Algeria’s popular movement opposes the Dec. 12 elections!

by JWE President Helena Cobban

The mass reform movement that has swept Algeria for the past 42 weeks is united in opposing the presidential elections that the powers-that-be have scheduled for December 12. The power of this movement, known as the “Hirak”, means that election turnout is expected to be very low and the winner will likely enjoy little legitimacy or ability to resolve the country’s deeprooted challenges of governance.

This multilingual “red card”, held by many at the Dec. 6 rallies, says simply “No to the vote.” (Credit: TSA)

On Friday, December 6, throngs of people from all across the country once again took to the streets of its cities and towns to express their support for Hirak’s goals. The prime topic this week as on many previous weeks was to call for a boycott of next Thursday’s election.

The excellent website “Tous Sur Algerie” presented a strong roundup of the rallies and marches held all around the country on December 6, on this page on their website.

As usual during these large Friday rallies, the mood was one that mixed determination to continue opposing the plans of the country’s ageing, decrepit military leadership with joyful enthusiasm at being part of such a large, public movement and a strong, intentional commitment to keeping its actions quite nonviolent.

Women in Kabyle dress singing (and taking selfies) in the Dec. 6 protests (Screengrab from TSA video.)

We know that materials in English on this powerful social movement are generally hard to find. So we were delighted that the Turkish news-site TRT World recently aired this 26-minute episode of its “Bigger Than Five” show, that focused on the background and impact of the Hirak. In the episode, Washington DC-based host Ghida Fakhry held very informative conversations with guests Mostefa Bouchachi, the veteran head of Algeria’s premier human-rights organization, Zoubida Assoul, head of the Union for Change and Progress Party (UCP), and William B. Quandt, a veteran U.S. analyst of Algeria’s history and politics.

Quandt was sitting with Fakhry in the studio. The other two spoke remotely from Algiers. The show also includes some very helpful English-subtitled archive footage and short pre-recorded interviews with a variety of Algerians.

Mostefa Bouchachi

In the “live” parts of the show, Bouchachi was up first. He noted the truly nationwide nature of the Hirak and stressed that “People refuse to hold elections under the old system!” He warned that if the military-based existing “pouvoir” (powers-that-be) insists on proceeding with the December 12 election, “it will make matters worse.”

He referred to the decade-long and extremely destructive civil war that plagued Algeria throughout the 1990s, after a tentative and short-lived earlier move towards political liberalization– and said that this time around, “the Hirak and the army are both seeking to avoid violence.”

Zoubida Assoul

Next up was Assoul. She explained that, “We’re against elections because millions in the streets have been demanding real, deep change. Holding elections now will not bring this.

When it was Quandt’s turn to speak, he started by hailing the “extraordinary” nature, breadth, and discipline of the Hirak. “Most people hadn’t foreseen that Algeria could have produced such a broad, peaceful movement that has been sustained for so long,” he said.

As the archive footage in the show demonstrated, the Hirak started when Algeria’s very geriatric 20-year president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced earlier this year that he planned to run for a fifth term in office. That was the event that propelled Algerians into the streets back in February and that has kept them demonstrating there once or twice a week ever since then.

Assoul told Fakhry,

All along, we we said that Bouteflika wasn’t the only problem– we need to reform the whole system! But all the people who were with Bouteflika for all those years are still there… All the old powerholders in the army and the state are still there.

We’ve said all along that the issue is not just to change the face in power!

Whichever one wins an ‘election’ on December 12 will not have any legitimacy to engage in dialogue with the citizens who, I believe, will remain mobilized even after December 12.

William B. Quandt

Fakhry asked Quandt why Western countries had been so silent on what has been happening in Algeria.

He noted that the European Parliament has started to look at the situation– “But the Algerians have made clear that they don’t want any outside interference– from France, from the EU, from the United States, and certainly not from the UAE or the Saudis.”

He was clear that he thought the absence of foreign governments’ involvement was a good thing.

But people around the world should be interested in this national uprising! It includes so many sectors, including the Kabyles, the secular, the religious… And it has been completely peaceful!

We should all be wishing the Algerian people well. They’ve done something remarkable. People should recognize that this is something new, something completely peaceful. It’s not Syria, not Libya, not Egypt. It’s a little bit more like Tunisia– and the reform movements in both countries are trying to reinforce each other.

Assoul ended by stressing that “Algerians have the capability and the intelligence to resolve this on our own, because the Algerian people know what they want! We want an end to corruption and opacity. We want to end the intervention of the army in the political system. We want the rule of law and a system in which citizens can pursue their lives in freedom.”


Just World Ed has compiled a rich library of materials in English on the history and politics of Algeria. You can access it here. If you would like to help ensure that we can continue in our mission, please consider giving us either a one-time or a recurring donation. Information on how to do so is here:

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Hoodlums tried to hide Mohammad Sabaaneh’s art– at the ICC!

