About Me

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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

UCI committee recommends suspending Muslim student group (Daily Pilot)

By Mona Shadia
Daily Pilot
June 14, 2010

A UC Irvine student conduct committee has recommended suspending the Muslim Student Union, following repeated disruptions by several of its members during a February speech by the Israeli ambassador, a campus spokeswoman said. The recommendation has not taken effect because the student group has appealed the decision, said UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon.

If the recommendation is upheld, the Muslim Student Union, or MSU, will be suspended for the 2010-11 school year.

Reem Salahi, the attorney representing MSU, said the recommendation is unprecedented and would alienate hundreds of students.

“We disagree with the university’s finding of facts that the action of the students who stood was an officially sanctioned MSU activity,” she said. “We disagree with those findings as facts; we do not agree with the alleged violations.”

The recommendation is a result of an investigation conducted by the office of Student Affairs in response to the incident, in which 11 students were arrested, Lawhon said.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech about U.S.-Israeli relations was protested by students, who believe Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians are inhumane.

A letter sent to the MSU states the violation of five university policies as reasoning for the recommendation: fabricating and providing false information; disrupting a teaching or a research activity; disorderly conduct; participation of the disruption of the peace or unlawful assembly; and violating other local, state and federal laws.

The 14-page letter summarizes the months-long investigation, spells out how the students interrupted Oren’s speech, how faculty members and campus officials reacted and how the investigation was conducted. It does not show how the students allegedly fabricated information or broke local, state or federal laws.

The letter, which was sent by Lisa Cornish, senior executive director of student housing, states the recommendation to suspend MSU was based on personal observations by campus police and faculty members, the fact that the 11 students are represented by the same attorney, the fact that MSU discussed Oren’s visit prior to the event and a Google group e-mail discussing his visit.

University officials declined to provide further details.

“Since they are possibly going to be involved in an appeal, they cannot be going public in the media with their reasoning,” Lawhon said, adding that the letter provides all the details needed to support the recommendation.

The Jewish Federation Orange County released a statement hailing the suspension of the MSU. A call to the Jewish Federation was not returned Monday. An official from the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., declined comment.

In addition to the recommendation being unprecedented, Salahi said it is also tainted because it is influenced by outside organizations.

“I do think there’s a massive amount of pressure on the university to respond in a very harsh manner and we can see evidence of that,” she said. “The Jewish Federation issued a Public Records Act request to review this information and to ensure that there has been some sort of sanctions.

“There’s a lot of external pressure on the university. Normally, this is an internal process. This is not internal; this is external. This is not a final recommendation; this is a recommendation. The fact that the information was released prematurely is evidence of the pressure on the university.”

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called UCI’s recommendations Draconian.

“What happened at UCI and what happened off the coast of Gaza are very much related,” Ayloush said. “The peaceful and symbolic protests of the Israeli ambassador at UCI was a reflection of a growing worldwide campaign by human-rights activists to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians and its apartheid policies toward the Palestinian people and, in both cases, the reaction from the Israeli government and its U.S. supporters has been disproportionate and heavy-handed.”

Salahi said suspending MSU, a bustling organization on campus that was given this year’s Social Justice Award by the university’s Cross-Cultural Center, could negatively affect the lives of hundreds of students.

“It’s scary,” Salahi said. “It’s a scary way to have students who are 18- and 19-year-olds up against established organizations who have staff attorneys and are looking to sanction them.”

MSU has more than 100 active members and about 250 registered members.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Muslim Student Union members shocked by suspension


(entire article posted for informational and educational purposes)

IRVINE – UC Irvine's Muslim Student Union members say a year-long suspension came as a shock and that the university's action would deny Muslim students a sense of community, according to a statement released Monday afternoon. “Suspending the MSU would undoubtedly create a chilling effect and deprive Muslim students -- both current and incoming -- of a place where they can develop a sense of community with one another and with the broader UCI campus community,” said incoming MSU President Asaad Traina. “Depriving Muslim students a venue to associate jeopardizes their rights under the First Amendment and is an act of marginalization at a time when Muslim students and Muslim youth already feel besieged."

