Posted on August 22, 2014 in Countdown

Ferguson is About All of Us

As Arab Americans, we understand the real life impact of profiling and discriminatory law enforcement practices. We know how it can range from “minor” inconveniences while traveling to destroying someone’s professional career. But the death of yet another young African American teenager demonstrates how truly grave the consequences of profiling can be. We stand in solidarity with all victims of profiling and against the militarization of police forces. We stand with those seeking justice in last week’s shooting of Michael Brown, in which we saw the most extreme impact of profiling. There is so much work to be done. We have to address how local police forces are given these extreme weaponry and equipment under the guise of protecting communities after 9/11. We need to update federal guidance and legislation to remove unlawful policies that allow profiling. A Department of Justice investigation into Michael Brown’s shooting is an important step, but it is only a first step. Federal mechanisms to prevent state and local law enforcement agencies from profiling and committing these tragedies are the urgent priority. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson, and now it’s now time for him to update the 2003 DOJ Guidance. Congress needs to pass the End Racial Profiling Act. We’ve waited too long and have seen too many tragedies.

Ferguson on the World Stage

Ferguson may be about all of us in the states, but it is having some international repercussions as well. Not only are writers interpreting how the United States would comment on Ferguson if it happened in another country, but people across the world, like in Gaza, are offering support and advice for protestors facing unprecedented responses by police, including the use of tear gas. On the other side of the equation, governments like Egypt’s are already acting like they have the moral standing to express concern. Egypt’s government called on the U.S. government to show restraint – because apparently they do a great job of distinguishing between their military and police forces and have shown incredible restraint over the past year in restoring their domestic “stability”. Egypt must be forgetting the scathing Human Rights Watch report released just weeks ago. Sure, the United States has a ways to go – Ferguson marks the first time Amnesty International has dispatched a delegation of observers and organizers in the United States, and there are important and fair criticisms of the divisions and shortcomings in the US, now in plain sight. But getting lectured from a government who somehow believes they have a respectable human rights record? C’mon.

More Weapons for Israel? At Least Ask First

We have to give the White House credit – it looks like despite their vocal defense of Israel’s right to self-defense and inability to bring themselves to fully condemn Israel’s actions against Palestinians this past month, there is some hopeful news. Earlier this week, news broke that the White House and State Department were not being told about arms and ammunitions transfers to Israel and put an Israeli request for a missiles transfer on hold. Essentially, Israel was operating over the White House and State Department, through their friends at Congress and the Defense Department. While the White House and State have played down the snafu and decision as a measure of “additional care,” the intentions appear clear. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf noted, “We thought Israel could do more to prevent civilian casualties” and the White House has now instructed the Pentagon and other agencies to review and consult with them before approving Israeli requests. Sounds like the right call. No matter how much the administration tries to downplay this welcome move, we’ll be sure to play it up.

What Snowden Noticed That We Should All Really Care About

In a wide-ranging interview with Wired magazine, Edward Snowden gave more details of the troubling measures taken by the NSA that prompted him to become one of the most notorious whistle blowers in U.S. history. Want to venture a guess at one of the discoveries he found most shocking—one that proved to be formative for him? In the Spring of 2012, Snowden learned that private communications, including emails and phone calls of Arab Americans, including Palestinian Americans, were being passed on to Israeli intelligence. In the article, Snowden notes how information like this was typically altered to remove identifiable information like names and other personal information, but in this case, both the content and metadata were being passed on without protecting the identities of these Arab Americans, many of whom had family in Palestine. “I think that’s amazing,” Snowden says. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.” Yes, the man who has seen so, so much found this incredibly shocking. This should be noted by all of us who still believe in an America where such extraordinary abuses would not be tolerated and where people hearing of such abuses would demand more accountability and oversight over U.S. intelligence agencies. As Snowden keeps talking, distrust from our community grows—but believe us, all people should be concerned. 

James Foley and the Way Forward

How does the “Islamic State” try to garner attention and provoke? By beheading a highly regarded journalist in a disgusting video that reveals the indefensible and distorted ideology of a group that deserves all the names it’s been called – thugs, evil, ugly and savage. President Obama paid respect to journalist James Foley and Secretary Kerry released a strong statement against the “Islamic State” yesterday. James Foley’s legacy lives on among fellow journalists and in the faith and perseverance he revealed to others during his captivity. The United States also disclosed on Wednesday that it attempted a rescue mission for journalists held by the group but did not succeed. The international community now finds itself in a difficult position in an effort to address the growing threat from the movement. We believe these thugs do not deserve the recognition of knowing that the United States could alter its policies based on an execution of a journalist, and while response may be necessary, policies should not be reactive and should include convening and working with countries in the region. As the scope of the humanitarian action taken a few weeks ago in Iraq begins to expand, it becomes increasingly necessary for the U.S. government and others to provide a strategy and outline objectives of any further action.

What About Gaza?

We know it can be difficult to follow all that’s happening in the news. For one, even though the fragile ceasefire in Gaza collapsed earlier this week, cable news has been relatively mum on the issue given so many other events. So because we like to keep you updated, here are a few things you need to know on Gaza. On Monday, Israeli troops demolished the homes of the two Palestinians it suspects of abducting and killing three Israeli teens all the way back in June. If this is how justice is handled, it makes us wonder what happened to the home of the Israeli who killed Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir – seems like his house is still standing. On another note, it isn’t only Gazans who can’t escape Israel’s bombardment. Thousands of West Bank Palestinians have been prevented from leaving Palestine as well. The refusal rate skyrocketed in recent months and as you probably guessed, the Palestinians are given no explanation for why the Israeli government is forcing people to miss flights, lose their jobs, money, and educational opportunities. And on another front, Israel, like Egypt, has barred Amnesty and Human Rights Watch workers from Gaza to conduct independent investigations. We figured this would happen with UN investigations that will occur once this mess is over, so we can’t say we are surprised at Israel’s ridiculous attempts to black out the government’s atrocities, violence and destruction.

One More Thing...

Finally – this is a long post, we know – leave it to the IDF to turn a noble cause into a disturbing tactic. The ALS “ice bucket challenge” has been taking the world by storm, with politicians and celebrities alike taking part, but now, some members of the Israeli Defense Forces want people to smear hummus on their face and donate money to the IDF in a wildly original “Hamas vs. Hummus” challenge. It seems the money the United States is giving the IDF isn’t enough to continue their assault on Gaza. Despite this disgusting manipulation of the original cause, which has already raised so much for ALS research, take heart in knowing that your teta’s delicious hummus isn’t being used by these IDF soldiers – and we all know who’s winning the hummus war anyway.

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