A RESOLUTION FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN TO DIVEST FROM SOCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE COMPANIES THAT VIOLATE PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS

ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 3-050

A RESOLUTION FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN TO DIVEST FROM SOCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE COMPANIES THAT VIOLATE PALESTINIAN HUMAN RIGHTS

WHEREAS,the role of the President’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights is to “Monitor code enforcement and promote University leadership in corporate citizenship with respect to fair labor practices, human rights, and sustainability in its licensing operations”;AND,

WHEREAS,as an example of this commitment, the Procurement Services of the Business and Finance Office at the University of Michigan is committed to “Socially responsible procurement [which] is defined as conducting the University of Michigan’s business in a manner that meets or exceeds the ethical, legal, commercial and public expectations that society has of business operation” ; AND,

 

WHEREAS, The University of Michigan continues to be hub for student activism surrounding social justice, including issues of militarism, women’s rights, environmental justice, and underrepresented minorities; AND,

WHEREAS, the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents’ divestment from South African Apartheid in 1978 and from tobacco-related companies in 2000 sets a precedent for ethical divestment from socially irresponsible companies; AND,

WHEREAS, human rights are universal and apply to all people regardless of race, nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other status; AND,

WHEREAS, Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and hold a military blockade in the Gaza Strip in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 242; AND,

WHEREAS, the Israeli occupation’s policies and systematic discrimination against Palestinians is well documented by academics, activists, and human rights groups; AND,

WHEREAS, the occupation infringes upon Palestinian human rights in such ways as, the building of settlements on Palestinian land, the uneven distribution of land and water resources, the unlawful demolition of Palestinian homes, the administrative detention of Palestinians without charge,the prohibition of Palestinian use of Israeli only roads, and the siege and blockade of Gaza; AND,

WHEREAS, the United Nations Human Rights Council 2013 report states that Palestinians’ “rights to freedom of self-determination, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, equality, due process, fair trial, not to be arbitrarily detained, liberty and security of person, freedom of expression […] are being violated consistently and on a daily basis” by Israel; AND,

WHEREAS, the June 30, 2013 University of Michigan Directly Held Equities report of investments lists investments in General Electric, Heidelberg Cement, Caterpillar and United Technology, which are explicitly tied to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and violations of international human rights law; AND,

 

WHEREAS, General Electric Corporation (GE) “supplies the propulsion system for Israel’s AH-64 Apache Assault Helicopter, which has been used in Israeli attacks on Palestinian towns and refugee camps…[and] possesses contracts with Israel to sell engines for a variety of military aircraft…[and] possesses several Israeli service contracts for engineering support and testing”; AND,

 

WHEREAS, Heidelberg Cement is “the owner of three plants in West Bank settlements and one Israeli aggregates quarry in the occupied West Bank through Hanson Israel” in which “the quarry exploits the occupied Palestinian natural resources for the Israeli construction industry”; AND,

WHEREAS, Caterpillar “manufactures and provides bulldozers and civil engineering tools…used in demolitions of Palestinians’ houses in the occupied territories, in the construction of the separation wall and settlements on Palestinian land, in military incursions and as weapons. The Israeli army has used unmanned D9 bulldozers (Dawn Thunder) in the Dec 2008 attacks in Gaza” and in the murder of Evergreen College student Rachel Corrie; AND,

WHEREAS, United Technologies “produces Blackhawk helicopters which are used by the Israeli military to attack Palestinian cities, refugee camps and villages. Many civilians have been killed in these attacks”; AND,

WHEREAS, Palestinian civil society has called on the global community to implement boycotts, divestments, and sanctions in order to pressure Israel to comply with international law; and has had its call endorsed by a diverse group of activists and leaders including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, eminent academics and public intellectuals Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, Civil Rights Activist Angela Davis, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, among others; AND,

 

WHEREAS,the companies identified are involved in activities that deeply and personally affect Palestinian University of Michigan students with families and ties in Palestine; AND

 

WHEREAS,it is the opinion of the authors that ethical divestment fits with UM’s deeply held principles of justice and equality for all people.

