Saturday, January 24, 2009
And, maybe pay off some family debts, turn his small New Jersey falafel shop into a fancy restaurant, raise his two motherless children as good Muslims and Americans, insure his sister married in a proper and arranged Muslim marriage to his first cousin, and possibly, if there is time, even find a wife himself.
But Mustafa’s American Dreams, like the American Dreams of many Arabs living in America after Sept. 11, 2001, don’t come easy, and his story, really the story of the Arab American experience today, makes for a compelling drama and one of the best movies about Arab American life I have seen.
Maybe that’s why “American East,” a film made by two professional Arab American actors and producers, was never released into the American movie theaters. Not one major theater would pick the film up and play it to an American audience so lacking in any knowledge about Arab Americans in the post-Sept. 11th world.
The story of the movie itself, written and produced by Hesham Issawi and Sayed Badreya, who plays the film’s main actor, Mustafa, is a part of this American tragedy, which might have been better titled “Shattered American Dreams.”
Yet despite the bias, the bigotry, the absence of major mainstream media coverage and support, and the rejection of the film by a Hollywood industry that is built on hatred of Arab Americans, Issawi and Badreya have produced one hell of a great film that in a dramatic and award winning way tells the inside story of how Arab Americans have been abused and mistreated in this country through the eyes of one man and the people around him.
Though “American East” will not be released in theaters, it will be released in DVD format beginning January 20.
Running through the film is Mustafa’s (Badreya) first dream, to open a fancy restaurant in Los Angeles with his friend Sam (Tony Shalhoub), who is Jewish and Egyptian. They both encounter resistance from skeptical locals and families and friends that expose common misunderstandings about Arabs and Islamic cultures as they explore building a business together.
But it gets far more complicated than that.
Mustafa must soon decide if he will take the easy road and succumb to societal pressures or rise above the prejudices and live the American Dream.
There have been several post-9/11 films like “Babel,” “Kingdom of Heaven,” “Syriana,” but all of them have been about the bigger political context, offering a tepid glimpse into the reality of today’s world. “American East” digs much deeper and there are no sacred cows on any side.
This film, though, is powerful. Poignant. And brings everything together in a way the mainstream American audience could better understand the problems that exist around us and that complicate not help the “war on terrorism.”
Mustafa’s life is one of a string of tragedy and problems all related to Sept. 11 and American public fears. He’s done absolutely nothing wrong, but everything he does now looks suspicious. He’s arrested by the FBI and they question him about his friendships and money he donates to help his family back home.
His business, Habibi’s Café, is about to close and is damaged. His business investments are about to fall through. The Arab-Israeli conflict rages in debate among his friends. His family life is collapsing and he worries about whether his children will be able to survive in this society.
Yet, despite all the tragedy that falls upon Mustafa and his family, he manages to say what every Arab American says at the height of their own tragic experiences in this country, “I still believe in this country.”
The film has been compared to Spike Lee’s popular movie “Do the Right Thing.” Like Lee’s film, “American East” tells the story of discrimination and challenge facing African Americans in this country from an African American viewpoint, but also reflecting the reality of Black-White relations.
“American East” exposes the prejudice that exists on all sides, including in the Arab American community. It has a decent reflection of the diversity of the Arab American community itself, although the main focus is about issues facing Muslims and Christian Arabs, who are the majority in the Arab American community, are really a side show in the film. It’s an oversight we experience everyday in Arab American life and that needs to be changed, someday. But until then, this amalgam of Arab American storylines comes together to give the audience a powerful ending.
“American East” touches on many aspects of Arab American life, from the challenges that even face Arab American actors in Hollywood who can either play terrorists in films or not play anyone at all. It explores the reality of a family that lives in the West and embraces Western culture but that still believes it is okay to marry off young single women to older men they have never met and only meet weeks before a marriage ceremony is held.
The film also explores how young Arab American children face the challenges of being singled out because of their race and religion? “Dad, why am I a Muslim? Why is my name Muhammad? Why don’t we celebrate Christmas?” all questions many Arab Muslim children eventually ask their parents.
It’s the same experience that Jewish American children go through, though, and that is one aspect of the film that is very powerful. It shows that the Arab American experience in America today although unique, is also a reflection of the very same experiences that every ethnic and racial immigrant group has faced in settling in this country.
Except for Arab Americans, though, who have been in America from the beginning, their Twilight Zone has been endlessly drawn out and not resolved because of the never ending Arab-Israeli conflict and the suffering of the Palestinian Arab people.
The film is also somewhat experimental, including a cartoon montage depicting a brief history of Islam that Issawi credits to the style of Michael Moore’s 2002 Documentary, “Bowling for Columbine.”
And the film also has its critics in the Arab and Muslim community, too, extremists who want all or nothing, and usually end up with nothing every time. A great track record of failure which they proudly hail as success.
The aspect of the film that has upset many Arabs and Muslims is the relationship Issawi crafts between Mustafa and Sam, the Jewish Egyptian businessman who is his longtime friend and now a partner in a business venture that becomes strained by the government questioning, arrests and harassment.
In an interview in the Los Angeles Times, one of the few in the mainstream media, by the way, Issawi touched on the problems he faced.
