November 3, 2023
Warda Bayda at Change Boutique

Change Boutique (1252 Williamson St.) is proud to be hosting local artists Huda Alalawi (From Iraq) and Rukaya Qadour (from Syria) as they debut their new brand Warda Bayda (White Flower in Arabic) on Gallery Night. This brand represents a new beginning for them as refugees who have resettled in Madison.

You will quickly fall in love with them and their one-of-a-kind handmade, wearable artwork. Whether shopping for yourself or for a gift, there is something for everyone. Their offerings include scarves, hats, accessories and jewelry. Please join us (from 5pm-9pm) in welcoming Warda Bayda to Madison.

Wisconsin Democrats’ silence on Gaza is predictable and unconscionable


A photo shows a large flag combining the red, green, white, and black of the Palestinian flag with an image of a large red fist and text reading “Free Palestine.”

After condemning the killing of Israeli civilians, Tammy Baldwin and others fail to oppose atrocities against Palestinians.

If you’re looking for Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation or other key elected officials to show any sense of perspective and conscience amid the ongoing escalation of the Israeli-Palestine conflict—to match their rightful condemnation of Hamas’ killings of Israeli citizens with proportionate, also rightful condemnation of the U.S.-backed and -enabled slaughter of Palestinians on a much greater scale and demand restraint on the part of a key U.S. ally—well, don’t hold your breath. 

Reactions from our Congressional Republicans have been as expected in their bloodthirsty xenophobia and nationalism: Tom Tiffany and Glenn Grothman making it about Islam, Bryan Steil making it about “borders,” Derrick Van Orden throwing tantrums

The contrast on the other side of the aisle is shamefully pale.

As Israel this month indiscriminately bombed Gaza and cut off its population of 2 million from electricity and humanitarian aid, and ordered the “evacuation” of 1 million people who have nowhere to go, Wisconsin’s most prominent elected Democrats said little in defense of innocent Palestinians. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin condemned Hamas and joined a bipartisan group of legislators in casting suspicions on Iran, and joined in another statement calling on the Biden administration to send more ammo to Israel. 


But since this latest wave of violence began, Baldwin has not issued any statements acknowledging the Israeli Defense Forces’ mass murder of Palestinian children and other civilians, or the fact that Israel has blockaded Gaza. Neither have Rep. Gwen Moore, Gov. Tony Evers, or most of the Democratic Wisconsin Assembly members who supported a bipartisan resolution condemning Hamas—one that, of course, says nothing about the suffering or humanity of Palestinians. Ann Jacobs, a Democratic appointee to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, issued a wildly inappropriate call to oust Assembly Rep. Ryan Clancy, apparently because Clancy made a Facebook post comparing the death toll among Palestinians and Israelis in recent years. There is very little tolerance among Wisconsin Democrats, apparently, for wrestling with the full context of the conflict, or for merely acknowledging that Palestinians are human beings and that it is wrong to kill them en masse.

At best, we have Rep. Mark Pocan pointing out that it is impossible for more than 1 million people to “evacuate” within 24 hours, and offering some context about Gaza. Though refreshing in context, Pocan’s remarks leave room to believe that the IDF is just perhaps, in some universe, willing to exercise restraint as it pursues a legitimate military target. Look at what the IDF is actually doing. This isn’t how you fight a specific group of armed combatants. It is how you subjugate and quite possibly annihilate a massive group of human beings. To frame this as a legitimate act of defense or even an understandable reprisal is to launder the sheer horror of it. If a state with Israel’s advanced military and intelligence capabilities intended to specifically target Hamas, it would be doing so, and with much greater precision. Still, Pocan is doing better than most. The bar has passed clean through the core of the earth and out the other side. 

All of these people have a responsibility to do better and show some political spine. Right now, full-on fascists like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton are salivating for destruction in Gaza. Democrats who don’t push back wholeheartedly against this sort of rhetoric are abjectly failing to do their jobs as a political opposition. They are standing back and sanctioning genocide. Baldwin’s statement on Tuesday that “Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas’s horrific terrorist attacks, but more innocent people cannot pay the price,” is too little, too late, especially coming from someone who has actively enabled the IDF.

I think most Americans have a suspicion of rigid ideologies and strident, absolutist posturing. That can be healthy, until it devolves into utter fecklessness, an unwillingness to commit to specific outcomes, an absence of any coherent framework that holds when the going gets tough. What we end up with is not pragmatism freed of blinders, but a shell game. If you’re not careful, your politics become the sum of the evils you are willing to ignore and the excuses you are willing to make. 

Let’s review some ground truths

The political conversation around Israel in the U.S. is so distorted and so selective that at times you’ve got to pull back and reiterate some very basic things. 

We as Americans are responsible for the choices we make, and for the effects of those choices. They are, in fact, choices, not inevitabilities. We make them in the presence of alternative choices. We enact them from a position of almost incomprehensible advantage and leverage. To spend billions upon billions of dollars arming the State of Israel is a choice. To back up Israel’s impunity, counseling only the most minimal restraint, is a choice, even when Hamas commits atrocities of its own.

One does not plop an entire new state down, from scratch, without killing and displacing other people on a massive scale. When we talk about violence in the context of Israel, it is profoundly dishonest to pretend that the State of Israel was founded without devastating violence, or maintained without devastating violence. Further escalation and aggression will also endanger Israeli citizens, not all of whom are on board with the authoritarian zealotry that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu represents. In fact, some of the Israelis who have suffered grievously this month have spoken out against the IDF killing innocent people in their names.

Israel is a heavily armed, highly sophisticated state. It is not a fragile, endangered waif on the world stage. It boasts a sizable defense industry of its own, and a thriving cybersecurity industry. Companies based in Israel provide spyware tools like Pegasus to the surveillance states and despots of the world. Israel can and does commit violence of a frequency and scale that far outstrips anything Hamas has ever done or ever could. 

Israel is bombing civilian targets, including hospitals and residential buildings. We know this because the IDF is announcing its intention to do so ahead of time, as if evacuating someone’s home before destroying it makes it somehow humane, as if it is remotely possible to evacuate an entire hospital on short notice. It is impossible to drop bombs on a densely populated area without killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, further immiserating those who survive.

The State of Israel does not treat Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as citizens with equal rights. Arab citizens who have equal rights in a legal sense still face discrimination and structural disadvantages.

Netanyahu’s government is extreme, bigoted, and belligerent even by the standards of right-wing Israeli politics. He has stocked his cabinet with extremely antagonistic hard-liners like National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Netanyahu has faced multiple corruption charges and has attempted to gut the authority of Israel’s judiciary, provoking large-scale protests. Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi announced a plan on Sunday to enact wartime censorship against the public and the press. The bombs are falling on journalists, too. When American politicians offer pieties about standing with Israel as a fellow democracy, keep in mind that Israel is doing about as well as we are on that front.

It’s a warped debate, but it can change

The fundamental dynamic of Israel-U.S. relations is that Republicans want to give far-right Israeli leaders like Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir 100 percent of what they want, while most Democrats only want to give them, say, 90 to 99 percent of what they want. American politicians and commentators tend to treat that gap as a vast chasm: If Democrats basically uphold the same policy choices that allow Israel to act with impunity, but caution Israel not to overdo it on human-rights abuses, they open themselves up to bad-faith charges of betrayal and anti-Semitism. 

To her credit, Baldwin has opposed Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements, and called for an investigation after the IDF killed Palestinian-American Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May 2022. Baldwin also joined Gwen Moore in calling for an investigation into the January 2022 death of Omar Assad, a Palestinian-American who spent much of his life in Milwaukee. Baldwin has opposed the  Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel but has stopped short of supporting blatantly unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation at the federal level. (At the state level, Wisconsin does have an anti-BDS law on the books, aimed at state agencies and contractors.) Like a lot of folks condemning violence against Israel, Baldwin also doesn’t much approve of non-violent protest against Israel. It’s a mixed bag, but the context makes her current silence on Palestine especially dispiriting.

One might argue that it’s politically practical for someone like Baldwin to take a hawkish stance as she heads into another reelection campaign, that you need to do some saber-rattling to get a “purple-state” electorate to take you seriously. It is also hard to see the pragmatism of continually electing people who aren’t interested in changing our approach to the conflict. A politician unwilling to take risks and advocate for a much-needed shift in perspective is really not so useful after all. Such is the drab, defeated state of the Democratic Party.

No amount of hawkish statements or actual votes in support of Israel will ultimately shield Democrats like Baldwin from Republican narratives about them being weak or anti-Israel or soft on Iran or any other thing. Republicans are always willing to be more extreme, and they go with whatever narrative they feel advantages them politically, because they can, because they answer only to a cultish base that dwells entirely in a realm of delusion. Baldwin could join the IDF and personally shoot up a Palestinian hospital. It wouldn’t stop Republicans from calling her “anti-Israel,” any more than Joe Biden’s support for Israel will stop Republicans from leveling the same accusation against him. You cannot beat the right at warlike chest-beating, ever.  

By the way, these kinds of accusations didn’t stop Baldwin from beating Tommy Thompson in 2012. There is also evidence that Democratic voters are growing more sympathetic toward Palestinians and more critical of Israel’s government. There is more open debate about military aid to Israel, too. Sticking up for Palestine might not be as politically risky as it used to be. Even if it were, there’s no excuse for turning a blind eye as our ally kills and brutalizes the people it has trapped in Gaza, using weapons we paid for. It’s on us Americans—especially in pivotal states like Wisconsin—to reject the lethal cowardice of our politicians.

Who has power and what are they doing with it?

Help us create fiercely independent politics coverage that tracks power and policy across Wisconsin and the Madison area.

Editor-in-chief and publisher Scott Gordon has covered music and the arts in Madison since 2006 for publications including The A.V. Club, Dane101, and Isthmus, and has also covered policy, environmental issues, and public health for WisContext. He co-founded Tone Madison in 2014.

No More Deaths, in Gaza or Arizona


Español abajo

This week we have seen the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip escalate to a boiling point, as Israel continues to massacre thousands of civilians. We know many of our donors care deeply about this issue, and we want you to know that we stand against the ethnic cleansing that has been carried out by the Israeli government for decades, and the genocidal actions currently being enacted against the Palestinian people. 

We have learned that our own humanitarian crisis here at the US-Mexico border will be dragged into the political negotiations around the US government’s planned aid package to Israel. The Biden administration is considering a supplemental $100 billion spending request to support the Israeli government’s ongoing atrocities in Gaza — a proposal that would include additional funding for US border militarization. Republican House Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement proclaiming support for Israel that “the administration will send up a supplemental [aid package] that deals with Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, and Republicans are going to want something serious about the border.” 

As thousands of civilians — including medical and humanitarian aid workers, journalists, and over 1,000 Palestinian children — are slaughtered in Gaza with the unwavering support of the US government, inhumane border policies here at home continue to kill people as well. Just last week, a woman in an outdoor detention camp between border walls in San Ysidro, CA, succumbed to a medical emergency and died. Many of the corporations that provide weapons and surveillance technology to the apartheid state of Israel are the same that supply lethal border enforcement tools to CBP and Border Patrol. We cannot allow the US government to slide even more funding for dehumanizing policy into a foreign aid package.

We urge our community to contact your representatives and communicate your thoughts with them. The Adalah Justice Project has put together a ceasefire letter you can sign and send to Congress here, and the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has created a form you can use to deliver messages via the phone here.

If you would like to donate to the crisis relief effort in Gaza, the following organizations have been vetted and are actively working in the area:

To create change in our borderlands, we need your help. Whether you spread the message, join us as a volunteer, purchase items from our Amazon Wish List, or make a donation online or by sending a check to No More Deaths, PO Box 40782, Tucson, AZ 85717, your support makes a difference. Thank you.


In solidarity and gratitude,
The No More Deaths/ No Más Muertes community

Esta semana hemos visto cómo la actual crisis en la Franja de Gaza alcanzaba un punto de ebullición, mientras Israel seguía masacrando a miles de civiles. Sabemos que muchos de nuestros donantes se preocupan profundamente por este asunto, y queremos que sepan que nos oponemos a la limpieza étnica que lleva a cabo el gobierno israelí desde hace décadas, y a las acciones genocidas que se están llevando a cabo actualmente contra el pueblo palestino. 

Ayer nos enteramos de que nuestra propia crisis humanitaria aquí en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México se verá arrastrada a las negociaciones políticas en torno al paquete de ayuda previsto por el gobierno estadounidense para Israel. El gobierno de Biden está considerando una solicitud de gasto suplementario de 100.000 millones de dólares para apoyar las atrocidades que el gobierno israelí está cometiendo en Gaza, una propuesta que también incluiría fondos adicionales para la militarización de la frontera estadounidense. El líder republicano en la Cámara de Representantes, Mitch McConnell, afirmó en un comunicado en el que proclamaba su apoyo a Israel que “la administración enviará un [paquete de ayuda] suplementario que se ocupe de Israel, Ucrania y Taiwán, y los republicanos van a querer algo serio sobre la frontera”. 

Mientras miles de civiles -incluidos trabajadores de ayuda médica y humanitaria, periodistas y más de 1.000 niños palestinos- son masacrados en Gaza con el apoyo inquebrantable del gobierno estadounidense, las inhumanas políticas fronterizas aquí en casa también siguen matando gente. La semana pasada, una mujer que se encontraba en un campo de detención al aire libre entre los muros fronterizos de San Ysidro, California, sucumbió a una urgencia médica y murió. Muchas de las corporaciones que proporcionan armas y tecnología de vigilancia al estado de apartheid de Israel son las mismas que suministran herramientas letales para el control fronterizo a la CBP y a la Patrulla Fronteriza. No podemos permitir que el gobierno de EE.UU. deslice aún más financiación para la política deshumanizadora en un paquete de ayuda exterior.

Instamos a nuestra comunidad a ponerse en contacto con sus representantes y comunicarles sus pensamientos. El Proyecto de Justicia Adalah ha elaborado una carta de alto el fuego que puedes firmar y enviar al Congreso aquí, y la Voz Judía por la Paz (JVP) ha creado un formulario que puedes utilizar para enviar mensajes por teléfono aquí.

Si desea hacer un donativo para paliar la crisis en Gaza, las siguientes organizaciones han sido verificadas y trabajan activamente en la zona:

Para cambiar las cosas en nuestras fronteras, necesitamos tu ayuda. Tanto si difundes el mensaje, te unes a nosotros como voluntario, compras artículos de nuestra lista de deseos de Amazon o haces una donación en línea o enviando un cheque a No More Deaths, PO Box 40782, Tucson, AZ 85717, tu apoyo marca la diferencia. Gracias a todos.

En solidaridad y gratitud,
La comunidad No Más Muertes

Get Involved / Involúcrate

No More Deaths is a humanitarian organization based in southern Arizona. We welcome you to join our work

No More Deaths es una organización humanitaria con sede en el sur de Arizona. Te invitamos a unirte a nuestro trabajo.

Join No More Deaths/No Más Muertes – Volunteer

Donate to our humanitarian aid work

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No More Deaths
P.O. Box 40782
Tucson, AZ 85717

Dr. Gabor Maté Speaks Out on Israel and Palestine

Recorded in 2021.

Gabor Maté CM (born January 6, 1944) is a Hungarian-Canadian physician and author. He has a background in family practice and a special interest in childhood development, trauma, and potential lifelong impacts on physical and mental health including autoimmune disease, cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), addictions, and a wide range of other conditions. (Wikipedia)

Sign Petition to Release UNRWA Food Aid to Gaza


Washington, D.C. | | September 7, 2023 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to release the $75 million in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) food aid for Palestinian refugees currently being blocked by Senator Jim Risch (R-ID). This inhumane hold on aid is a brazen attempt to hold civilians, many of whom are children, hostage using food as a weapon. ADC’s understanding is that Secretary Blinken has the authority to release the funds right now.

In a letter sent to the Secretary, ADC highlighted that ensuring the provision of food assistance to refugees in need is desperately needed, is a direct reflection of American values, and is in the best interest of US diplomatic and security interests. According to UNRWA, if the money is not released soon, 1.2 million Palestinians, including nearly half a million children, will stop receiving food aid, and the next ten days are critical to preserving the flow of aid. There is no moral or humanitarian reason for the continued denial of this assistance, and Secretary Blinken has an obligation to supercede Sen. Risch’s hold on the funds.

Add Your Name to an Open Letter Demanding Senator Risch Stop Harming Palestinian Refugees

Sen. Risch’s hold on the funding is particularly devastating for Palestinians in Gaza, where food insecurity is already at a tipping point. Right now, cuts to the World Food Programme’s budget have reduced the number of Palestinians in Gaza that are served from 300,000 to 100,000, and a further reduction in food assistance will have a catastrophic impact on the health of those Palestinians. In addition, UNRWA food represents 60% of Gaza’s overall monthly commodity imports. Any interruption of these imports will have disastrous consequences for the economy in Gaza, worsening what is already an economic and humanitarian crisis.

ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “Senator Risch’s decision to withhold $75 million in essential UNRWA food aid for Palestinian refugees – a lifeline that supports some of the most vulnerable members of society – is inhumane. Time is running out, so it is essential that humanity and compassion prevail over politics. We urge Secretary Blinken to utilize his power to override this hold and ensure that food assistance reaches those in dire need. We believe in an America that champions human rights and humanitarian assistance, and we should expect that our leaders will act accordingly.”

Desperately needed refugee assistance should never be used as a political hostage. Food is a basic human necessity, not a political weapon. Senator Risch can stop playing politics with human lives or Secretary Blinken can override him, either way this funding must be released as soon as possible.

Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition hosts Nelson Mandela’s grandson at launch of Nakba tour

Sandra Whitehead, Wisconsin Muslim Journal, May 23, 2023

Photos by Mouna Photography

Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, the grandson of globally respected icon of resistance against injustice Nelson Mandela, meets members of Milwaukee’s Muslim community.

About 40 community and interfaith leaders joined the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition at the Islamic Resource Center in Greenfield May 15 to welcome the grandson of anti-apartheid activist and South Africa’s first president Nelson Mandela on the launch of his six-city U.S. tour to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.

Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition president Janan Najeeb (left) welcomes activist and South African parliament member Nkosi Mandela (center) to the Islamic Resource Center in Greenfield.

Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, the South African parliament member and chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council, repeated the well-known message of his grandfather: “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians.” In his weeklong U.S. tour, Mandela spoke in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

Following the dinner at the IRC, Mandela began his tour with a speech at Turner Hall in Milwaukee in which he called on the audience to consider what they could do individually and collectively to support the Palestinian cause. He spoke about how the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions) had been effective in South Africa and would work to liberate Palestinians.

“His message was uplifting,” said MMWC president and IRC director Janan Najeeb. “If it is possible for South Africa to be free after 350 years of colonialism and six decades of apartheid, it is possible for Palestinians to also one day be free.”

 MMWC president Janan Najeeb (left) welcomed community leaders to a reception for South African activist and parliamentarian Nkosi Mandela (right). Haitham Salawah (center) represented the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, which co-sponsored Mandela’s U.S. tour.

Continuing his grandfather’s legacy

Haitham Salawdeh, the U.S. Palestinian Community national treasurer and Milwaukee chapter co-chair, introduced Chief Mandela. The national tour was hosted by the U.S. Palestinian Community Network and the National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression. Madison for Palestine was also instrumental in bringing Mandela for this tour.

Salawdeh thanked Mandela for visiting six U.S. cities “to tell the story of our people. Coming from the leadership of anti-apartheid and speaking on the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, your visit here today is historic.”

After thanking USPCN and Madison for Palestine for the invitation, Mandela said, “When the invitation came, I immediately accepted the call to duty.”

He shared a story about his first experience of meeting his grandfather “at the young, tender age of 9-years-old in Pollsmoor Prison “I met my grandfather at the young, tender age of 9-years-old in Pollsmoor Prison … It was in 1983. I didn’t know where I was going or who I was going to meet. Suddenly, I saw him coming down the corridor.”

After his grandfather hugged members of the family, he turned to Nkosi. “You must be my grandson.

“I had 100 questions in my head. I saw bars on every window and every door. This was clearly a prison and if my grandfather was in prison, he had shamed our family. For a 9-year-old boy, a prison is a place for those who have done wrong in society. I became very angry and very bitter from that experience.”

He learned later that his grandfather wrote a letter to his friend Helen Joseph, a white woman who was a South African anti-apartheid activist.

He told her he recently had a visit from his grandson whose English was bad and would she please assist him. “It was the only letter I ever saw from my grandfather that was not heavily censored,” he said.

Young Nkosi was embarrassed because “my grandfather thinks I can’t speak English,” but what his elder was really communicating to his comrade was that his grandson didn’t know who his grandfather was and the ideals and principles he stood for. He wasn’t familiar with the struggle for liberation. He was asking Joseph to educate his grandson about the cause.

In the 45-minutes a year that he was allowed to visit his grandfather in prison, much of his time was spent answering his “inquisitive” grandfather’s questions about what subjects he liked in school and which sports he wanted to play. But he also told stories.

“The ones that moved me most were about the heroes and heroines in Palestine, young people who braved the daily atrocities against them with just bare hands and stones. That inspired us during our darkest days in our struggle for liberation.

“It was Palestinians who stood side by side with us in our fight for freedom,” he said. That’s why after Nelson Mandela visited Gaza in 1995, he said, ‘Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people.’ My grandfather considered the Palestinian struggle the greatest moral issue of our time.

“It was only in 2017, when I visited occupied Palestine in person, I came to realize what the Palestinians experience on a daily basis. Like many of South African leaders who have visited occupied Palestine, we all come to one conclusion, that what Palestinians are experiencing is a worse form of Apartheid than we ever experienced.”

Milwaukee community and interfaith leaders turned out to learn from Mandela

It was a great honor to be invited to the reception and to meet others learning about what is going on,” said Sandy Pasch, former state representative and a member of the leadership of Jewish Voice for Peace Action, the political arm of JVP. “It is important to normalize the idea that we must free Palestine and do things to erase apartheid.” 

Pasch said she first heard about the Nakba when her daughter got involved with Jewish Voice for Peace. “The fact that I didn’t know about it for much of my life is a shame. Not too long ago, in a meeting with our congresswoman, she said she too had never known about it. That is really bad.

“I want to know as much as I can, bear witness to it and to the ongoing Nakba. I must educate myself more and educate others.”

Pasch said Mandela was “incredibly charismatic” and brought a valuable message to the United States “where when I talk to others about the apartheid in Palestine, they dismiss it and say it is not like South Africa.”

“I don’t believe Israel has any incentive to come to the table, Pasch added. “It is acting with increasing abandon without any repercussions. What is happening in Israel is apartheid. BDS worked in South Africa, it can work in Israel.”

Fellow JVP member Jodi Melamed, an associate professor of English and Africana Studies at Marquette University, said she “attended Chief Mandela’s talk hoping that he would give us the courage to believe that we would see the end of Israeli apartheid in my lifetime – as we’ve seen the end of South African apartheid – and give us a vision for how to struggle towards that success. He did all that and more. His call at Turner Hall for Palestinians in the U.S. to be ambassadors of the Palestinian struggle was powerful. I thought a lot about how I could do more to promote and defend Palestinians in America who speak up for a liberated Palestine. 

Reggie Jackson, the former griot (an oral historian) at America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, said he “decided to attend because I was interested in the Nakba and how Mandela and his grandfather had a relationship with supporting the Palestinians in their long struggle.

When he spoke about his grandfather saying South Africa would not be free until the Palestinians had their freedom, it really meant a lot to me about the power of collaborative struggle and support.”

David Liners, the executive director of WISDOM, a statewide network of interfaith and social justice organizations that works to unite people of many faiths to stand against racial and economic injustice, said he wasstruck by Chief Mandela’s message of solidarity.”

“South Africa’s freedom movement was inspired by the Palestinian people’s struggle, and his work is a way of returning the favor. In a world where competing interests fight over whose need is the greatest, it is refreshing to hear him echo his grandfather’s commitment to the struggle for every human being and every community on the planet to be treated with justice and respect.”

About The Author

Sandra Whitehead

Sandra Whitehead is an author, educator, and nationally award-winning journalist. She teaches journalism and media studies at Marquette University, where she is a Center for Peacemaking Faculty Scholar and is developing internationally collaborative online journalism education.

Sandra taught in Lebanon from 2009-2016 at Rafik Hariri University, where she was chair of the Language and Humanities Department. She was senior editor and continues to serve as the senior editorial consultant to HOME Magazine Lebanon.

She is blessed with a loving family – her husband Abdulaziz Aleiou and three children, Ali, Aisha, and Adam.

In First, Palestinian Displacement Commemorated at United Nations

The event, marking the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians when Israel was created, was condemned by the Israeli ambassador to the world body.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, holds a hand up as he reads a statement.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, spoke at the event for the 75th anniversary of the Nakba at the United Nations headquarters on Monday. (Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Farnaz Fassihi and Hiba Yazbek, New York Times, May 15, 2023

NEW YORK — The United Nations for the first time on Monday officially commemorated the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the war surrounding the creation of Israel 75 years ago, drawing a sharp response from the Israeli ambassador to the world body.

The event — marking the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” by Palestinians — was attended by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas; many member states from Asia, Africa, Central and South America and the Middle East; and representatives of the African Union and the Arab League, who delivered speeches. The United States and Britain did not attend.

“This resolution represents a recognition by your organizations of the ongoing historic injustice that fell on the Palestinian people in 1948 and before that date, and that continues after,” Mr. Abbas said. He added that it was also a rebuttal “for the first time by you of the Israeli Zionist narrative that denies this Nakba.”