 

WHEREAS, the concern to be explored is expressed broadly and consistently by the campus community over time, and the action in question is antithetical to the core mission and values of the University; THEREFORE BE IT

 

RESOLVED, that the Central Student Government calls upon the University of Michigan Regents to appoint an ad hoc committee to investigate the ethical and moral implications of our investments in the corporations Caterpillar, General Electric, Heidelberg Cement, United Technologies, and all other companies that explicitly profit from and facilitate the Israeli occupation and siege of Palestinian land in violation of international law and human rights, in order to persuade these companies to terminate all such business activity; AND BE IT FURTHER

RESOLVED, that the Central Student Government urges the UM asset managers to divest, as soon as such divestment may be accomplished without injury to the UM’s assets and investment strategies, from all such companies that, within one year from the date of engagement remain uncommitted to a diligent plan for terminating all such unethical business activities; AND BE IT FURTHER

RESOLVED,The University of Michigan maintain socially responsible investment practices that align with the University’s mission and values, as well as the precedents set by previous divestments, as well as the ethical and moral standards its students demand; AND BE IT FURTHER

RESOLVED, the CSG establish a committee tasked with the annual review and evaluation of the University’s investments portfolio for its integrity to the University’s ethical and moral standards, and thereupon the submission of a report for consideration by the board of regents; AND BE IT FURTHER

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the UM Board of Regents, in addition to the President’s Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights, for their consideration; AND BE IT FURTHER

 

RESOLVED, that this resolution stand as an expression of solidarity with all people struggling for self-determination

 

Authors

_______________________________

Bayan Founas

_______________________________

Farah Erzouki

 

_______________________________

Suha Najjar

_______________________________

Yazan Kherallah

 

_______________________________

Rae Scevers, Rackham

Attest

 

______________________________

Meagan Shokar

Speaker of the Assembly

_____________________________

Ramon Martinez

Vice Speaker of the Assembly

President’s Approval

____________________________

Michael Proppe

Presented to the Assembly for First Reads on ___________________________

Presented to the Assembly for Second Reads on _________________________

 

Yes:  _____No: _____Abs:_____Date: _______________________

Signature Necessary: ______       Signature Received By _________________: ______

Deconstructing Israeli Democracy: Ben White, Max Blumenthal, Camelia Suleiman

Watch livestream here.

As part of Palestine Awareness Week 2013, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality presents a panel discussing the Israeli occupation of Palestine and apartheid regime. Ben White will be discussing apartheid policies and how flawed the mainstream understanding of Israel as a “democracy” is. Max Blumenthal will be adding to this discussion the domestic projection of right-wing Zionism through Islamophobia, hasbara, lobbying, etc. Dr. Camelia Suleiman will conclude with the successes and failures of Israeli and Palestinian women peace activism.

DeconstructingIsraeliDemocracyMar29

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer specializing in Palestine/Israel. He also writes on the broader Middle East, Islam and Christianity, and the ‘war on terror.’ Ben has been to Palestine/Israel many times since 2003 and has a BA in English Literature from Cambridge. He is the author of two books, Israeli Ap…artheid: A Beginner’s Guide and Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. He is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute. His book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Camelia Suleiman has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Georgetown University. Her research interest is in the area of language and identity in relation to gender, politicians’ use of language in the media, and national identity. Her articles have appeared in a variety of journals including ‘Pragmatics’, ‘Journal of Psycholinguistic Research’, ‘Middle East Critique’ and ‘Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication’. Her book, ‘Language and Identity in the Israel-Palestine Conflict: The Politics of Self-Perception’ was published in 2011 by I.B. Tauris.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Continuing Through Bitter Days

By Banen Al-Sheemary, University of Michigan alumna
Follow Banen on Twitter @balsheem

 

Ten years ago today, I remember sitting in front of the television watching the sky turn bright yellow from the massive blasts. Slowly, I turned away from the screen to see my parents’ reaction: absolute silence.

 

That was the first time I had seen my parents watch the TV news without voicing an opinion. I only saw their sullen silence as they watched their beloved country explode into flames.

 

My twelve-year-old self had already been indoctrinated with the quintessentially American good guy / bad guy mentality, to which many unfortunately adhere. I struggled to understand the logic behind the invasion of Iraq. Was Iraq a bad country? What had we done wrong? Why is it America’s right to invade and change it? I looked over at my parents again and I could tell their hearts were reeling.