“Escaping stereotypes and the seething history and politics of the Middle East, especially regarding relations between Jews and Arabs, can get artists into trouble. Issawi’s portrayal of the friendship between Mustafa and Sam, who convinces his Jewish family to partner with Mustafa in a restaurant, angered critics at the Egyptian film festival. Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, but it is a political pact, not a cultural or artistic one. Films, music and books dealing with “normalization” are often vilified.
“ ‘It was hell,’ Issawi said of the news conference following the screening of ‘American East.’ ‘I was getting attacked by everybody. “How dare you try to make normalization with Israel.” And this was coming from journalists and critics. It was unbelievable. There was hypocrisy to it. I mean, don’t we Egyptians have a peace treaty with Israel?’’ ”
How dare you indeed, Mr. Issawi, make a great movie that tells the truth to everyone, even if everyone doesn’t want to hear the truth at all. That’s the essence of a great film and “American East” is in fact one of the great films that you must see to enjoy, to learn and to understand.
-- Ray Hanania
Thursday, January 22, 2009
ADC Applauds Selection of George Mitchell as Special Middle East Envoy
Washington, DC | January 22, 2009 | www.adc.org | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcomes today's appointment of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as Special Envoy to the Middle East by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
A child of Arab and Irish immigrants, Mitchell also has experience in the region. In 2001, he traveled to the region and produced the "Mitchell Report" which set out measure for Israeli and Palestinians could take to stop the violence and restore their confidence in each other. Although well received the Administration did not push to implement the measures outlined in the report.
ADC Communications Director Laila Al-Qatami said, "George Mitchell is an exceptionally well qualified and highly respected public servant. Known for his ability to generate good will, he has a proven record of leadership and negotiating peace. ADC hopes he will have full authority and support to actually reach an end to Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to create a just and durable peace agreement."
He has said, "For those of you in the Middle East who are discouraged, I understand your feelings. But from my experience in Northern Ireland I formed the conviction that there is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended. Conflicts are created and conducted by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. I saw it happen in Northern Ireland although admittedly it took a very long time. I believe deeply that with committed, persevering and active diplomacy it can happen in the Middle East."
BIOGRAPHY OF SENATOR GEORGE MITCHELL
Do you believe in ADC's mission? Are you looking for ways to fight for civil rights, a just American foreign policy, and a stronger Arab American community?
You can support ADC's educational work by giving to ADC-Research Institute (ADCRI) . ADCRI is a 501 ( C ) 3 affiliate of ADC charged with providing tools and resources to educate people about Arab and Muslim Americans and issues of importance to the Arab and Muslim World.
By Ray Hanania
Every child needs a role model. For the most part, role models come from all walks of life, but the most important are those role models we see in Hollywood movies. And not just any role models. We look for "our own."
By that, I mean, Irish kids looked for Irish role models. Jewish kids looked for Jewish role models. Blacks looked for Blacks, Italians for Italians. And just like everyone else, Arab kids look for role models that are Arab, too.
As a child growing up on Chicago's Southeast Side in the 1950s and 1960s, I had no role models in the mainstream media, and especially none in Hollywood.
The movies were filled with villans and almost every villain was an Arab. The terrorists, the killers, the murderers all looked like they were related to me.
I'd go to the movies with my friends, frightened by the horrific images on the big screen, only to come back to the house and look around the dinner table and see the same faces that Hollywood vilified, exploited and stereotyped.
Other ethnic groups insist what I went through is what every ethnic kid goes through. Really? Well, yes, Italians have terrible images in the Hollywood movies, too. But I noticed that for every mobster who is Italian, there are at least one or two more good characters who are Italian also in the same movie. In other words, it is not the presence of negative images that is the problem.
It is the absence of positive images that IS the problem in American Hollywood movies. Yes, there are lots of negative images of every ethnic group, but there are also lots of positive images of ethnic groups, too, Except for Arab Americans.
In more than 250 movies made by Hollywood that include Middle East related themes or characters who could be surmised or are "Arab" or "Muslim," only about a handful, maybe five, have positive Arab characters. For years, the only positive Arab character in a movie was Aladdin in the Disney cartoon film and he didn't even look Arab at all.
Last year, two great Hollywood actors, Hesham Issawi and Sayed Badreya decided to do something that hasn't been done yet. They wanted to make a Hollywood movie that told a part of the Arab American and Muslim Arab story in a real way. They wanted to portray the reality of the Arab experience in America just the way it really is. And they made the film "American East," which is featured on the front page of this newspaper.
The problem, of course, is that not one American movie theater would show the film. Not one. Out of tens of thousands of movie theaters, not one could find the courage to show the film to the public. Why?
Was it because the film was filled with foul-mouthed language like nearly every major movie and TV program? Was it because it was more violent than the films that are filled with violent?
No. It made Arabs look normal. It portrayed Arab characters in a normal environment as human beings, like everyone else, who have to deal with the traumas and tragedies of real life.
On Jan. 20th, the film that couldn't make it into American theaters because it portrays Arabs in a positive and negative light was released on DVD.
I hope you will take the time to buy it. I hope Arab Americans and Muslims will purchase the DVD, not just to enjoy a film that for the first time portrays the reality of Arab American life in the post-Sept. 11, 2001 world, but that does so in a fair and balanced and dramatic and compelling manner.
