Palestine: “An Invisible Nation” at UC Irvine

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The University of California in Irvine held a week long educational event titled: Palestine: An Invisible Nation. Beginning on the 5th of May and lasting through the 12th, multiple events took place illuminating the plight of the Palestinians under the boot of Israel. Well known speakers including Alison Weir of If Americans Knew; Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and University of California in Berkeley Senior Lecturer Hatem Bazian, spoke movingly to their audiences. Topics covered included Anti Semitism: The Zionist Facade; BDS: Apartheid ends Here, and Taking Bullets for Palestine.

The latter was particularly impressive. The presenter, a young Jewish Israeli citizen, Matan Cohen, spoke in a popular outdoor area known as The Flagpole. Shortly after he began to speak in front of the waiting audience others walking along this popular commons joined him. When he was about half way through his presentation a group entered the area carrying Israeli flags and placards supporting Israel. They walked in a circle around the speaker and the perimeter of his audience. A number of them spoke out during the presentation, and Mr. Cohen had to ask them to hold their comments until he was done, and he would enjoy addressing them during the question and answer session.

Mr. Cohen said that when one country occupies another, the occupied country becomes invisible. He called on young people in Palestine to march on Israeli roadblocks and roads marked “For Jews Only” on the 15th of May – the anniversary of the Nakba.

“As an Israeli Jew I stand with my Palestinian brothers”.

The Israelis say that BDS is destabilizing. They say that democracy is destabilizing. “How”, he asked, “can anyone living in a democracy say that?”

He said that Israel wants a democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for Palestinians. While he referred to himself as an optimist, he warned that Operation Cast Lead might have been only the beginning.

“There seem to be a lot of hecklers” said one young woman.

“No” said a woman standing next to her. “They continuously circle the area to make themselves look like a larger crowd than they are”.

He spoke of the onslaught of repression within Israel against non-Jews.

After the event, students in the crowd spoke among themselves, discussing his speech and the calm and intelligent manner he used while addressing the hecklers. A recurrent theme was admiration for his courage in speaking  out and working for justice while living in Israel.

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US Media and Israel Military, All in the Family

March 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Alison Weir, Sabbah Report

[Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, which provides information and media analysis on Israel-Palestine]

israel-bias-boot-595x545 Recent exposés revealing that Ethan Bronner, the New York Times Israel-Palestine bureau chief, has a son in the Israeli military have caused a storm of controversy that continues to swirl and generate further revelations.

Many people find such a sign of family partisanship in an editor covering a foreign conflict troubling especially given the Times’ record of Israel-centric journalism.
Times management at first refused to confirm Bronner’s situation, then refused to comment on it. Finally, public outcry forced Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt to confront the problem in a February 7th column.

After bending over backwards to praise the institution that employs him, Hoyt ultimately opined that Bronner should be re-assigned to a different sphere of reporting to avoid the “appearance” of bias. Times Editor Bill Keller declined to do so, however, instead writing a column calling Bronner’s connections to Israel valuable because they “supply a measure of sophistication about Israel and its adversaries that someone with no connections would lack.”

If such “sophistication” is valuable, the Times’ espoused commitment to the “impartiality and neutrality of the company’s newsrooms” would seem to require it to have a balancing editor equally sophisticated about Palestine and its adversary, but Keller did not address that.

Bronner is far from alone

As it turns out, Bronner’s ties to the Israeli military are not the rarity one might expect.

A previous Times bureau chief, Joel Greenberg, before he was bureau chief but after he was already publishing in the Times from Israel, actually served in the Israeli army.

Media pundit and Atlantic staffer Jeffrey Goldberg also served in the Israeli military; it’s unclear when, how, or even if his military service ended.

Richard Chesnoff, who has been covering Mideast events for more than 40 years, had a son serving in the Israeli military while Chesnoff covered Israel as US News & World Report’s senior foreign correspondent.

NPR’s Linda Gradstein’s husband was an Israeli sniper and may still be in the Israeli reserves. NPR refuses to disclose whether Gradstein herself is also an Israeli citizen, as are her children and husband.

Mitch Weinstock, national editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune, served in the Israeli military.

The New York Times’ other correspondent from the region, Isabel Kershner, is an Israeli citizen. Israel has universal compulsory military service, which suggests that Kershner herself and/or family members may have military connections. The Times refuses to answer questions about whether she and/or family members have served or are currently serving in the Israeli military. Is it possible that Times Foreign Editor Susan Chira herself has such connections? The Times refuses to answer.

Many Associated Press writers and editors are Israeli citizens or have Israeli families. AP will not reveal how many of the journalists in its control bureau for the region currently serve in the Israeli military, how many have served in the past, and how many have family members with this connection.

Similarly, many TV correspondents such as Martin Fletcher have been Israeli citizens and/or have Israeli families. Do they have family connections to the Israeli military?

Time Magazine’s bureau chief several years ago became an Israeli citizen after he had assumed his post. Does he have relatives in the military?

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, while not an Israeli citizen, was based in Israel for many years, wrote a book whitewashing Israeli spying on the US, and used to work for the Israel lobby in the US. None of this is divulged to CNN viewers.

Tikkun’s editor Michael Lerner has a son who served in the Israeli military. While Lerner has been a strong critic of many Israeli policies, in an interview with Jewish Week, Lerner explains:

“Having a son in the Israeli army was a manifestation of my love for Israel, and I assume that having a son in the Israeli army is a manifestation of Bronner’s love of Israel.”

Lerner goes on to make a fundamental point:

For a great many of the reporters and editors determining what Americans learn about Israel-Palestine, Israel is family.

Jonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth, writes of a recent meeting with a Jerusalem based bureau chief, who explained: “ Bronner’s situation is ‘the rule, not the exception. I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs, responsible for covering both Israel and the Palestinians, who have served in the Israeli army, and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”

Cook writes that the bureau chief explained: “It is common to hear Western reporters boasting to one another about their Zionist credentials, their service in the Israeli army or the loyal service of their children.”

Apparently, intimate ties to Israel are among the many open secrets in the region that are hidden from the American public. If, as the news media insist, these ties present no problem or even, as the Times’ Keller insists, enhance the journalists’ work, why do the news agencies consistently refuse to admit them?
The reason for media obfuscation

The answer is not complicated.

While Israel may be family for these journalists and editors, for the vast majority of Americans, Israel is a foreign country. In survey after survey, Americans say they don’t wish to “take sides” on this conflict. In other words, the American public wants full, unfiltered, unslanted coverage.

Quite likely the news media refuse to answer questions about their journalists’ affiliations because they suspect, accurately, that the public would be displeased to learn that the reporters and editors charged with supplying news on a foreign nation and conflict are, in fact, partisans.

While Keller claims that the New York Times is covering this conflict “even-handedly,” studies indicate otherwise:

The Times covers international reports documenting Israeli human rights abuses at a rate 19 times lower than it reports on the far smaller number of international reports documenting Palestinian human rights abuses.

The Times covers Israeli children’s deaths at rates seven times greater than they cover Palestinian children’s deaths, even though there are vastly more of the latter and they occurred first.

The Times fails to inform its readers that Israel’s Jewish-only colonies on confiscated Palestinian Christian and Muslim land are illegal; that its collective punishment of 1.5 million men, women, and children in Gaza is not only cruel and ruthless, it is also illegal; and that its use of American weaponry is routinely in violation of American laws.

The Times covers the one Israeli (a soldier) held by Palestinians at a rate incalculably higher than it reports on the Palestinian men, women, and children the vast majority civilians imprisoned by Israel (currently over 7,000).

The Times neglects to report that hundreds of Israel’s captives have never even been charged with a crime and that those who have were tried in Israeli military courts under an array of bizarre military statutes that make even the planting of onions without a permit a criminal offense a legal system, if one can call it that, that changes at the whim of the current military governor ruling over a subject population; a system in which parents are without power to protect their children.

The Times fails to inform its readers that 40 percent of Palestinian males have been imprisoned by Israel, a statistic that normally would be considered highly newsworthy, but that Bronner, Kershner, and Chira apparently feel is unimportant to report.
Americans, whose elected representatives give Israel uniquely gargantuan sums of our tax money (a situation also not covered by the media), want and need all the facts, not just those that Israel’s family members decree reportable.
We’re not getting them.

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Muslim Americans for Palestine Event

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

muzammil-siddiqi
Muzzamil Siddiqi

The plight of the Palestinian people as they suffer under the boot of Israeli occupation is at the forefront of humanitarian concerns of people throughout the globe. Many individuals and organizations have addressed themselves to the Palestinian plight.

In December of 2009, as the world observed the first anniversary of Operation Cast Lead and the devastation wrought then by Israeli forces on an already beleaguered land, a new organization pledged to help Palestine was introduced to the public.

Muslim Americans for Palestine (MAP) is a project of the youth division of the Muslim American Society (MAS). Readers of The Muslim Observer will be familiar with MAP as its formation was announced at the MAS convention during the last weekend of the year. Its objectives are in many ways similar to those of other Palestine oriented group, yet it is also distinctive.

This past Saturday the group held its first formal event, a banquet and fundraiser at the Crowne Park Anaheim Resort in Garden Grove, Ca. Islamic Relief cosponsored the event and was the recipient of the funds collected. Islamic Relief will use the funds for their relief work in Palestine.

After prayers the evening began with a recitation and translation from the Holy Koran. Dinner followed.

During the early evening as people took their seats, two screens presented a video of MAP and its founding principles and goals.

The keynote speaker was Alison Weir, a human rights activist from Northern California. She spoke of the plight of Palestinians from her personal experiences and from the testimony she has received from eye witnesses, victims, and victims families. Her first trip to the oPt was in 2001 and was a fact finding expedition. What she discovered was the reverse of what she had been told by the media and her own government. Her organization, If Americans Knew, and her web site, www.ifamericansknew.org  are excellent and hard hitting sources of knowledge about Palestine.

As she spoke, her quiet voice and her presentation of facts and the inevitable conclusions these facts indicated, captivated the audience. Her emphasis was on the bias of the American media toward the state of Israel and against the Palestinian people. Ms Weir cited major news outlets: The New York Times, ABC, CBS and NBC Evening News and the Associated Press. “I am not talking about Fox News” she said.  She spoke of their unerring misreporting of deaths, always exaggerating Israeli losses and minimizing Palestinian ones; always manifesting a bias towards Israel with such consistency that it defied simple error or random chance. As she spoke, charts were shown on the two screens, statistical proof the accuracy of her claims. In addition cards were passed out to every guest with similar data.

Ms Weir included National Public Radio in her list of news outlets biased towards Israel.

Ms. Weir concluded by urging her audience toward action.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi was another informative speaker. Dr. Muzammil’s leadership in the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC); the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); the Fiqh Council of North America, and the Islamic Society of Orange County (ISOC), to name but a few organizations, have made him a sought-after speaker. As a theologian and Islamic scholar he is also famous for his interfaith work.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi spoke of his trip to Palestine with interfaith leaders. The audience gasped when he spoke of the  650 checkpoints imposed on Palestinians by their Israeli occupiers..

“ I never imagined that there would be so many. How do you get through the day?” asked one young woman. As if in answer to her question Dr. Siddiqi spoke of the hardships wrought by these checkpoints on workers, students, and people in need of medical help.

Dr. Siddiqi urged people to visit the oPt and “see with their own eyes” the conditions there.

Dr. Siddiqi also spoke of the place of Jerusalem in the Islamic faith and referenced Koranic verses.

Attorney and human rights activist Reem Salahi spoke of the “Irvine 11”. A murmur passed through the audience with this familiar reference. These eleven students are threatened with expulsion or suspension by the University of California in Irvine (UCI) for exercising their free speech rights during the appearance on campus of Israeli Ambassador to the United State Michael Oren. In addition, the University has referred their case to the District Attorney in Orange County.

Ms Salahi was part of a delegation to Gaza a year ago, a delegation sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild. There the group found numerous violations of International law on the part of the Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead.

Ms Salahi said that to speak of the Irvine 11 was not off subject. They are symbolic of the plight of the Palestinian people. The Israelis are the occupiers and the oppressors. The presence of their representative at UCI is not acceptable.

