They’re now the largest U.S. national union to join the call for ceasefire: a major win for solidarity between the labor and Palestinian liberation movements.
The union made the announcement this morning in D.C., alongside Palestinian organizers and solidarity activists who have been on a week-long hunger strike to demand an immediate ceasefire.
Given the avalanche of international support for a permanent ceasefire, and the devastation that the Israeli military’s genocidal campaign has already wreaked on Gaza, it may seem shocking that Israel allowed the temporary ceasefire to end today. The Israeli military has already resumed airstrikes, killing dozens of Palestinians in mere hours.
The truth is that the Israeli government is feeling the immense international pressure for a permanent ceasefire. The window of time for the Israeli military to continue its genocidal campaign in Gaza is closing. So their campaign of death and destruction has resumed with new urgency.
But while they’re fighting to destroy as many lives as possible, our movement for ceasefire and Palestinian liberation is fighting on the side of life. Our pressure is working, but just as it’s clear that the Israeli government is hell-bent on genocide, it’s also clear that we must push for an immediate end to the violence with more urgency than ever.
In the crowded corridors of the European hospital in Khan Younis, exhausted doctors decide who among the huge influx of patients arriving from the north of Gaza should live or die.
Hundreds of casualties have moved south in recent days after the evacuation of hospitals in Gaza City, overwhelming medical staff already struggling with an acute lack of medicine, diminishing food rations and intermittent power and communications.
Injured people have joined thousands of displaced people seeking shelter and safety in medical facilities.
Paul Ley, an orthopaedic surgeon at the European hospital, said displaced people were sleeping in lifts, a small team was working round the clock in four operating theatres to amputate limbs infected after days without treatment, and there was an acute shortage of painkillers. Triage decisions had to be made instantly which, in one case, meant leaving a 12-year-old child to die with only palliative care in order to preserve dwindling resources.
Ley said the hospital had received 500 patients evacuated from hospitals in northern Gaza in recent days.
“Many have not received treatment for nine or 10 days because hospitals there were non-functional even if they were open,” he said. “This is the situation that is happening here now. This is a functioning hospital but we are being overwhelmed. There is nowhere to evacuate to … There is no escape route. We are probably one of the last lines of defence.”
There was no independent confirmation of Ley’s account, but details match the accounts of other medical staff, as well as reporters in Gaza. Ley sent pictures of some of the injuries he described to the Guardian.
Israel launched its offensive on Gaza after Hamas, the extremist Islamist group which runs the territory, killed more than 1,200 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians in their homes or at a dance party, in an attack on 7 October.
Since then, more than 14,000 people have been killed in Gaza, most of them women or children, according to Palestinian officials.
In the burns unit of the European hospital are 78 patients, nearly two-fifths of them children under five.
“I have never seen anything like it,” said Ley a 60-year-old French citizen who arrived in Gaza with a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross almost four weeks ago. “I have been in many war contexts where the type of wounds are the same but the number is huge. We never leave the hospital. We work round the clock.”
Hospital staff hope the four- or five-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, due to begin on Friday, may lead to a durable end to hostilities – or at least the opportunity to receive supplies of humanitarian aid. However, they also fear the arrival of more patients as injured casualties are evacuated from northern Gaza during any pause.
Many of the casualties arriving at the hospital were injured days before, meaning wounds have become infected. Ley said some people’s dressings had not been changed for 10 days, so their wounds were full of worms. In other cases, surgeons were forced to amputate limbs that may otherwise have been saved.
Another problem is a lack of anaesthetics and painkillers.
“We do operations with minimal anaesthesia. If we run out, we can’t operate but there is no clear line. There are a lot of people crying, screaming with pain, but we don’t have enough analgesics. We keep them for the kids or very severe cases. [So] normally we would change dressings on patients with 40% burns with them under sedation and minimise the time by using more attendants … [Now] it has to be done with a lot of pain.”
In the grounds of the hospital compound, thousands of desperate families are packed into wooden or cardboard shelters. Israeli airstrikes have not targeted the hospital and respected the zone around the facility – though shrapnel has struck the building, and the blast from bombing has shattered windows.
Israeli military officials say they make every effort to avoid civilian casualties and observe international law. They say Hamas is using Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants as a human shield and claim to have found evidence of Hamas military facilities in or under hospitals, schools and homes.
On Thursday, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said: “The whole laws of war, humanitarian law, which we’re committed to completely, makes a simple distinction … They say on one line are combatants, and the other line are non-combatants. You can target the combatants … but don’t deliberately target the non-combatants. They can be hurt, unintentionally. That accompanies every legitimate war.
