‘We Have The Same Desire For Freedom’ – Palestinian Christians Respond to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren

The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) captures the responses of Palestinian Christians to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s claim that the main source of duress in the Palestinian Christian community stems from Islamic oppression. This is, of course, entirely unsubstantiated and false. This type of rhetoric has long run its course and highlights the drastic lengths the Israeli propaganda machine will go to try and save face. Unfortunately for them, the truth always prevails. As one of the Palestinian Christians interviewed in this video puts it:

‘If you come to my hometown, the only time you will know the difference between a Muslim or a Christian is if you come in on a Sunday or a Friday and see where we go to pray. That’s the only difference. Otherwise, we have the same culture, we have the same attitude and the same desire for freedom. To be liberated from Israeli Occupation and Israeli ethnic cleansing policies.”


In The Spirit Of Israeli Apartheid Week, We Demand Justice.

On February 29th, 2012 Israeli Reservist Sergeant Benjamin Anthony brought his speaking tour ‘Our Soldiers Speak’ to my university, The George Washington University. The event was brought to my attention two days prior through a tweet from @CampusSpeakers1, who has been seemingly tasked with publicizing the event as she tweeted to scores of people advertizing the event. From 6:58 PM on February 26, 2012 until 10:58 AM February 27 @CampusSpeakers1 did nothing but advertize the event.

(Screen shot of @CampusSpeakers1’s tweet to me)

(Not only was I notified of the event, so was GWU’s SJP)

It is worth mentioning that I have never interacted with @CampusSpeakers1 on Twitter before. I did not reply to their tweet either. I approached members of our university’s SJP and we decided we would attend. The day before the event, SJP launched Israeli Apartheid Week and hosted Mr. Bill Fletcher as our introductory speaker. Members of GWU Hillel and other pro-Israel student groups attended, asked questions and discussed their views with Mr. Fletcher and members of SJP during the IAW event. We headed to Mr. Anthony’s talk in the same spirit, but were not welcomed in the same manner.

As we approached the venue in which the event was to be held, a huge sign donning the George Washington University emblem greeted us, signifying that it was an official GWU event. There was also a banner that read ‘Meor,’ . I can only assume that Meor, a Jewish organization (http://meor.org), was in charge of holding the event. Once reaching the doors of the venue, I, and about a dozen others, were denied entry after two of us were heard speaking Arabic. An orthodox Jewish woman inquired about our presence in Hebrew to another figure standing at the door. Immediately after, a man approached us claiming that the event was closed and that we were not to be allowed in. I responded by showing them the tweets I and GWU SJP received notifying us of the event. Sgt. Benjamin Anthony advertised his events on his personal Twitter account stating clearly that they are open to all students. Why was his event at GWU any different?

Soon after, the organizers called the University Police Department (UPD) on us for doing nothing more than attempting to attend their event. The organizers told UPD that the event was private and that they had a strict guest list. They (the organizers) demanded that UPD remove us away from not only the venue, but also the hallway. They referred to us as ‘protesters,’ yet could provide no proof that we were coming to protest. They then demanded the keys to the doors so that they may lock them and prevent us from entering, to which UPD complied.

As we stood outside of the event, a Jewish attendee of the event began speaking to me. When I expressed my outrage over being discriminated against, the man replied by saying “Different religious and ethnic groups have the right to discriminate against each other.” The man, who allowed entrance to the event, also told me that he was not notified of the event, did not register and did not know who the organizers of the event were.

UPD asked for a list of attendees so as to confirm that the event was indeed closed but the organizers could not provide a list. Moreover, UPD pointed out that in order to hold an event in the University 75% or more of the attendees must be University students. The organizers could not account for their attendees and the UPD remained until the end of the event in order to check ID’s and confirm that university policy was not violated. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay until the end of the event to find out the outcome. From what I saw of the audience, however, I have no doubt that university policy was indeed violated.

To add onto this blatant display of discrimination, a male attendee (who was not affiliated with GWU), shoved a female student as she approached him inquiring why she was barred from entering. UPD was notified and he was immediately escorted off of campus and banned from returning. Even after being pressed multiple times by UPD, organizers still could not provide evidence to support their claim that the event was closed. When I explained to the organizers that I had been invited to the event, one responded by saying, “I am confused, this is not how the group operates.” In other words, transparency and inclusivity are not characteristic of the organization holding the event. A student who was allowed into the event was removed a few minutes into the lecture for simply being unfamiliar to those attending. This student happened to be Lebanese Christian.