Campus officials at UCI have banned the Muslim Student Union for one year and placed the organization on disciplinary probation for an additional year, according to the Jewish Federation Monday morning.

Federation officials say they obtained documents from the university through the Freedom of Information Act, which show that the Muslim Student Union has been suspended on campus effective Sept. 1.

MSU members said contrary to the federation's statements, the student group has not been officially suspended.

To read the decision letter, click here (PDF).

The suspension is the result of a months-long internal review by the university following the arrest of 11 union students during Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's speech on campus. Oren was repeatedly interrupted by the union members.

Click here to see a raw video of the incident.

The group has appealed the decision, according to Husam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Members also denies that the Oren disruptions were an officially sanctioned MSU activity and that the students acted on their own.

Their attorney, Reem Salahi, said based on her understanding of the university's policies and procedures, what has been issued is not a "ban," but only a recommendation. The student group is waiting to meet with university officials.

"That said, I don't agree with their actions at all," she said. "This is nothing but collective punishment. All Muslim students on campus have been punished for the actions of a few."

So far, UCI has not released any information about this ban and does not plan on doing so, said Cathy Lawhon, director of media relations.

"I do not have personal knowledge of this, as the process and the actions against the students and the group were privileged," she said. "We value the privacy of our students and the process. This is a private and privileged process, and we will honor that process."

Although other individuals and groups might discuss this issue, the university will not, Lawhon said.

A May 27 letter sent to the Muslim Student Union by Lisa Cornish, senior executive director of Student Housing, which was also copied to Dean of Students Rameen Talesh, details the violations that were believed to have been committed by the union and the disciplinary action taken against them. This document was obtained and provided to The Orange County Register by the Jewish Federation.

Cornish's letter says the university's decision to suspend the union was based on Google Group e-mails, personal observations by university officials including the police chief, observations by other students and "the fact that all of the disruptors retained the same attorney to represent them in the student conduct process."

Cornish's letter talks about how the Muslim Student Union held a meeting Feb. 3 prior to the ambassador's visit and methodically discussed how to disrupt the event. The students talked about sending "the speaker a message – our goal should be that he knows that he can't just go to a campus and say whatever he wants" and "pushing the envelope."

They even voted on one method of action and said, "We all go through with this together insha Allah ta'ala, together as one MSU."

Cornish's letter states that the students planned every detail of the disruption including scripting statements.

The letter also goes into detail about what each one of the disruptors yelled out during Oren's speech.

Cornish says in the letter that she has concluded based on her review that the Muslim Student Union and each of its authorized signers violated several university policies including "disorderly and lewd conduct, participation in a disturbance of peace or unlawful assembly, obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures or other University activities and other forms of dishonesty including ... fabricating information, furnishing false information, or reporting a false emergency to the University."

The letter orders the Muslim student union to cease operations from Sept. 1, a suspension that will be active until Aug. 31, 2011. After that date, the group will be placed on "disciplinary probation" for one more year. Any misconduct during that period could result in further action against the group or its members, Cornish's letter states. Also, group members must collectively complete 50 hours of community service, which also needs to be approved by the university.

Ayloush said he is disappointed by The Jewish Federation's decision to release information that was meant to be confidential.

"I'm puzzled at their attempt to score political points at the expense of the privacy of the students and the process that is internal to UCI," he said.

To watch a YouTube video featuring a statement by Jewish Federation President and CEO Shalom Elcott, click here.

Ayloush called the university's actions "unprecedented, heavy-handed and draconian."

"It appears to be politically motivated to silence any future peaceful and legitimate criticism of Israel's brutal practices," he said. "This was nothing but a peaceful and symbolic protest of the Israeli Ambassador at UCI. It was a reflection of a growing worldwide campaign by human rights activists to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and their racism toward the Palestinian people."

The Muslim students did not engage in fraudulent, immoral or criminal behavior, Ayloush said.

Shalom Elcott, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation Orange County, said he commends the university's decision to follow through on this issue.

"The university's disciplinary action regarding the MSU establishes an important and appropriate precedent and sends a powerful message to other universities across the nation."

Elcott said the federation along with other campus and local Jewish organizations have worked with the university to resolve this issue.