“[Hamas] deliberately implant themselves in hospitals, in schools, in residential areas, in UN facilities. They fire their rockets from there. Thousands of them. They deliberately target civilians and they deliberately hide behind civilians and use them as a human shield. That’s a war crime.”
Elsewhere in Khan Younis, tens of thousands of people have crowded into shelters run by the UN. In one, a vocational training centre before the war, more than 35,000 people share 48 toilets and four showers, administrators there told the Guardian this week.
“Conditions are appalling. All the children are getting sick with coughs or stomach problems. There are fights over sleeping spaces and food,” said an administrator, who did not have authority to talk to the media.
Since the Hamas attacks on 7 October, Israel has imposed an almost total blockade of Gaza. Food supplies from the UN have dwindled to about a kg of flour and a single tin of tuna or beans each day, one administrator said, leaving families to survive on flat “bread cakes” made of flour and water cooked on scavenged metal sheets over open fires.
“There is no food in the shops and no fuel. Even wood is rare and expensive, so people are chopping down trees in the streets. Salt is really rare. No one has any and if you have a bit, you can trade it for a lot of food,” the administrator said.
Ley said the hardest thing for doctors was to make triage decisions. “We do our triage … [asking] are we going to take this patient because they will have a good chance of surviving rather than doing desperate measures on a patient who will die in two or three days? That sounds nice on paper, but when you have to make the decision it is different. There’s a 12-year-old with 90% burns so we won’t treat him except for pain control that is not enough,” he said.
“We try to keep our heads cool and steady, but for local staff this is their families, friends, their people. They never want to amputate. They say: ‘I can’t do it any more’ and so I say: ‘OK I will do it, don’t worry,’ and you can feel the relief”.
Ley said he had been shocked at how passive many patients were, such as one 35-year-old woman whose husband and children had been killed when the family’s home was destroyed, and who appeared unmoved when told both her legs would need to be amputated. “So many just don’t care any more,” he said.
But amid the devastation, there were moments of slender hope. Recently, Ley treated a 32-year-old man with shrapnel injuries to his abdomen, left leg and a “fist-sized hole” in his right forearm. The patient’s young sister thanked Ley, saying she was proud of her brother and happy he was alive. She wanted to be a surgeon whens she was older, she said.
Palestinians reunite with their relatives as they are released from Israel’s Ofer prison as a part of a prisoner swap, in Al Bireh, West Bank, on Nov. 26, 2023. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu via Getty Images)
THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT narrative surrounding the Palestinian prisoners being released during this temporary ceasefire is both insidious and dishonest. Interior Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has banned Palestinians from celebrating their release. “My instructions are clear: there are to be no expressions of joy,” he said. “Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism, victory celebrations give backing to those human scum, for those Nazis.” He told Israeli police to deploy an “iron fist” to enforce his edict.
The Netanyahu government and its supporters have promoted a narrative that these prisoners are all hardened terrorists who committed violent crimes. This assertion relies on a farcical “Alice in Wonderland”-inspired logic of convicting them by fiat in public before any trial, even the sham trials to which Palestinians are routinely subjected. Israel released a list of the names with alleged crimes they committed. And who is making these allegations? A military that acts as a brutal occupation force against Palestinians in the West Bank.
The vast majority of the 300 Palestinian prisoners proposed for release by Israel are teenage boys. According to the list, 124 of the prisoners are under the age of 18, including a 15-year-old girl, and many of the 146 who are 18 years old turned so in Israeli prisons. According to the definitions laid out in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, these Palestinians were children when they were arrested by Israel.
Of the 300 names Israel proposed for potential release, 233 of them have not been convicted of any crimes; they are categorized simply as “under arrest.” Police and prosecutors all over the world make allegations later proven false during a fair trial. The Israeli narrative promotes the fiction that these Palestinians are in the middle of some sort of fair judicial proceeding in which they will eventually be tried in a fair and impartial process. This is a complete, verifiable farce. Palestinians are not prosecuted in civil courts; they are tried in military courts. They often are denied access to lawyers and to purported evidence against them, and are regularly held in isolation for extreme periods and subjected to other forms of abuse. Israel is the only “developed” country in the world that routinely tries children in military courts, and its system has been repeatedly criticized and denounced by major international human rights organizations and institutions.
Palestinians are not prosecuted in civil courts; they are tried in military courts.
If, as Israel alleges, these people have committed violent crimes, particularly against civilians, then Israel should give them full rights to due process, to see the alleged evidence against them, and they should be tried in civilian courts with the same rights afforded Israeli defendants. That would also mean allowing Palestinians who do commit acts of political violence, particularly against the military forces of a violent occupation, to raise the context and legality of the Israeli occupation as part of their defense. Israel is asking the world to believe that these 300 people are all dangerous terrorists, yet it has built a kangaroo military court system for Palestinians that magically churns out a nearly 100 percent conviction rate. All of this from a country that constantly promotes itself as the only democracy in the Middle East.