On December 2, Palestinian artist Mohammad Sabaaneh was delighted to travel to the headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague to open an exhibition of his art mounted in the court’s corridors at the time of the 18th session of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties to the court’s founding statute. The State of Palestine has been a member of the ICC since 2015 and has several key cases it has brought before before the court.

Interest in the exhibition, in which Sabaaneh wielded his expert cartoonist’s pen and keen senses of both injustice and surrealism, was high. But two night later, the exhibition suddenly disappeared– from the court’s own hallways!

Palestine’s ambassador to the Netherlands (and the ICC), Rawan Sulaiman was shocked that such a blatant act of discourse suppression had taken place within the ICC’s own premises. The exhibition was being hosted by both the State of Palestine and Palestinian Human Rights Organization Al-Haq at, obviously, the invitation of the ICC.

Sabaaneh at the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC

The ICC’s administrators, alerted to the disappearance of the artworks, initiated a search and found them stowed away in another location, still inside the building. They rehung the exhibition, and this time assured Amb. Sulaiman that it was under police protection.

In a statement issued today, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates stated that it,

condemns in the strongest terms this hateful act. We view it as a desperate attempt to silence the voices of Palestinian victims, which were so powerfully reflected in the exhibition. The artwork by internationally-renowned Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh depicted the impact of the criminal policies and practices of the Israeli occupation on the victims in the situation in Palestine.

The ministry also noted that it had been formally informed that the Court is currently conducting an investigating into this grave incident, adding, “We expect this investigation to be thorough and transparent and that strong measures will be taken following its conclusion. “

Mohammad Sabaaneh is the author of the cartoon collection White and Black: Political Cartoons from Palestine (published in the UK as Palestine in Black and White.) He is himself a former political prisoner of the Israelis, having been held by the Israeli military authorities in the West Bank for five months without any trial, back in 2013. He is also the Middle East regional representative for Cartoonists Right Network International, and has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of cartoonists imprisoned or otherwise harassed in many of the region’s countries.

Sabaaneh’s cartoons skewering both Israel’s military courts system and the ICC’s inaction over Palestinian rights abuses

The vandalism apparently carried out against Sabaaneh’s exhibition in The Hague is just the latest example of a hard-hitting campaign of discourse suppression that anyone who speaks up for the human rights of Palestinians has been subjected to for many decades.

As long-time admirers of Sabaaneh’s work, we at Just World Educational join the international call for the ICC to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into this incident and to take the strongest possible measures in response to it. The voices of Palestinians must not be silenced!

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Nearly 50 years since the Kent State Massacre

On May 4, 1970, the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio was the site of one of the key moments in the broad movement in the United States that protested the US-Vietnam war. Amid a series of large demonstrations that roiled the campus for several days, heavily armed members of the Ohio National Guard were deployed. (The photo above, of the Guard presence on the campus on May 3, 1970, is a still from this short video about the events of those days.)

On the afternoon of May 4, one group of Guardsmen opened fire on the protesters, killing four of them.

With the 50th anniversary of that incident now just a few months away, we are pleased to publish the following reflections by Karin Aguilar-San Juan, a professor of social movements at Macalester College in Minnesota and co-editor of The People Make the Peace: Lessons from the Vietnam Antiwar Movement, on a recent visit she made to the Kent State campus.

by Karin Aguilar-San Juan

On October 25, 2019, I was fortunate to join a panel titled “Vietnam War Opposition in History and Memory” hosted by Professor Jerry Lembcke at the Peace History Society conference. My comments focused on the People’s Peace Treaty of 1971—an effort led by students in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the United States to end the war by crafting a simply worded peace document that would eventually be embraced by prominent cultural and religious leaders and, eventually, the U.S. Congress.

As students, Doug Hostetter, Becca Wilson, and Jay Craven traveled to South and North Vietnam during the war itself to “broker” the People’s Peace Treaty. They tell their riveting story in our book, The People Make the Peace.

This year’s Peace History Society meeting was especially moving as it was cosponsored by the School of Peace and Conflict Studies at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Fifty years ago, four Kent State students were shot to death on campus by the Ohio National Guard. The May 4, 1970 killings marked a flashpoint in the international history of the opposition to U.S. war, specifically Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, launched just days earlier.

Shortly before I arrived at Kent State last month, Doug Hostetter sent me a copy of a letter written in 1971 by Nguyen Thi Binh aka “Madame Binh.” At that time, Mme Binh was the international face of the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) of North Vietnam, and after the victory of North Vietnam, she served as the Vice President of Socialist Vietnam. In the letter—typewritten on yellowing paper—she thanks the U.S. students for their activism to end the war. She specifically references “the Kent Four,” giving direct proof that this tragic event had—and still has—international proportions.

The four students killed at Kent State

I gave a copy of this letter to Ethan Lower and Olivia Salter, two Kent State undergraduate students and political science majors who are serving on the May 4 Task Force, a student-led committee that is helping with the upcoming 50th anniversary commemoration. It’s rare for today’s students to be so committed to understanding the Vietnam War, and Ethan and Olivia were impressed to learn about Mme Binh’s feelings for the history of their campus.

….