Jeff Margolis, co-chairman of the federation's Rose Council, said the university's actions show that it has "taken seriously the on-campus actions of the Muslim Student Union and its serial disregard for university policies and civil discourse."

Contact the writer: 714-796-7956 or epak@ocregister.com

Muslim Student Union banned on UCI campus

By Leanne Suter

Religious rivalry has turned into a free-speech issue at University of California-Irvine. The school has been investigating the Muslim Student Union after a protest at a speech by the Israeli ambassador earlier this year. Monday, the school announced its findings.

Both sides call the university's decision to ban the Muslim Student Union unprecedented, but for very different reasons.

Video of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren's February speech at the University of California-Irvine posted on YouTube shows hecklers in action. Eleven students, all of them members of the Muslim Student Union of UCI, were arrested after repeated warnings to stop disrupting the speech.

After a month-long investigation by the university, the MSU has been banned from campus for a year and placed on disciplinary probation for another year.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations calls the controversial and unprecedented action "heavy-handed."

"What they would be doing is sending a very wrong message that will stifle free speech, not only at UCI but probably on campuses around the country," said Hussam Ayloush, Southern California executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

MSU is appealing the decision. UCI will not comment on the ban or the appeal, saying it is a private and privileged process.

The Jewish Federation Orange County says the university took the right course of action.

"This wasn't a free-speech issue for them. This was a free speech for the Israeli ambassador who couldn't talk because of the coordinated attack," said Shalom Elcott, president of the Jewish Federation Orange County...

Israel’s Greatest Loss: Its Moral Imagination (Haaretz)

Former head of one of the most pro-Israel organizations(American Jewish Congress) writes in Israel's leading English newspaper:

"A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Th...eir jailers, incredibly, are survivors of the Holocaust, or their descendants."See More

Read full article:

Published 6/11/2010

Israel’s Greatest Loss: Its Moral Imagination

If a people who so recently experienced such unspeakable inhumanities cannot understand the injustice and suffering its territorial ambitions are inflicting, what hope is there for the rest of us?

By Henry Siegman

Following Israel’s bloody interdiction of the Gaza Flotilla, I called a life-long friend in Israel to inquire about the mood of the country. My friend, an intellectual and a kind and generous man, has nevertheless long sided with Israeli hardliners. Still, I was entirely unprepared for his response. He told me—in a voice trembling with emotion—that the world’s outpouring of condemnation of Israel is reminiscent of the dark period of the Hitler era...

When I managed to get over the shock of that exchange, it struck me that the invocation of the Hitler era was actually a frighteningly apt and searing analogy, although not the one my friend intended. A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Their jailers, incredibly, are survivors of the Holocaust, or their descendants. Of course, the inmates of Gaza are not destined for gas chambers, as the Jews were, but they have been reduced to a debased and hopeless existence.

Fully 80% of Gaza’s population lives on the edge of malnutrition, depending on international charities for their daily nourishment. According to the UN and World Health authorities, Gaza’s children suffer from dramatically increased morbidity that will affect and shorten the lives of many of them. This obscenity is a consequence of a deliberate and carefully calculated Israeli policy aimed at de-developing Gaza by destroying not only its economy but its physical and social infrastructure while sealing it hermitically from the outside world.

Particularly appalling is that this policy has been the source of amusement for some Israeli leaders, who according to Israeli press reports have jokingly described it as “putting Palestinians on a diet.” That, too, is reminiscent of the Hitler years, when Jewish suffering amused the Nazis...

Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project, is a visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former Senior Fellow on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations and, before that, was national director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Haaretz Editorial: Hamas 1, Netanyahu 0

Don't expect such an honest analysis from our US media. Sadly, it is safer for newspaper editors to honestly debate and criticize Israeli policies in Israel than here in the US.


The Gaza-bound aid flotilla achieved its goal - the hermetic blockade of Gaza has been ripped wide open and Israel has been the target of massive international criticism and demands for an investigation.

Haaretz Editorial

The Gaza-bound aid flotilla has achieved its goal, albeit at the bloody price of nine dead and dozens wounded. A week after the Israel Navy intercepted the ships, the hermetic blockade of Gaza has been ripped wide open, while Israel has been the target of massive international criticism and demands for an investigation.

