Posted on May 26, 2016 in Countdown

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Zogby and the DNC Platform Committee, Part 1 Palestine Plus

We’ve got a lot to say about the exciting news our very own President Jim Zogby is in the starting line-up of the #DNCDreamTeam responsible for drafting the Democratic Party’s convention platform. It’s nothing short of a historic triumph for the decades of work Jim has spent forcing the issue of Palestine into mainstream party politics. A proud defender of Palestinian rights, the end of the occupation, justice for Palestinian citizens of Israel, the reconstruction of Gaza and more, it seems like the reasons Palestine has been blocked by the Democrats at previous conventions are the same reasons Jim got the job this time around. But let’s remember, Jim doesn’t just work on or care about Palestine. We’re celebrating his appointment because of Palestine, absolutely, but also because he has a tried-and-true record on racial justice, religious freedom, immigration reform, refugee resettlement, criminal justice reform, and more issues that the Arab American community cares deeply about. So let’s celebrate what this means for Palestine in U.S. politics, but let’s not stop the party there. 


Zogby and the DNC Platform Committee, Part 2 History and “History”

There are a few who want you to believe that the sky is falling because Sanders picked Jim to be the Palestine guy on the platform committee. Some from the right wing say he’s bad (very bad) for Israel, and some on the left wing insinuate he’s a normalizer. We’re left pretty dumbfounded by both sides’ selective reading of history. Let’s be quick and clear, the Holocaust quote being peddled is inaccurate, and the people trying to diminish – or ignore – Jim’s position(s) on Palestine are forgetting his role in 1988 with Jesse Jackson, 1992 with Bill Clinton, 2008 and 2012 with Barack Obama, and his civil society work since founding the Palestine Human Rights Campaign in 1976. We don’t have too much say about either sides’ historical amnesia because we’ve got actual work to do. Some influential newspapers reporting on what the #DNCDreamTeam means for the issue of Palestine have decided that simple history doesn’t sit right with them. Check out how the New York Times has “occupation” and “the plight of the Palestinian people” in quotes – like either is a controversial, debatable statement – and the The Hill did the same thing before they changed it. To all these people, we say in quotes, “seriously, come on.”


What’s A Muslim Republican to Do? Never Who?

The media picked up a story this week when reporters found a few American Muslims who were willing to speak about their their support for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. It is indeed somewhat difficult to understand why anyone (especially American Muslims) would support all of Donald Trump’s policies; there is broad condemnation in the Party about Trump’s Muslim ban, his Middle East policies and lack thereof, and his penchant for fear-mongering tweets, to name just a few. But we’re inclined to draw more questions than problematic answers from how the chips are falling when die-hard, thoughtful Republicans are faced with the choice between #NeverTrump or #NeverHillary. Now that the nomination is his, will we see support for the Party and continued condemnation of the candidate’s policies? Here’s hoping.


TSA Lines Aren’t the Only Problem When Travelling to Palestine

It’s getting to be summer travel season and people are angry. Long lines, ineffective security practices, over-budget government bureaucracies - it all adds up to an irritated Congress and a couple terminations in the Transportation Authority’s upper echelons. While the efficiency versus safety debate rages in the States, it’s worth remembering that it’s also the time of year we start hearing one case after another about Arab Americans who get detained, harassed, and denied entry at Israeli borders when they’re trying to enjoy a vacation or sometimes see a dying family member - - yes, we have those cases too. We here at AAI have had several recent meetings with State Department officials about the undeniable discrimination that U.S. citizens face at the border in an effort to get our government to do something about an ally mistreating its citizens. It’s an issue we’ve been pressing consistently for decades. We were thrilled to see our allies at Jewish Voice for Peace unleash a powerful image this week in solidarity with the cause; we know it adds to the pressure the State Department is under to hold Israel (who might be getting a $601 million cherry on the top of their annual aid package from the US next year) accountable for baseless discrimination at its border.


The Problems Are Many and the Convictions Are Few

We’ve previously covered why neither Republicans or Democrats can be spared in any worthwhile critique of the American justice system and proposals for reform. When the second Baltimore police officer on trial for the wrongful death of Freddie Gray was acquitted this week, we were reminded of this point: everybody has failed the young black men and women who the system is rigged against. The many incredible organizations and people working to right this wrong are dealing with micro, macro, sociological, historical, bureaucratic, systematic and all too often counter-productive policies. So no matter what people say about this particular acquittal, the reality is just not that simple. As criminal justice reform advocates remind us, “there must be sweeping changes in the way police interact with people of color. The policies, practices and culture of ‘rough rides,’ ‘jump outs’ and ‘stop and frisk’ that allow police brutality to happen must be ended.”