APWA’s Mission and Objectives

18 Feb

American Palestinian Women’s Association 

American Palestinian Women’s Association (APWA) is a nonprofit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Virginia.  APWA is a non- political secular organization that represents American Palestinian women whether they may be Christian, Muslim, Jew, or not.

APWA’s mission:

  • Empower American Palestinian women,
  • Advocate for women’s equality across the entire social spectrums and spheres (economic, political, cultural, familial, educational, social),
  • Advance genuine change that meets the needs of all Americans of every faith, affinity, color, gender, social standing, ethnicity, sexual orientation, native born, and immigrant,
  • Advocate for the emotional and mental wellbeing of children whether they may American, Palestinian, or Israeli,
  • Support long lasting just peace among Palestinians and Israelis, and
  • Bridge and elevate the level of understanding between Americans and Palestinians.

***American Palestinian Women’s Association is a non profit, non-political, secular, tax-exempt, registered organization. APWA was established in 2004 by concerned American Palestinian women in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area (DC, VA, MD).

For more information contact: american.palestinian.women@gmail.com

An Open Letter to the Chair of Instructional Quality Commission, CA

13 Nov

Dear Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond,

American Palestinian Women’s Association is dismayed by California’s Department of Education’s attempt to suppress our children’s narrative. As mothers of American Palestinian children we ask you to consider how your commission’s decision  to ignore and muzzle their voice and narrative affects their development. How can we expect our children to develop into competent and caring citizens when they are silenced at school, and their truth and the world they intimately know and care about is shunned?

California is home to a large American Palestinian community, ignoring their right to be included in CA’s state standards is not only indefensible, it is wrong. As Americans we already know the cost of excluding the narrative of some students for the benefit of others. A mountain research exists that documents the harmful impact of past school practices that intentionally excluded the voice of Native and African Americans. These practices have severely impacted the character of our nation. The social and racial divisions we abhor and lament today, are the direct result of past school programs that promoted and highlighted the heritage and history of some Americans and intentionally excluded others.

An inclusive curriculum that respects the background of all students raises the consciousness of everyone. It is an essential component of creating an informed, compassionate, and better educated America. Inclusive schools are critical change agents. They are essential in building principled citizens and inclusive democratic societies. 

Like all other American children, our children should feel welcomed by teachers and peers alike. Regardless of their religious and ethnic background their truth should be respected. An inclusive Arab American series within the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) is absolutely critical to the well being of our children, as well as all other school children. Irrespective of the political inclination of educators, policy makers, and school leaders, the heritage and narrative of every public school student should be honored and respected by their school community. This is not only important to the individual student; it is also the correct and morally right approach. 

As parents, educators, and citizens of this country we must use every means to fight all expressions of hate and divisiveness, and we must not carry and promote ill guided exclusive political agendas. For example, reasonable Americans believe that school policies should not be dictated by those who want to erase our role in the slave trade and its brutal affect on generations of African Americans. They would argue that inclusive schools that teach and learn about our colonial past are pro America. They protect and promote our national character, values, and democratic principles. Correspondingly, ignoring the long struggle of the Palestinian people will not erase their truth or history. More importantly, it will not advance the just call of the Jewish people or the Palestinian people to be free of bigotry and hate.

We strongly support the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance original purpose of tracking anti- Semitism. However, including the IHRA’s controversial “definition” of anti-Semitism that aim to mute any criticism of Israel’s right wing governments and their policies in the ESMC will not benefit anyone-not even Israelis or the Jewish people- but it will harm many. 

Kenneth Stern, the anti-Semitism expert at the American Jewish Committee, was the first scholar to articulate and define the intent of IHRA, and he says “it’s been subverted“. Stern helped unify our understanding of the world’s oldest form of hatred. Yet, he strongly objects to how the IHRA definition has become a tool to silence critics of Israel’s political agenda and its military occupation policies. To mute and dismiss the Palestinian people and narrative. We genuinely believe that denying the history and narrrative of the Palestinian people subverts the moral fabric of the Israeli people and undermines their democratic values. Moreover, when the IHRA definition is improperly used for political objectives, and especially when it is formulated and used to advance Israel’s right wing extremists, it harms Israel and the Jewish people. They are not alone. It also puts the Palestinians and their supporters in danger.

