Posted on August 16, 2019 in Countdown

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Hey Folks, This is Israel

Yesterday, the Government of Israel announced that Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will not be allowed entry into the Palestinian territories. While the denial of entry of Members of Congress by a self-described ally nation is shocking, Arab Americans like Representatives Omar and Tlaib have been systematically and regularly targeted and subjected to unjust screening, harassment, detention, and deportation when attempting to enter Israel and Palestine for decades. Still, this shameful move came only hours after President Trump, in an unprecedented statement, all but urged Israel to prevent the Congresswomen from entering. Think about that for a moment: The President of the United States is urging a foreign country to punish American lawmakers (duly elected to represent the American people) because he disagrees with them. As the ACLU put it, it’s outrageous. Israel’s decision actually demonstrates the very apartheid they were hoping to hide: By preventing U.S. lawmakers from visiting Palestine (without the Palestinians having a say in the matter), they’ve proven the Palestinian people are a captive population without freedom or control over their own lives. Israel offered a “humanitarian exemption" for Tlaib to visit her elderly grandmother in exchange for Tlaib promising not to promote the BDS campaign while there. Rather than convey generosity, this exemption only highlights a disconcerting reality in which an American lawmaker must restrict her free speech in order to be allowed to visit her family in lands unlawfully controlled by Israel. In what must have been a difficult decision, Tlaib rejected a visit under these humiliating conditions. Congresswoman Tlaib taught our country a great deal about the oppression of the Palestinian people without even setting one foot there. We can’t wait to see what might happen if she can go one day. We have to continue fighting for a free Palestine so that all people can visit without a permission slip from a foreign, tyrannical power that has no business controlling the Palestinian territories in the first place.

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On this Anniversary, We Act

Monday marked the 3-year anniversary of Khalid Jabara’s murder in Tulsa, OK, and the 2-year anniversary of Heather Heyer’s murder in Charlottesville, VA, both of which were high profile incidents prosecuted as hate crimes. However, both incidents went unreported in federal hate crime statistics. On Monday, our Executive Director Maya Berry appeared on CNN discussing AAI’s discovery of these omissions and what we need to fix them: the Jabara Heyer NO HATE Act (which you should tell Congress to support). And if you are not convinced by our case for improved data collection and reporting to, please read this powerful New York Times op-ed  by Susan Bro and Haifa Jabara, the mothers of Heather and Khalid. They call for support of the Jabara Heyer No HATE Act because it mandates better hate crime reporting and enables us to better respond to hate crime, so fewer people are victimized by the disturbing upsurge in hate in our current climate. Together, we can get this done.

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“Give Me Your Rich, Your Powerful—oh, and Your White too”

The Trump administration announced a new rule that will change how immigration officials decide which potential immigrants may need government resources to get by—what is being called a “public charge” to add dehumanizing words into the public discourse that further remove people from the discussion of policies about, you know, people!  For over a hundred years, this did not include programs such as basic healthcare and food assistance available to all people in the United States. When attempting to defend the change, USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli amended the poem placed on the Statue of Liberty, adding “Who can stand on their own two feet” to the line reading "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” He even said it was written for “people coming from Europe” (we’ll give you a minute to collect your jaw off the floor). Under Trump’s new rule, if any legal immigrant uses, or if the government feels they might be likely to use, “food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, or Medicaid,” they can be denied green cards. What this means, in the short-term, is that many legal immigrants already in the United States will be forced to choose between healthcare for their children and obtaining a green card. In the long term, it’s a clear effort to limit legal immigration. For these reasons, AAI opposed this absurd rule change when it was first proposed last year.

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#ArabAmericansLead?

New Hampshire: home to scenic views, the first-in-the-nation presidential primaries, and a missed opportunity to fix its gerrymandered map. We’re talking, of course, about New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu’s recent veto of a bipartisan bill to implement an independent redistricting commission. More states are implementing independent commissions before the next round of redistricting in 2021, but what sets New Hampshire apart is the legislature’s lead on this effort. While voter-led referendums have succeeded in getting commissions in other states, it was New Hampshire’s elected officials who brought up this opportunity and garnered the required support to pass it. So why’d Gov. Sununu (who’s Arab American, btw) veto the bill? He said the current redistricting process is fair, and the process is best left to state legislators who can be held accountable if they do a poor job. First, the NH map has been steadily skewed for the last 30 years to favor one party. Second, gerrymandering is often used to create safe seats that minimize voters’ voices, making it nearly impossible to hold elected officials accountable through elections. We can’t keep taking our political system for granite (get it?). Now’s the time for states to act to protect voters and ensure fair redistricting happens.  

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AIPAC vs Israel?

When Congress voted overwhelmingly to condemn BDS last month, you totally expected the Israeli right to celebrate, right? Check this out: 21 hardline Israeli lawmakers in the ruling coalition were upset with that vote, and wrote a complaint letter to anti-BDS resolution cosponsors Brad Schneider, Lee Zeldin, Jerry Nadler, and Ann Wagner. The letter reads: “We would like to express to you our concern regarding the anti-BDS resolution.” Oh wow, even they are concerned about free speech in America? Wait, never mind, here is there actual complaint: “We believe it contains a grave error because it expresses...support for a so-called ‘Two-State Solution’… We would like to make our position clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be far more dangerous to Israel than BDS.” The letter’s primary author, Yossi Dagan, is specifically upset with an unlikely party: “AIPAC misleads American officials and presents the two-state solution as an Israeli interest.” This is where we are, folks! The powerful anti-Palestinian AIPAC is not anti-Palestinian enough, because they pay lip service to the two-state solution. The honesty from Israeli officials is refreshing though, right? Now we can drop the pretenses and fight against apartheid.

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Bigotry In Power

Shortly after the latest act of mass violence by white supremacists, Fox News host Tucker Carlson went on air to claim that the problem of white supremacy is a hoax, disregarding all evidence of rising hate group membership and rising numbers of hate crimes.  It is perhaps fitting then that this would be the time when the SPLC exposes a white nationalist working as (you’re going to want to sit down for this…) a foreign service officer at the State Department. That’s right: white nationalists have literally infiltrated the State Department (you can’t dispute this case as you might with the White House occupant), and Carlson still can’t tell that white supremacy is a problem. Lucky for us, the State Department had the common sense to suspend this employee. And lucky for Fox News, they have an anchor named Shepard Smith who has the courage to call out bul… to call out nonsense (we almost slipped there) when he sees it: “White nationalism is without question a serious problem in America,” said Smith. And, boy, have standards dropped when Fox News simply acknowledging a real problem in America becomes something worth highlighting.

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