And here is an article Prof. Aguilar-San Juan published about her recent visit to Kent State, in Macalester’s publication, the Mac Weekly:

The Last Call: Kent State then and now: anti-war movement lessons

by Karin Aguilar-San Juan

Many years ago in a small Midwestern town, Kent State University students gathered in their campus’ Commons to make their voices heard. Unable to cast ballots until they were 21, the students were just the right age to be drafted and sent to Vietnam. The war’s senseless violence and hopeless direction drove them to question authority and to join collective movements — but that wasn’t the only impetus for their actions.

Many student activists also targeted anti-black racism, patriarchy and sexism — and what they saw as overly restrictive prohibitions around alcohol and drugs. They organized for ethnic studies and other programs to support black students. They spoke out against 1950s-era dormitory codes regulating the behavior of female students.

One day, King Richard — President Richard Nixon — declared that instead of withdrawing U.S. troops from the war in a program he promised would lead to its “Vietnamization,” he decided instead to continue the fight in Vietnam and expand deeper into Southeast Asia, with an invasion of Cambodia. At Kent State University — a public, working-class institution at the center of Kent, Ohio — hundreds took to the streets.

For days and nights, anger raged in the town of Kent. Eventually, an ROTC building was burned to the ground—and anti-war activists were assumed responsible. Pledging to “eradicate” the campus protesters, Ohio’s Governor James Rhodes ordered 1,000 members of the Ohio National Guard to occupy the Kent State campus, fully armed with bullets, teargas and bayonets. Rhodes demanded that all campus rallies be dispersed.

A tiny portion of the National Guard deployment at Kent State

Nevertheless, up to 3,000 remained on the Commons — students, professors, curious bystanders and hundreds of active protesters angered by the suddenly militarized situation. Most people, including university president Robert White, were unaware that the troops had been issued live ammunition.

Students gathered on the Commons for an initially peaceful demonstration opposing the presence of the Guardsmen. Shortly thereafter, the Guard ordered the protesters to disperse. But they didn’t, and instead threw rocks at the Guardsmen, who responded with live ammunition.

In the space of a moment, the Guard shot four students dead and wounded nine, paralyzing one. For the heartbroken mother of one of the Kent Four, “the myth of a benign America where dissent is broadly tolerated was one [more] casualty of the shootings.”

Five decades later, this true and terrifying nightmare deserves our attention because of its eerie resemblance to state-ordered violence in response to political dissent on campuses today.

There is, of course, much more to the story of Kent State — including the impact of class and race. Historian Christian Appy refers to Vietnam as a “working-class war,” since four out of five soldiers came from blue-collar families, and a majority of those were black or brown. By 1970, many Kent students were combat veterans, and some of those vets joined the anti-war movement to add an extra edge to debates about war.

Meanwhile, the Guardsmen who occupied campus were either veterans or enlistees who served as an alternative to deployment in Vietnam. Why did they fire their guns on people who clearly had no place to run or hide? The National Guard insists that they fired in “self-defense” and the ensuing federal criminal and civil trials unfortunately accepted this position. Some critical studies of the Kent State Massacre hold the Guard responsible, and say their decision to fire into the crowd was unjustified.To settle the case, the state of Ohio paid $675,000 to the wounded students and to the families of the students who were killed. But the statement issued and signed by the National Guard stops short of admitting wrongdoing, merely expressing regret: “In hindsight, the tragedy of May 4, 1970 should not have occurred.”

An engraving at the memorial to the four murdered students

Immediately after the shootings, administrators around the country closed nearly 500 university campuses. When classes at Kent State resumed in September, 2,000 students spontaneously organized in a candlelight vigil for their dead classmates. In the months and years following, Kent State created a syllabus for a May 4 course required for all incoming students and installed a large, granite memorial and smaller memorials on the site where each student was shot. They also added a Visitor’s Center with an exhibit and instructional materials.

The May 4 shootings at Kent State poured fuel on the fire of the anti-war movement. All over the Midwest — from Madison to Milwaukee, Ann Arbor to the Twin Cities — marches and teach-ins proliferated. Surely influenced by the Kent State shootings and the blatant contradiction between the age for draft eligibility and the age for voting, the U.S. Congress ratified the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on July 1, 1971, lowering the voting age to 18.

While it took several more years for the U.S. military to withdraw completely from Southeast Asia—in large part due to the pure moxie of the Vietnamese people—the power of students and ordinary people to bring war to an end should never be dismissed.

Sadly, wars continue. And so do paradoxes at Kent State. Guns are currently banned for all Kent State students and employees, although Ohio is an open-carry state. At her 2018 graduation ceremony at Kent State, Kaitlin “Gun Girl” Bennet slung a semi-automatic AR-10 over her shoulder, wrote “Come and Get It” on her cap, and instantly turned herself into a mascot of the gun lobby of the town and nation, gaining a vast online following in the process. The otherwise mostly male and white pro-gun advocates at Kent State argue that guns should be allowed on campus as a “safety measure.”