 

“Believe it. Liberation is coming,” said an arrogant George W. Bush as he spread more war propaganda in his visit to Dearborn, a city in Michigan with the largest Iraqi diaspora community in the United States. All I knew was that the ruthless Saddam Hussein would soon be gone. But what I didn’t know was what would become of Iraq.

 

Soon I would find the answer: under the guise of cynically named Operation Iraqi “Freedom,” the Iraq I knew would be completely destroyed.

 

March 20, 2003 marked the day I was able to return to the country from which my family fled as refugees in the early nineties. It was the day “Shock and Awe” began (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8OkP5yHArM). CNN’s Wolf Blitzer stated that in his thirty years as a journalist, he had never witnessed anything as severe as the attack on Baghdad. With no concern for civilian life, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s genocidal “shock and awe” bombardment on the people of Iraq was America’s quick and easy solution to its imperialist intent for the country.

 

In an instant, Iraq was forever changed. The Cradle of Civilization was overtaken by incessant chaos, destruction, and death. Now, it is a nation of 4.5 million orphans, 2 million widows, over 4 million refugees, with over half the total population in the country living in slums.

 

This is the new Iraq.

 

As the Bush Administration boasted about its murderous accomplishments, all I could see was the rising Iraqi body count. The post-2003 Iraq is not the country my parents longed for.

 

Barred from returning to Iraq until 2003, I will never know the country in which I was born. I was too young to remember my family fleeing during the first invasion of Iraq. Before we fled, we got rid of all our belongings. My baby pictures were burned to ensure that when Saddam’s thugs checked, there would be no proof of my existence. It was as if my identity was erased, and until March 20th, 2003, I was locked from the this part of my life.

        

 

From Operation Desert Storm, to the sanctions of the Clinton Administration and the 2003 occupation, I still couldn’t decipher the US Government’s plans for Iraq. But what I was consistently sure of was the jingoistic attitude that pervaded every American administration and that shaped a foreign policy meant to degrade human life.

 

Iraq saw treacherous times in the nineties because of the imposition of history’s most comprehensive sanctions to date. Iraq was broken and denied any ability to thrive, even in the most basic of ways. These brutal sanctions led to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children. My older sister recalls Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine K Albright’s infamous interview in which she was asked if the price of half a million Iraqi children was worth it. She simply said: “We think the price is worth it.”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4PgpbQfxgo).

 

It was an easy decision for the Clinton Administration to make on behalf of all Iraqis, because Iraq was forced to pay. As young as I was, I understood that people of different religions and backgrounds weren’t treated as equals. The dangerous underlying notion that certain people are more worthy of life than others heavily shapes American foreign policy and is upheld from one administration to the next.

 

In retrospect, the amount of propaganda that fueled and attempted to legitimize the war is staggering. I recall watching the news and being angry at the distorted images of Iraq and its people. I now understand how the media engineered public opinion to justify the invasion. Maintaining the “us versus them” binary was crucial in validating the administration’s agenda and furthering the so-called War on Terror. Soon enough, I heard my classmates echo these falsities and other absurd made-for-CNN headlines. I’ll hold back on the silly names I’ve been called as a result of this.

 

Hearing my parents’ stories about Iraq helped me put the pieces together. The story starts in their young adult years.

 

My parents never experienced Iraq under sanctions. During the seventies and eighties, the country was a powerhouse of academia with a thriving economy. In 1979, an Iraqi dinar was equal to $3.20. Nowadays, an Iraqi dinar is practically worthless. Saddam’s effort to lead in the Arab world led to many positive reforms, especially for women. As was required by the state, my mother enjoyed free transportation to work and a six month fully paid maternity leave. Despite his cruel methods of subjugation and obsession with monopolizing and maintaining power, his push to make Iraq the leader of the Arab world resulted in economic and social reform.

 

My family resides in southern Iraq and we, amongst others, have been brutally persecuted by Saddam’s party for decades. Many of the conversations I have about post-Saddam Iraq revolve around “Well, Iraq is better now because Saddam is gone and America is there.” However, the sanctions, Saddam’s regime, and the American invasion and occupation all left millions of Iraqis with broken homes, empty fridges and bleak prospects for the future. Whether under totalitarian rule or a foreign occupation, millions of Iraqis are still suffering. The meaningless discussion of which regime Iraq is better under is irrelevant and ought to be put to rest.