It's a GREAT movie.
But buy it also because if you are like me upset with the ugliness that is the stock and trade of the Hollywood movie industry, purchasing it is one way to protest. Make it a success. Share it with your friends and neighbors. Let them see what Hollywood and the mainstream media does not want the world to see, that Arab Americans are no worse, no better and no different than anyone else. We have our bad and our ugly. But we also have our good, our inspirational, our flowers and our beauty.
Is that too much to ask? I don't think so.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Arab American columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. He is also the publisher of the National Arab American Times newspaper, www.AATimesNews.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Monday, January 19, 2009
For Immediate Release Contact: Amani Ghouleh 708.601.3713
January 19, 2009
Chicago Women and Children in a Silent Protest
For Peace and Justice in Palestine
CHICAGO, IL – Women from different Human Rights organizations, along with other ethnic and religious groups, will gather in support with the victims of Gaza at 1:00 pm Monday, January 19, 2009, at the Federal Plaza. Attendees are expected to come from all across Illinois and some neighboring states.
Approximately 1,100 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli attacks on Gaza began 23 days ago, with over 5,000 injured, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the International Red Cross. Over 300 of the dead are children, almost 100 are women, and 49% of the injured are women or children; these figures are from the United Nations.
Coordinated National Days of Action in Memory
of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
People all across the United States will celebrate the life, legacy, and birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated by a racist's bullet on April 4th, 1968. Dr. King was one of the foremost leaders of the Black civil rights movement in this country, an organizer extraordinaire for peace and justice, and an eloquent orator who challenged racism, injustice, and oppression everywhere.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Federal Plaza, 50 W. Adams St.
(Adams and Dearborn Streets, downtown Chicago, IL.)
Press Conference Speakers for January 19th, 2009. 1:30 PM
Christina Abraham -- CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Director
Gihad Ali – Letter to Obama
Deanna Othman -- to speak about relatives in Gaza
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The Arab American National Museum (AANM) is proud to announce that submissions are now being accepted for the
2008 Arab American Book Award
Books submitted for consideration must be written or illustrated by an Arab American, or address the Arab-American experience. The portrayal or representation of Arab Americans should be accurate and engaging; avoid stereotypes, and reflect rich characterization. It must be an original work and published in English between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008. Submissions must be postmarked no later than February 1, 2009. An award will be given to an author or illustrator in each of the following three categories:
• Adult Non-Fiction in the areas of the Social Sciences and Humanities
• Adult Fiction, including Arts and Literature
• Poetry (New for 2008)
• Children or Young Adult, Fiction or Non-Fiction
Submission forms can be found on the AANM website. For additional information regarding the Book Award please contact Kristin LaLonde of the AANM Library & Resource Center at 313-624-0223 or email@example.com.
The Arab American Book Award was established in 2006 to encourage the publication and excellence of books that preserve and advance the understanding, knowledge, and resources of the Arab American community by celebrating the thoughts and lives of Arab Americans. The purpose of the Award is to inspire authors, educate readers and foster a respect and understanding of Arab American culture.
The Arab American National Museum documents, preserves, celebrates, and educates the public on the history, life, culture, and contributions of Arab Americans. We serve as a resource to enhance knowledge and understanding about Arab Americans and their presence in this country. The Arab American National Museum is a project of ACCESS, a Dearborn, Michigan-based nonprofit human services and cultural organization.
Arab American National Museum 13624 Michigan Avenue Dearborn, MI 48126
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Contact: Kim Silarski
PETE SEEGER DISCUSSES PROFILING AND ACTIVISM IN FEBRUARY 1 PANEL DISCUSSION AT AANM
Dearborn, MI (January 15, 2009) – Folk music legend and political activist Pete Seeger is set to take part in a panel discussion on the practice of profiling at the Arab American National Museum (AANM) from 1-2:30 p.m. Sunday, February 1.
The panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, is presented in conjunction with the current AANM exhibition A Yemeni Community: Photographs from the 1970s by Milton Rogovin, on display through July 5, 2009 in the AANM's Lower Level Gallery.
Entitled Rise-Up: Activism Through the Arts, Profiling from McCarthyism to the Present, the event unites Seeger with Michigan-based activists Ismael Ahmed and Dr. Gloria House and from Chicago, Mark Rogovin; Dr. Francis Shor moderates. Participant biographies appear below.
Profiling refers to the data surveillance technique employed by institutions such as law enforcement in which aspects such as race, ethnic origin or political activism are used to identify potential criminal offenders or security threats, often resulting in the disproportionate investigation of people of color.
There is no charge to attend this event; no RSVP is required. Seating is first-come, first-served; seating capacity in the Museum’s Lower Level Auditorium is 156. Call 313.582.2266 for further information.
Pete Seeger is a musician, singer/songwriter, folklorist, labor activist, environmentalist and peace advocate. He has issued some 100 records, written and collaborated on numerous radical songbooks, articles and banjo manuals. In 1955, Seeger was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and became one of the few witnesses called that year who did not invoke the Fifth Amendment. In a dramatic appearance before the committee, Seeger claimed that to discuss his political views and associates violated his First Amendment rights. Read more about Seeger HERE.
