Tag Archives: justice

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.

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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

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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

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“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

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“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

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Remember February 1982 & Be Aware in 2012

By Noor Haydar, LSA Senior at the University of Michigan

We’re a forgetful people. In my religion, God tells us this. He also tells us that the successful are those who remember. History is as near to us as what happened last week, and we are unable to understand events because their contexts are so far removed from our own today. The world changes so rapidly with every minute, and we know about these changes in real time. What I want to share with you is relevant to today, yesterday and especially tomorrow.

Hama, 1982

It it is relevant to as far back as 1982. The month of February is almost upon us. In February of 1982, Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad ordered his troops into the city of Hama and ordered the squashing of what he believed, was dissent that was threatening to his regime.

The Syrian Human Rights committee estimates that 40,000 people were killed in 3 weeks time. The city was in ruin. Families were shattered, lives shambled.

This past year, I had the privilege of performing Hajj (the required pilgrimage to Mecca). My sister and I usually walked to prayer together, but being the day before our departure, she was buying gifts and had to return them to the hotel room. I went ahead and ended up sitting next to a woman who made a place for me in a crowded space. I sprung up a conversation as I saw a Syrian flag on her bag. She told me she was from Hama. She turned the questioning toward me and so I shared with her my Damascene heritage and that I had lived in America my entire life. Because of the way the uprisings in Syria seems to polarize people, she appeared hesitant to speak to me after hearing both of those facts. We talked about Hajj, the weather etc, and then prayer started. Because of the lack of support Damascus has given the uprising, and because of the apparent lack of support the people of Hama have felt from America, I felt incapable, unable to speak to her. I had so many questions circling in my mind — How’s your family? How has your life changed? Are you well fed? Do you need anything? What can I do to help? I wanted to say I was sorry for making them feel alone- for not being there with them- for not standing up for them.

It will haunt me forever that I didn’t have the courage to speak, to ask her those questions, She opened up a spot for me, extended her prayer mat and shared it with me, and I didn’t ask. I shook her hand, told her have a safe trip home, and left. Have a safe trip home? Really? That’s all I could think of? What about when she got home? The question was, would she be safe after she got home?

Hama, 2011

The people of Hama have suffered a brutal history, one that has come back to life again. While we check our facebook notifications, tweets, and text messages, Hama is reliving its greatest nightmare come to life once again, and the reality has expanded beyond the confines of their city. Dar’a, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Zabadani, and even parts of Damascus…the list is endless. We live in a global village. We live inside the internet with all the information at our finger tips. Ignorance isn’t an excuse for inaction and so I ask, what are we doing? Think about the people of Hama. When you see the names of the cities And the pages and pages of the lists of names of those who have fallen, read them, one by one. Think of them often. Pray for Hama. Pray for justice and peace.

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I Throw My Small Pebble Against The Sea: Statement on the University of Michigan Disinvestment from Israel

By Nesha Z. Haniff

[The following is a transcript of Professor Haniff’s address to the University of Michigan’s student governing body in regards to divestment from corporations profiting off of the Israeli occupation of Palestine]

I have felt the injustices suffered by the Palestinians so deeply and viscerally for so many years that now when I hear reports on anything Israeli/Palestine I turn away because I become engulfed in a wave of defeat and helplessness. It is never good news. It is never a fair and just rendering. At these times I feel like a victim, a construct against which I have devoted my entire life. I, so privileged and fortunate and empowered have no tools, no coping mechanism, no psychological ploy to extricate myself from this space and so I turn away, pretending that if I don’t hear it and see it that I can laugh and live. But it is real, deep in my conscience. I live this every time I get on a plane to go somewhere and my body has to be photographed, every time I have to think about the fluids I cannot pack, every time I must take off my shoes and feel the cold floor of the airport. No one can convince me that the palpable injustice suffered everyday by the Palestinians is not at the heart of this. Religion may be the tool but this injustice is the driver.

I am aware of the Palestinians own implosion, of the Hamas, Fatah discord, and the bickering of the many Palestinian factions; of the great hypocrisy and ineptness of the Arab league and the privileging of oil over brotherhood, bravery and justice. The current Arab uprisings are just a small expression of very long and deep wounds. It is ironic that the Nobel prize winner Tawakkul Karman, the Yemeni activist spoke at the University yesterday. That the prize was given to a woman is a signal that yes women are engaged in the struggle everyday in just making their families and societies survive, yet these same women bear the brunt of a brutal masculinity and the Palestinian struggle itself has been couched in a masculinity that can find no other way of resisting than violence. And the University of Michigan is proud to publicly wave her presence as a sign of their intellectual and Arab inclusiveness while at the same time investing in Israel colluding with policies of oppression and dehumanization. This act unmasks as a front the University’s great liberal agenda premised on dubious investments.

You cannot live in America and not know or understand Israel’s case or position- that they must defend themselves because they are living in the midst of those who do not want Israel to exist. On the one hand Some Palestinians do say this, but that Israel does exist, and has friends in high places that ensure their existence – that they have the weapons, and the funds that are necessary to do this exposes the emptiness of this mantra. On the other hand Israel does not have to say that they do not want Palestine to exist they can just simply build everywhere they wish and slowly erase it. Those Palestinians who continue to say that Israel should not exist are not in touch with reality.

When I received a letter from a student from the school of Public health to come here and support their campaign to publicly advance a University of Michigan financial disengagement, I was first taken aback by their bravery by their effrontery. It did cross my mind that I should not do this. But I decided to do this because it was the one time when I can actually stand up and throw my small pebble against the sea. I can for three minutes no longer be a victim of my conscience and turn away. I asked the student how many people that she asked to come and speak here responded. She told me no one. When I told a few of my friends that I was doing this they began to shift in their chairs and make funny comments about my going underground. Why is there such fear to speak against injustice when it involves Israel by privileged educated folk who know that there is grave injustice here. I know there are more Jews in Israel who oppose what is happening in Palestine than we see here in the US. I am reminded at this moment of Martin Luther King Junior’s statement in his letter from a Birmingham jail:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”

I am here to support the students campaign to financially disengage from Israel for several reasons:

1.    As a teacher I try to politicize my students about their responsibility towards injustice and the courage they must have to at least speak and not collude with injustice by their silence. How can I be silent myself when offered this opportunity to speak a true word.

2.    I often feel  helpless, that I pay my taxes which are used to wage wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and yes fund Israel. I silently subscribe to policies because the hegemony of America is like a tsunami that engulfs us all. How can I fight  the sea.

3.    I am a product of the University of Michigan. I was a young girl when I went on strike during BAM 1. I have gone to school here and have taught here for years. I can throw a rock at this investment in Israel and stand with the three students who dare to say no to this. Perhaps if enough of us throw rocks we can act upon and change the shape of this investment so it can reflect what we want. We must not only be good at resisting but good at creating. Bring us to the table and let us reason with you. Exclusion is undemocratic.

I do this for myself, my university and those of us who want an America that conducts itself with an even hand.

I do this also for my students in whom I have tried to instill a passion for social justice. To them and to you, I leave you with these words of Ernesto Che Guevara in a letter he left for his children.

Your father has been a man that acted according to his beliefs and certainly been faithful to his convictions.

Grow up as good revolutionaries. Study hard to able to dominate techniques that permit the domination of nature. Remember that the Revolution is what is important and that each one of us, on our own, is worthless.

Above all, try always to be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world. It is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.

-Che Guevara

Thank you.

Nesha Z. Haniff

November 15, 2011

Ann Arbor

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