The idea of guns making any campus safe is mind-boggling, even more so at Kent State. None of the student protesters were armed on May 4, and for the most part they were peaceful. The National Guard should not have dispersed them, they should not have thrown teargas grenades, and they definitely should not have shot or killed anyone.

Those were dangerous times, much more complicated and volatile than the legend of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll that defines conventional understandings of the Vietnam era. We should put more effort into inquiring, learning and reflecting on the past in order to learn from it.

*I dedicate this piece to Olivia Salter and Ethan Lower, undergraduate leaders of the May 4 Task Force — the student committee who will help to shape the 50th commemoration of May 4 on the Kent State campus.

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What Do Iraqi Protesters Want?

By Raed Jarrar (@raedjarrar)

During the last 6 weeks, over 300 Iraqis have been killed and over 15,000 injured in a bloody uprising that has been absent from US headlines. 

Inspired by the uprising in Lebanon and demonstrations in Egypt, in October Iraqis took to the streets to protest their own government. Most of the protesters are a new generation of young Iraqis who came to age after the US-led invasion of Baghdad in 2003. 

After the invasion, the new Iraqi regime adopted a narrative that justified its flaws by comparing them to Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian government. But for the Iraqi youth who never lived under Saddam’s reign, that narrative hasn’t held any weight and certainly hasn’t excused the corruption and dysfunctionality of the current government. Fed up, the youth have shocked the political class by sparking a new wave of protests that is challenging the foundation of the political process.

The protests were initially sparked by everyday frustrations: widespread unemployment, lack of access to public services, and rampant government corruption. Iraqi protesters know these issues cannot be resolved without system-wide change — and as a result, their demands have focused on two main themes: ending foreign interventions, and abolishing ethno-sectarian governance.

These demands pose an existential threat to the entirety of the political class in Iraq installed after the 2003 invasion, and more importantly, they are also a threat to foreign powers that are invested in the current regime — mainly the United States and Iran. 

An End to Foreign Interventions 

Unlike how the US and Iran have typically had proxy wars in the Middle East where they are on opposing “sides,” Iraq has curiously been an exception to that. Iran and the United States have supported the exact same political parties in Iraq since 2003. It just so happens that, for geopolitical reasons, dividing Iraq into sectarian and ethnic enclaves and supporting those Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other ethnic-based parties was aligned with both the interests of the US and Iran.

Both countries have been supporting the current regime in Iraq politically, but more importantly, supporting it by supplying it with all the weapons, training, and personnel it needs to survive. The US has sent over $2 billion to the Iraqi regime since 2012 as a part of the annual Foreign Military Financing package. The US has also sold the Iraq regime over $23 billion worth of weapons since 2003. To protect the Iraqi regime from its own people, Iranian-backed militias have participated in killing demonstrators. Amnesty International recently reported that Iran is the main supplier of tear gas canisters that are being used to kill Iraqi protesters every day.

The Iraqi regime’s corruption and dysfunctionality are symptoms of it being reliant upon foreign powers like the US and Iran. Iraqi government officials don’t care if Iraqis approve of their performance, nor do they care about the fact that the majority of Iraqis lack basic services, because that’s not the foundation of their existence.  

Iraqi protesters – regardless of their sectarian or ethnic background — are fed up with living in a client state that has no sovereignty and is one of the most corrupt, dysfunctional governments in the world. They’re calling for all interventions to end, whether it be from the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or Israel. Iraqis want to live in a country that is ruled by a government that is reliant on its people, not foreign powers. 

Abolitioning Ethnic and Sectarian Governance

In 2003 the US set up a political governance structure in Iraq which was based on ethno-sectarian quotas (the president is Kurdish, the Prime Minister is Shia, the President of Parliament is Sunni, etc.). This imposed system has only created and entrenched divisions within the country (which were minimal before the US-led invasion), and led to the creation of ethno-sectarian militias and destruction of a unified national armed force. Within this structure, politicians are appointed not based on qualification, but rather their ethinc and sectarian background. As a result, Iraqis have been displaced to ethnic and sectarian enclaves, and the country is led by ethnic and sectarian armed militias and warlords (ISIS was one example of this). The current political class has only ever operated in this way, and the youth have organized and risen up all across sectarian backgrounds to demand an end to it. 

Iraqi protesters want to live in a unified country that is ruled by a functional government where officials are elected based on their qualifications– not their affiliation with a sectarian political party. Furthermore, the way the electoral system in Iraq works now is that Iraqis mostly vote for parties, not for individual members of Parliament. Most parties are divided along sectarian lines. Iraqis want to change the system to voting for individuals who are held accountable for ruling the country. 

What can US Americans do?

In a way, what Iraqi youth are revolting against now is a regime that was built by the US and blessed by Iran in 2003. This is a revolution against the US legacy in Iraq that continues to kill Iraqis and destroy their country.

