Posted by Guest on February 17, 2017 in Blog
By Raneem Alkhatib
Arab Americans, joined by justice and faith groups, gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a raucous welcome, hours after his press conference at the White House, on February 15. Around 200 people braved the cold to stand against the bigoted policies of PM Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump. AAI, along with the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights; Palestine Legal; American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; The Jerusalem Fund; ArabAmerica.com; the Network of Arab American Professionals, DC Chapter; American Federation of Ramallah Palestine; and the National Arab American Women's Association organized the protest and were joined by a diverse group of supporters to stand against occupation and bigotry.
Yousef Munayyer, who came with the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, spoke of his visit to the US-Mexican wall in southern California. “I want to tell you what I saw there. I saw women on the other side of that wall, praying to be reunited with their daughters. I saw families standing on either side of a metallic monstrosity, that was put up and justified out of security, spending precious moments together before border control agents slammed the door shut on visitation. And I, as a Palestinian, and as an American, I stood there and I recognized what I was seeing. It was something that I had seen before - 10,000 miles from that spot. It was something that I had seen Palestinians live day and day out.” Munayyer, a Palestinian American, compared the US border fence, which President Trump plans to expand, to the 26-foot wall around the West Bank. This was followed by chants from the crowd, “All walls have got to go, from Palestine to Mexico.”
Munayyer then went on to speak of the President’s executive orders and Netanyahu’s approval. “The entire world was appalled at the first week of this president’s term. The rash executive orders; one after the other. Building on the land of Native Americans; denying people from coming into this country because they come from a Muslim majority nation; denying refugees; building bigger walls; empowering the security state to strip your liberties away. One man was there to throw his support behind him. And that man was Benjamin Netanyahu. Together we are here today to say no to Donald Trump and his policies. No to Benjamin Netanyahu and his Israeli apartheid. No to the ban. No to the wall, and no to building on stolen land from the United States to Palestine.” After he spoke, he introduced Kareem El-Hosseiny, from American Muslims for Palestine.
El-Hosseiny turned his attention to David Friedman, President Trump’s nominee for U.S ambassador to Israel, and the national protests around Netanyahu’s visit. “We worked with a coalition of organizations. We organized across 16 cities from Los Angeles and San Francisco, all across the country to Philly, DC, New York, Chicago, Pittsburg, all the way to Tel Aviv at the U.S. embassy, just to say that we will not accept the stealing of Palestinian land. We will not accept the settler [David Freidman] to be the US ambassador to Israel so he can allow Israel to steal more Palestinian land.” The crowd chanted throughout the night, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, David Freidman has got to go.” Arab Americans and others who support justice for Palestine argue that Freidman is unfit to serve as ambassador.
Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian Muslim American racial justice and civil rights activist, spoke about racial issues here at home. “There’s a new revolution that is happening. And at the center of it is human rights. And when we say human rights we say human rights for all people, including the Palestinian people. And as a racial justice activist, as someone who is committed to the liberation of black people in America, I believe whole heartily that when black people are free in the United States of America then we can liberate the Palestinian people. And the reason I tell you that is because we can and we have big enough minds and hearts to stand up for black people; for indigenous people in this county; for immigrants; and for LGBTQIA in this country. We can stand against xenophobia, racism, homophobia, islamophobia, and sexism. We don’t have to be one issued people. We are intersectional human beings and the movements that we are a part of are inclusive.”
Rabbi Joseph Berman from Jewish Voices for Peace said, “This is not a religious conflict. What we have is a political problem. Occupation and displacement of Palestinians, that’s a political problem. Segregation, a political problem. But I think that our religious traditions do have something that can help us figure out how to get to something new.” He then read a verse from the Torah, in English then in Hebrew. The verses spoke of working together towards justice. “Today Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu got together and talked about their shared values. They presented some, what I think were, alternate facts because they talked about those shared values as democracy and respect for all human life. In reality their shared values are a shared agenda of racism, of hate, of walls, of banning refugees. In response, we say no to both.” The crowd chanted in response, “We will work together.”
Rabbi Berman was joined by Reverend Graylan Hagler, of the Plymouth United Church of Christ, who spoke of his own trip to Palestine. “In November we took ten black pastors to Palestine. So that they could see what was taking place there, in the land. A few of them were what we referred to as Christian Zionists who felt that the bible said that certain people had rights over the land and other people did not have rights over the land. But they key was, it was black pastors and they had been on the ground for 48 hours. All of a sudden they turned around and said ‘I have never seen in my life the oppression I see being carried out against the Palestinians by the Israelis.’ And they stood up and they said, ‘no longer can I subscribe to that theology because right is right and wrong is wrong and what is going on here is absolutely, terribly, and completely wrong.’” He exclaimed, “People don’t want you to see the truth because once you see the truth you can’t deny it and if you deny it then you’re really exposing yourself as an evil person.”
Giulianna Di Lauro from Our Revolution, told the crowd about her trip to Palestine, “I thought back to the day where we went to visit that wall, that huge monstrosity that separates people, that isn’t just a physical artifact that separates people, it’s a constant reminder of a toxic ideology that says that one group of people are better than another group of people. That if you live on this side of the wall, you’re worthy. If you live on this side of the wall, you’re not worthy.”
Other speakers included: Janeen Rashmawi from NAAP–DC , Nadia Aziz from AAI, and Kristin Szremski from the American Muslims for Palestine. After the speeches, the crowd chanted, “No ban, no registry, don’t move the Embassy” and “Justice is our demand, no peace on stolen land.”
Raneem Alkhatib is a Spring 2017 Intern at the Arab American Institute.