Ismael Ahmed is a human rights activist, music promoter and the current director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. In 1974, he co-founded the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) and served as its executive director from 1983-2007. Ahmed created the Concert of Colors, the largest free diversity music festival in the U.S., which marked its 16th anniversary in 2008.
Dr. Gloria House is a community activist, educator and poet who is a professor of humanities and African American studies at the University of Michigan - Dearborn. She has been involved in human rights causes since her student days at UC Berkley and her years as field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in Lowndes County, Alabama in the 1960s.
Mark Rogovin is an artist and community activist who worked with Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros on his last mural, The March of Humanity. In 1981, Rogovin co-founded the Peace Museum and was its director for four years. He now heads the Rogovin Collection with its mission to promote the educational use of the social documentary photography of his father, Milton Rogovin.
Dr. Francis Shor (moderator) is professor of history at Wayne State University and a longtime human rights activist involved with numerous peace and justice groups including the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights.
The Arab American National Museum documents, preserves, celebrates, and educates the public on the history, life, culture, and contributions of Arab Americans. We serve as a resource to enhance knowledge and understanding about Arab Americans and their presence in this country. The Arab American National Museum is a project of ACCESS, a Dearborn, Michigan-based nonprofit human services and cultural organization. Learn more at www.arabamericanmuseum.org and www.accesscommunity.org.
The Arab American National Museum is a proud Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Read about the Affiliations program at http://affiliations.si.edu.
The Museum is located at 13624 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, MI, 48126. Museum hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday; Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for students, seniors and children 6-12; ages 5 and under, free. Call 313.582.2266 for further information.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Over the past few weeks, it has been disheartening to watch and listen as some leaders in the Arab community and also in the mainstream Jewish American community, spew hatred and vicious rhetoric blaming others for the unspeakable crimes against women, children and innocent people in the Gaza Strip and in the Israeli towns near Gaza. Instead of leadership, some of these organizations have been denouncing fiercely the crimes committed against their people, but have either remained silent or have justified the carnage and immoral conduct committed against the others.
Both sides are committing crimes, and the worst crime is when the people on either side pretend their side is not committing a crime but scream and cry about the crimes committed only against their people.
That is complicity in the carnage and that needs to stop.
Today on my Radio Chicagoland program (WJJG 1530 AM Radio) I am asking callers, especially Arab and Jewish listeners, to call in and say something nice about the "other side." To show not that the other side is right but that their side has a remaining sense of morality in a conflict filled with a vicious war of words of "moral equivalency."
Innocent people are dying in a conflict that has raged on for more than 100 years. No one incident started anything. The facts so the claims on both sides are untrue. And when people lie or they close their eyes to the truth, they are also participating in the inhumanity that is taking place today.
Our government leaders are failing and are also playing politics on the spilled blood of innocent people. It's up to us, the people, to take the lead and say and do something to force them to do the right thing.
If you are not in the Chicagoland area to hear the show live on the radio this morning between 8 and 9:30 am, you can go to the web site and listen online, including on the live video streaming option,
-- Ray Hanania
Monday, January 12, 2009
SUNDAY, JAN. 11, 2009
Fadi Zanayed, President Chicago Chapter
American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
ARAB ORGANIZATION CONDEMNS SYNAGOGUE DESECRATIONS
The Chicago Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC-Chicago) condemns the vandalism that has been reported over the past few days against Jewish American religious institutions.
ADC-Chicago and the entire Arab American community in Chicagoland oppose all forms of racism, bias, bigotry, discrimination and acts of violence or vandalism that reflect any form of racism. These acts of vandalism only contribute towards hatred. We oppose hatred. We make this statement because our organization believes that the Arab and Jewish communities should work together against all forms of discrimination as a first step toward working together for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East .
ADC-Chicago also urges the public not to rush to judgment as to the race or religion of the offenders in these acts of vandalism. Their acts are not endorsed in anyway and do not reflect on the legitimate efforts of our community to stand up for justice and fairness and the support of peace.
Members of the Arab American community are living in a state of fear of bias and discrimination and experience this racism every day, some of which is the result of the tragic conflict in the Middle East . This fear mongering is being espoused by certain news media and particularly talk radio that promote anti-Arab racism.
ADC-Chicago has stood up against hate speech on local radio and in the media and we hope that everyone will join us in speaking out against the factors and incidents that fuel hatred and animosity anywhere and everywhere.
# # #
Fadi Zanayed, ADC-Chicago President
# # #
Friday, January 09, 2009
For Immediate Release
January 8, 2009
Contact: Amani Media 708.601.3713
GAZA BOMBING AFFECTS ILLINOIS FAMILY
CHICAGO, IL - Mr. Adel Filfil, a salesman who lives in Northbrook, grew up in Gaza, and just came back from visiting family there a week before Israel launched it’s latest attack on Gaza. He says he just found out that one of his nephews was killed and another was injured in the latest string of bombings on Jabalia in the Gaza strip.
“My nephew was shot in his neck and killed by the Israeli army man when he went looking for food for his family. Another nephew was injured when an Israeli air strike missile hit the mosque where he, his father and four brothers were praying on January 6th. ”
Mr. Filfil says he’s been so worried about the dangerous situation, that he can’t even sleep thinking about his family.
