Al-Awda Convention

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

As people of conscience throughout the world look for solutions to the unjust treatment Palestinians, one organization centers on a key issue: The Right to Return. 

Al-AWDA, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, held its ninth Annual International Convention this past weekend in Anaheim, Ca.  The theme of the Convention was: Onward, United and Stronger.   

The event began on Friday evening with a display of cultural resistance through various art forms. The attendees snacked on Arab appetizers and listened to poetry, viewed art works and heard two film makers speak about their work.

Workshops filled most of the next day. Covered were such topics as Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions; Return from Exile Project, and Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign.   

Dr. Paul Larudee of the Free Palestine Movement (FPM) conducted the workshop on the Return from Exile Project. Dr. Larudee declared that the Nike slogan “Just Do It” should be the slogan for Palestinians. Too long have Palestinians waited for some organization – the United Nations – for example, to smooth their Right to Return. It is time, he said, to “just do it”.

He gave as a comparison the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. The freedom fighters there did not ask permission of an outside body nor did they act with a preconceived notion of being rescued should their attempts fail. They not only took to the streets, they did so in such large numbers that they became unstoppable.

Dr. Larudee suggested that on a pre selected day a group of Palestinians who satisfy the requirements for the Right to Return, fly from various nations into Ben Gurion Airport. They must have a family home inside the Green Line; be citizens of and have a passport from a nation from which Israel does not require a visa; should be willing to go to jail for two weeks; must be willing to resist non violently being thrown out of Israel, and be content with the knowledge that they will be denied future entry.

The movement, Dr. Larudee emphasized, is direct action and non violent. The Free Palestine Movement is an outgrowth of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), an organization which still exists and was the first group to break the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza, Palestine with two boats in the late summer of 2008. Dr. Larudee described the feeling of euphoria as the two boats approached Gazan shores to the cheers of the residents, crowed into the area where the boats would dock. He spoke proudly of the certificate of Palestinian citizenship he received on that voyage.

The web site of Dr. Larudee’s movement is: www.freepalestinemovement.org.

During the presentation of the Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign, two young women, students from San Diego schools, spoke of the plight of children under Israeli occupation.
“Every year 700 children are imprisoned by Israel in the West Bank.”

The speakers went on to describe middle of the night raids where children are torn from their families; interrogations with no guardian or attorney present; imprisonment for three months with no opportunity to contact the outside world, and forced confessions, written in Hebrew which the children do not understand.

“I never realized it was this terrible” said one woman in the audience. “How can this go on?”

The women went on the explain that since rebuilding materials are forbidden by the Israelis to enter Gaza, young boys often collect gravel and metal scraps. To do this they must bend over and dig. It is common for Israeli forces to open fire when the children are in this vulnerable position, the aim being to hit their legs.

The Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign is a few months old and is an AL-AWDA project. Information may be obtained and contributions made at: www.al-awda.org.

Invited guests included: Laila Al-Arian, Michel Shehadeh, Ali Abunimah, and Dr. Salman H. Abu Sitta.

KinderUSA, International Action Center, and the International Solidarity Movement were among those organizations that held displays.

A banquet was held in the evening to honor the valuable work of Dr. And Mrs. Musa Nasir. The Nasirs are not only active and productive members of AL-AWDA, they also founded the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). The PCRF provides treatment free of charge to Arab children in the Middle East with emphasis on Palestine. Often the work is on site, but, if that is not feasible, the children are transported to nations where they can be treated to a restoration of health. The PCRF also trains medical personnel in the oPt and donates medical equipment to Palestinian hospitals. They have recently announced their entry into the field of pediatric oncology.

AL-AWDA is a broad based, non profit, democratic and grass roots organization which seeks to create awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. It is composed of activists and students and seeks particularly to create such awareness among members of the media and elected officials.

AL-AWDA demands the Right to Return for the Palestinian people: the restoration of Palestinian rights including return to homes and compensation for confiscated and damaged property.

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AL-AWDA Convention

May 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the world today. The Israelis drove out approximately 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948. The legal basis for their right of return cannot be disputed. In their treatment of Palestinian refugees, the Israelis not only forced Palestinians to leave ancestral lands, but, through their treatment of them from 1948 until today, they have destroyed a culture.

In the 61st year of the Nakba (the catastrophe), AL-AWDA once again has brought national and international attention to this situation.

The seventh annual convention of AL-AWDA, the Palestinian Right of Return Coalition, was held in Garden Grove, Ca. this past weekend. This well attended, exciting and educational event, titled “Freedom for Palestine”, began Friday evening with a meet and greet session enhanced by outstanding Arabic food.

After the convention opening and welcome, activists from solidarity organizations addressed the audience. These activists included, but were not limited to: John Parker, the West Coast Coordinator of the International Action Center; Richard Becker, a founder and current leader of the ANSWER Coalition, and Cindy Sheehan, a prominent anti-war activist and campaigner for human rights.

A showing of “Salt of the Sea” closed the evening’s activities. This motion picture tells the story of a young Palestinian woman, born in the United States to Palestinian refugees. When she becomes aware that at the time of the Nakba the Israelis froze her grandfather’s bank account in Jaffa, she travels to Palestine to reclaim what she believes is her due. As she sees the conditions of Palestinian existence and meets a young Palestinian man, she comes to realize that what needs to be reclaimed is far more than a bank account.

On Saturday forums were held throughout the day dealing with such timely issues as: “Palestinian Refugees – Background and Current Status”  with Dr. Jesse Ghannam. Dr. Ghannam has established mental health clinics in Gaza and travels there frequently. The clinics and his participation in them are under the auspices of the Gaza Community Mental Health program. In the United States, Dr. Ghannam is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Chief of Medical Psychology at the University of California San Francisco.

“Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions” was conducted by Lubna Hamad of Adalah (The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East) New York of which she is co founder. Ms Hamad was a legal consultant for UNICEF in Jerusalem with a specialty of child protection.

George Galloway, British MP and international human rights advocate, conducted a forum on “Viva Palestina”.

MP Galloway also addressed an evening session on “Growing our Global Movement – Freedom for Palestine” which session included fundraising.

Keynote addresses on Gaza in the aftermath of the Israeli attack and the situation in Jerusalem highlighted the luncheon session.

A parallel youth program was held.

The final session of the Convention, held on Sunday, dealt with reports, challenges and future plans.

The Sacramento chapter, which had at one time been part of the San Francisco chapter, reported growth and successful participation in anti war events, BDS and educational series. The Phoenix chapter also reported growth and public engagement.

A suggestion was made to encourage tourism to Palestine,specifically Jerusalem, as the Israeli government is trying to cripple East Jerusalem economically. Tourists should stay at Palestinian run hotels; eat at Palestinian run restaurants, and purchase from Palestinian run shops.

Further, a suggestion was made to coordinate AL-AWDA activity here with AL-AWDA groups in Europe where the movement is extremely active.

Still another suggestion, unanimously and enthusiastically accepted, was to send a small delegation to the Egyptian Consulate to express our dismay at Egypt’s cooperation in making crossing into Gaza through Rafah difficult and erratic.

Booths on display at the AL-AWDA Convention included but were not limited to: Palestine Online Store; A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition; International Action Center; Free Gaza Movement, and Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of California in San Diego.

Host committee organizations of the AL-AWDA Convention included but were not limited to: Palestine Aid Society; Muslim Students Association at UCSD, Palomar College, and Mira Costa and the Muslim Students Union at UCR; Free Palestine Alliance, and Palestinian American Women Association.

AL-AWDA may be accessed at: www.al-awda.org.

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