The US has an awful record in Iraq. US crimes that started with the first Gulf War in 1991 and intensified during the 2003 invasion and occupation continue today through the military and political support given to the Iraqi regime. There are many ways to stand in solidarity and support Iraqis today – but for those of us who are US taxpayers, we should start by holding the US government accountable. The US government is using our tax dollars to subsidize a brutal and dysfunctional regime in Iraq that could not stand on its own — so while Iraqis are revolting against this foreign-subsidized regime in their country, the least we can do is call upon our government to cut its aid to the Iraqi regime, and to stop sponsoring the murder of Iraqis. 

Raed Jarrar (@raedjarrar) is an Arab-American political analyst and human rights activist based in Washington, DC.

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Congressional progressive leader on caucus’s commitment to Palestine

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) recently told an audience in his Madison WI district that the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), of which he is co-chair, is planning (depending how Israel’s government-forming works out) to send a delegation to Palestine.

“But,” he noted to applause, “the permission has to include Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.” The two first-term members are both members of the CPC.

Pocan added, “We’re also saying we have to go into Gaza. And we have some commitments from our leadership, who say they’re going to help us do this– which we never had when Paul Ryan was Speaker.”

Pocan made these comments during the introduction he gave to Gaza-Palestinian Yousef Aljamal, who was the featured speaker at a late-October event “Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Youth Under Siege and Occupation.”

The event was held at Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison, WI. The primary organizer was the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and it had several other co-sponsors. This event was part of the nationwide speaking tour for Aljamal that Just World Ed organized under the title “Crisis in Palestine.”

Rep. Pocan, discussing his support for Palestinian rights

Christ Presbyterian kindly made and posted a great video of the afternoon’s proceedings, which can be viewed in full here. (The images in the main part of this blogpost are all stills from the video.)

Rep. Pocan’s introductory remarks take up the first seven minutes of the video. They provide an informative indication of the degree to which support for the rights of all Palestinians is growing within the 98-member-strong CPC.

Pocan prefaced his remarks by noting that, “We get so little information out of Gaza! And under this administration, our government has caused so much damage there.”

He recalled, “Three years ago, I led the first congressional delegation ‘to Palestine’– that’s what we called it! We had five members that went with us and we saw everything we could see. And on the final day, we were set to meet up with UNRWA and go into Gaza for a day. But the night before, we had a phone call, telling us we were not allowed to go in… “

He said that he and some of the other members of the delegation decided to go to the Gaza crossing-point anyway, since their notification had not come in writing… “And while we sat there we saw some of the bulldozers and things going through to take out some of the cropland… Eventually we got our official ‘No’. But to me, an official no just means we want to go even more!”

He recalled that it had been more than a decade since Keith Ellison was the last member of congress allowed by the Israelis to visit Gaza. (Ellison, who had been the first Muslim member of congress, is now the Attorney General of Minnesota.)

Pocan made a point of noting a couple of positive developments. One was the CPC’s plan to organize another– probably bigger?– delegation to Palestine than the one he had led back in 2016. The other was a plan that he said is projected to launch later this month for a series of Skype sessions between members of congress and various groups of citizens inside Gaza.

He recalled the strong impression the 2016 visit had made on him: “It really was alarming to go into downtown Hebron and other areas… But in Gaza, we don’t even have people getting in!”

He stressed that, “Conditions there are so bad. So many of us refer to it as an open-air prison. We can’t let this White House just continue to push things like the defunding of UNRWA.”

He gave full-throated support to the project the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is pursuing, to win official support from the Madison City Council for their city-twinning program. “I truly believe nothing is more powerful than to have a sister-city relation with [a city in] Gaza,” he said. “I’ve talked to the new mayor about it and she’s open to the conversation.” He referred to the very real contribution he felt that Madison’s twinning programs with cities in Colombia and El Salvador had made to the situation of the people in those cities– also, amidst conditions of intense inter-group conflict.

“I am committed to doing this,” he said, of the Madison-Rafah twinning project.

The congressman sat very attentively as Yousef Aljamal gave a presentation that covered both the acute humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the crisis caused by the Israeli military’s detention of hundreds of Palestinian youths in the West Bank, every year.

Rep. Pocan (right) listening as Aljamal speaks

Aljamal, who has many close family ties with the West Bank, was the translator of the recently published book Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak. Earlier in October, he presented copies of the book to Members and congressional staffers he met with on Capitol Hill.

When meeting Rep. Pocan, Aljamal made a point of thanking him for the early support he gave to H.R. 2407, a still-pending House Bill that seeks to hold Israel (and all other recipients of U.S. military aid) accountable for any violations member of aid-receiving military units commit against the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

——

After the events he spoke at in Madison, Aljamal traveled to Portland OR (as reported on here) and then to two islands in Hawai’i, where he spoke to community groups and participated in a panel discussion on Palestine at the annual conference of the American Studies Association. We are still organizing the photos and reports we received from Hawai’i, but here are a few teasers:

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Yousef Aljamal completes tour of mainland USA

At the end of October, our star speaker from Gaza, Palestine, Yousef Aljamal, wrapped up his hectic speaking tour of the mainland USA. Now, he is Hawai’i– where he also has a full speaking schedule.