California’s educational standards often inform other state and local school districts nationwide. If the proposed ESMC is adopted, it will be copied and promoted by anti-Palestinian groups as a model for other states. Excluding the Palestinian narrative is not only suspect, it is reckless. A robust Arab American program that includes the Palestinian narrative within the ESMC is totally reasonable, and it is the right school policy. As an educator, I know you understand the merits of this letter and the importance of honoring all your students.  For all the above reasons, we are calling on you and the IQC to:

  • Educate students on the dangers of anti- Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and all expressions of hate of the other,
  • Return the Arab American lesson plan to where it belongs, within Asian American studies,
  • Stop censoring Palestinian narratives from Arab-American lesson plans,
  • Remove all definitions of anti-Semitism that fuse criticism of Israel or Zionism to anti-Semitism.

Respectfully,

Dr. Mai Abdul Rahman

President

American Palestinian Women’s Association

Overturning Roe v. Wade Challenges American Muslim Women’s Religious Right to Choose 

27 Oct

Overturning Roe v. Wade would challenge American Muslim Women’s religious rights they had secured 1420 years ago, and since 610 A. D.. Abortion is permitted to save the life of the pregnant woman; to preserve the woman’s physical health; her mental health; to protect the health of the living baby if the mother is nursing a child, and in cases of fetal impairment, incest or rape. For Muslim American Women, the intrusive intervention of the state on the female body robs them of the rights they had already secured.

mai abdul rahman October 2020

The Mulim woman is the centeral figure in deciding whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Islam gives the woman full responsibility over her body- her decision and choice cannot be dictated by the state or imam. The decision to bear a child must not jeopardize the mother’s mental and physical health. “A mother should not be made to suffer because of her child…” The Holy Quran (Surat Al-Baqara, 2:233). For that reason Islam does not criminalize abortion and holds women responsible for their action on the day of judgment.

Abortion can be defined as the termination of a pregnancy at any stage before childbirth. It is an old settled issue for Muslims, but is living topic for debate and disputation among American Christians whose religious beliefs dominate the US political class, the courts, and the social discourse. In the US, the debate about when life begins is used to challenge the right of women to terminate a pregnancy, and their right to choose when to bear or not bear a child. However, for other pre Christian faiths and Muslims in particular, this issue was settled more than 1400 years ago.

The Influence of Christianity and Demography on American Woman’s Right to Choose

The majority of Christian scholars believe that the ‘ensoulment’ (which refers to the creation of a soul within, or the placing of a soul and the formulation of a human being) takes place at the moment of conception, hence, the Roman Catholic Church, regards abortion, at any stage (from conception to birth) as forbidden and immoral.  The Church of England does accept abortion under some circumstances, but shares the Roman Catholic view that abortion is ‘gravely contrary to the moral law’. And most Protestants, believe that the fetus is either a potential human life or an actual human life that must be protected. However, Protestants allow abortion in extreme situations to preserve the life or health of the mother. 

While not all Americans are White and not all White Americans are Christians, today, the most dominant opposition to abortion is associated with White Evangelical Christians. This is a recent development that evolved after the civil rights movement had succeeded in actualizing the constitutional rights of Black Americans. Before desegregation evangelicals saw abortion as largely a Catholic issue. In fact, before and after Roe v. Wade the Southern Baptist Convention passed three resolutions (1971, 1974 and 1976) affirming woman’s right and access to abortion. 

In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” This changed when Evangelical leaders framed abortion as a threat to Christian values, and terminating a pregnancy is murder. This shift reflected worries about desegregation and immigration, which they viewed as potential risks to America’s social and racial order and demographic composition.

During the 1980’s, one specific social trend played a major role in influencing the cultural position of White Evangelicals on abortion. With the substantial growth of non-European immigrants, White woman’s right and access to abortion was viewed as a serious threat to White’s numerical advantage, and maintaining demographic controls became necessary.

This change in attitude among White Evangelists was in line with White supremacists who also viewed abortion as a direct threat to White Americans. In their view, White women’s right to choose would alter the growth of America’s White population and unfavorably shift the demographic racial structure in the US.  

Abortion is a Settled Issue for Muslim American Women

Among other Abrahamic religions (Muslims and Jews) women’s right to choose is protected based on a set of conditions. Muslims whether Sunni or Shiite, White, Black and all shades in between agree that abortion is permitted during the 120 days of pregnancy. And abortion is not only permissible, but must be performed at any stage of pregnancy if the mother’s life is endangered.  

Islam allows abortion based on a central passage in the Qur’an that describes the stages of pregnancy from conception to a ‘full-fledged’ child. The Qur’an (Surat AI-Mu’minun, 23: 12–14): describes each stage as follows: “And certainly did We create humans from an extract of clay (Alaqah), Then We placed it as a sperm-drop in a firmly fixed lodging (first stage: 14 days). Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh] (second stage: 40 days), and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh (third stage: 80-120 days); then We developed it into another creation (fourth stage: 121 days- to birth). So blessed is Allah, the best of creators.” This passage has defined and shaped the perspectives of Muslim scholars and the Sharia’ (Islamic law) on the gestational stages of a typical pregnancy.

