The trials and tribulations of a Madonna fan in Palestine.

On May 29 the Queen of Pop, Madonna, held a ‘Concert for Peace’ in a Tel Aviv stadium for a crowd of 30,000 Israelis. Despite the plea of many Israelis, Palestinians and international solidarity activists to heed Palestinian civil society’s call for the cultural and academic boycott of the State of Israel, Madonna went ahead with her ‘Concert for Peace’ and handed out roughly 600 tickets to members of ‘Israeli and Palestinian peace camps.’

I was ready to write a long post highlighting all that is wrong with Madonna’s trip to Israel and emphasizing the strategic role BDS plays in resisting Israeli oppression. However, I came across a video that does all that and so much more. In the video two brothers from the Palestinian village of Ni’lin get tickets to Madonna’s concert and try to go. Watch and get a unique perspective into the everyday life of a Palestinian.

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Zionist Discrimination Beyond Palestine

Israel and the racist ideology of Zionism on which it was founded and continues to operate on till this day, has created a system of first class and second class citizens as well as non-citizens in historic Palestine. The implications of this discriminatory system, however, extend far beyond Palestine and bleeds into much of the Middle East.

In light of the ongoing Arab Awakening throughout the Middle East, the limitations on the rights of the non-Jewish populations outside of Israel become obvious. Concern for maintaining Israel’s hegemony over the region is dressed up as a desire for ‘stability’. Stability, as western power elites refer to it, means nothing more than maintaining Israel’s military, technological and economic superiority over its neighbors.

Taking the example of the Egyptian revolution, the discussion in the mainstream media is often 2 pronged. The immediate concern is ‘What will become of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel?’ Virtually no mind is paid to the fact that this ‘peace treaty’ was forced upon the Egyptian people against their will. Moreover,  the treaty disproportionately limits Egyptian sovereignty over its own territory and is overwhelmingly in Israel’s favor. Western powers often seen boasting of their love for democracy and desire to see a democratic Middle East are suspiciously negligent of the undemocratic means by which this ‘peace treaty’ came about. But, of course, it brought stability to the region, making Israel and it’s allies (the only parties whose input counts) happy.

Second, there is a huge scare over the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In a democratic society where it’s one-person one vote, the citizenry has the right to select whomever they please to lead them. Of course, this includes the right to voice dissent and to also decide whom the populace does not want to lead them. Many of the arguments against the Muslim Brotherhood are valid and resonate with many Egyptians. However, this rhetoric becomes dangerous and undemocratic when it comes from outside Egypt. From individuals who are not members of Egypt’s citizenry and therefore have no say in who should lead Egypt. Many times we find this ‘concern’ oversteps its boundaries and transforms into dictating to the Egyptian public who they should or shouldn’t vote for. Furthermore, much of the ruckus surrounding the Muslim Brotherhood is not regarding how they would treat the Egyptian people, but rather how they will view and interact with Israel. “Will the Muslim Brotherhood view Israel as an enemy? Will they go to war with Israel? Will they remove the Israeli Embassy in Egypt?” These are the questions that boggle the mind of the international community as Egyptians continue their revolution for freedom and dignity.

In a true democracy the views of the people are respected. The government elected by the people strives to represent their constituency to the best of their abilities. Or at the very least, the society is structured on a vision of such a system. It is no ones place to tell the people how to vote or what to support. But this has never been the case in the Middle East.

Arab regimes have worked to silence dissent amongst the masses and, to a large extent until recently, have succeeded in building an obedient society. The main beneficiary of such oppression is Israel, a state founded on the destruction of Palestine and the continued oppression of the Palestinian people for the entirety of its existence. Israel has been able to do so with much credit due to the cover it receives from these Arab regimes. Hosni Mubarak is a prime example of an Arab leader who went against the wishes of his people and worked to fulfill the desires of the Zionist state.

It is vital to recognize that much of the friction the Arab Awakening is facing today is a result of the hierarchy in the Middle East introduced by the ideology of Zionism. Arabs can’t have fair representation, because they may not be aligned with the Zionist agenda. God forbid the Arab people experience freedom or else Israel’s blank check of oppression might bounce.

The Arab people have proven themselves to be true believers in the principles of democracy. Millions of Arab men, women and children have put their lives on the line and paid the ultimate price in the pursuit of a free and democratic society. For us in the western world, we often take living in a democracy for granted. All it takes it a brief glance at the Arab world to see what democracy is really worth.

To Chris Brown From Palestine: Do You Hear Us?

This post was originally featured on Sixteen Minutes to Palestine here

Dear Mr. Brown,

I was delighted to comes across your tweets about the Houla Massacre on Twitter. I applaud you for spreading awareness about this grave injustice. Your appeal to the humanity of your followers is commendable and honorable. Of course, all instances of injustice are awful and regrettable. It is our duty to speak up and act to alleviate the suffering of the oppressed all over the world whether they be in Syria or elsewhere. The crisis in Syria is deplorable, and we should take any and all measures to help end the suffering in Syria with the utmost respect to Syria’s sovereignty and dignity.