“Not even one house in Jabalia is left without destruction. My sister’s family of seven are living in one room after one side of their house was bombed and using wood as the only source of heat for warmth and cooking. They don’t know when or where to get any humanitarian relief. ”
Everyone is suffering in Gaza, Filfil says “I can’t do anything for them but pray this is going to end soon. The situation in Jabalia was not much better when I was there two weeks ago. With the siege on Gaza, the electricity, water and gas were out most of the week.”
Mr. Adel Fifil will be available for interviews at the Press Conference.
Press Conference: Situation in Gaza
Friday, January 9, 2009
Daley Plaza, 50 W Washington St.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
January 6, 2009
Portland, OR - After two days of delay, the global relief and development agency Mercy Corps plans to send a shipment of food for 1,800 people into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning local time. The four-metric-ton shipment was originally scheduled to enter Gaza on Monday, but was delayed because of the introduction of Israeli ground troops and subsequent border restrictions.
Mercy Corps has issued an urgent call for immediate humanitarian access to Gaza. The agency is increasingly concerned about the prospects for delivering aid within the territory, which been divided by recent military actions. Before the current conflict, Mercy Corps' programs were already inhibited because of the frequent closures of the Gazan borders, which led to fuel rationing and electricity and water shortages.
But the agency insists that access has become much more difficult in recent days. "Only a trickle of aid is getting in," explains David Holdridge, Mercy Corps Regional Program Director for the Middle East. "Many families in Gaza have been living for more than a week without reliable electricity, heat, food or water. This initial shipment will help, but it's only a fraction of what's needed."
The shipment contains four metric tons of rice, canned tuna, dates and soybean oil, and will enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in southern Israel. The shipment has been approved by Israeli authorities, and is being coordinated with the assistance of the World Food Programme and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Mercy Corps' team expects to distribute the food in the coming days.
In lieu of shipping goods into Gaza, Mercy Corps has resorted to collecting, buying and distributing items within the territory. In recent days, the agency has distributed blankets to hundreds of people in Khan Younis and patients at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Though communication with Mercy Corps team members inside Gaza has been difficult and sporadic, the agency has thus far heard that all of the team is safe. Speaking today from the southern city of Rafah, Mercy Corps Administrative and Finance Manager Wafa Ulliyan described the situation for civilians as "terrible and deteriorating." Ulliyan, who fled Gaza City shortly after air strikes started in late December, is living with her husband, seven-month-old daughter, two sisters and ten other family members.
"I cannot describe how terrible it is. No one feels safe," says Ulliyan. "There is continuous shelling, no electricity for two days, and every night the children are in a panic. But the situation is even worse in other areas of Gaza." Ulliyan has been unable to contact her friends and neighbors in Gaza City.
HOW TO HELP:
Mercy Corps Gaza Crisis Fund
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208
Church World Service offers comprehensive aid in Gaza crisis
NEW YORK CITY - Thurs., Jan. 8, 2009 - As the death toll continues to rise in the wake of the Israeli military attack on Gaza, Church World Service has set in motion an emergency response that includes humanitarian relief, protection for refugees and those displaced by the attacks, advocacy for intensified measures to create a just peace, and a public appeal for U.S. donations to further assist people suffering through the crisis.
In an attempt to stop the fighting that has trapped some 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza with little to no access to food, water or medicine, Church World Service has called its Speak Out advocacy network to action, asking people to immediately press their lawmakers in Washington to support prompt U.S. diplomatic action to end the fighting in Gaza and renew a meaningful process toward peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis.
Because some two thirds of the people now suffering in Gaza are refugees, CWS wants the governments of Israel and Egypt to allow civilians who want to leave the bloodshed to do so safely, as recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In a January 8 letter to U.S. congressional leaders, state department officials and Israeli and Egyptian ambassadors, Church World Service underscored the Gazan refugees' right to protection, saying "All human beings have a universal right to flee war and seek safety in neighboring countries." Both Israel and Egypt are signatories to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
"It is thus incumbent upon Israel and Egypt to immediately open their borders and provide protection to civilians attempting to flee violence and persecution.
Echoing the call of UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, the agency communiqué also said that "it is absolutely imperative that the immediate delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian victims of this conflict be facilitated with the cooperation of Egypt and Israel."
Church World Service is a member of Action by Churches Together, an international aid alliance. ACT has sent trucks loaded with medicine, blankets, food and energy biscuits for children to Gaza. The supplies, along with trauma therapists, will be able to enter Gaza as soon as the Israeli Army gives permission for the supply trucks to enter. As of Wednesday evening, reports indicated that Israel would halt its bombing for a few hours each day to allow delivery of humanitarian aid.
CWS says aiding infants and small children and their mothers is a priority. CWS partners report a need for supplementary feeding for 80,000 preschool children, but only one in four children has received such supplements during the war.
The need for emergency psychosocial care within the war-torn area is overwhelming, Action by Churches Together reports. "The best therapy for children is to resume normal life," says ACT's representative in Israel and Palestine, Liv Steinmoeggen.
Steinmoeggen says emergency supplies including medicine and blankets also are needed at the Anglican Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. The hospital's windows were blown out during the attacks and patients there now are exposed to cold weather.