It is also relevant to note that historically, and throughout the 18th and 19th Century, and during the Ottoman Empire, Muslims did not believe abortion is a crime. So while abortion is permitted until the end of the fourth month of pregnancy, in some cases, it is allowed beyond 120 days to protect the emotional, mental, and physical well being of women. Based on this, Muslim scholars from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran issued Fatwas (legal rulings) in favor of abortion in cases of fetal impairment. In 1993, when rape was a huge concern among Bosnian women Muslim scholars issued Fatwas that sanctioned their right to choose.

Islam also includes a central philosophical tradition of acceptance of family and individual prerogative: ‘God alone (not an imam or legislator) knows what is right and wrong when terminating a pregnancy.’ The individual conscience is considered a better guide for action, since it is ultimately the individual woman who will have to answer to God. This philosophical perspective has protected women’s rights to their bodies and their right to choose. Additionally, Islam gives exclusive allowances to the couples to decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. Accordingly, any prohibitive political and governmental rulings on abortion is considered an outside intrusion on an intimate matter. This position restricted the encroaching role of the state, its officials and courts from violating the right of the woman to choose.

What About Other Faiths?

In Judaism abortion is permitted in the first forty days of pregnancy. Judaism considers the mother’s life more important than that of the fetus, and the embryo to be of relatively lesser value than the living mother during a pregnancy. Abortion is also permitted for what it considers serious reasons and after consultation with a rabbi competent to give advice on such matters.  And among Dharmic religions, Western and Japanese Buddhists believe in the permissibility of abortion. India a majority Hindu country allows abortion until 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion: A Private Matter is Publicly Disputed

Unfortunately, in the US women’s right to choose is a political and legal battle waged by Christians- irrespective of their position on abortion. State legislators debate it and federal courts codify it without regard to woman’s right to her body, or her mental, emotional, and physical well being. Thus transferring the concept of the woman’s right to her body and her perception of self from that which is an intimate private matter to the public sphere. 

What is American Muslim Women Perspective on Abortion?

American Muslim women views on abortion are more complex than those advanced by other Americans. Based on their faith they are both for the right to choose and are pro life. Islam is pro-life in its protection of women’s health and well being, the living child’s health and well-being, and also protects the life of the unborn: The Holy Quran (Surat Al An’am, 6:151) “Do not kill your children for fear of poverty, for it is we who shall provide sustenance for you as well as for them.” Meaning, abortion for fear of economic hardship is not permissible. Muslim women are also pro choice. Based on clrearly defined reasons, their faith gives them the right to choose whether or not to bear a child. However, in the US, this middle ground perspective is absent.

Adding Insult to Injury

While the raging debate ignores the faith traditions of all other women, but those of the Christian faith, it also ignores woman’s right to self-determination. Disrespecting the important role women play in managing and making decisions that affect their personal well being and the well being of their families. They also challenge women’s rights to personhood. The woman’s body, her pregnancy, when and where, and whether she can choose to abort are legal arguments crafted by local and state legislators and the courts.

State’s interference on the female body challenges American Muslim women’s right to personhood, religious and constitutional rights, and citizenship rights. By robbing woman’s right to self determine, her most intimate decisions are influenced and modified by strict legal prohibitions that aim to decrease her safe access to abortion and intrude on her religious right to decide. The US abortion debate is a zero sum game that ignores the views and traditions established and practiced by others.

American Christians’ eager to deny women’s right to choose and those who want to protect it dominate the abortion debate. They overlook the beliefs and practices of other faiths. Excluding the position of other Abrahamic faiths and the views of all other faiths infringes on the established rights of countless of women whose right to choose is a religious protected right.

Muslim American women want to protect the right of women to choose and also honor their living seeds from birth to adulthood. Framing women’s right to her body as a public health and demographic issue is a perplexing problem that baffles American Muslim women wit and logic. It robs them of their right to personhood and citizenship, and the right to choose- a consequential right they had already secured.

Time will tell if the First Amendment protects American Muslim women right to choose. In the meantime, they reflect on how to effectively respond to those in the US who are eager to codify, regulate, and limit whether, when and under what circumstances they may obtain an abortion. A novel problem that was resolved 1420 years ago.