In dealing with the Israeli/Palestine issue she made an analogy with a boat that should be parallel but is instead diagonal with Israel on top. Muslims want fairness for Palestine: they want to right the boat.

Muslim Americans for Palestine has a three pronged approach to the Palestinian problem: Educate, Empower, Preserve. It is a grass roots organization dedicated to justice and self determination in Palestine. Recognizing the natural affinity between the American Muslim community for Palestine and recognizing also the pioneering spirit embodied in youth, MAP, in accordance with the Islamic faith. has been launched.

For further information, please access the MAP web site at: www.mapalestine.org

Islamic Relief may be accessed at its web site: www.islamic-relief.com.

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Community News (V11-I45)

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Kentucky Christians, Muslims unite to knock out crime

LOUISVILLE–Muslim and Christian leaders in Louisville and Lexington are putting up a united front against crime in the two cities.

The group held a meeting on Tuesday night aimed at “stopping the killing and accept responsibility.”

One minister said that starts with every resident accepting responsibility for the condition of the community and working together to make a positive impact.

He said it’s important to hold everyone accountable including politicians and average citizens.

The group hopes to start a plan called “manhood training,” which seeks to reach out to drug dealers and gang members.

Decision on Naperville mosque delayed

NAPERVILLE, IL–The DuPage County Board has delayed its decision on the Irshad Learning Center for two weeks. The latter had requested for a conditional use permit on unincorporated land.

The mosque project has been delayed ever since was placed before the county last year. It was turned down twice by the Zoning Board of Appeal. It was then approved in a unanimous decision by the board’s development committee last week.

According to committee chairman Tony Michelassi, District 5 representative from Aurora, the legal counsel wants any permit issued by the county to specify that the center would be allowed to use only the structures that already exist on the three-acre parcel. Without that limitation spelled out, the center could add on as it wishes.

The County Board’s next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 on the third floor of the Jack T. Knuepfer Administration Building, 421 County Farm Road, Wheaton.

Lodi parents concerned about food choices

LODI, CA –Parents of children at Lodi’s Heritage Primary Elementary have voiced their concerns over the menu choices at the school. They have asked the school authorities to allow them to accompany their children to the state-operated pre-school program so that they can help their children avoid haram foods.

The parent’s request was made to the Lodi Unified school board meeting.

According to Lodi News 12 percent of the school’s population is Muslim. At present the school doesn’t have any halal meat options on its menu.

The school authorities say that they are working on resolving this issue as soon as possible.

Journalist Alison Weir visits University of Michigan-Flint

FLINT, MI–Journalist Alison Weir, who is also the creator of ifAmericansknew.org, gave a presentation on the plight of Palestinians at the University of Michigan-Flint campus. The event was hosted by the Muslim Students Association, reported the Michigan Times.

“MSA’s focus in this event was to educate students about the Palestine-Israel conflict as well as the media’s skewed approach to the issue,” said Leila Tarakji, senior honors biology and English major and president of MSA. “We encourage our members as well as all students on campus to be aware of injustices that take place both domestically and internationally. We also urge students to seek more information and draw their own conclusions as opposed to absorbing the media without reservation.”

If AmericansKnew.org is advertised as an educational tool for people who want to go beyond the headlines.

California Muslims join rally against Neo-Nazis

ANAHEIM, CA–The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), along with members of the Riverside Muslim community, joined a rally on Saturday against neo-Nazis who had gathered to protest undocumented day laborers.

The organizers of the counter-protest said more than 600 members of diverse faiths and backgrounds joined the rally to speak out against the hatred and bigotry espoused by the neo-Nazis.

CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush, who attended the rally with his children, said:

“It’s important for all Americans — whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Asian,, African-American, or other — to strongly and vehemently speak out against the hatred and bigotry of those who seek to dehumanize others.

“I brought my teenage children with me to the counter-protest to make sure they never take for granted the sacrifices of early civil rights activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez.

“With the continued economic downturn, anti-immigrant and racist groups are increasingly promoting anti-immigrant sentiment by unfairly blaming immigrants — documented or otherwise — for ‘stealing’ American jobs.

“CAIR-LA rejects such scapegoating and calls for immigration reforms that preserve the dignity and respect of immigrants and their families.

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