Rep. Omar Backlash: All Too Familiar to Arab Americans

Posted by Heba Mohammad on February 13, 2019 in Blog

This week, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) attempted to break the dam on a discussion that has been held back for too long: the sanctity of Israel in our U.S. Congress, and the role of powerful pro-Israel organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in maintaining a taboo around criticisms of Israel. While the dishonest backlash to Omar's tweets has largely succeeded in shifting the conversation away from U.S.-Israel policy and into a debate about anti-Semitism, it is critical to take a moment to focus on the actual positions Omar was communicating.

Watching the online debate unfold, the...

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Affirming Free Speech for Some and At the Expense of Others

Posted by Suher Adi on October 23, 2018 in Blog

While it has been accepted that political speech is protected through the First Amendment, the current political climate is challenging this notion. Anti-BDS legislation has been passed in 25 state legislatures and is also currently pending in 12 other states. There is also legislation on the federal level, both the “Anti-Semitism Awareness” and “Israel Anti-Boycott” acts have been introduced as attempts to silence Palestinian human rights activists. Most recently with the recent appointment of Kenneth Marcus to the head of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education (ED), the current political climate has...

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Trump and The Attempted Erasure of Palestinians

Posted by Suher Adi on August 28, 2018 in Blog

The Trump Administration has been working toward presenting his “deal of the century” and delivering Palestinian-Israeli peace during his tenure in office. Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been seen as a key issue to delivering “peace and stability” to the region. Every President in recent history has attempted to present themselves as an unbiased broker, but Trump has even done away with that pretense.

As with any administration before his, Trump came into office understanding that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will remain prominent in the headlines, and thus would continue to be a major foreign policy focus. And just like other...

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Washington Watch: The Struggle for Palestinian Rights: Then and Now

Posted on August 04, 2018 in Washington Watch

By James J. Zogby 

Forty years ago this month I left a tenured teaching position and moved to Washington, DC to run the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC). It wasn't easy doing Palestine work back then, and Washington was an especially inhospitable city in which to pursue my new vocation. Advocating for Palestinian rights can still be difficult, but so much has changed in the past four decades that I thought it might be useful to reflect on where we were in the 1970's and where we are today. Back then, major pro-Israel and establishment American Jewish organizations threw their full weight...

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Countdown Vol 18 No. 7: For the Love of Democracy

Posted on July 27, 2018 in Countdown

DREAMers Countdown: It’s been 325 days since President Trump moved to end DACA. The courts did step in to block the move, but Congress has yet to provide a permanent fix.

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Washington Watch: The "Jewish Nation-State" Bill

Posted on July 21, 2018 in Washington Watch

By Dr. James J. Zogby This past week by a vote of 62 to 55, Israel's Knesset passed legislation called "Israel as a Nation-State of the Jewish People." Heralding the passage of the bill, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as "a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the annals of the state of Israel...We have determined in law the founding principle of our existence. Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all its citizens."   In reaction, Israeli hardliners and their supporters in the US celebrated the...

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Washington Watch: Thank You, Ireland

Posted on July 14, 2018 in Washington Watch

By Dr. James J. Zogby 

On Wednesday morning, I watched an amazing debate unfolding in the Irish Seanad (Senate), as members spoke for and against a bill to prohibit the importation of Israeli goods produced in settlements in occupied Palestinian lands. The legislation in question is the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territory) Bill 2018, which would "make it an offense for a person to import or sell goods or services originating in occupied territory or to extract resources from an occupied territory". The bill had been introduced by independent Senator Frances Black and a group of co-sponsors earlier in the...

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Palestinian Perspectives: 1948 until today

Posted by Guest on June 28, 2018 in Blog

By Allison Ulven

On Thursday,  June 28, the Foundation for Middle East Peace hosted a panel discussion titled “Complex Palestinian Narratives & Competing Political Visions.” The event addressed the problems and misconceptions Americans have about what the people of Palestine are seeking. Many tend to have a “single, monolithic viewpoint,” neglecting the full spectrum of views on the situation. The panel discussed different narratives and perspectives from the time of the Nakba in 1948 to the present.

The panelists included our Deputy Director Omar Baddar, ANERA’s Rula Bawardi, the Museum of Palestinian People’s Nizar Farsakh, with moderation by Al-Arabiya’s Muna Shikaki.