Humanity has a long history of injustice. Many peoples have suffered in the past and many continue to suffer today. Injustice is not a sporting event where the team with the most points wins. On the contrary, as the score board increases, humanity loses. However, I do feel that in order for our concerns and activism to be taken seriously, we must be principled in our condemnation of injustice wherever it may be and however small. This leads me to my question and reason for writing this letter: Where was the outrage during Operation Cast Lead where Israel mercilessly slaughtered over 1400 Palestinians, hundreds of whom were innocent children?

While your tweets did prompt me to ask this question, my question is by no means limited to you specifically. One thing that the ongoing crisis in Syria has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt is the international community’s double standard in dealing with Israel. This has become clear as many of the loudest pro-Israel voices who ignore and condone the suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israel are quick to condemn the tremendous suffering of the Syrian people. The only difference between the suffering and murder of the Syrian children in Houla and the Palestinian children in Gaza is the oppressor responsible for their suffering. If the identity of the powers inflicting such barbaric injustices dictates whose suffering you object to and who you speak up for, what can we say about your commitment to humanity? Many of the heinous crimes we are witnessing in Syria have been perpetrated by Israel on Palestinians causing endless suffering for over 64 years. Where is the outrage over the suffering of the Palestinian people?

Many pro-Israel voices are quick to respond to any criticism of Israel by asking ‘Why not criticize Syria or Saudi Arabia or any of the other Arab governments?’ The response to the crisis in Syria has made the answer to this question crystal clear. Arab regimes, unlike Israel, receive tremendous criticism from the international community. Countries like Syria are under sanction for its crimes against its own people. Israel, on the other hand, is not held accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people. Israel has oppressed the Palestinian people for 64 years. How many more children have to be orphaned, homes demolished, acres of land stolen and lives lost before the world wakes up and brings justice to my people?

I am not accusing you of having an agenda against the Palestinian people. However, just like you appealed to the humanity of your followers earlier, I am now appealing to your humanity. Now that you do know about the suffering of my people it becomes your duty, as our brother in humanity, to share our story and join us in our pursuit of justice.

Mr. Brown your music is very popular in Palestine and you have no shortage of Palestinian fans. Music has long been a tool of the oppressed to resist oppression and alleviate their suffering. In Palestine we draw inspiration from the anti-slavery and civil rights movements of the United States. We suffer at the hands of a racist and discriminatory ideology that echoes the suffering of your people in the United States’ not so distant history. But we are steadfast and patient as we are certain that time is on our side. I hope that you too will help us in our struggle by speaking up for the voiceless and standing up for justice. I look forward to meeting you on the right side of history.

Adam Akkad

Palestinian Girls Win 4th Place at Largest Science Fair in the World

Last week at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, PA a project from Hebron, Palestine took the 4th place award in the category of Plant Sciences.

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the premiere science competition in the world. ISEF brings together more than 1500 high school scientists from 65 countries to present their research and compete for over $3 million in prizes and scholarships. Finalists are selected from more than 7 million students who participated in science fairs around the world.

Students Asil Shehadeh and Rawan Skafi from Hebron, Palestine won fourth place in Plant Sciences for their project “The Crying Plant” where Asil and Rawan designed an irrigation system that keeps soil moist during carbon measurement.

Asil and Rawan competed against students from all over the world including the United States, China, India, Russia, Brazil and 60 other countries. Their triumph is a testament to the resilience, determination and sumood of the Palestinian people. Regardless of the lack of facilities, mentors and experience these students remained steadfast in their research and refused to allow any disadvantages they had hold them back from shooting for the top prizes. To that end, Rawan and Asil were very successful.

Having been in the audience when the award was announced, it is hard to put into words the excitement and pride I felt watching as Asil and Rawan walked up on stage with a Kuffiyeh around their necks, head held high raising their medals. I couldn’t help but think that this, Rawan and Asils contribution to science as Palestinians from Palestine, was the greatest form of resistance. It served as a reminder to the world that not only are Palestinians still around, but we are  educated, articulate and capable of making major contributions to the world.

I want to say to Rawan and Asil and all the Palestinian students at ISEF, on behalf of all Palestinians- Thank you. Thank you for surpassing the obstacles that challenge you on a day to day basis and putting Palestine’s name on the map. Thank you for using science to resist the oppression you face. Thank you for embodying Palestinian sumood and reminding the world that Palestine is destined for success.

Below you can find a few videos taken of the ingenious students presenting their projects:

Mahmoud Iriqat from Abu Dis, Jerusalem, Palestine

Woroud Alrimawi from Beit Rima, Ramallah, Palestine

Palestinian Activists Seal Off Ma’ale Adumim Settlement in Occupied West Bank

 

[Video] Walk Out and Protest on Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s Speech at GWU

I was honored to take part in a walk out and protest on Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the George Washington University. I am currently swamped with work for school, but expect a more detailed write up within the next week. In the meantime check out this awesome video documenting the walk out and the protest!