The event was the latest arena for a decades-long narrative battle between Israelis and Palestinians. To Israelis, the creation of their state was a heroic moment for a long-persecuted people that deserves celebration. But to Palestinians, it was a moment of profound national trauma.

The United Nations General Assembly, composed of 193 member states, has often been sympathetic to Palestinians. Its commemoration on Monday came at a tense period in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank, where violence has surged this year. While Palestinians celebrated the U.N. action as validation, the Israelis saw it as an attack on their state.

Mr. Abbas called for the suspension of Israel’s membership from the United Nations, saying that the Jewish state never “fulfilled nor respected its obligations and commitments” as a prerequisite to its membership, and had violated resolutions.

Mr. Abbas received a standing ovation and two rounds of long applause after his speech, which lasted over an hour. Chants of “free Palestine” and “end the occupation now” were shouted from the audience.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, condemned the event as “shameful” and called for countries to boycott it in a letter he sent to diplomats on Sunday.

“Attending this despicable event means destroying any chance of peace by adopting the Palestinian narrative calling the establishment of the state of Israel a disaster,” Mr. Erdan said in a video statement.

The event was organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a body made up of 25 member states that was created in 1975 by a General Assembly mandate to promote the rights of Palestinians and support peace. Members include India, Turkey, South Africa, Venezuela and Malta.

Member states of the U.N. General Assembly voted in November to approve a resolution calling for the commemoration. It will continue on Monday evening with another event at the General Assembly hall with an “immersive experience” of the Nakba with live music, photographs, videos and testimonials.

“The Nakba and the suffering of generations of Palestinians is a story rarely taught in history books, too often eluded and forgotten,” said the chairman of the committee, Cheikh Niang, Senegal’s ambassador to the United Nations. “Today the resilience of Palestinians through history, but particularly since 1948, must be recognized.”

Around 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their homes in 1947 and 1948 during the wars surrounding Israel’s establishment as a state. Most live as refugees in camps in neighboring nations, and their right to return home is a major issue in any two-state solution. Many of the villages they left behind were taken over by Israelis or destroyed.

The events are the subject of a long-running dispute. Palestinians see them as an act of ethnic cleansing instigated by Israeli militias, which killed hundreds of Palestinians in addition to driving thousands from their homes.

But to Israelis, the conflict was a war of survival against invading Arab armies and hostile local militants who committed atrocities and who rejected a U.N. plan to divide the land between Jews and Arabs.

For many Israelis, the Palestinian exodus was largely voluntary, encouraged by Arab leaders, and was accompanied by the persecution and expulsion of Jews from their homes in Palestine and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Violence in Gaza and the occupied West Bank has risen recently. On Saturday, Israel and the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad agreed to a cease-fire that ended five days of fighting that left 35 people dead.

The two-hour commemoration in a packed General Assembly hall began with a video by Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian-American journalist from Al-Jazeera who was fatally shot by an Israeli soldier last May. The report showed scenes of Israeli violence against Palestinians. The New York Arabic Orchestra, directed by the four-time Grammy Award-winning musician Eugene Friesen, performed. And the master of ceremonies, Maher Nasser, a senior U.N. official and Palestinian refugee, said the goal of the event was to convey “a history of endurance, remembrance and holding on to beautiful traditions.”

The event did not appear to prompt a widespread reaction from Palestinians in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank, but some Palestinian rights groups noted the significance of the U.N. commemoration.

The International Commission to Support Palestinians’ Rights, a rights group based in Gaza, called it “a unique and unprecedented step” and said that it should be “translated into enabling the Palestinian people to exercise their right to independence and return.”

Hani Akkad, a Palestinian political analyst, wrote in al-Quds newspaper that the event confirms “the justice of the Palestinian cause and the legality of the Palestinian national struggle,” and is a reminder that the world has not forgotten the Nakba “no matter how much the occupying state tried to portray itself as a victim.”

Separately from the U.N. event, thousands of Palestinians across Gaza, Israel and the West Bank held rallies and protests to commemorate the Nakba.

In Ramallah, in the West Bank, hundreds gathered outside the Yasir Arafat Mausoleum, where the former Palestinian president is buried. They waved Palestinian flags in a rally attended by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

At Tel Aviv University in Israel, dozens of students stood at the campus entrance and held Palestinian flags.

Farnaz Fassihi reported from New York, and Hiba Yazbek from Jerusalem.