that yet another institution that purports to celebrate diversity of voices has caved under Zionist pressure. [Read more...]

Repudiation of the West does not define Islam

Guest contribution by Deanna Othman

On May 1, Foreign Policy magazine published a piece by Yair Shamir with the headline “Our Shared Islamist Enemy: From Boston to Israel, radicals are attempting to destroy Western culture.”

Shamir’s piece endeavors to draw baseless parallels between the Boston Marathon bombings and the resistance of Palestinians against the Israeli occupation, what he inaccurately portrays as an “aggressive and offensive jihad, unconnected to any particular conflict or borders, which conjoins Islamist terror groups around the world.” His unabashedly Zionist agenda rears its head through this opportunistic attempt to play into the media circus surrounding the Boston bombings.

His ludicrous argument essentially states that the problem is not Hamas or Al Qaeda, the problem is not Osama Bin Laden or Dzokhar Tsarnaev: the problem is Islam.

Unfortunately, the Boston bombings have given virulent propagandists and Islamophobes a field day. While various pundits and media personalities jumped to the Tsarnaev brothers’ religious identities as the singular motive for their alleged acts of violence, they focused on them as individuals, and how their thought processes could have been perverted by purported religious radicalization. What makes Shamir’s contention particularly disturbing is his sweeping generalization that all groups and individuals affiliated with Islam, from Hamas to the Muslim Brotherhood, to the Tsarnaevs and Sayyid Qutb, all had a particular end in mind—the obliteration of Western culture. [Read more...]

Continuing through bitter days: 10 years after the invasion of Iraq

Guest contribution by Banen Al-Sheemary

An edited version of the piece ran on Informed Comment earlier today.

Ten years ago today, I remember sitting in front of the television watching the sky turn bright yellow from the massive blasts. Slowly, I turned away from the screen to see my parents’ reaction: absolute silence.

That was the first time I had seen my parents watch the TV news without voicing an opinion. I only saw their sullen silence as they watched their beloved country explode into flames.

My twelve-year-old self had already been indoctrinated with the quintessentially American good guy / bad guy mentality, to which many unfortunately adhere. I struggled to understand the logic behind the invasion of Iraq. Was Iraq a bad country? What had we done wrong? Why is it America’s right to invade and change it? I looked over at my parents again and I could tell their hearts were reeling.

“Believe it. Liberation is coming,” said an arrogant George W. Bush as he spread more war propaganda in his visit to Dearborn, a city in Michigan with the largest Iraqi diaspora community in the United States. All I knew was that the ruthless Saddam Hussein would soon be gone. But what I didn’t know was what would become of Iraq.

Soon I would find the answer: under the guise of cynically named Operation Iraqi “Freedom,” the Iraq I knew would be completely destroyed. [Read more...]

To Rachel

Guest contribution by Anthony Betori

Editor’s note: Exactly ten years ago, 23-year-old Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli military armored bulldozer in the occupied Gaza Strip as she tried to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. Nobody has been held accountable for her death.

Rachel Corrie

Rachel, thank you but I am so sorry
I am so sorry that you are not here
that you were killed by

Rachel, I am lonelier because
You are not here
and this fight is one soul weaker
one soul lesser

But Rachel, mostly I am thinking
about what you were thinking
as that bulldozer took
away from us

Rachel, I am wondering
what it was that you thought
as hope ended
as justice died [Read more...]

Israel does not deserve to be admitted to the Visa Waiver Program

Guest contribution by Jareer Kassis

In a recent Haaretz article, Amira Hass reported that Israel denied yet another American citizen of Palestinian descent re-entry into the occupied West Bank. As always, the Israeli authorities invoked the perpetual “security risk” excuse without bothering to elaborate on why an American high-school teacher who held a position at a Quaker institution in Ramallah was deemed a threat. While denying entry of Americans who belong to a particular ethnicity into Israel or the territories it controls (and is required by the Oslo agreements to grant access to) is almost routine, it comes as the U.S. Congress is considering granting Israeli citizens visa-free entry into the United States. If Israel is allowed to join this “Visa Waiver Program (VWP)”, it would necessitate the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State having to lie.

Both the House and Senate versions of the bill include a stipulation that, for Israel to be admitted to the VWP, both the Secretaries must determine that:

The Government of Israel has made every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal privileges are extended to all United States citizens.” (Emphasis mine.)

The evidence gathered over multiple reports spanning the last few years shows that Israel’s treatment of United States citizens is anything but reciprocal. As early as 2006, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained to the Israeli foreign minister (the undeservingly respected Tzipi Livni) about the ill-treatment of Palestinian-Americans by Israel, and also promised later that year to “ensure that all American travelers receive fair and equal treatment”. Yet the reports of Americans humiliated and/or denied entry at Israeli borders are abundant. [Read more...]


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