 

Ten years passed. In my University of Michigan classes, discussions about Iraq still revolve around that same foolish debate. The outright denial of the claim that oil played a decisive role in the invasion is still somehow considered a legitimate stance.

 

It was time for me to return and experience the Iraq of today.

 

January 2012 marked my first return to Iraq. Before my flight, I sat in the airport reading as the time passed. Hundreds of American soldiers returning from Iraq were received by family and friends, applause, and even a news crew. I shook my head because of what the soldiers represented to me. For many, they symbolize freedom, nobility, and honor. To Iraqis, they are the physical embodiment of terror, supremacism and occupation.  

 

I thought back to the times I was called un-American because of my criticisms of American policies in Iraq and refusal to support the military. I was “crazy” for not supporting the push to remove Saddam from power. Most Americans equated support for the administration’s bombing campaign with patriotism and justice, with a complete disregard for the consequences of war and foreign occupation.

 

Iraq has become fragmented and pieced. I think of how long it will take to assemble the pieces back together, and to try to bring together those shards of glass that once made a beautiful piece of work.

 

Nowadays, the occupation dictates every aspect of Iraqi life. The remnants of the brutal invasion manifest themselves on the faces of the people that continue to live and struggle there everyday. Suicide and car bombings, fighting between armed militias, kidnappings, and snipers result in a feeling of despair and no sense of security. Simple everyday tasks like walking to a local market or sending children off to school became impossible.

 

On my first day back in Iraq, massive explosions rocked Baghdad. I was awakened to the realities of this so-called newly democratic country. Both the Iraqi and American governments promised many things for the people, like building a sewage system. They could not even fulfill this basic necessity.  Inadequate water resources have caused massive death and disease in several cities. The two-hour electricity limit halts any work that needs to be done for the day. Birth defects will continue for decades because of the depleted uranium weaponry used by American soldiers (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/03/2013312175857532741.html).

 

This was Iraq.

 

“The war in Iraq will soon belong to history” stated Barack Obama, in an address marking the supposed end of the occupation of Iraq. America will remember it as history, but Iraqis live through it every day.

 

I shy away from reading articles on the commemoration of the invasion of Iraq, written by journalists who don’t understand. I become frustrated and always stop after reading just the headline. I laugh at every mention of the ‘lessons to be learned’ so that America can move forward. Iraq is stuck in a phase of sorrow, but we as Americans must learn from the occupation? I watch as oil companies, “defense contractors,” and corrupt government leaders profit off of an occupation that cut Iraq from any lifeline it had. The fortress called the U.S. embassy, staffed by thousands of foreign soldiers, stands as a permanent reminder of the occupation. America is able to move forward and rebuild its economy, but Iraq and its people must endure the harsh realities of the unwelcoming decades to come.

 

A lesson to learn from Iraqis is one of human dignity and perseverance through trying times. Have we learned? In a new documentary covering Dick Cheney’s legacy, he mentions, “If I had to do it over again, I’d do it in a minute.” And today, mainstream media outlets and the government aggressively continue to build a case against Iran, eerily reminiscent of what we saw ten years ago.

 

We will never learn until they stop seeing people and countries as strategic plans, as means to an end, as valueless unknowns.

 

My first visit to Iraq was in 2012, because the occupation had made it too dangerous to travel there in earlier years. One afternoon, my uncle and I drove through Hilla. I forced him to speak about the occupation. After an hour of hearing horrendous stories of crimes committed by American soldiers, he tiredly says, “We are nothing to them. To America, we are simply strategic. Through their eyes, our lives aren’t worth anything.” That was the end of the conversation.

 

I noticed that Iraqis never speak of the occupation. It was like a faint, unthinkable memory. I sensed that Iraqis have perseverance built within them because of the decades of unrest that they have lived through; they keep on living every day as they can. These are the Iraqis that are reconstructing what is rightfully theirs.