The blockade dissolved with Egypt's announcement on Tuesday that the Rafah border crossing will remain permanently open. Though Palestinians still cannot traverse it freely, the sweeping exit ban that Israel and Egypt had imposed for the last few years on Gaza's 1.5 million residents has ended.

As in a commercial market, the moment Israel lost its monopoly over the gateways to Gaza, the consumers benefited from competition. Amira Hass reports in today's Haaretz that the list of goods that Israel allows into the Strip has been expanded, and from now on, Gaza residents will be able to spice their food with coriander (though only the seeds, not the leaves ), which had previously been off-limits to them. All it took was an alternative entryway, through Egypt, for the Israeli gateway to Gaza to be opened wider as well.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza and all it entailed - the goods forbidden entry, the lies about how there was no humanitarian crisis there - was a form of collective punishment against an impoverished and oppressed population that cast a moral stain on Israeli democracy. Nor did this blockade achieve its promised goals. The Hamas government did not fall, Gaza residents did not rise up against it, and Gilad Shalit is still in captivity.

But even if the blockade should have been lifted, the manner in which this happened reflects a lack of understanding and faulty judgment on the part of the government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Instead of working to ease the blockade, limiting it to justified efforts to prevent arms smuggling, Israel tried to maintain a complete closure - and then lost control because of the botched raid. In attempting to show the whole world how "strong" he is, Netanyahu ended up handing victory to Hamas and its Turkish supporters.

It is not too late to minimize the damage. The government must remove the last remnants of the blockade and replace it with an inspection and enforcement regime governing maritime traffic to Gaza, with international participation, to prevent rockets and other arms from entering in the guise of humanitarian aid shipments. The situation that existed before the flotilla failure does not exist any longer, and any attempt to resuscitate it will only cause Israel additional damage.

Jew vs. Jew; Levy vs. Levy: Gideon Levy exposes Bernard-Henri Levy

Gideon Levy is one of my top living heroes and one of my favorite journalists. He is one of Israel's and possibly our world's leading commentators on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. His courage, intelligence, and passion for justice have inspired me for so many years. Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) would be proud to see his teachings on justice applied in the writings of Gideon Levy.

Gideon, please be safe. I pray that you and Amira Hass be safe. Judaism is fortunate to have people like you.


In response to Bernard-Henri Levy

Demonization? Perhaps, but the way to fight that is by imposing a siege on its arsenal. Were it not for the blockade on Gaza, were it not for the occupation, there would be no cause for demonization. Was it too much to expect of you, once the voice of conscience, to understand that?

By Gideon Levy
6/10/2010 - Haaretz

I deeply admire prominent intellectuals like yourself, who make a point of visiting the killing fields and speaking out. Your attempt to protect Israel, as demonstrated by your article in Haaretz on Tuesday ("It's time to stop demonizing Israel"), pleased many Israelis, who were yearning for a good word about their country, a very rare commodity these days.

I won't spoil their pleasure. But in the name of your call to end the disinformation, I wish to draw your attention to information that may have slipped your memory.

One may hazard a guess that in your younger days you would have joined the flotilla. A blockade of more than four years on 1.5 million people in those days would have awakened a moral urge driving you to join the protest. But today, as far as you and most Israelis are concerned, there is no blockade on Gaza.

Talking about it in your view is "disinformation."

By the way, since you were here already, why didn't you pop into Gaza, as your friend Mario Vargas Llosa did, to see with your own eyes whether there's a blockade? The doctors in Shifa Hospital, for example, would have told you about their dead due to the non-blockade.

True, nobody is dying of hunger. Yet the Gisha organization for freedom of movement released a report this week saying Israel today allows 97 items to be brought into Gaza, compared to 4,000 before the siege. Is that not a blockade?

A large Israeli supermarket holds 10,000-15,000 items; in Paris there are surely more. Yet Gaza is allowed 97. One would expect greater understanding for gastronomic needs from a refined bon vivant such as yourself, of all people.

