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TAA Statement on Palestine: “A Call for Palestinian Liberation”

TAA Statement on Palestine: “A Call for Palestinian Liberation”

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:

  1. The people of Palestine, who have suffered at the hands of US, British, and Israeli imperialism for over 100 years;
  2. 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;
  3. Israeli workers and unions who break with their ruling class to stand unconditionally on the side of the oppressed;
  4. The many Jewish workers around the world who condemn Zionism and stand steadfast with Palestinians;
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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;
  3. Refuse to support politicians and parties that oppose Palestinian liberation;
  4. Call on the labor movement as a whole to mobilize its resources to fight American imperialism on all fronts.
  5. 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.


Man arrested after three Palestinian American students injured in Vermont shooting

Police are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime

From left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani. (Institute for Middle East Understanding)

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 that a “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 two are 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.”

Palestinian Americans face fear, violence amid Israel’s war in Gaza

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.

On Oct. 14, an Illinois man fatally stabbed a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy and wounded his mother in an apartment they were renting from him, authorities said. The Justice Department is investigating the killing as a hate crime.

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.

Allam reported from Cairo.

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

Hannah Allam covers extremism and domestic terrorism as part of the National Security team.


3 Palestinian students were shot in Vermont

Civil rights groups are calling for a close look at the motive

From left, Tahseen Ali Ahmad, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Hisham Awartani. The three students are receiving medical treatment for gunshot wounds in Vermont. (Photo: Institute for Middle East Understanding)

(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 Council on American-Islamic Relations announced it was offering a $10,000 reward for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators” of the shooting.

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.

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James Zogby: Definitions Matter

Dr. James J. Zogby, Arab American Institute, NOVEMBER 27, 2023

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.

Note: To discuss this column with me, please register here for my next ‘Coffee And A Column’ event Wednesday via Zoom.