Yousef with an appreciative audience at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA

Yousef spoke to audiences and classrooms across the continent, focusing on two main issues: the plight of Gaza’s two million residents after suffering 13 years of tight Israeli siege and the plight of Palestinian children caught up in the harsh detention system that the Israeli military has run in the occupied West Bank for the past 52 years.

In an earlier post on this blog we reported on some of his early activities on the tour, including the very valuable visits he made to various Congressional offices– including face-to-face meetings he had four Members of Congress.

We have put a photo album of the tour up onto our Facebook page, containing photos the numerous event hosts and attendees sent us from around the country. In case you’re not on Facebook, we’ll put some of the best of those photos in a gallery here. Scroll on down to see it.

Yousef in Portland OR

A few of the events Yousef spoke at were videotaped. So if you were not able to get to any of his events, do make a point of watching this excellent 33-minute video that we received from our friends in Portland OR. It contains the basic presentation that Yousef gave, in different versions, throughout the tour.

We want to thank the many organizations and individuals around the country whose commitment and dedication made this tour possible.We were particularly pleased that Yousef was able to speak to a number of college classrooms and even, in Madison WI, a high-school class. We are all deeply committed to expanding the discourse in the United States on the Question of Palestine as effectively as we can!

Yousef spoke to a dozen sizeable live audiences on the US mainland, from White Plains NY through Washington DC, Richmond and Williamsburg VA, Atlanta GA, Milwaukee and Madison WI, and Portland OR. Now, in Hawai’i, he has been able to connect with the indigenous activists resisting plans for “White” encroachment on the sacred mountain at Maunakea. He will also be speaking on a panel on Palestine to be held at the American Studies Association’s annual conference, due to be held in Honolulu November 7.

So now, here is the short version of our photo gallery:

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Yousef Aljamal brings his Palestinian witness to U.S. Congress members, public

Writer, translator, and social activist Yousef Aljamal brought his witness as a Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp in Israeli-occupied Gaza and has spent most of his life there, and as someone with many deep family ties to 1948 Israel and to the occupied West Bank, to Capitol Hill and to communities and classrooms in several places on the eastern seaboard of the United States over the past ten days.

While in Washington DC, Aljamal was able to meet in person with Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley, Andre Carson, and Hank Johnson, and with ranking staff members for another 18 Members of Congress. McCollum was the author of H.R. 2407, a still-pending House Bill that seeks to hold Israel (and all other recipients of U.S. military aid) accountable for any violations members of recipient military units commit against the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

In the photo above (kindly supplied by Rep. McCollum’s office), the Member is shown flanked by (l. to r.) Josh Ruebner of Progress Up Consulting, Yousef Aljamal, and JWE Executive Pres. Helena Cobban.

Here are a few other photos from the group’s time on Capitol Hill:

In his meetings on Capitol Hill and in well-attended community gatherings and college classrooms in– thus far– White Plains NY, Washington DC, Richmond VA, and Williamsburg VA, Aljamal talked about the privations he and all his neighbors in Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp have endured as a result of the violent, oppressive policies the Israeli military has pursued toward all two million residents of the Gaza Strip.

Stressing that the stories he told about his own family’s suffering were representative of what all Gaza Palestinians have had to endure, he told of a brother killed by Israeli military in 2004, of his sister Zainab’s death because the Israelis would not give her a permit to travel to Jerusalem for vitally needed medical care, and of his mother’s inability to visit her birth family in the West Bank for 12 years– also because of Israel’s denial of permits.

Aljamal also retold some of the searing personal accounts of Palestinian children in the West Bank who are survivors of the detention system that the Israeli military runs– including for Palestinian minors– in the West Bank. He was the translator from Arabic of a collection of these stories, Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak, copies of which he presented to the Members and staffers he met with on Capitol Hill.

In addition to his meetings in Congress, Aljamal has taken his witness about the realities of the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation to several community events and college classrooms already, in the first half of a U.S. speaking tour that will also include events in Milwaukee and Madison WI, Portland OR, and a couple of locations in Hawai’i, as listed here.

Members of Facebook can see a wonderful collection of photos from Aljamal’s event thus far, here.

Among the highlights of his tour so far was an event he did at the Palestine center in Washington DC, October 21, alongside the Israeli-American peace activist Miko Peled. A very informative, one-hour videotape of that event can be viewed here.

Miko Peled appearing with Yousef Aljamal at the Palestine Center

Peled prefaced his remarks by noting that he had previously spoken alongside Aljamal in several different countries, including Malaysia, New Zealand, and Turkey, adding– “but the one country in which we cannot now meet together is Palestine, because of the Zionists’ absurd apartheid laws there!”

We hope to share additional reports from Yousef Aljamal’s current U.S. speaking tour over the coming weeks.

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U.S. tour of Gaza-Palestinian Yousef Aljamal starts soon!

We’re pleased to share the following details of the speaking tour that Gaza-Palestinian Yousef Aljamal is undertaking of the United States, October 14 through November 2. Please be aware that numerous additional events/locations are close to being confirmed. As they are confirmed, we will update this page, so please check back often!