Shikaki began the discussion by giving a brief overview of the history of the Palestinian situation dating back to the 1930s, alluding to the crystallization of Palestinian identity into a nationalist movement during the period of British colonial rule. Following the establishment of the state of Israel, Palestinians turned to neighboring Arab governments for support. The late ‘50s brought about the Fatah nationalist movement, and the ‘60s gave rise to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which later came to lead advocacy on behalf of Palestinians.

There are varying visions for how to achieve Palestinians’ goals and how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, but much of the debate recently has centered around the one-state solution vs the two-state solution. You can see the varying levels of support these proposals have among Palestinians and others on this recent poll by Zogby Research Services.

But with the failure of all solution visions to materialize thus far, the question is: Where do Palestinians go from here?

Nizar Farsakh spoke first about the different perspectives of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and in refugee camps, and how we make sense of the events that took place. Nizar was born and raised in Dubai, but also spend time living in the occupied Palestinian territories and in the United States. His father was from a town in the West Bank where they still had family living, and they would send money and support them. When he moved there in 1999, he said he was surprised that his family in Palestinian referred to “Israel,” instead of his then-preferred terminology while living in the diaspora, referring to the “1948 areas.” He also remembered when Palestinians declared statehood in Algiers in 1988 how some celebrated it as an accomplishment while others mourned it as a step that came at the expense of Nakba refugees. Another aspect to the narrative was the divide between the West Bank and Gaza and how neither leadership was certain that they wanted to help each other.

Rula Bawardi spoke next about the specific experiences of Palestinians in Jerusalem. Rula’s father was forced to leave a particular area in Jerusalem in 1948, but came to establish residency in East Jerusalem. Although they were refugees, they did not live in refugee camps. Her father was able to build a successful clothing design business, receive an education, and provide a good life for the family. Her father participated in boycotts with his business long before the BDS movement became a thing. When the peace process eventually began, Rula remembered Palestinian children handing over olive branches to Israeli soldiers, in what she recalls as a naive hope that Israel was about to end the occupation. However, Israel built more settlements, and Jewish settlers began occupying Palestinian homes. Israel would refuse Palestinians building permits inside the occupied territories, and would often demolish their homes, and revoke their residencies. Closures on the West Bank turned the vibrant Jerusalem into a “goth ghost town.” The physical separation between different parts of the occupied territories had also fragmented Palestinian identity. The main struggle facing Jerusalemites is how to remain there and keep their ID’s despite the oppressions and economic strangulation they face by Israel.

Finally, Omar Baddar spoke about the experiences of Palestinians in the diaspora and in the United States. Omar argued that the Palestinian people are diverse in their perspectives. He said the main political parties in Palestine, Fatah and Hamas, were losing public support because neither succeeded in producing a clear strategy for Palestinians to get behind. In the United States, most Palestinians don’t have a loyalty to either political group, Omar said. What divides Palestinians in the US are the different agendas and strategies to advocate and move forward with a solution. In terms of the debate over the one-state and two-state solutions, a huge part of the divide related to different assessments on which was more “pragmatic” and “realistic” to pursue. Right now, Omar argued that there is no clear political road map that can lead to either solution, which is why there has been a shift in advocacy that focuses on human rights, primarily seeking to end U.S. support for Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. And that effort is beginning to show signs of hope, as with the introduction of a bill by Betty McCollum to end any U.S. financial support for Israel’s detention of Palestinian children. Omar argued that diversity of views is a strength in the movement for Palestinian rights, so long as people acknowledge the basics: That Israel is oppressing the Palestinians, and that we need to bring about pressure to change Israel’s policies.

All of the panelists provided clear viewpoints to the many different narratives of the Palestinian people. It is important that we consider all of these perspectives and understand the complexities of the issues as we work for a solution. You can watch the full panel below.

Allison Ulven is a 2018 summer intern at the Arab American Institute.

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Hill Briefing Addresses Abuse of Palestinian Children

Posted by Guest on June 25, 2018 in Blog

By Blaise Malley

For the first time in the chamber’s history, the House of Representatives introduced a bill that addressed Israel’s abuse of Palestinian human rights. The bill was introduced on November 14, 2017 by Betty McCollum (D--MN), and is currently being heard in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Over the course of the next few months 28 other representatives, all Democrats, co-sponsored McCollum’s bill. On June 25, 2018, the Defense for Children Palestine and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) hosted a briefing on the bill.

While the very facts that there is a bill being discussed...

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