   

Everyday Iraqis have been partaking in reconstructing Iraq after a destructive occupation in which they were robbed of their agency, future and country. Iraqis create and expand projects as the current government continues to neglect the citizen’s needs. Upper class Iraqi citizens and expatriates living in the West play a role in funding these projects. Many social service facilities are being rebuilt, with a focus on widows, orphans, the elderly, and disabled.  Whether it is building bridges or starting up a water filter company, these projects are opening doorways for job opportunities and steadily decreasing unemployment rates. Despite the lack of security and political and economic turmoil, the hardships that Iraqis face are slowly easing and will be ultimately resolved by the resilient Iraqis that continue to resist and struggle for a better life. Iraqis are forging a path of their own to recreate their Iraq: one away from the government’s corrupted plans and free from the American occupation’s stifling grasp.

 

Ten long and painful years have passed. The orphan Mustafa from Baghdad says “I feel like a bird in a cage here. I wish there was someone to listen to us.”

 

Iraqis are listening. I see the same resilience and perseverance in Iraqis that I see in my parents. Years will pass before Iraq will prosper, but I see a future for Iraq because of the millions who are working for it.

 

When I visit Iraq I smile and blink the tears away. The anger from my heart dissipates when I see shops open for business, human rights organizations assisting widows and orphans, and college students organizing an event for Iraqis. It will come together. Justice and progress will flourish because the people demand it- and they will succeed. This is Iraq.

Tagged , , , , ,

Viewpoint: Unfounded claims

By Bayan Founas, LSA junior at the University of Michigan
Viewpoint published in The Michigan Daily

A recent viewpoint in The Michigan Daily (“Israel acted in defense,” 11/18/12) claimed that Hamas initiated the recent violence between the Gaza and Israel “without justifiable provocation.” This claim, however, is misleading and feeds University students false information. According to Reuters on Nov. 8, Israeli military forces crossed the border into the Gaza Strip in an apparent incursion, prompting retaliatory fire — at the Israeli force, not into Israel — from the Popular Resistance Committees, a militant group in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces returned fire, killing a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in the process. This incident ended a two-week standstill in violence between the two parties.

On Nov. 14, Israel launched “Operation Pillar of Defense,” which resulted in the death of 170 Palestinians and the injury of 1,220 more, most of whom were civilians. The people of Gaza faced relentless bombardment from the air and sea, with any semblance of calm quickly interrupted by the buzz of a drone or roar of an F16.

The viewpoint also states that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 with “hope for peace,” but IDF only repositioned their forces on the periphery of Gaza. The blockade imposed on Gaza has been equally — if not more — abusive and oppressive on Gazans than the pre-2005 Israeli occupation there. The Gaza Strip is one of the world’s most densely populated regions, with its 1.6 million residents living in what has been deemed the world’s largest open-air prison.

Amnesty International reports that more than 70 percent of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid for survival. They also report that “Israeli authorities hindered or prevented hundreds of patients from leaving Gaza to obtain medical treatment,” as well as workers and students from pursuing their jobs and education, respectively. And, as we now know from a recent Ha’aretz report, food consumption in Gaza has been restricted — by calculating a minimum number of calories per person — so as to keep Gazans on the brink of starvation. The policy can be summed up by the following quote from Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Thus, the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, in this case via starvation, has been a part of Israel’s “defense” strategy, in clear violation of international laws and covenants on human rights.

The viewpoint mentions the dropping of warning leaflets in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead in Dec. 2008, a three-week Israeli offensive. But given the inescapability of the besieged Gaza Strip, these leaflets functioned more as death sentences than well-intentioned warnings. The three-week assault resulted in more than 1,400 Palestinians killed and more than 5,300 wounded, as well as more than 10 Israelis killed and more than 500 wounded. Of the 1,400 Palestinians killed, more than 900 were civilians. The killing of almost 1,000 civilians is not collateral damage as the authors state — it is a massacre.

Israel’s recent onslaught on Gaza’s civilian neighborhoods is part of a pattern that reemerged again a few weeks ago during Operation Pillar of Defense, the death toll consisting mostly of Palestinian civilians. This operation included a strike that killed three generations of the same family, which resulted in nine total fatalities, including four children aged between 1 and 7. The Dalou family has no affiliation with any militant group, yet Israel has yet to issue anything resembling an apology to any of the victims.

Moreover, a ceasefire was mediated last Wednesday by Egypt to halt this recent escalation, which Israel has repeatedly broken over the week by shooting civilians near the border fence for protesting. About 19 people have been wounded and 20 year old Anwar Qudaih was shot dead.