You mention, as though you were the IDF spokesman, that Israel permits 100-125 trucks into Gaza a day. A hundred trucks for 1.5 million people ¬ is that not a "merciless siege" as the Liberation newspaper you castigated called it?

Eighty percent of Gaza's residents subsist on aid; 90 percent of its factories are shut down or runing below capacity. Really, Bernard-Henri, isn't that a blockade? Shouldn't a great intellectual like you, of all people, be expected to know that people, including Gazans, need more than bread and water?

Let's leave statistics alone, after all, philosophers don't deal with numbers.
You write that Israel has been named as responsible for the blockade "ad
nauseum" and that this is a blockade - suddenly even you call it a blockade imposed by both Israel and Egypt.

Correct. Egypt's participation is indeed outrageous and inexplicable, but
Egypt and Israel should not be judged in the same way. The occupation in Gaza is not over, it has merely moved, to the occupier's convenience, but Israel is still responsible.

The legal currency in Gaza is the shekel, the population registration is carried out by Israel, which also monitors anyone entering the strip. Decades
of occupation have made Gaza dependent on Israel and Israel cannot shake it off merely by "disengaging."

But let's put the blockade aside, whether you deny or justify it. How can you ignore the context? There have been 43 years of occupation and despair for millions of people, some of whom may wish to become Bernard-Henri Levy, and not just pass their lives in a battle for survival.

What are the chances a young Palestinian will achieve something in his life?
Look at the pictures of the Gazans crowding the Rafah border pass yesterday and see their expressions.

Surely you've heard of freedom. You cannot blame the occupation on anyone but us, the Israelis. There are many excuses for it, but they don't change the ultimate fact - Israel is an occupier. This is the root of all evil and this is what you have concealed. Not a word about it.

Israel may have the right to prevent arms supplies from entering Gaza, but you don't have the right to ignore what has turned Gaza into a desperate refugee region.

True, Bernard-Henri, the world demands more of Israel than of dictatorships. This is not the "confusion of an era," as you put it, but a new (and just) era, in which the world demands Israel pay a price for its conduct as a democracy.

Demonization? Perhaps, but the way to fight that is by imposing a siege on its arsenal. Were it not for the blockade on Gaza, were it not for the occupation, there would be no cause for demonization. Was it too much to expect of you, once the voice of conscience, to understand that?

Helping U.S. reach out to young Muslims worldwide (LA Times)

The State Department's representative to Muslim communities travels the globe. Those at home can play a supportive role too, she says.
By Raja Abdulrahim, Los Angeles Times
June 5, 2010

Soon after Farah Pandith was named last year as the State Department's first special representative to Muslim communities, she sat down with the editor of an independent Muslim website for her first official interview.

Altmuslim.com, a forum for opinion and analysis about current issues facing Muslims, was a fitting choice. Pandith has said a strong focus of her work is to reach out to younger Muslims around the world, often those most likely to use the Internet for news and networking.

In that first interview at a Washington, D.C., cafe and in a recent interview with The Times while in Los Angeles for a panel discussion on cultural diplomacy, Pandith said that her job involves engaging Muslims abroad but that those at home can play a supportive role.

A Kashmiri-born Muslim who grew up in Massachusetts, Pandith was appointed to her position last June, shortly after President Obama, speaking from Cairo, sought to dissipate some of the mistrust between Muslims and the West. Pandith's charge is to help bridge the cultural and religious divides by reaching out to individuals and organizations to build cooperation and partnerships."

You think, 'Wow, there are people in America who have already done this,' and that's where the domestic piece comes in," Pandith said, referring to the networks that American Muslims have built.Previously, she spent two years as a senior advisor in the State Department focused on Muslim communities in Europe, a position created in the wake of the 2005 controversy over a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad...

A year into her appointment, Pandith estimates that she has spent 80% of her time overseas and in the last nine months has visited 21 countries. Her Facebook page serves as a guide to some of her travels: Italy, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Qatar.

Some American Muslim groups have expressed an eagerness to be included in her work.

Hussam Ayloush, Southern California executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which focuses mainly on domestic civil rights issues, wants to "play the role of bridge between our country and Muslims overseas." Ayloush said that there has been little communication so far between his group and Pandith's office but that he hopes it will happen.