Palestinians on this list are from the occupied West Bank and have lived their entire lives under an apartheid regime. Palestinians taken by Israel, including some on the list of prisoners proposed for release, have certainly committed violent acts. But to pretend that the context of this violence is irrelevant is as absurd as it is unjust, given the appalling conditions Palestinians have lived under for decades. Contrast this to the widespread impunity that governs the actions of violent Israeli settlers who mercilessly target Palestinians in an effort to expel them from their homes.
All nations should be judged by how they treat the least powerful, not the most powerful or only those from a certain religion or ethnicity. This is why many leading civil liberties lawyers in the U.S. opposed the use of Guantánamo Bay prison and military tribunals and continue to oppose U.S. laws or rules that deny the accused a fundamental right to a proper defense.
A four-day pause in hostilities between Israel and the militant group Hamas was extended by two more days, instead of expiring Tuesday morning, lengthening the brief reprieve offered to Gaza’s 2.1 million Palestinians, who have endured weeks of relentless Israeli bombardments. The move also gave further hope to the families of Israeli hostages abducted by Hamas during its Oct. 7 strike on southern Israel.
Through Qatari and Egyptian mediators, the two sides had agreed on an initial release of 50 hostages in Gaza and about 150 Palestinians, mostly teenagers and some women, imprisoned by Israel, over the four-day period. Sixty-nine hostages — the majority Israeli but also Thai, Philippine, French, Argentine and Russian citizens and others — and more than 100 Palestinians were released over the first four days. The extension raises the possibility of more captive exchanges and more moments of joy for their friends and loved ones.
But for freed Palestinians, the context in which they return is more barbed and fraught. In lists distributed to media, Israeli authorities labelall the prisoners up for release as “terrorists.” Some were convicted of crimes such as attempted murder; others were detained for activities like “throwing stones” or carrying knives. And a few, like 59-year-old Hanan Barghouti, the eldest female prisoner to be released, were in indefinite Israeli custody without any charge.
While there were scenes of jubilation in Ramallah in the West Bank as a group of released prisoners met their families over the weekend, Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, issued directives cracking down on such celebrations in East Jerusalem, where the Israeli police can directly operate. “My instructions are clear: there are to be no expressions of joy,” he said. “Expressions of joy are equivalent to backing terrorism, victory celebrations give backing to those human scum, for those Nazis.”
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, most of which is under Israel’s military administration, Israeli authorities have detained roughly as many Palestinians as have been released in the past few days. A post-Oct. 7 crackdown saw the Palestinian population in Israeli custody almost double, by some measures: According to Palestinian rights groups, more than 3,000 Palestinians, mostly in the West Bank, were swept up by Israeli security forces. The majority appear to be held in administrative detention — that is, a form of incarceration without charge or trial that authorities can renew indefinitely.
Israel’s critics contend that even those charged with specific crimes face a skewed, unfair justice system. Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to Israeli military courts, unlike the half-million Jewish settlers who live in their midst. These courts have in some years churned out convictions at a 99 percent rate, a state of affairs that raises questions about the due process afforded to Palestinians.
The dynamics of the Israeli carceral system for Palestinians have long undergirded anger over the broader nature of Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories. “The power to incarcerate people who have not been convicted or even charged with anything for lengthy periods of time, based on secret ‘evidence’ that they cannot challenge, is an extreme power,” noted Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. “Israel uses it continuously and extensively, routinely holding hundreds of Palestinians at any given moment.”
The deepening crisis that followed Hamas’s bloody rampage on Oct. 7 has only exacerbated tensions. “Administrative detention is one of the key tools through which Israel has enforced its system of apartheid against Palestinians,” Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement this month, citing numerous reports of abuses suffered by Palestinian detainees in recent weeks. “Testimonies and video evidence also point to numerous incidents of torture and other ill-treatment by Israeli forces including severe beatings and deliberate humiliation of Palestinians who are detained in dire conditions.”
Israeli authorities have argued over the years that their practice of administrative detention is in line with policies in other democracies and constitutes a necessary preventive measure, given the security conditions that shape the West Bank. The feeble Palestinian Authority, which has long worked hand-in-glove with Israeli security agencies, has struggled to tamp down rising anger and militancy among Palestinians in the West Bank. In recent weeks, Israeli government officials have lashed out at censure from U.N. officials and organizations like Amnesty International, which an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson describedas “antisemitic” and “biased.”
But Israel’s widespread use of the practice has been long criticized by international observers. A 2012 European parliamentary report described administrative detention as a tactic employed “principally to constrain Palestinian political activism.” In 2020, Michael Lynk, then the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, called on Israel to abolish the practice.