Israel cannot claim self-defense as long as it occupies, annexes and destroys Palestinian land, while collectively punishing an entire population for resisting that occupation. This punishment includes restrictions on movement and essential goods, kidnapping and torture, the destruction of homes and theft of resources. As long as Israel’s brutal occupation continues, so too will the resistance from Palestinians, until their genuine cries for freedom are heard and recognized.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

HELP US PUT ON THE NEXT NSJP CONFERENCE!!!

Dear friends and allies,We are excited to announce that the second National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) Conference will be hosted by us right here at the University of Michigan from November 2nd – 4th!!!

Will you support the largest student network for Palestinian solidarity in the United States and help us grow into an organized force for justice?

Titled “From Local Roots to Nationwide Branches: Bridging Student Movements,” this year’s gathering will focus on solidifying a national structure, sharing valuable knowledge across campuses, drawing connections to other indigenous and anti-racist struggles, and facilitating vital discussion on the growing Palestine solidarity movement.

NSJP hopes to build on the successes of last year’s conference, which was organized entirely by students and volunteers and attended by 350 students from across 130 campuses. But in order to make this conference a success, we need help from the broader community. Your financial support will go towards helping students from across the country who wish to attend the conference but cannot afford the full cost of travel. Last year, donations from supporters like you helped 80 students who could not afford travel costs attend the conference, and we hope that you will help us continue to offer this level of student support.

Last year, Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why Some Caged Birds Don’t Sing

By Rima Fadlallah, LSA junior at the University of Michigan

“Signs like this are seen all over the South of Lebanon, reminding civilians that their beautiful neighboring country is Palestine indeed.” -Fadlallah

Athens, Greece. Sitting on the lobby couch, typing away at some old laptop that we borrowed from a friend at the hostel, we try contacting anyone who can possibly help us get our bags back (not relevant, but really fun back-storynevertheless). Next to me, my friend Angela is laying down, staring blankly at the wall, irritable because we had been in the same outfit for two days.Meanwhile, this older man who’d been lingering around the Athens Backpackers hostel for a few days was snoring on the other couch. He always looked like he was intoxicated; he’d been wearing the same blue and red striped polo for those few days that I saw him, and he didn’t seem to fit in at a hostel filled with young travelers who want to conquer the world.

With a fit of coughs that told me he’s a chain smoker, Mister Stripes jolts up from his slumber. I pay him no attention, still absorbed in the computer screen. He, on the other hand, seems to be very intrigued by his new company: “Where are you from?”

Angela isn’t going to answer. Without looking up from the screen I mumble: “America.”

“I’m from Israel,” he says enthusiastically. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

“Existence is Resistance!” Why this Queer Supports Palestine and Opposes Zionism

By Joseph Varilone, LSA Senior at the University of Michigan

I know what it’s like to be harassed because of how you look. Whether I’m riding my bike down a busy road on Ann Arbor’s south side, walking down the street I live on, or talking on the phone in front of the campus library; if I’m wearing clothing that marks me, a male-identified and male-presenting individual, as “feminine,” I am immediately subject to staring, taunting, and harassment.

I embrace my femininity. So-called women’s clothing has been a part of my wardrobe since I was 18, and I have come to love skirts, leggings, hair clips, and some other traditionally feminine things. I would probably wear dresses if I felt more comfortable in them. The labels genderqueer and hard femme describe me well; and although I don’t really identify with the labels gay, bisexual, or pansexual, heterosexual doesn’t seem to fit my experiences either. Regardless, sexuality is fluid and subject to change, but however I choose to label my experiences, I feel undeniably, unapologetically, irrevocably queer.

I think of queerness as not something limited to sexual orientation, but as taking on the realm of any significant departure from norms regarding gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Queerness is fluid and dynamic. Queerness does not look like one particular thing, and means different things for different people. Queerness questions compulsory serial monogamy and marriage. Queerness questions binaries, especially the gender binary of woman/man, female/male.  Queerness is fierce, confrontational, uncompromising, and political. Queerness creates space for transgender experiences and narratives. Queerness questions the little boxes that gender norms make people fit into. Queerness is not hostile to heterosexuals or people that otherwise fall within gender norms, but only to those that seek to delegitimize those who don’t. Queers ally themselves with other struggles against oppression, recognizing the intersectionality and inter-connectedness of our struggles. Queerness is anti-assimilationist—we make no apologies and don’t try to legitimize ourselves based on supposed similarity to mainstream lifestyles. And we surely don’t apologize for being “born this way” (if that even describes a particular individuals experience)–as if alternative sexual orientations or gender expressions constitute some sort of disease. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“I Walk and my Heart is in Damascus, I Walk”

By Yazan Kherallah, LSA Junior at the University of Michigan.