"We should not confuse the anxiousness, the excitement and the high expectations with disappointment or impatience," he said. "We're just hoping that we move into the action mode very soon."...


Release terms eased for man who refused to become an FBI informant


Inside a federal courtroom nearly 16 months ago, prosecutors asked a judge to hold Ahmadullah Sais Niazi in federal prison without bail, arguing that the Tustin man had links to extremist organizations, was a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Though Niazi faces immigration, not terrorism-related charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dierdre Eliot argued in February 2009 that Niazi had ties to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, the Taliban. Also, Niazi's brother-in-law is believed to be a security coordinator for Osama bin Laden, according to prosecutors.

But as the date nears for Niazi's trial this year, the U.S. Attorney's Office and Niazi's defense attorney jointly request a judge to loosen the terms of Niazi's release, asking the court to lift its order keeping Niazi under house arrest. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney granted the request, allowing Niazi to leave his home under GPS monitoring and a curfew of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The U.S. Attorney office's request stands in sharp contrast to its earlier petition, which stressed Niazi's alleged Islamic-extremist views and ties. Those views were recorded by a man working as an FBI informant, prosecutors have said. Niazi is charged with lying about those ties, including two counts of perjury, one count of lying in his citizen application, one count of lying in his passport application and one count of making a false statement.

Chase Scolnick, the deputy public defender representing Niazi, said his client has been following the terms of his release. He declined to comment on the details of the case.

Craig Monteilh, an Irvine resident, has said in previous interviews he was paid by the FBI to be an informant in the case as part of an operation by the Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force called "Operation Flex." Court documents and probation records sustain the claim he worked as an informant for the FBI.

Monteilh, who was convicted in 2008 for grand theft, has filed a suit against the FBI. Monteilh claims the FBI violated his civil liberties while he was working as an informant. That case is pending in court.

Monteilh, his attorney Adam Krowlikowsky and Scolnick have confirmed they have met on multiple occasions to discuss Niazi's case, but would not provide details.

During Niazi's bail hearing in February 2009, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato cited several concerns, but agreed set bail at $500,000. Nakazato required that at least two relatives be financially responsible for Niazi's bail and that he be under electronic surveillance and house arrest.

In an order signed on June 2, Niazi's home confinement was lifted. His trial is expected to begin Aug. 31.

The case has reverberated in the county's Muslim community, as details surfaced of FBI surveillance in the area and Monteilh's alleged involvement in domestic surveillance.

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in an earlier interview that Niazi, who had been under FBI surveillance since 2006, had come to him because the FBI was attempting to recruit him as an informant. Ayloush suggested the case against Niazi may have been brought in retaliation for his refusal.

Federal prosecutor Denise Willett, who signed the request to change the terms of release for Niazi, did not return calls for comment.

Contact the writer: shernandez@ocregister.com or 949-454-7361

A mother of five teaches "Know Your Rights" when visited by FBI

Notes from the woman behind the video:

The Joint Terrorism Task Force Division of the FBI Visits an Austin Peace Activist to Question About Pre-Crimes On April 21, 2010, two agents of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) came to my house to talk to me, a part time peace volunteer for Palestine. After verifying that they really were with the FBI, I asked them to wait. I shut my door, took a deep breath, and grabbed my video camera.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A great poem: Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal - By Naomi Shihab Nye

A friend shared this beautiful poem. Enjoy.


Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal

By Naomi Shihab Nye

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,

I heard the announcement:

If anyone in the vicinity of gat 4-A understands any Arabic,

Please come to the gate immediately.

Well – one pauses these days. Gate 4-A Was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,

Just like my grandma, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.

Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her

Problem? We told her the flight was going to be 4 hours late and she

Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.

Shu dow-a, shu-beduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,

Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew – however poorly used –

She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.

She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the

Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late.

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.

We called her son and I spoke with him in English.

I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and

Would ride next to her – Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of

It. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and

Found of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian

Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering


She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies – little powdered

Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts – out of her bag—

And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a

Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,

The lovely woman from Laredo – we were all covered with the same

Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—

Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always

Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,

This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate – once the crying of confusion stopped

-- Had seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.

