All posts tagged civil rights

A Wave of Palestinian Activism

Protesters wave Palestinian flags in Bil’in / Dylan Collins

On 29 November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voiced resounding approval for a resolution that upgraded the Palestinian Authority to the status of observer state, recognizing its sovereignty within the 1967 borders: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem as its capital.

The following day little changed: Israeli institutions in the occupied territories remained unscathed, including the winding strings of heavily-populated Jewish settlements, military checkpoints strategically dotted across the map, the several hundred kilometer long separation wall, and a number of segregated highways.

Israeli officials reacted by announcing 3,000 new settlement units in the keystone E1 area of the West Bank. In the face of international criticism, PM Benyamin Netanyahu defiantly vowed to press on.  “Today we are building and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the map of the strategic interests of the State of Israel,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting on 2 December.

Tensions continue to rise as Israeli military forces have enacted a harsh crackdown in the West Bank, launching sweeping arrest campaigns. As of February, Addameer Prisoner Support Network documents that 4,812 Palestinians were being detained in Israeli prisons, 219 of which were children and 178 of which were being held in administrative detention without trial or charge. Since November, the total number of prisoners increased by 282, including 55 additional children and 22 more administrative detainees.

Additionally, at least seven Palestinians died at the hands of Israel thus far this year. According to Israeli NGO BTselem, five unarmed Palestinians were shot and killed by the Israeli military in January alone. The latest, 23-year-old Mohammed Asfour, died on 7 March as a result of being “shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet” two weeks earlier.

In the face of these steadily intensifying challenges, Palestinian activists in the West Bank have in turn responded by accelerating several creative forms of direct action that have belatedly gained attention in recent years.

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Promoting Palestinian Rights For Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day! Whether you choose to celebrate it by caving to mass marketing of consumer products, sharing hilarious anti V-day cards on Facebook, or just enjoying a day that celebrates chocolate, nearly all of us mark the occasion in one way or another. But how can you celebrate Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter, when you live under a system that is constantly separating you from them? That’s the subject of the Love Under Apartheid project helmed by Palestinian-American graduate student Tania Keilani which has quickly gained a following since its debut on February 13th 3:30pm EST (that’s less than twelve hours before the publishing of this article!).

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From MLK to Nablus: Fighting Institutionalized Racism and Ongoing Discrimination

Clare Herceg - This week’s celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day offers us a unique opportunity to reflect on the significance of the Civil Rights Movement, the current situation of race relations in the United States, and some of the parallels that can be drawn between discrimination in the United States and Palestine.

The Civil Rights Movement was active from 1955 to 1968 and used a series of nonviolent tactics and methods of civil disobedience to secure equal legal rights for African Americans.  The movement culminated in the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race; the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which reaffirmed the right of minorities to vote; and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which outlawed discrimination in renting or purchasing housing.

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Does the Mideast’s ‘only democracy’ see ‘democratic’ values as a threat?

Karina Piser - I am consistently flabbergasted by the U.S.’s unprecedented ability to befriend the world’s most anti-democratic leaders while touting its identity as the ultimate democratic state.

It becomes increasingly difficult to take democracy seriously when the House of Representatives supports President Obama’s use of his diplomatic capital to block the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N., in favor of the U.S.’s longstanding relationship with Israel–”the only democracy in the Middle East”–whose boycott law, along with last week’s proposed bill to institutionalize second-class status for Arab citizens, makes me question its democratic character.

The recently proposed Knesset bill is not the first example of Israel’s institutionalized discrimination against its Arab citizens. The last decade has seen a slew of laws promoting inequality, like a 2011 bill that allowed community segregation and another from 2003 that was extended in 2008, blocking a Palestinian’s ability to gain Israeli citizenship through marriage.

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Against terror, liberty is America’s best defence

Fremont, California – The arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a
30-year-old US citizen of Pakistani descent and the alleged driver of the
vehicle used in the failed New York Times Square bombing a few weeks ago,
represents an opportunity to respond effectively to a potential act of terrorism
instead of reacting with fear and hysteria that will inevitably be manipulated
by extremist elements.