Yousef Aljamal

More details about Yousef Aljamal and the tour can be found here.

** Oct. 15, White Plains, NY — 6:30 pm: “Dreaming of Freedom: An evening with Yousef Aljamal”, at Wespac, 77 Tarrytown Rd., White Plains. Details at https://wespac.org/event/dreaming-of-freedom/

** Oct. 20, Washington DC — 1:30 pm: “Palestine in Crisis” featuring Yousef Aljamal and Miko Peled. Hosted by Rev. Graylan Hagler at Plymouth UCC church, 5301 N Capitol St NE (in the undercroft.)

** Oct. 21, Washington DC — 12:30 pm: “Palestine in Crisis: Yousef Aljamal and Miko Peled on the Detention of Palestinian Children”, at The Palestine center, 2425 Virginia Ave NW. Details at https://www.thejerusalemfund.org/events/upcoming/palestine-in-crisis-yousef-aljamal-and-miko-peled-on-the-detention-of-palestinian-children.

** Oct. 21, Richmond, VA, 7:00 pm — “Palestine in Crisis”, at the Pace Center, 700 W. Franklin St. Sponsored by the Pace Center and the ME & Islamic Studies Program at VCU. Pace Center details at https://www.thepacecenter.com/.

** Oct. 22, Williamsburg, VA, 7:00 pm — “Palestinian Child Detainees” at Blow Hall #332, The College of William and Mary. Sponsored by The Wesley Foundation (United Methodist campus ministry), Williamsburg United Methodist Church’s “Church in the World” committee, W&M’s Students for Justice in Palestine, and W&M’s Decolonizing Humanities Project.

** Oct. 27, Madison, WI, 2:00 pm — “Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Youth Under Siege and Occupation”, at Christ Presbyterian, 944 E. Gorham Street.

** Oct. 31, Honolulu, HI, 3:00 pm — “Translating Palestine”, at UH-Manoa Dept. of English, a colloquium for University of Hawai’i English Dept., cosponsored by UH-Students and Faculty for Justice in Palestine.

** Nov. 1, Honolulu, HI, 7:00 pm — “Palestine through the Generations: Stories of the Nakba as Resistance”, at Church of the Crossroads, 1212 University Ave.

Here are the two books to which Yousef has contributed:

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Algeria’s popular-democracy movement gains new energy

We’ve been following Algeria’s popular-democracy movement almost since its weekly Friday mass demonstrations– known collectively as “the Hirak”– erupted onto the streets of the country’s numerous cities and towns back in late February. So we were delighted to learn that the latest round of demonstrations, Sept. 20, were some of the largest and most spirited the country had seen for a while.

This, despite the fact that the country’s interim (and de-facto) ruler, Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaïd Salah had decreed just days before that no non-residents of the capital, Algiers, could enter the city on Friday.

There are two good French-language news sites from Algeria that we’ve been following. One is TSA-Algerie, which had this great (reverse-chrono) roundup of many of the demonstrations that happened, all around the country, along with handheld video from some of them. The other is Algerie360, which had this informative short article (and great photo spread) from just Algiers, of different parts of the demonstrations that erupted there as a strong popular answer to Gaïd Salah’s ban.

The photo above, showing some the Hirak’s staunch supporters– one in traditional Amazigh dress and carrying a Palestinian flag– comes from the Algerie360 photo spread.

Here’s our best quick translation into English of the Algerie360 article:

The power embodied by the chief of staff, Ahmed Gaïd Salah, has suffered a new setback. He lost the “Battle of Algiers”–the city that he had wanted to close to protesters as a first step toward imposing his electoral plan by force.

Algiers, the capital, was closed to the other Algerians but it was full of people. The demonstrators braved all the threats and foiled all the plots of the powers-that-be by keeping the unique character of this Hirak: Silmia, peaceful nonviolence… They took to the streets in all the arteries of Algiers without exception. They came from Bab El-Oued, El Harrach, and the heights of Algiers, to gather between Didouche Mourad, Hassiba Ben Bouali Street and the central post office …

This thirty-first Friday was specially dedicated to the chief of staff, who who was squarely targeted by the action. All the slogans converged against him.

You can relive the demonstration of the 31st Friday, in Algiers, in photos by our dear friend Yacine Aouli, who wants to share these moments of nationalism with his Algerian brothers and sisters.