“Administrative detention is an anathema in any democratic society that follows the rule of law,” Lynk said. “When the democratic state arrests and detains someone, it is required to charge the person, present its evidence in an open trial, allow for a full defense and try to persuade an impartial judiciary of its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Ishaan Tharoor is a foreign affairs columnist at The Washington Post, where he authors the Today’s WorldView newsletter and column. In 2021, he won the Arthur Ross Media Award in Commentary from the American Academy of Diplomacy. He previously was a senior editor and correspondent at Time magazine, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.Twitter
The following statement was written and approved by the general membership of the TAA on November 15th, 2023.
A Call for Palestinian liberation
WHEREAS The Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA; AFT [American Federation of Teachers] Local 3220) recognizes that the Zionist Israeli state is a reactionary tool of Western imperialism, funded for their own cynical aims. Israel can accurately be described as an apartheid state, as documented by many human rights experts and organizations, including UN officials, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International agree with this description.
WHEREAS Israel’s response to Hamas’ attack has been indiscriminate and disproportionate violence toward Palestinians. As of November 13, 2023, Israel has murdered over 11,000 Palestinians, nearly half being children. Upon his recent resignation, the Director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Craig Mokhiber, stated that Israel’s actions are “a textbook case of genocide.”
WHEREAS Israel’s bombing campaign has been carried out without regard for the lives of hostages, further exposing the cynicism of justifications based on the October 7 attack. Similarly, American liberal and progressive politicians continue to cry crocodile tears for the victims of Hamas and remain silent on the victims of Netanyahu.
WHEREAS Israel’s genocidal attacks are exacerbating the inhumane living conditions and mass unemployment in Gaza. The civilians of Palestine deserve fundamental human rights, including, but not limited to, security, freedom from foreign occupation, access to housing, clean water, healthcare, and employment.
WHEREAS The October 9 press release from AFT National, titled, “US Education Leaders Condemn Hamas Attack, Stand with Israeli People,” and the resolution recently adopted by [American Federation of Teachers]–Wisconsin (AFT–W) inadequately condemn Israel’s colonialist regime and fail to acknowledge colonialism as the root cause of the current conflict. These statements fail to use the terms, “colonialism,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “genocide” to characterize Israel and its actions, which is out of step with several human rights experts/organizations and undermines the severity of Israel’s oppression. Furthermore, these statements fail to call on the US government to halt the sale and funding of arms for Israeli forces. Unless we address the core of this conflict and end our support for the Israeli offensive, the US will remain complicit in the occupation and genocide in Palestine. Given the status quo of US support for Israel’s oppression of Palestine, the shortcomings of AFT’s statements make them pro-Israel and anti-Palestine by default. Therefore, be it;
RESOLVED The TAA considers Israeli and Western imperialism ultimately responsible for the recent violence.
RESOLVED The TAA condemns Israel’s settler colonialism, apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide in Palestine. We condemn Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, which has been a death sentence for thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians and has displaced over a million more. This collective lethal punishment breaks international law and constitutes war crimes.
RESOLVED We call for the collective liberation of the Palestinian people from Israeli oppression.
RESOLVED We stand in solidarity with the following people:
The people of Palestine, who have suffered at the hands of US, British, and Israeli imperialism for over 100 years;
Palestinian trade unions who have called on the international working class to take action in the face of Israel’s assault on Gaza and the mass killing of the Palestinian people;
Israeli workers and unions who break with their ruling class to stand unconditionally on the side of the oppressed;
The many Jewish workers around the world who condemn Zionism and stand steadfast with Palestinians;
Victims of oppression on the basis of religion or ethnicity around the world including victims of rising islamophobia and antisemitism.
RESOLVED We demand the US government and the Biden administration use all available diplomatic means to end the genocide of Palestinians, including but not limited to ending all funding and arms sales to the Israeli government. We must immediately end our moral and material support for Israel’s human rights abuses and war crimes.
RESOLVED We condemn the US veto of a ceasefire resolution brought forward by Brazil to the UN Security Council to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. We are appalled that the US was the only country to veto the resolution. Although a ceasefire doesn’t go nearly far enough, this is the bare minimum that we expect from the UN.
RESOLVED We call on workers in the US to organize to halt any production and shipment of weapons to Israel. Organized action and the building of mass movements by the international working class will be necessary to end the occupation. We should take inspiration from the two Intifadas, as well as the American workers who have already physically obstructed the shipment of arms to Israel from ports in the Northwest.
RESOLVED We demand that the University of Wisconsin system direct the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) to divest the ~$512 million (as of 2021) that the UW system has invested in BlackRock, the massive US-based asset manager that owns large portions of weapon manufacturers and military contractors such as Boeing ($5.42 billion), Lockheed Martin ($5.13 billion), Northrop Grumman ($3.06 billion), and General Dynamics ($2.47 billion). These US companies manufacture the weapons, jets, and surveillance systems that the Israeli government uses to kill Palestinians.
RESOLVED We demand that AFT retract its endorsement of genocide enabler Joe Biden for US president in 2024 given his administration’s complicity in war crimes. He is a particularly ruthless cheerleader of Israeli war crimes, even among the American ruling class. The same should be done for all endorsements of anti-Palestine politicians.
RESOLVED The TAA action commits to the following actions:
Mobilize our membership to participate in rallies, protests, and marches in support of Palestine, including but not limited to: hosting events, amplifying Palestinian voices (including by supporting SJP events and by supporting the demands of the BDS movement in a reiteration of the TAA’s existing position), and to contact representatives in support of a ceasefire in Gaza and for collective liberation for the Palestinian people.
Continue to recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that the American working class will never be free while Palestine is in chains;
Refuse to support politicians and parties that oppose Palestinian liberation;
Call on the labor movement as a whole to mobilize its resources to fight American imperialism on all fronts.
Protect and support all workers and organizations (such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Madison for Palestine) who face retaliation due to their support for Palestinian liberation.
Police in Vermont are investigating the possibility of a “hate-motivated” crime in the shooting Saturday evening of three Palestinian college students in downtown Burlington, Vt.
Burlington police on Sunday said thata “white male with a handgun” approached the three students as they walked through downtown and, “without speaking,” shot the three men at least four times before fleeing on foot.
“All three victims were struck, two in their torsos and one in the lower extremities,” the Burlington Police Department said in a statement. All three remain hospitalized, one with very serious injuries, the department added.
In a later statement, Burlington police said Jason J. Eaton, 48, had been arrested in connection with the shooting. After a judge granted a search warrant for Eaton’s residence, evidence collected “gave investigators and prosecutors probable cause to believe that Mr. Eaton perpetrated the shooting,” the department said, adding that he will be arraigned Monday.
Jason J. Eaton, 48, a suspect who was arrested in the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent in Burlington, appears at his court arraignment from the Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton, Vermont, U.S. November 27, 2023 in a still image from Webex video. (Vermont Judiciary/Handout via REUTERS)
The victims’ parents identified them in a statement as Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmed. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a civil rights advocacy group, said it believed the students were targeted because they are Palestinians. Police said twoare U.S. citizens and one is a legal U.S. resident.
“As parents, we are devastated by the horrific news that our children were targeted and shot in Burlington, ” the parents said in a statement. “We call on law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation, including treating this as a hate crime. … No family should ever have to endure this pain and agony. Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures.”
The ADC said the three men are students at Brown University, Haverford College and Trinity College, respectively, and had gathered in Burlington to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Awartani’s grandmother.
The ADC also said the students were wearing kaffiyehs, the traditional Arab scarf associated with Palestinians, when they were attacked.
“We have reason to believe that the shooting was motivated by the three victims being Arab,” the ADC statement said.
The Burlington police did not respond to a request to confirm the ADC’s description of the students’ dress and conversation at the time of the attack.
However, Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said in a statement Sunday that police are investigating the possibility that the attack was “hate motivated.”
“In this charged moment, no one can look at this incident and not suspect that it may have been a hate-motivated crime. And I have already been in touch with federal investigatory and prosecutorial partners to prepare for that if it’s proven,” Murad said.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a statement that the possibility of a hate crime “is being prioritized in the BPD’s investigation.”
Federal authorities say they have been responding to a rise in threats against Arab, Jewish and Muslim communities as anger over the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict has spilled into protests, street confrontations and targeted attacks thousands of miles from the war zone.
Israel has mounted a massive assault on the densely populated Gaza Strip, killing more than 13,300 Palestinians — including thousands of children — since Oct. 7, when the Hamas militant group launched a brutal cross-border assault on Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking about 240 people into Gaza as hostages.
The Biden administration and U.S. lawmakers from both parties have largely supported Israel in its war, and some lawmakers have echoed Israeli revenge rhetoric that has likened Palestinians to animals or cast doubt on whether Palestinian civilians are truly uninvolved civilians.
Basil Awartani, who identified himself on social media as Awartani’s cousin, suggested Sunday that the shooting in Vermont was a consequence of “dangerous and dehumanizing rhetoric regurgitated by US politicians and right wing pundits.”
Abed Ayoub, the ADC’s national executive director, told The Washington Post on Sunday night that his organization has been in touch with the students’ parents, some of whom were en route to Vermont. Awartani, the Brown University student whose grandmother lives in Burlington, was the most critically injured, Ayoub said.