The fighting began 12 days ago, after Israel announced that it would launch an assault on Gaza in retaliation for Palestinian rockets fired into Israel. More than 700 Palestinians have been killed and the United Nations already has warned of an impending humanitarian disaster in Gaza.
In December, Church World Service Executive Director Rev. John L.
McCullough and other major Christian leaders in the U.S. sent a letter to President-elect Barack Obama urging him to make Israeli-Palestinian peace an immediate priority.
HOW TO HELP: Contributions to support this emergency appeal may be made online or sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515. Please designate #6824, 2009 Gaza Humanitarian Response.
JOIN 10,000 CHRISTIANS NATIONWIDE IN URGING HOLY LAND PEACE! Thanks to the incredible efforts of Christians around the country, over 10,000 people have signed an ecumenical letter endorsed by forty major American Christian leaders that urges President-elect Barack Obama "to make achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace an immediate priority" during his first year in office. But there's still time to act in support of peace. Click here now to add your signature before January 16.
WHY IS THIS LETTER IMPORTANT NOW? WHY IS THIS LETTER IMPORTANT NOW? As the New Year begins, our thoughts and prayers are with those in Gaza and southern Israel as they suffer invasion and attack. The current crisis demonstrates that violence cannot bring peace. What is needed is robust U.S. diplomatic engagement to encourage negotiations toward a durable two-state agreement. With the incoming Obama Administration, there is a renewed opportunity for the United States to help achieve a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Earlier this week President-elect Obama said, "The loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern to me...Starting at the beginning of our administration, we are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East." It is critical that Obama hear from American Christians now in large numbers that we support sustained U.S. diplomacy and a meaningful peace process that leads to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. He needs to know that we stand ready to support his peacemaking leadership. WHAT DOES THE LETTER ASK PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA TO DO? The letter, coordinated by Churches for Middle East Peace, urges President-elect Obama to provide immediate diplomatic leadership toward the clear goal of a final status agreement establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel. The letter notes that the work for a just peace will not be easy, but stresses that the risk of inaction is far greater. The two-state solution is supported by majorities of Israelis and Palestinians as the best way to end this tragic conflict. However, the prospects for this solution are narrowing and must be seized.
The deadline for signatures is January 16, 2009. A version of this letter signed by national Christian leaders was sent to the Obama transition team on December 1, 2008. The final letter signed by leaders and individual church members, such as us, will be delivered to President Obama upon his inauguration. Sign the letter now. SPREAD THE WORD After signing the letter, please share the letter with your family, friends, and church community and ask them to sign. Church bulletin inserts, a tell-a-friend feature, and other resources to help you spread the word are available at http://www.cmep.org/letter/resources.
Visit the CMEP website: Learn more about our work and how to get involved.
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).
Contributions to CMEP are tax deductible and can be made by check or online by secure, on-line credit card service.
Churches for Middle East Peace
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Fadi Zanayed
JANUARY 7, 2009
(ADC) Chicago Launches Discrimination Watch List To respond to incidents of discrimination and media bias
WLS Radio Host Erich Mancow Muller cited for outrageous call to kill Hamas people
Chicago – The Chicago Chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Chapter today issued a letter to Mr. Mike Fowler, President and General Manager of WLS AM Radio to express outrage for the comment made by Erich “Mancow” Muller that “Hamas people should be lined up and killed” during today’s morning broadcast. While ADC does not speak for the political party of Hamas, we do take offense to any language that would cause tensions to be escalated toward the American-Arab community.
As we witness a growing atmosphere of hatred and animosity, comments like this cross the line and encourage more hate. Everyone knows that when Mancow or anyone else refers to “Hamas people,” they are in fact referring to Arabs, Muslims and particularly Palestinians.
The Chicago Chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee monitors media bias and hate speech and we believe this offensive commentary falls into the category of hate speech, especially given the circumstances that have engulfed tensions between Arabs and Israelis in the past week.
We are demanding that Mr. Muller apologize for his comment. We feel that while he has the right to express his viewpoint, advocating violence only serves to create an atmosphere in which hatred can persist. We also insist on having one of our distinguished community members appear on Mr. Muller’s show to present what we feel is a balanced reply to the clearly racist show he had on today.
In the meantime, ADC-Chicago is placing Erich Mancow Muller and his midday program at WLS AM Radio on the ADC Chicago Discrimination Watch List. We plan to circulate our protest and any responses we receive from you or the station to our community to increase their awareness about these issues.
The ADC Chicago Discrimination Watch List is a part of the ADC Chicago “Rapid Response Committee” to monitor instances of discrimination, bigotry and bias on the part of the news media, government officials and other public agencies.
The committee is managed by the ADC Chicago Executive Committee and chaired by ADC Board member Ray Hanania.
ADC Chicago will soon be launching a new web site at www.ADCChicago.com where a Discrimination Watch List will be published and members of the Arab American community can come to report alleged instances of discrimination and bigotry.
The ADC Chicago Chapter will carefully review all allegations and immediately request clarification from individuals and organizations accused of discrimination or bias.
Our purpose is not to punish those who discriminate but to instead stop the discrimination by heightened awareness and vigilance. As the premier Arab American organization in the United States, ADC is vested with the responsibility to stand up for its community. We take that charge seriously and will work to help sift through the difficult issues of discrimination and hopefully make a difference not only for our community but for American society as a whole.
We urge anyone who feels they may have been discriminated to visit our web page and to submit facts involving cases of discrimination.
In many cases, we believe confronting the issues can resolved in a rapid resolution of the problems and prevent them from being exacerbated.
Some cases, however, will be referred to attorneys for possible legal action. All of the instances will be documented and all responses will be posted on our web site.
# # #
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Contact: Nathan White (202)225-5871
Israel May Be in Violation of Arms Export Control Act
Kucinich Requests Report to Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 6, 2009) – In light of press reports that Israeli forces fired on a United Nations school where civilians were taking shelter, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent notice to Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, that Israel’s actions in Gaza since December 27th, 2008 may constitute a violation of the requirements of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA).
When the President is aware of the possibility of such violations, the AECA requires a report to Congress on the potential violation(s). The AECA outlines the conditions under which countries may use military articles or services obtained from the U.S. government, which include “internal security” or “legitimate self defense.”
The letter offers preliminary evidence that there may be a violation of the requirements of AECA. For example, Israeli forces have used F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters to precede and to support ongoing ground actions such as the one today in which 40 Palestinians were killed while taking shelter in a U.N. facility.
In the letter, Kucinich requests a response by the close of business on January 7, 2009 with the date that the report will be submitted.
The full text of the letter follows:
January 5, 2009
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Dr. Rice:
I am writing concerning Israel's military offensive against Gaza, which began on December 27th. I support Israel's security and its right to exist in peace, without the fear of rocket attacks from Hamas. Moreover, I abhor the violence being visited upon the citizens of our firm ally. However, no nation is immune from the legal conditions placed on the receipt of U.S. military assistance. I believe that with the current escalation of violence inGaza, a legal threshold has been reached, warranting a Presidential examination and report to Congress. I hereby request an examination of Israel’s compliance with the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA).
While neither the AECA nor the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) define “internal security” and “legitimate self-defense,” I believe that Israel’s most recent
attacks neither further internal security nor do they constitute “legitimate” acts of self-defense. They do, however, “increase the possibility of an outbreak or escalation of conflict,” because they are a vastly disproportionate response to the provocation, and because the Palestinian population is suffering from those military attacks in numbers far exceeding Israeli losses in life and property.
Israel’s current military campaign in Gaza has inflicted a significant toll on Palestinian civilians and society. Israel’s recent aerial and ground offensive against Gaza has killed nearly 600 and injured over 2,500. The Associated Press reported: “children are paying the price. . . . The United Nations has said the death toll includes 34 children. . . . But the broad range of Israel's targets--police compounds, fire stations, homes of militants, Hamas-run mosques and university buildings--means most shelling is occurring in residential areas." The extensive destruction of such civilian institutions violates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the wanton destruction of property and collective punishment of a civilian population. There have also been reports of bombings of United Nations (UN) schools, despite the fact that Israeli Defense Forces were allegedly given coordinates of the facilities prior to the current escalation in violence. The blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2006 has further exacerbated the extent of collateral damage, as hospitals and morgues have been unable to cope with the magnitude of deaths and injuries as a result of the current escalation in violence and hospitals lack proper supplies needed to treat the injured.
I believe that Israel’s use of defense articles provided by the U.S in the current Gaza military attacks may constitute a violation of the AECA. At a minimum, the conflict is sufficient to warrant an immediate report to Congress as required by 22 U.S.C. §2753. Please contact my office by close of business on January 7, 2009 with the date the report will be submitted.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress
# # #
 U.S.C. 22 §§ 2771-2781.
 Barzak, Ibrahim. (2009, January 1). Fighting in dense Gaza brings child casualties. Associated Press Newswire. Online. Accessible: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/01/01/news/ML-Gaza-Children-Casualties.php
 Barzak, Ibrahim. (2009, January 1). Fighting in dense Gaza brings child casualties. Associated Press Newswire. Online. Accessible: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/01/01/news/ML-Gaza-Children-Casualties.php
 McGreal, Chris and McCarthy, Rory. (2009, January 6). Israeli shelling kills dozens at UN School in Gaza. The Guardian. Online. Accessible: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/06/gaza-israel-death-un .
 News Agencies. (2009, January 6). 40 Palestinians killed in IDF Strike on UN School. Haaretz. Online. Accessible: http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1053138.html
According to reports, Israel bombed this UN-operated school, located in the Jabaliya refugee camp, killing many civilians who had sought shelter from Israel's continued bombardment and blockade of the Gaza Strip. The tactics of the Israeli Army, using heavy artillery, helicopter fire and massive bombs from fighter jets on the dense and overwhelmingly civilian Gaza Strip has caused more than 640 civilian deaths and 3,000 injuries, some people being maimed for life. The Israeli army said four of its soldiers had been killed in two separate friendly-fire incidents on Tuesday, when errant Israeli tank shells hit their positions and 60 Israelis have been injured by rocket attacks launched from Gaza into southern Israel.
The residents of Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the World, are surrounded by Israel's military occupation and they have no place to take refuge from the ongoing onslaught. More than 18 months ago, Israel began to blockade Gaza, leaving the residents of Gaza with limited to no access to water, electricity, food, and medicine. Even before Israel began its military assault ten days ago there was a growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, now the situation is even more dire and desperate.