And now, here’s a small sample of Aouli’s photos:

Placards stressing the need to keep things peaceful
The crowd in front of the Central Post Office
Squad from the Red Crescent, ready for action
Some slogans of the Hirak, including a call to release jailed grassroots leader Karim Tabbou
A central slogan: “Elections will not take place without the agreement of the Algerian people”
More staunch old ladies: “No to the rule of the generals’ clique!”, etc

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Preparing for 2020: Advocating for justice for Palestine and beyond

We’re delighted to crosspost this account that our board member Alice Rothchild wrote, of a great training workshop for Palestinian-rights activists from around the United States, that the American Friends Service Committee held in DC in early September. This is crossposted from AFSC’s “Acting in Faith” blog. The photos here are all by Matthew Paul D’Agostino, for AFSC.

by Alice Rothchild

The American Friends Service Committee conference in DC, September 7-8, Preparing for 2020: Advocating for Rights, Justice, and Freedom, was an excellent antidote to the stormy and frightening times in which we live. It is a measure of our failure to be more outraged than we already are that Netanyahu’s pledge to annex much of the West Bank to Israel (as if there was not already one apartheid state) barely caused a flutter of protest. Between Trump and Netanyahu we are all suffering from shock fatigue and a good dose of gloom about the future of the planet. I lie awake at night wondering, will it be forest fires, drought, floods, and wars over water, or maybe an old fashioned nuclear war that will finish us off. For folks with children and grandchildren, this is not a theoretical concern. 

But there I was sitting in the calming simplicity of a Quaker meeting room at the Sidwell Friends School, listening and talking with a wide range of activists, organizers, and policy experts, and brainstorming about grassroots advocacy, at town hall meetings, primary caucuses, and party conventions. The positive energy, humor, honesty, and commitment were infectious and uplifting. 

I had a number of important insights. When the “No Way to Treat a Child Campaign” started four years ago as a joint project of AFSC and Defense of Children International – Palestine, it was difficult to have a conversation on The Hill about the rights of arrested, detained, and imprisoned Palestinian children. Now, Bill HR 2407, sponsored by Betty McCollum, has 22 cosponsors. The bill requires “that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children…” Organizations like Human Rights Watch, B’tselem, UNICEF, and even the “Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories (“Annual Report”) published by the Department of State noted that Israeli security services continued to abuse, and in some cases torture, minors, frequently arrested on suspicion of stone-throwing, in order to coerce confessions. The torture tactics used included threats, intimidation, long-term handcuffing, beatings, and solitary confinement.” 

We are well aware of the impact of “The Squad” on discourse about Israel/Palestine. We are seeing Palestine, and especially Palestinian children, being brought into the discussion of human rights in the US congress, in the Jewish community, with younger generations, and with African Americans whose empathy and activism is heightened because of parallel concerns for their own children. 

Nadia Ben Yousef talks about de-exceptionalizing Palestine

Which brings us to the topic of intersectionality. Intersectionality is about understanding who is closest to the pain and letting that be the guide for the vision of whom should be closest to the power. A number of speakers were clear that Palestine advocates need to step out for other causes like indigenous rights, anti-racism work, and protesting policies at the US/Mexican border. While activists once decried the phenomenon of PEPS (people who are Progressive Except Palestine), it is now clear that to be effective, we must be involved in a universal struggle for human rights. We need a collective liberation, which also means, by the way, no POOPS (Progressive Only On Palestine). 

We were urged that if get out of our silos, the empire will lose; complexity is the tool of the empire. Understanding our own complicity and being able to challenge the oppressor within is critical. This means, for example, when organizing, avoiding panels that focus only on Palestine, always bring in other issues. There are no exceptions on progressive politics, especially if we benefit from that exception. As one speaker said, we must be PIPS (Progressive Including Palestine). 

There was much discussion about what Israelis call “The BDS,” the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign that began with a call from Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005. “The BDS” is viewed by some as an anti-Semitic, anti-American monster, and legislation both on the state and national levels has been passed to condemn and criminalize the campaign, a reflection of the power of AIPAC and Christian Zionists. If you want to stay up to date, Palestine Legal tracks local and national anti-BDS legislation. While the call to boycott is actually protected by the First Amendment, it is a form of nonviolent political speech, we were urged to be strategic. If you are in a community where the word itself is toxic, then talk about human rights and companies that violate human rights. Talk about investing responsibly and avoiding conflict zones like Western Sahara, Crimera, and, oh yes, Israel. BDS is a strategy. Tell the story. Are you in favor of what is happening in Gaza or the continued growth of settlements in the West Bank? Do you not want to make money off of other people’s suffering? BDS urges people to move beyond words to action, and that is why it is so scary. And so effective. 

The bottom line is that Palestine is about global justice, campaign designs are rooted in solidarity, in de-exceptionalizing Palestine. The issues in Israel/Palestine are about settler colonialism, racism, global military industrial corporations, multi-national surveillance and prison systems. These are universal issues. 

The session that was actually fun (yes activists can have fun) was about bird dogging: confronting officials in public to raise awareness, get a photo op, a statement on the record, something that can be put out on social media. The advice was very sensible: Spread out in the crowd, dress like a supporter, look friendly, raise your hand fast, get in the Q&A line early, read the room, figure out how to connect your issue to other issues being raised. Then, get in line for a hand shake or selfie. When you shake the candidate’s hand, place your hand on the top of their palm, wrap your thumb firmly around their wrist and hold on for dear life. Disarm the politician by praising first or making your ask very personal. Then we all got to practice and role play while AFSC staff pretended to be the glad handing candidates we most want to hold accountable to take positions for justice in Palestine. And we were good. 

If you want more information and inspiration:

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