The last time I felt this humiliated was at Qalandia checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. This goes to show that the secrecy and discrimination that are characteristic of Zionism are by no means limited to those suffering under Israeli occupation and apartheid. This is a direct consequence of the privilege and ethnic hierarchy by which Zionism operates. The difference in this scenario is as a student of The George Washington University and a citizen of the United States I do have enforceable rights and means of holding these individuals accountable. In the spirit of Israeli Apartheid Week, we demand justice.

Footage of Palestinian Hunger Striker, Khader Adnan

Khader Adnan is a 33 year old Palestinian baker from the city of Nablus who has been held in administrative detention by Israel without charge since December 17th, 2011. He has been on a hunger strike since then in protest of the humiliation and injustice he is facing. Khader has just entered his 66th day. Doctors warn that he may die at any moment. Please keep him in your prayers and do what you can to help spread the word!

In this video, posted online yesterday, Khader Adnan can be seen and heard yelling “The strike will continue until there is freedom and dignity.” I could not help but tear up upon watching this. Khader Adnan’s determination and resilience is unparalleled. His steadfastness in the face of oppression, humiliation and death is beyond remarkable. You can watch the Amy Goodman’s report on Democracy Now below:

Exposing J Street: Jewish Supremacy At Its Finest

I was excited when J Street at my university agreed to engage my SJP in a debate. I thought it would be a great opportunity to shed light on the true hypocrisy of J Street’s stances not only to members of J Street but also to a public audience. Unfortunately, as with all agreements concerning the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, what was agreed on was not implemented.

The topic of the debate was “One State or Two?” with SJP advocating for 1 state and J Street advocating for 2 states. It should be noted that SJP as an organization does not support nor prefer a particular solution, it is simply a Palestinian solidarity organization. The views expressed in the debate were those of my colleagues and I.

The structure of the event was clearly in the form of a debate. We agreed to have opening statements by both sides followed by presentations of the definitions of a one state solution and a two state solution read to the audience by the moderator. The definitions were followed by a back and forth between the 2 panels and ultimately ended in a Q&A.

One thing I would like to point out is that in the preparation of the event, both SJP and J Street agreed to exchange definitions beforehand (This was a decision made by SJP leadership, one that I did not support.) SJP followed through on its end of the deal, and submitted our definition of a 1 state solution to J Street 3 days before the event. J Street on the other did not honor the agreement. When our definition was sent to J Street we received nothing in return, not even a phone call or email explaining the delay. We began calling the J Street member who had been involved in organizing the event with SJP, only to find their phone was turned of for a period of almost 2 days. They eventually sent us their definition an hour before the debate was scheduled. I read their definition of a 2 State Solution only to find clear instances of plagiarism from the definition I personally drafted.  At this point, there was no turning back. SJP and its member had put in a lot of time and effort into this event and the group wouldn’t allow it to go in vain.

This takes us to the debate. Everything seemed to be running smoothly. We had a great turn out, and everything ran according to plan. As the moderator began calling for everyone to take their seats, my colleagues and I took our seats on the panel ready to begin the debate. To our surprise, the moderator began by asking the audience to “find someone they didn’t know, specifically from a different perspective, and talk to them for a few minutes and to find some common ground.” Now, I don’t have a problem with people getting to know one another, but this was not a mutually agreed portion of the event. It was taking time away from the debate I had come to participate in. I approached the SJP President to inquire as to what was going on and he, like me, was clueless. The event was being hijacked.

I immediately approached the moderator and told him to wrap it up and begin the actual event. He could sense the urgency and frustration in my voice and he quickly obliged. As the event started, the moderator gave J Street the first word and allowed them to begin speaking. Even though this was not the order I was told things would proceed in, I didn’t mind them speaking first as long as we we’re doing what we agreed to do; engage in a meaningful debate.

The first and main J Street representative began speaking by admitting he was just a boy from Queens, New York having no real ties to Israel. But since he was Jewish “Israel mean a lot to [him]” He then went on to announce how happy he was that SJP agreed to engage them in conversation and announced “This is not a debate.” This was a clear attempt by J Street to force us to participate in the normalization of  Zionist racism and Palestinian suffering. I made it clear in my opening statement that these are not 2 equal and opposite parties, and I did not sign up for a discussion. We were there to debate the issues head on, not to feel good about racism and oppression.

Now, I have always said J Street is worse than AIPAC from what I have read and heard of the organization. After experiencing it first hand, my feelings are all the more real. At the end of the day, AIPAC is principled in its Zionism. J Street markets itself as a liberal middle ground organization seeking a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse for all parties. This is entirely false and misleading. What follows are actual quotes used in the debate by members of J Street:

“We call for a 2 state solution in order to preserve the Jewish State and Homeland”

This statement reeks of racism. It is nothing short of a call to preserve Jewish supremacy over the indigenous Palestinian people. Moreover, it is an announcement of J Street’s refusal to recognize the rights of Palestinians. The only function J Street finds in a Palestinian state is to create a space to throw Palestinians in so as to rid Zionism of the demographic realities of historic Palestine. Considering the apartheid nature of Israeli rule over Palestinians, this is highly reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa’s willingness to grant Bantustans their own independence. I will not aid nor support any organization aiming for the banstutanization of Palestine and its people, much less so would I ever engage in a “discussion” with such an organization. The difference between J Street and AIPAC is that J Street recognizes that the 2 state solution is the last chance Zionists have to save Zionism as a practice of racial supremacy and to dress is up as legitimate and consensual.

“Yes, Palestinians paid the price for Zionism, but we must look forward if we wish to make progress.”

The same individuals who made this argument, earlier in the debate argued that the need for a Jewish State is found in the history of the Jewish people and their suffering. But yet, when we try to analyze the history and injustices that befell the Palestinian people, J Street views it as counterproductive. This only goes to echo the double standards, discrimination and racism of Zionism. To use Noam Chomsky’s terminology, in the eyes of J Street, Jews are people and Palestinians are ‘unpeople.’ That is why the grievances of the Jews are seen as legitimate while the Palestinians are required to forget their own suffering for the preservation of the racist Jewish State.

“In one state, democracy would be impossible to implement because people would vote according to ethnicity.”

Democracy is a practice not a label. Democracy is meant to give all Peoples living under the same rule an equal voice and representation. Yes, if Israel continues to discriminate against Palestinians for no reason other than their race, Palestinians would naturally vote according to ethnicity in response to Israeli discrimination. Let me be clear, this would only be a response to Israeli discrimination. So if Israel discriminates against Palestinians because they are Arab, Palestinians are more than likely to vote for certain individuals and policies because they are Arab. If Israel were to become a state of its citizens with equality and justice for all, this would not be a concern as no one ethnicity would be under threat from the State. But this of course is unfathomable for J Street considering they are a Jewish supremacy group. Furthermore, J Street entirely ignored the fact that in its current state, Israel is not a democracy. Maybe within the framework of its Jewish citizenry, one can call it a democracy. But when one includes all of the groups which live under Israeli rule, Israel doesn’t come close. On the contrary, Israel proves its self to be nothing short of an Apartheid regime.

“Both Israelis and Palestinians want a 2 state solution.”

While there is some truth to this statement, it is not nearly that simple. Palestinians support for the 2 state solution does not stem from a belief that it is the most just solution. Rather, Palestinians believed in the false promises that a 2 state solution would allow them some sort of free and sovereign existence. 20 some odd years later, Palestinians realize that this is not the case. On the other hand if we look at Israeli society we find a Prime Minister and his coalition who were elected on a platform of no Palestinian State. So who is it that actually wants a 2 state solution? Furthermore, the representative of J Street based his analysis and ability to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people on his trip “backpacking through Amman and the West Bank.” Along the same lines, J Street offered no insight into what a Palestinian State would look like in terms of borders, settlements, refugees or Jerusalem only to mention a few of the most pressing concerns.

“Advocating for the One State Solution is advocating for the destruction of Israel.”

I advocate for justice and equality for all Peoples currently living under Israeli rule. If justice and equality for all threatens the existence of Israel, then one must reconsider what type of a country Israel is. Is a true democracy threatened by a vacancy of religious or ethnic hierarchy? This type of rhetoric is part and parcel of an enthnocentric apartheid regime.

“My Zionist dream..”

Self explanatory. If you don’t see what is wrong with this just replace ‘Zionist’ with “White/Black/Gay/Homophobic/Muslim/Christian/Atheist” etc

“Israel has an Arab Judge on its Supreme Court. Where else does that happen?

Somehow in the mind of J Street an ‘Arab’ (Note: Palestinians in Israel are referred to simply as ‘Arabs”) judge in Israel somehow compensates or even refutes the fact that Palestinian Citizens of Israel face a tremendous and despicable amount of institutionalized racism and discrimination. This is equivalent to saying a Black man in the White House indicates that racism is no more in America. No one in their right mind would argue that, but when it comes to Israel it makes perfect sense!

“But, what would the national anthem and flag be?”

Give me a break. Reading between the lines the point being made here is “The flag and anthem must be symbols of Judaism and the Jewish people.” There are many fair and just ways of solving such a problem, where both Peoples would have their own equal symbolism. But J Street doesn’t know much fairness, justice or equality now do they?