As of Tuesday morning, details are slowly emerging
regarding the potential motives of the suspect, Shahzad, who was arrested at JFK
airport in New York as he planned to fly to Dubai. And in the meantime, the
Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for this amateurish and failed
attempt.

Their eagerness speaks volumes about their desperation to instil
fear in the hearts of the American public by an act of terrorism on the US
mainland.

Similar moments of tension – though isolated – have in the
past been used to sow dissension and enmity through polarising statements in the
media by bigoted ideological pundits in both non-Muslim American and global
Muslim communities. We saw this tendency recently when Army major Nidal Hassan
Malik opened fire and killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas and when Nigerian
student Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab tried to ignite himself on an airplane on
Christmas Day in 2009 despite having been previously flagged.

Such
incidents serve as fuel for right-wing commentators to promote a dangerously
inaccurate image of an Islamic monolith with all Muslims having a homicidal
aversion to “our freedoms”. Verbal attacks will, no doubt, be made on US
President Barack Obama’s efforts at conciliation and partnership with Muslim
communities, efforts such as his Al-Arabiya interview, his historic speech to
Muslims in Cairo last June and his outreach to Muslim American organisations and
leaders.

Some media pundits argue passionately on the cable network Fox
News to “profile away” evil-doers – in effect advocating racial profiling of
ethnic minorities, especially of Middle Easterners and South Asians.
Anticipating public anxiety, Obama reacted to calls for “greater security”
following the failed Christmas Day bombing in 2009 by implementing catch-all
measures – recently amended – to extend special pat-downs and heightened
profiling to individuals returning from 14, mostly Muslim-majority,
countries.

Racial profiling and the erosion of civil liberties and due
process are counterproductive in fighting terrorism. Still, I worry that fear
and divisive rhetoric will be lead to such techniques being implemented,
undermining the mutual trust and cooperation that has been painstakingly built
over the past two years between Muslim Americans and law enforcement agencies.

Right-wing demagogues who proclaim the virtues of the West and argue
that terrorism is unique to the “Muslim world” should be reminded of the recent
arrest of nine members of the terrorist group, the Hutarees, for conspiring to
kill police officers and wage war on the United States government. The group has
been labelled an anomaly by Christians and Christian groups.

And the
suicide flight of disgruntled Joseph Stack into the IRS building in Texas, which
killed an innocent public employee, has been overlooked by many media pundits
even as anger at federal government institutions has been allowed to fester in
loud and angry public protests.

To be sure, radicalised Muslim elements
manipulate incidents, such as the satirical cartoon depictions of the Prophet,
as categorical proof that the “imperialist” West is perpetuating a war on Islam
and all Muslims. Recent violence and threats against those cartoonists who have
depicted the Prophet in a disrespectful manner do not emerge in a vacuum, but
rather they are symptomatic of a sustained belief in a skewed and simplistic
narrative of the “war-mongering West” that finds its evidence in the Iraq war,
US support for Israel, civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and cozy
US relations with Arab dictatorships.

It is these elements that
ultimately bear the greatest blame for betraying the legacy and spirit of the
Prophet, who urged moderation and civility.

In the face of the threat
from extremists, the greatest mistake Americans could make would be to revisit
the “us versus them” rhetoric and invasive security policies of the previous
administration, such as the US PATRIOT Act, which made it easier for government
agencies to access private information, detain immigrants and search homes and
businesses. These policies proved to be disastrous in curbing global terrorism
but highly successful in eroding US standing in world opinion, and damaged
cooperation with Muslim communities worldwide.

Ultimately, the best
defence is holding onto the very same values of freedom, liberty and democracy
Americans – both Muslim and non-Muslim – wish to defend and protect.

The
sad reality of modern, globalised 21st century existence is that the threat of
terrorism and violence is a constant aspect of daily life. But reactionary
posturing, rampant ethnic stereotyping, scapegoating of minorities and provoking
mistrust of Muslim Americans and allies have only ever exacerbated the risks.
Recent history has shown that a reasoned and moderate perspective, along with
sound security measures, vigilant policing, protection of civil liberties and
mutual aid are our best hope.

As more evidence in the Times Square
attempted bombing case emerges in coming days, let us hope this reasoned and
moderate perspective prevails.

This abridged article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service
(CGNews) with permission from the author.