This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in Jerusalem and San Antonio. Her books of poetry include 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East; A Maze me: Poems for Girls; Red Suitcase; Words under the Words; and You and Yours.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Open the Gates: A Rabbinical Response to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Tragedy

The silent majority is speaking out.

This is taken from the website of "The Jewish Fast for Gaza" which is an ad hoc group of rabbis, Jews, and people of conscience who have committed to undertake a monthly daytime fast in support of the following goals:

1. To call for a lifting of the blockade that prevents the entry of civilian goods and services into Gaza;

2. To provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the people of Gaza;

3. To call upon Israel, the US, and the international community to engage in negotiations without pre-conditions with all relevant Palestinian parties - including Hamas - in order to end the blockade;

4. To encourage the American government to vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.


Here is an open letter from so many heroic rabbis. I am proud to count many of them as personal friends and mentors who have inspired my social justice activism.

God bless them.


Open the Gates: A Rabbinical Response to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Tragedy

Dear Friends,

In the wake of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla tragedy, we once again feel the need to raise our voices as rabbis in the Jewish community.

According to press reports, we now know that at least 9 people have been killed and many more have been injured when Israeli Navy Seals boarded a boat that held 600 people in the middle of the night – conducting a military operation against civilian activists in the midst of international waters.

We also know that the essential aim of the Freedom Flotilla was to carry humanitarian aid to those who have been severely suffering under the effects of Israel’s crushing blockade of Gaza. We call upon our community not to turn away in denial or blame those of good will and good purpose who risked their lives to relieve the beleaguered people of the Gaza strip.

We lift up our voices and call upon Israel to conduct an independent, transparent, and credible investigation of this incident. We also call upon the government of Israel to open the gates of compassion and allow these ships to dock so that they may deliver humanitarian aid to the 1.5 million citizens of Gaza. In so doing, we note the overall context of oppression in which this incident has occurred and call upon the government of Israel to turn away from the policies of occupation, siege and indifference to international law.

Our silence now is an act of betrayal to the values we purport to live by and to the words of the prophet we read every Yom Kippur:

Is this the fast I desire? A day for people to starve
their bodies? Or bow their heads like a bulrush
or wear sackcloth and smear oneself with ashes...
No! This is the fast the Lord desires:
Unlock the fetters of oppression
Untie the cords of the yoke
Let the exploited go free, break off every chain.
share your bread with the hungry,
Shelter the poor in your own house
clothe the naked and do not ignore your own kin.

As rabbis, we believe all human beings are our kin. We cannot abide the suffering inflicted upon the people of Gaza.

We lift up our voices and say: Unlock the fetters of oppression. Untie the cords of the yoke. Open the gates.

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbi Alissa Wise
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
Rabbi Marjorie Berman
Rabbi JB Sacks
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Rabbi David Mivasair
Rabbi Chava Bahle
Rabbi Eyal Levinson
Rabbi Nina Mandel
Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Rebecca Lillian
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling
Rabbi Naomi Steinberg
Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak
Rabbi Arthur Segal
Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein
Rabbi Phyllis Berman
Rabbi Linda Holtzman
Rabbi Andrew Gold
Rabbi Michael Feinberg

(List in formation)

The silent Jewish majority

By Marwan Bishara, June 2nd, 2010
Aljazeera English

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Marwan Bishara asks if those in whose name Israel commits its crimes are going to act and speak out against it.

The Israeli military operation against the humanitarian Gaza convoy has provoked an outcry around the world and within Israel itself...

An increasing number of Jewish activists in Europe and the US are expressing their displeasure - and even anger - over the way in which Israel has evolved in recent years. Some have joined - and even led - solidarity initiatives that aim to lift the siege of Gaza and to end the occupation of Palestine.

But as Israelis begin to question, criticise and even condemn wrong headed Israeli policies, one wonders: Where is the silent Jewish majority in whose name Israel acts?

...A recent article in the New York Review of Books has shed more light on the increased detachment of the influential international Jewish community from Israel and its alienation from the unconditionally pro-Israeli Jewish establishment.