:A friend of mine told me of this verse recently

“أسير و قلبي في دمشق أسير”

.It means “I walk and my heart is in Damascus, I walk”. I’ve always loved and cherished Damascus. I love its food, its history, its people, and its weather. There’s a comfort of sorts you get when you’re in Damascus. The lazy afternoons on the baranda (house terrace) eating fruits and playing cards, the crowded Souq al-Hamadiyeh (street market), the view from Jabal Qasioun, and the sense of kindred and affection you feel over there all left a strong impression on me. But fate has its ways and since life was hard in Syria, my family decided to move away.

We left fooling ourselves, thinking that going back every summer and break that we could make up for the time we lost. My dad would work to save money, thinking that at some point, he could retire and go back to the life he loved. Jobs and opportunities took us to Chicago, Detroit, Jeddah, and Riyadh.  People always commented on how unsettled our lives were. However, it was just the opposite, because although we walked all across the world, our hearts never really left Damascus.

A year into the Syrian Revolution and that poetic verse rings more true than ever, “I walk and my heart is in Damascus, I walk”. I haven’t been back in a year, but my mind is more engaged in what is happening back home in Syria than with anything at hand in the States. My studies are second priority to calling my family, seeing how they’re doing. I often waste hours without noticing going from one article and YouTube video to another.  I think of all the time and effort I put into such pity work; how if I could take all the time I spend reading foreign policy articles and joining seemingly pointless rallies thousands of miles away and putting it into actual work helping those inside Syria, how much help I could be.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The RED House

By Rayan El Zein, LSA Junior at the University of Michigan

Tall frontal arches fronted its pedestrian passers. Paralleled windows scattered its outer brick walls. Edged balconies limb-ed out of its core. Yes. It was a sight for sore eyes. Near the sea, on Yarkon Street, there stood a hefty Palestinian Tel-Aviv building known as the “RED” house.

During sunset, among Tel-Aviv locals, the house was known to acquire a reddish pink tinge, hence the name. In the 1920s, the RED house served as a head office for local Jewish builders and craftsmen. It was definitely not your typical maze of office cubicles. It’s productive purpose didn’t last for much longer however. As the end of the year 1947 came along, the pinkish reddish tinge slow but gradually transformed into a cold-blooded terracotta.

On March 10, 1948, the RED house was suddenly out of service. On that cold Wednesday afternoon, eleven members of the Zionist underground militia, Hagana, called in an emergency meeting. Some were veteran Zionist leaders while others were militia Jewish soldiers, however, all were noble ethnic cleansers. With much deliberation, together the Hagan members gracefully scribed a document titled Plan Dalet, also referred to as Plan D. Basically, this document could not have stood ground among such eleven minds without this complex, obscure, and elaborate purpose; the Palestinians had to go. The objectives were simple and straight to the point: implement a large-scale intimidation scheme, bombard and lay siege to villages, set anything that looks like a house on fire, plant mines wherever it’s possible for a Palestinian to exist, and last but not least, expel all Palestinians. And they meant it. No Palestinian Left Behind. None. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Michigan BDS: SAFE’s New Campus Divestment Initiative

By members of the new SAFE-affiliated MichiganBDS initiative at the University of Michigan. This piece was also featured in the Michigan Daily here.

As we write this piece, more than 5,300 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israeli jails. Zero Israelis are imprisoned in Palestinian jails. A total of 24,813 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967. Zero Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians since then. Some 172 Jewish-only settlements and 101 “outposts” have been erected on confiscated Palestinian land. Zero Palestinian settlements exist on any Israeli land. These facts and many like them make clear that what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian territories is not simply a “conflict.” It’s a decades-long colonial campaign led by the Israeli military that aims to disenfranchise the indigenous race and to purify the land of non-Jews by implementing an apartheid system. Continue reading

Tagged , ,
%d bloggers like this: