Barbara Olson and Tsela Barr: Congress needs to stand against Israeli travel bans


In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right, speaks, as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listens, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite)

TSELA BARR AND BARB OLSON, The Cap Times, August 23, 2019

Last week, the Israeli government took the unprecedented step of denying two sitting members of the U.S. Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, entry to Israel.

Their crime was to set up their own independent fact-finding trip to visit Palestine rather than participate in the scripted, AIPAC-sponsored free trip to Israel that most Congress members participate in.

They couldn’t be allowed to meet with Israeli or Palestinian peace activists, or visit places like heavily occupied Hebron that aren’t on the itinerary of the AIPAC junket.

Tlaib and Omar had to be kept out because they had the gall to criticize Israel and express support for the non-violent South Africa-inspired Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeking justice and human rights for Palestinians.

This may be outrageous, but it is hardly surprising. Israel has been denying entry to Palestinians since they began expelling them in 1948. The discrimination and harassment experienced by Palestinian, Arab and/or Muslim travelers seeking to enter Israel, or just pass through it to visit the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, is well-known. Recently they have also kept out Jewish Americans who support BDS and champion Palestinian human rights.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration revoked the visa of Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; denied a visa to Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi; and prevented Palestinian civil society activist Omar Barghouti from traveling to the U.S. for his daughter’s wedding.

It is also not surprising that Trump, no friend of human rights anywhere, seeks to score political points with his base by continuing his racist and Islamophobic attacks on Omar and Tlaib, as well as fellow Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Presley.

But alarm bells should ring out when a U.S. president openly collaborates with the government of a foreign country to which Congress generously provides some $5 billion per year in U.S. tax money in order to stop members of that same Congress from seeing the reality on the ground there.

Many members of Congress are speaking out against the Trump/Netanyahu action. One of these is our own Rep. Mark Pocan, who tweeted “Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong to deny @RepRashida & @Ilhan entry into Israel. The U.S. is Israel’s strongest ally & has provided billions in support. PM Netanyahu must reverse this decision & no member of Congress should visit Israel until all members of Congress are welcome. “

One who has yet to speak out is Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin is a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 120 that slanders the BDS movement, implies that it is anti-Semitic, and condemns this legally protected exercise of First Amendment rights.

Even Sen. Ron Johnson has yet to co-sponsor this bill.

Unlike earlier bills that would have imposed draconian legal and financial penalties for those who support BDS and which are being thrown out by the courts, this resolution has no “teeth.” Yet clearly it provides fertile ground for what just happened to Omar and Tlaib, and what will happen to others with far less ability to fight back.

More than ever, Baldwin needs to withdraw her support of this anti-democratic resolution.

It is long past time for Israel to change its racist and exclusionary policies towards Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. The Palestinian people, like people everywhere, including members of the U.S. Congress, should have the freedom to visit their families (as Tlaib hoped to do in the occupied West Bank), to see the impact on the ground of U.S. policies, and to take action for justice and human rights.

Tsela Barr is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison. Barb Olson is a member of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Rise against Racism! #CounterCUFI

Friends of Sabeel – North America (FOSNA)

For too long, Palestinians have been calling for freedom, justice, and equality. As organizations that share these values, we urge you to join us in confronting Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

CUFI has quietly become the largest organization in the United States driving support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. With over five million members, CUFI uses its political leverage to ensure ongoing U.S. support for Israel’s colonization and military occupation of Palestine, including imprisoning Palestinian children; bombing homes, schools, and hospitals in Gaza; massacring peaceful protestors; and confiscating Palestinian land.

By its own admission, CUFI “led the charge to have the U.S. recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” and it continues to push for unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation and illegal settlement expansion.

CUFI is a Christian Zionist organization: Its ideology and politics are deeply entrenched in white nationalism, anti-Muslim racism, anti-Semitism, and other systems of oppression. In spite of its strong political influence on the Hill, CUFI has operated largely under the radar and received little attention in comparison with groups like AIPAC.

Until now. This is the moment to act: This July, many of your Congressional representatives will be attending CUFI’s annual summit as invited guests. We cannot allow CUFI’s influence to go unchallenged. Come to Washington, D.C. on July 7 and 8 to tell the world to #CounterCUFI!

It will take each and every one of us to rise against racism, to reclaim and protect our communities, and to uphold the liberation of all people in the vision of justice, equality, and freedom.

Signed,
Friends of Sabeel North America
Jewish Voice for Peace
American Muslims for Palestine
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

We will be congregating in Washington, D.C. on July 7 and 8 to challenge Christian Zionism and express our solidarity for the Palestinian people. Join us in person in D.C. by registering here and help make the action possible by donating here.

Will Christchurch be our wakeup call??

Many of those killed in the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque attack were, in fact, Palestinians. Rifat Audeh is a Palestinian-Canadian who participated in the Freedom Flotilla when the activists on the Mavi Marmara were murdered; he later produced a documentary about that experience: The Truth: LOST AT SEA.

Rifat Audeh, Scoop Media, 19 March 2019

Yesterday I met my cousin, although he was killed in cold blood a few days ago, at the Christchurch terror attack in New Zealand. I “met” him upon visiting his aunt’s house and learnt much more about this ambitious 33-year-old whose life was cut so short.

While my cousin Atta Elayyan lived in Kuwait and later New Zealand, I was living in Jordan and North America, and we never crossed paths. During my visit, I heard about how kind and supportive he was to his family, how intelligent and ambitious he was as a tech entrepreneur establishing his own company, and how energetic and athletic he was as a member of New Zealand’s national futsal team. His father, Mohammed Elayyan, who founded the Alnoor Mosque in Christchurch, was also injured in the shooting. I struggled to hold back my tears as I saw a video of Atta’s father speaking from his hospital bed about Islam being a religion of love and the need to love one another. Mohammed had spearheaded efforts to assist the local community during the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake, providing food and shelter in the mosque to many.

These past couple of days, I’ve been reading news items addressing this terror attack, including reports analysing how the media disproportionately blames terror attacks globally on Muslims. This propaganda is effectively brainwashing many, and increasing hate and distrust between people. Yet these reports fall short not only in their scope of what they cover but also what they fail to mention. The reports and news items mostly discuss individual terror attacks like the one committed in Christchurch. Yet in many instances they fail to mention several important points.

First, Muslims have been the biggest victims of such attacks globally. One such contrast I remember includes the January 2015 terror attacks in France, which killed 10-20 people. This was followed by a global outcry with dozens of world officials gathering in France and leading a massive march in Paris in protest. Yet in July 2016, a single terrorist attack killed close to 400 people, mostly Muslims, in Baghdad’s Karrada district. For the most part, this barely made a blip on the radar of media globally, with the victims dying silently, since this was once again just one terror attack among hundreds of others against Muslims.

Second, the fact is that many terrorist groups in the world today including ISIS, who have killed so many Muslims as they did in the aforementioned attack, have been created and supported by Western intelligence agencies. Ironically, even the name given to such groups i.e. “Islamic State of…” further divides East and West, giving non-Muslims the illusion that this is being done under the name of Islam itself or with the somehow implicit consent of Muslims.

Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, is the terror perpetrated by various Western governments – notably the USA- and their client puppet states, which continue to kill millions of people globally and throughout history. When looking at individual terrorist attacks like those committed by white supremacists in Christchurch, we must not forget that the wars and oppression waged on places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Palestine and elsewhere, are the epitome and manifestation of terror, practiced against civilian populations. We must never be naïve enough to accept the actions of governments when they attempt to shroud the massacres, wars and terror they perpetrate and perpetuate in a false cloak of legitimacy.

And yet, despite all of this and despite the millions of Muslims who continue to be killed by mostly white Christian men in positions of power, the vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims do not hate the West or people from other religions. This sentiment manifested itself clearly when one of the first victims to be killed at the Alnoor mosque greeted the terrorist coming to kill him with words of love saying “Hello brother”.

The attack has backfired on this white supremacist, and the love shown towards the Muslim community has exemplified his failure. My cousin leaves behind his wife and two-year-old daughter. Hopefully, if we all work together hard enough, she can grow up in a world better than ours.

Rifat Audeh is a lifelong human rights activist and award-winning filmmaker. His writings have appeared in various media outlets and he has a Masters degree in Media and Journalism.

October 7, 2018
Demystifying Muslims and Islam

Demystifying Muslim and Islam

October 7
UW-Madison Union South
1308 West Dayton St
1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

    Door opens at 1:00 PM
    1:30 PM: Welcome Remarks by Masood Akhtar, Founder, We Are Many – United Against Hate
    1:40 PM: National News Coverage, Muslim Father Forgives Son’s Murderer
    1:45 PM: “Demystifying Muslims and Islam” by Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding
    2:15 PM: Q&A

Organizers
Muslim Women United for Peace
We are Many – United Against Hate

Sep 27-28: Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) National Conference

You are invited to FOSNA’s national meeting in Minneapolis: Prophetic Action. This event is on track to be one of the largest ecumenical gatherings of Christian leaders and activists for Palestinian rights. Participants will discuss liberative theologies across faiths, celebrate growing church wins, and reflect on the impact of their activism!

Along with keynote speaker, Reverend Traci Blackmon, participants will hear from other faith leaders and Palestinian organizers throughout the convening, including Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs from the Racial Justice at Minnesota Council of Churches, Lara Kiswani from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Omar Haramy from Sabeel Jerusalem, and Sandra Tamari from the Adalah Justice Project. Schedule and full program, including link to register.

July 26, 2018
Palestine and Us: Grassroots Mobilization with Rev. Graylan Hagler

ONLINE from The Palestine Center
Washington, DC
12 noon – 1 pm Central

Pastor and activist Rev. Graylan Hagler will highlight the intersections between the Palestinian cause and other contemporary social movements. His work has focused on Black liberation, economic justice, community organizing, and mobilizing faith communities.

Watch the event live online.

Biography of Speaker
Rev. Graylan Hagler, an African-American pastor and activist, was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Hagler received a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Oberlin College, Ohio, in 1976. Rev. Hagler is presently the Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C., and the Immediate Past National President of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice (MRSEJ). Rev. Hagler is a long-time social justice advocate and active in the Palestine solidarity movement. He recently returned from an all-Black delegation trip to Palestine consisting of Hip Hop and Spoken Word artists as well as an activist in the labor movement, and academic on Black Liberation and a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.

July 24, 2018
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb on “Hope in the Shadow of the Wall”

Tuesday, July 24 at 7 PM – 9 PM
First Unitarian Society of Madison
900 University Bay Dr, Madison, Wisconsin

Join us for a special presentation by Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, “Hope in the Shadow of the Wall” at First Unitarian Society of Madison. July 24, 7pm. Free and open to the public.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
Rev. Dr. Raheb is President of Bright Stars of Bethlehem and founding President of Dar al-Kalima University of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. Former Senior Pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and the most widely published Palestinian theologian to date, Dr. Raheb is the author of 17 books most recently including, The Cross in Contexts: Suffering and Redemption in Palestine, and Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes. A civic leader and social entrepreneur, Dr. Raheb has founded numerous organizations and serves on many regional and international boards.

A sought-after speaker, Dr. Raheb has been widely featured on international media outlets including CBS, CNN, ABC, BBC, PBS, The Economist, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, and 60 minutes. Dr. Raheb holds a Doctorate in Theology from Philipps University of Marburg, Germany.

SPONSORED BY: First Unitarian Society, Shaarei Shamayim Jewish Synagogue, Lake Edge Lutheran Church, Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church, and Bright Stars of Bethlehem Madison Area Representatives.

July 25, 2018
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb and Pastor Everett Mitchell

Wednesday, July 25 at 7 PM – 9 PM
Christ The Solid Rock Baptist Church
1502 Parkside Dr, Madison, Wisconsin

Pastor Mitchell of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church will present with Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb on “The Black Church and Palestinian Theologies: Intersections of Faith in the Face of Empire”.

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb
Rev. Dr. Raheb is President of Bright Stars of Bethlehem and founding President of Dar al-Kalima University of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. Former Senior Pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and the most widely published Palestinian theologian to date, Dr. Raheb is the author of 17 books most recently including, The Cross in Contexts: Suffering and Redemption in Palestine, and Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes. A civic leader and social entrepreneur, Dr. Raheb has founded numerous organizations and serves on many regional and international boards.

A sought-after speaker, Dr. Raheb has been widely featured on international media outlets including CBS, CNN, ABC, BBC, PBS, The Economist, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, and 60 minutes. Dr. Raheb holds a Doctorate in Theology from Philipps University of Marburg, Germany.

Pastor Everett Mitchell
Reverend Mitchell is the Senior Pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison, WI. He is also currently the Director of Community Relations for the University of Wisconsin Madison. He was formerly an Assistant District Attorney in Dane County Wisconsin. In the past, he served as the Associate Director of Madison-area Urban Ministry. Rev. Mitchell’s theological focus has been examining the relationship of the church to social issues, such as poverty, war, incarceration and immigration. He holds both a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) in Christian Ethics and a Masters of Theology (Th.M.) in Social Ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary.

SPONSORED BY: First Unitarian Society, Shaarei Shamayim Jewish Synagogue, Lake Edge Lutheran Church, Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church, and Bright Stars of Bethlehem Madison Area Representatives.

Supreme Court Upholds Muslim Ban

Statement from AAI Executive Director Maya Berry on the Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v. Hawai’i, June 26, 2018

Washington, DC — Today, Arab American Institute Executive Director Maya Berry released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Muslim Ban case:

“Along ideological lines, the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s xenophobic Muslim Ban that discriminates against individuals predominantly because of their Muslim faith or national origin. A vast majority of those impacted by the ban are Muslim, with four Arab countries included in those singled out. This policy is not rationally related to national security interests and will continue to tear families apart while undermining America’s standing in the world.

The Muslim Ban was implemented among an unprecedented amount of evidence of a policy enacted to codify the religious animus of the Trump administration. As a candidate for the presidency, Donald Trump stated, “I think Islam hates us… we can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States…” He called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Once in office, President Trump added security concerns as a mere pretext for bigotry, noting that “People were so upset when I used the word Muslim. Oh, you can’t use the word Muslim… I’m talking territory instead of Muslim. The majority’s unwillingness to recognize this reality renders those justices complicit in the damage this policy will continue to inflict on immigrant communities in this country.

President Trump justified his Muslim Ban by stating that Roosevelt “did the same thing” regarding the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. As the dissent notes, this holding will echo Korematsu v. United States as a standard of judicial injustice history will not soon forget. Justice Sotomayor wrote, “the Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one “gravely wrong” decision with another.” The U.S. Government formally apologized for the injustice of interning Japanese Americans 46 year after that horrific episode. Arab American and American Muslim communities should not be victimized by a repetition of history, subjected to discrimination without apology or consequence while the Government slowly finds its moral compass.

Instead of neutral arbiters upholding fundamental rights, today’s decision seems to have been reached by politicians in robes. The majority bought President Trump’s bigotry hook, line, and sinker. This decision undermines both the world’s confidence in America, and America’s confidence in our highest court.

With this ruling, the majority has given a blank check to President Trump and future presidents to discriminate simply by claiming national security justifications. Today we need Congress, as a coequal branch of government, to act to affirm the equal dignity of all, regardless of religion or national origin. In spite of this decision, AAI will continue work tirelessly with both the legislative and judicial branches toward the goal of ensuring that all Americans, as well as guests in our country, are free from government-sponsored discrimination.”

Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. For more information please visit aaiusa.org.