“Hisham has a bullet lodged in his spine. We don’t know the total damage of that yet. We don’t know how severe, or what that will lead to,” Ayoub said. Another of the men suffered damage to a lung, and the third, who was less critically injured, was expected to be released from the hospital on Sunday, he added, declining to say which.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s biggest Muslim advocacy group, issued a statement Sunday offering a $10,000 reward for information about the shooting in Vermont.
A Palestinian high school in the West Bank, Ramallah Friends, said all three of the men had attended school there before enrolling in U.S. universities.
Abigail Hauslohner is a Washington Post national security reporter focused on Congress. In her decade at the newspaper, she has been a roving national correspondent, writing on topics ranging from immigration to political extremism, and she covered the Middle East as the Post’s Cairo bureau chief.Twitter
(CNN) — Three Palestinian college students were shot in Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday evening, prompting calls from civil rights organizations and the victims’ families for authorities to look into possible bias by the attacker.
The 20-year-old men are all receiving medical care, according to a Sunday news release from the Burlington Police Department. “Two are stable, while one has sustained much more serious injuries.”
The students were walking on Prospect Street while visiting a relative in Burlington for the Thanksgiving holiday when “they were confronted by a white man with a handgun,” says the release.
“Without speaking, he discharged at least four rounds from the pistol and is believed to have fled on foot,” police said.
Police said that two of the victims are US citizens and one is a legal resident.
Two of the three students were wearing keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian scarves, according to the police department. Two were shot in the torso and one in the “lower extremities.”
Authorities said that “there is no additional information to suggest the suspect’s motive.”
Detectives recovered ballistic evidence from the shooting, which will be submitted to a federal database, according to Burlington police.
The FBI said Sunday it was “prepared to investigate” the incident.
Police Chief Jon Murad said in an earlier news release that officers responded to a call and found two shooting victims, with the third a short distance away, all close to the University of Vermont campus.
The victims were transported to the University of Vermont Medical Center, the news release said.
The shooter or shooters have not been identified or apprehended, Murad said, and the police department is “at the earliest stages of investigating this crime.”
‘A targeted shooting and a targeted crime’
While an investigation into the perpetrator and motive behind the attack unfolds, civil rights groups as well as the victims’ families are calling attention to the role bias may have played in the shooting.
In an interview with CNN, an attorney for the families of the victims described the incident as “a targeted shooting and a targeted crime.”
“The suspect walked up to them and shot them,” attorney Abed Ayoub said. “They weren’t robbed, they weren’t mugged.”
Ayoub said he believes the students were targeted in part because two of them were wearing keffiyehs.
In a joint statement, the victims’ families urged law enforcement to investigate the attack as a hate crime.
“We will not be comfortable until the shooter is brought to justice,” they said. “No family should ever have to endure this pain and agony. Our children are dedicated students who deserve to be able to focus on their studies and building their futures.”
The statement, released by the Institute for Middle East Understanding, identified the students as Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island; Kinnan Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Tahseen Ahmad, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut.
Marwan Awartani, a former Palestinian minister of education and the great uncle of Hisham Awartani, told CNN the students were visiting Hisham’s grandmother in Burlington.
Haverford College in Pennsylvania confirmed in a statement that Abdalhamid, a junior, is recovering from gunshot wounds at a hospital.
The three students had graduated from Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker-run private nonprofit school in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, according to the school.
US Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont described the shootings as “shocking and deeply upsetting” in a post on X. “Hate has no place here, or anywhere. I look forward to a full investigation,” he wrote.
Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom, posted on X about the incident, naming the students and identifying them as “three young Palestinian men.”
“The hate crimes against Palestinians must stop. Palestinians everywhere need protection,” Zomlot wrote on X.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said in a news release that they “have reason to believe this shooting occurred because the victims are Arab.”
The shooting comes amid heightened tensions and hate crimes in the US in the weeks since October 7, when Hamas launched a deadly attack in Israel and Israel responded with devastating airstrikes across Gaza. In October, a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed to death by his family’s landlord in a case authorities are calling a hate crime.
This story has been updated with additional information.
Almost two months into this monstrous conflict in Gaza and it is clear that the war is being fought not only on a battlefield but over the very terms that can be used to speak about it. Pope Francis discovered this last week when he described what was unfolding in Gaza as “going beyond war, this is terrorism,” and reportedly noted that “terrorism should not be used to justify terror.” According to some Palestinians who met with Pope Francis before he made his public comments, he spoke about the absence of water, fuel, and medicine in Gaza, referring to what was taking place as “genocide.”
Major Jewish organizations roundly condemned the pope’s words, some accusing him of a “blood libel” against the Jewish people. They demanded retraction or clarification, with some questioning the value of years of Christian-Jewish dialogue. One might reasonably be inclined to question what criticism of Israel’s behavior in Gaza has to do with the dialogue between two religious traditions, but we’re not dealing with reason. This is about power and the use of power to insist on the definition of words.
For decades now, major Jewish organizations have sought to define criticism of Israel as antisemitism. With the conflict in Gaza, that effort is in full swing.
Before turning to more recent additions to what are now being insisted upon as acceptable definitions of terms, let’s look at a few past examples:
• “Undivided Jerusalem is the ‘eternal capital of Israel.’” Fair enough in a theological sense but adding “undivided” into the mix complicates the matter. In 1968 Israel annexed 28 Palestinian villages to the north, east, and south of Jerusalem unilaterally defining it as “Greater Jerusalem” and demanding recognition of this, in its entirety, as its undivided capital.
• Israelis insist that the Nakba never occurred. Palestinians were not expelled. They say that Palestinians willingly complied with Arab leaders’ demand that they leave to be out of harm’s way when Arab armies attacked Israel—a complete fabrication. In any case, Israelis insist that what ultimately occurred was a simple “population transfer”—with Jews leaving Arab countries to settle in Israel and Arabs leaving Palestine to settle in Arab states.
• “Israel has a right to exist.” It does exist, and Palestinian leadership (Hamas, excepted) have recognized it. What Palestinians question isn’t Israel’s existence. What they balk at is the demand that they recognize Israel as it defines itself: as “a state in which only the Jewish people have the right to self-determination.”
• Terms that may not be used: “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and even “occupation.”
The first two are well-defined in international law. “Apartheid” refers to a system of governance in which the controlling power has two sets of laws and practice that privilege one group over another. That Israel has ruled over Palestinians in this manner has been well-documented by leading internationally respected human rights organizations as well as Israeli human rights groups. “Ethnic cleansing” involves the forceable displacement of one subordinate group to serve the purposes of the dominant group. This is precisely what Israel did in 1948 and after, when they seized the land and properties of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, demolished their villages and turned the land over to new Jewish settlers. That practice was continued after 1967 resulting in over 750,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. “Occupation” should be the least controversial term, but it is not. Israel insists either that the territories occupied in the 1967 are their biblical inheritance or that no one has any legitimate claim to them and that, therefore, the areas in question are at best “disputed territories.” It is worth noting that neither the Democratic nor Republican parties have ever allowed use of the word “occupation” to appear in their platforms.
These are only a few of the examples the meaning of terms that supporters of Israel have insisted be accepted. The conflict in Gaza has added more:
• As Pope Francis has learned, according to pro-Israel groups it is unacceptable to refer to what Israel is doing in Gaza as “genocide” or “terrorism,” as if there were better terms to use to describe:
• the indiscriminate bombing of heavily populated areas that so far has taken the lives of over 15,000 and reduced to rubble over one-half of the structures of northern Gaza;
• the mass dislocation of 1.5 million people after ordering the population of northern Gaza to leave their homes (and now forbidding them to return); and
• denying the population water, fuel, power, and medicine for prolonged periods.
To add insult to injury, not only do these groups insist on the words that cannot be used and acceptance of their definition of these words, but they also now accuse as antisemitic those who insist on using them as accurate descriptors of what is happening—which brings us back to where this discussion began.
As Pope Francis made clear, it is both necessary and correct to demonstrate compassion and concern for the safety and security of Israelis and Palestinians who are at risk in this deadly conflict. And it is equally correct to condemn both what Hamas has done to target civilians and what Israel is doing to carpet-bomb Gaza. For both Israelis and Palestinians to find a future in which both live and prosper, it is imperative to break through the stranglehold of imposed definitions and demand peace with justice.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Arab American Institute. The Arab American Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan national leadership organization that does not endorse candidates.
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Washington, DC | www.adc.org | November 26, 2023 — Earlier this morning ADC was made aware of the shooting of three Palestinian-American, Arab students in Burlington, VT. After reviewing the initial information provided we have reason to believe this shooting was motivated by the victims being Arab. All three victims survived the initial shooting, however two of them are currently in ICU, and one of the students has sustained very critical and serious injuries. The full extent of injuries is unknown at this time.
The students, each of them 20 years of age, are Mr. Hisham Awartani of Brown University; Mr. Kinnan Abdalhamid of Harvard University; and Mr. Tahseen Ahmed of Trinity University. The students gathered together to enjoy Thanksgiving break. According to the information provided the three victims were wearing a Kuffiyeh and speaking Arabic. A man shouted and harassed the victims, then proceeded to open fire, injuring all three.
ADC calls on law enforcement in Vermont to investigate this shooting as a hate crime. In addition, ADC has reached out to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to also call on an immediate hate crimes investigation.
ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “We are praying for a full recovery of the victims, and will support the families in any way that is needed. Given the information collected and provided, it is clear that the hate was a motivating factor in this shooting, and we call on law enforcement to investigate it as such. The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent.”
More information will be provided once available. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger please call 911. If you would like assistance addressing threats or hate targeting you, please contact ADC legal department to email@example.com.
On Thursday, MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan challenged Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev about the many lies and false claims that Israel has made to justify its genocidal bombing and invasion of Gaza.
While attempting to parry Hasan’s challenges, Regev told many more lies, trying to change the subject and shift the blame for the horrifying toll away from Israel and onto Israel’s Palestinian victims.
But Regev made one admission whose significance neither Regev nor Hasan appears to have recognized.
Regev was trying to make the point that Israel – supposedly unlike Hamas – can be trusted because when Israel makes a mistake, it admits it.
Regev gave this example: “We originally said, in the atrocious Hamas attack upon our people on October 7th, we had the number at 1,400 casualties and now we’ve revised that down to 1,200 because we understood that we’d overestimated, we made a mistake. There were actually bodies that were so badly burnt we thought they were ours, in the end apparently they were Hamas terrorists.”
Must be shared widely!
The question then is: who burned them?
The burned bodies that Israel used as an excuse to commit the genocide in Gaza were for Palestinian fighters. pic.twitter.com/yo2bymiDIo
Earlier this month, Israel did in fact revise down the number of Israelis it says were killed on 7 October to “around 1,200.”
Although it has offered no direct evidence, Israel has claimed that Hamas fighters burned Israeli civilians en masse, in atrocities not seen since the Holocaust.
Israel has also never explained how Palestinians fighters could have achieved this or caused the enormous damage to Israeli houses with only the light weapons they were generally seen carrying.
It simply makes no sense that 200 bodies burned beyond recognition that Israel thought were Israeli civilians could turn out to be Hamas fighters unless Israel killed people indiscriminately.
Obviously Hamas fighters did not set themselves on fire and burn themselves beyond recognition. And Israel must know the circumstances in which these people died.
Evidence Israel killed its own
Regev’s statement is a significant addition to the mounting evidence that on 7 October Israeli forces went on a panicked rampage, firing wildly with powerful weapons, indiscriminately killing both Palestinian fighters and the Israeli civilians who were with them.
And the Israeli air force has admitted that it sent up more than two dozen attack helicopters which fired huge amounts of heavy cannon shells and Hellfire missiles on 7 October, even though in many cases the pilots could not tell Palestinians apart from Israeli civilians.
“Shoot at everything,” one squadron leader told his men.
Later in the Mehdi Hasan interview, Regev regurgitates the standard Israeli propaganda claim that the civilian death toll in Gaza is so high because Hamas uses civilians as “human shields.”
Hasan challenges this with what he poses as a hypothetical question. He asks Regev: “Would you bomb schools and houses in Israel if Hamas militants were believed to be under them and kill Israeli human shields in the process?”
Hasan does not seem to realize that this is exactly what Israel did on and after 7 October, as growingevidenceindicates.
Needless to say, Regev did not provide any meaningful answer.
Who killed Israeli-Canadian activist Vivian Silver? The tragic death of Silver has been covered widely by Western media this week, while appearing to sidestep mounting evidence that could implicate Israel's direct role in it.https://t.co/FlqAFAeGmp
Israel’s continued disregard for the lives of its own civilians has been amply demonstrated by its carpet bombing of Gaza that is endangering and killing Israeli and foreign citizens detained there.
Burned cars, burned bodies
It is also notable that graphic images of badly burned bodies in cars that Israel released in its initial propaganda blitz after 7 October, bear a striking resemblance to the car of a Lebanese family Israel shelled across the border in southern Lebanon on 6 November, killing three young girls and their grandmother, and wounding their mother:
Credibility: The Israeli army said it had targeted “a suspicious vehicle containing several terrorists” The only people in the car were three girls, ages 14, 12, and 10, their grandmother, and their mother. All were killed except the mother. https://t.co/WQPjG89J8Hpic.twitter.com/gVSMCsohv3
Up until now, mainstream Western media – following the line from their governments – have refused to challenge Israel’s increasingly threadbare claims about what happened on 7 October.
There needs to be a full, independent inquiry into what happened – something neither Israel nor its American and European enablers are likely to demand or allow.
That is because there is already undeniable evidence – and Regev’s statement corroborates it – that the leaders in Tel Aviv ordering the massacres of Palestinian civilians already had the blood of many Israeli civilians on their hands even before the first bomb dropped on Gaza.
Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.
Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.