However, the majority of Jews remain silent about the "controversial" policies Israel carries out in their name as a self-declared "state of the Jewish people"...

To gain the moral high ground, Israeli leaders consistently defended their state's "humane" and "democratic" nature.

The best expression of Israel's 'surplus morality' reached the heights of chutzpah when late prime minister Golda Meir defended Israeli crimes by blaming them on the Arabs: "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children ... we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."

But colonial Zionism's attempt to monopolise Judaism and claim its humanism was exposed by some of the most authoritative religious Jewish voices in the country.

The most outspoken critic of Israel, its values and polices was the late Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz. A deeply religious man, he staunchly condemned the Israeli occupation and reportedly accused Israeli soldiers of possessing a Nazi-like mentality.

Avraham Burg, an observant religious Jew who was the head the Jewish Agency and the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has also emerged as a bold critic of destructive or the "eschatological" form of Zionism, suggesting in his eye-opening book, The Holocaust Is Over, that Jews must now rise from its ashes...

Recent events in Israel/Palestine magnified the difference, even the contradiction, between Jewish intellectuals inside and outside of Israel...

Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate along with his close friends Peres and Henry Kissinger, and Bernard Henri Levi, the French 'philosopher', have been vocal in expressing their "love" for Israel and "attachment" to Jerusalem.

They generally defend the practices of the Israeli military in the occupied territories as a "democratic army" who attaches great importance to "purity of arms".

Four decades of military occupation, tens of massacres and tens of thousands of killed Palestinians have done little to dissuade them.

Henri-Levi has been particularly vocal in defence of Israeli and US policies since he became the laughing stock of the Paris intellectual community for his gaffs, not to say hoax as an "impostor". His flip flops in Tel Aviv this week were quite telling.

Likewise, Wiesel, who one Israeli intellectual referred to as the "Holocauster" - the guru of the Holocaust industry - has been staunchly - some say blindly -supporting illegal and bloody Israeli practices in the occupied territories, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem.

Interestingly, the sharpest criticism of the resident New Yorker Wiesel came from Jewish residents of Jerusalem...

Diametrically opposed stand the universalists. Richard Falk is a professor of international law and the UN's special rapporteur on Palestine and eminent philosopher Noam Chomsky is considered to be one of the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century.

(Photo: Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor, was part of the recent Gaza flotilla)

Both have consistently stood up and spoken against war crimes everywhere, regardless of the identity of their perpetrators. And they have not shied away from taking a moral stand when that concerns Israel or the US.

They are two of the most vocal liberal humanist voices in the West, indeed the world, condemning the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, as well as Israel's wars in Lebanon and Palestine.

Wiesel and Henri-Levi have consistently emphasised their Jewish and Zionist credentials, while Falk and Chomsky uncompromisingly underline their liberal humanism and opposition to colonial Zionism.

Most interestingly, while Wiesel and Henri-Levi get the VIP treatment in Israel, Falk and Chomsky were both denied entry into the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories!

The contrast could not be sharper for the silent and not so silent Jewish majority and, indeed, Western and international public opinion.

Not in our name!

I heard a young Jewish woman activist yesterday on Al Jazeera saying that Israel should no longer be allowed to carry on with its crimes in the name of the Jewish people.

True. What about the silent and alienated Jewish majority!

Many Jews do not want their identity, politics or worldview limited to or identified strictly with their religion and rightly so, especially when they are secular or unbelievers.

But that leaves the door open for those who underline their Jewishness and Zionism as one and the same to be more vocal "representatives" of the Jewish people on Israel.

Remember, just as there is nothing Muslim about terrorism and nothing Christian about genocide, there is also nothing Jewish about colonialism. All religions and peoples should, first and foremost, stand against all crimes carried out in their name.

So once again, where is the silent Jewish majority around the world in whose name Israel commits war crimes and who have a great contribution to make to bringing peace and justice to Israel/Palestine - indeed to the Middle East region?

Also Read:
Message to Muslims and Jews: Political Debate, Yes. Bigotry, No
US progressive Jews condemn Gaza war
Why aren't Jews outraged by Israeli occupation?
Is criticism of Zionism and Israel equivalent to anti-Semitism?