Food is hard to come by because of Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza and now it's even more expensive for those who can actually afford to buy food. Gaza's water authorities indicated wells in Gaza are not working due to lack of power and damage to the pipes, while others are operating only partially.
Hospitals are overwhelmed and lack basic necessities, if people can even get to the hospitals. Emergency aid workers have been unable to reach the wounded and supplies for hospitals are being held up and not reaching their destinations. Hospitals are relying on backup generators for electricity and rolling electricity cuts leave patients in jeopardy.
NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee www.adc.org
1732 Wisconsin Ave., NW Washington, DC 20007
Tel: 202-244-2990 Fax: 202-244-7968 Media@adc.org
Urgent Humanitarian Measures and Renewed Political Process Necessary for Durable Peace
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, (c) 917-655-4273
[Washington, DC, January 6, 2009] Churches for Middle East Peace sent the following message to all House and Senate offices yesterday afternoon.
The new year has begun with an escalating crisis in Gaza and southern Israel that demonstrates the urgent need for robust U.S. diplomatic engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) deplores the tragic loss of life of those caught in the conflict and cares deeply about the welfare of both Israelis and Palestinians who are suffering and living in fear.
The events of recent days and weeks have wreaked havoc in the Holy Land and are dimming hopes for a continuation of the U.S. peace efforts begun in Annapolis over a year ago.
To end the current crisis and promote long-term peace and stability, CMEP believes that urgent efforts must be pursued to achieve an immediate cease-fire that ends the violence, addresses the humanitarian situation - including an opening of the border crossings that provides relief for the people of Gaza and meets Israel's security needs - and leads to concrete steps toward a two-state peace agreement.
CMEP urges Members of Congress to issue statements expressing support for the following U.S. efforts on behalf of Israel and the Palestinians and to safeguard American national security interests:
1. Prompt U.S. diplomatic action to help achieve an immediate cease-fire that ends the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas.
The ongoing indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel must be stopped and the massive Israeli military responses must be halted. Further spiraling violence will increase the toll of human suffering, strengthen extremists in Gaza and undermine Palestinian moderates as well as moderate voices throughout the region. It also risks broader Middle East destabilization and confrontation.
In a Dec. 29th letter to President Bush, the CMEP coalition representing 22 U.S. church bodies, called for prompt action to achieve a cease-fire to help "bring about an end to the violence." Jerusalem Church Leaders and Patriarchs, in a Dec. 30th statement, said that the continuation of the violence will "breed more hatred and hostility - and thus continued confrontation between the two peoples." On December 28th, Pope Benedict XVI said the international community must help Israelis and Palestinians find a way out of this "dead end" of conflict and violence and instead pursue the path of "dialogue and negotiation." He renewed this call yesterday stressing the, "profound desire to live in peace in the hearts of the great majority of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, which is once again endangered by the intense violence."
CMEP agrees with Sec. Rice's Jan. 2nd statement that it is necessary to find a "solution to Gaza that will be a sustainable one for the people of Gaza, for the people of Israel and for the people of the Palestinian territories…more broadly." We believe a cease-fire that ends the violence now, achieved with the leadership of the United States together with the international community and regional partners, must be the immediate first step.
2. Support for urgent measures to address the Gaza humanitarian situation, including an opening of the border crossings that provides relief for the people of Gaza and meets Israel's security needs.
The Red Cross has said that the current hostilities have created an "alarming" humanitarian situation in Gaza, coming on the heels of prolonged restrictions on Gaza that have led to shortages of fuel, electricity, water and medical supplies.
According to the World Food Program, "the population [in Gaza] is facing a food crisis" and Mercy Corps staff on the ground say this is "particularly difficult for the poor and those who rely on outside food assistance." World Vision reports that the conflict and violence has "completely overwhelmed the limited health services" in the Gaza Strip and "caused severe damage to the civilian infrastructure with many areas now without water, electricity or sanitation." According to CARE, this past weekend's escalation of violence has "halted many distributions of essential goods such as food and medical supplies".
CMEP encourages immediate attention to the Gaza humanitarian situation, by helping to reopen the border crossings and facilitate the movement of people and goods in a responsible manner that provides relief to the people of Gaza and meets Israel's security needs. Ending the border blockade and establishing real security at Gaza's borders must be part of a durable resolution of the current crisis that allows the families of Gaza and southern Israel to live in peace.
3. Renewal of a meaningful Israeli-Palestinian political process that can provide a durable peace.
Ultimately there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Only a political resolution can provide a secure, stable and prosperous future for all the people of the Holy Land. While CMEP believes an immediate cease-fire must be urgently pursued, we recognize that a cease-fire alone is not a long-term solution.
The cease-fire must be accompanied by a political process that establishes a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel. For any renewed political process to be meaningful, it must address all final status issues and include concrete steps that improve the situation on the ground as well as monitoring mechanisms to ensure that both parties are adhering to their obligations.
The Bush Administration should use its final weeks to help broker an immediate cease-fire agreement in Gaza and southern Israel and the incoming Obama Administration must give priority attention to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 22 Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant church bodies and organizations that work together in pursuit of a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict where two viable states, Israel and Palestine, live side-by-side within secure and recognized borders.