Help APWA Deliver School Supplies to 139 Navajo Nation Students

10 Aug

Mai Abdul Rahman July 2020

All it takes is just $40 to provide one student a backpack and the essential school supplies. Yet many Navajo Nation students will start this school year without backpacks or basic school supplies. Help American Palestinian Women’s Association (APWA) deliver 139 school bags and essential supplies to students attending Rocky Ridge Boarding School (KG-grade 8), where 100% of the school children qualify for free and reduced school meals

On September 16, 2020, Rocky Ridge Boarding School will welcome back its students. The school serves one of the poorest counties in the nation, where more than 38% of the homes are without running water, 32% live without electricity, and 31% of the families live without indoor plumbing. In the meantime, the Navajo Nation is struggling to contain COVID19 and is plagued with the highest unemployment rate in the nation (70%).

When families cannot afford to pay rent and feed their children, buying school supplies becomes a luxury. A modest donation of $40 will make it possible for one Rocky Ridge Boarding School student to start the 2020-2021 school year prepared and confident. Access to free school supplies increases student preparedness and participation; is critical to creating a more equal learning instructional environment; and significantly increases student self esteem.

With your help, APWA will deliver backpacks full with the necessary school supplies to all Rocky Ridge Boarding School students. We are counting on you. Please send your donation to: American Palestinian Women’s Association, 4800 ChowanAvenue, Alexandria, VA. 22312. 

Thank you.

***American Palestinian Women’s Association is a non profit, non-political, secular, tax-exempt, registered organization established in 2004 by concerned American Palestinian women in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area (DC, VA, MD).

Remembering the Stateless Palestinian Refugees on World Refugee Day

20 Jun

The United Nations’ World Refugee Day is an annual reminder that the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees are one of the most vulnerable people in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-racism protests that have transfixed the nation’s attention have demonstrated how urgently we need to fight against privileged status, and how firm we must be in demanding equal rights for all people. The pursuit of equal justice demands building a world where no human being is made a stateless refugee to privilege another.

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mai abdul rahman            June 2020

The United Nations’ World Refugee Day is observed on June 20th.  It is an annual reminder of the  Palestinian refugees whose families were forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution and violence. They were coerced into leaving their homes, lands, and orchards to house European Jews, who moved into the homes Palestinians built and owned, and have since enjoyed the fruit of the lands their ancestors tilled since the birth of Jesus Christ.

Today, the Jews who forced the Palestinians off their land and displaced them are privileged citizens of the Israeli State, but the million Palestinians whose homes and ancestral lands Israelis claim are stateless people without legal protection, country or nationality. Stateless Palestinians do not belong to any country, and their stateless situation opens them to grave injustices. They are discriminated against, and are excluded from access to essential services, health care, education, employment, and the right to own property.

No woman, man, or child should ever again be forced to endure such a cruel and humiliating experience, unable to reclaim what is rightfully theirs, blocked from returning to their beloved homeland, and unable to seek a life free of discrimination and injustice. Committing generations of Palestinians to live in refugees camps is cruel and heartless.

It has never been clearer of the importance of actively working towards finding a sustainable solution where the rights of every human being is honored. Creating a just and inclusive world demands Israelis to recognize the pain they inflicted on the Palestinian refugees and the role they played in forcing them to flee their homeland.

The pursuit of equal justice demands building a world where no human being is made a stateless refugee to privilege another. Israelis need to begin building a world where equal justice is a right fulfilled and empathy is its common currency, and Palestinians need to be able to envision a just world where forgiveness and compassion are attainable.

Black Lives Matter

3 Jun

American Palestinian Women’s Association Stands Shoulder to Shoulder with Our African American Brothers and Sisters.

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Mai Abdul Rahman                June 2020

After the entire country (Black, White, and every shade in between) banded together to keep the COVID19 at bay, America’s persistent pandemic of violent brutality and racism reminded us that unless we eradicate hate from all our institutions we are forever morally implicated for every life hate takes.

Early March, Americans united to fight a common challenge. It was most impressive to witness Americans of all races and ethnicities work together to slow the spread of the novel virus to protect fellow Americans. COVID19 does not discriminate. By May, the United States surpassed 100,000 deaths. It disproportionately took more African American lives and left many of them jobless and their families without income. Add insult to injury, as they fought off the COVID19 to protect us and their community, they were reminded of America’s unique and persistent brutal pandemic that also disproportionally targets them. As we mourn the recent deaths of Breonna TaylorAhmaud Arbery, and George Floyd we demand police brutality ends. 

As mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers we are filled with a wide range of emotions provoked by the cold and heartless murder of Mr. George Floyd. When Mr. Floyd said that he could not breathe, our hearts ached with deep sorrow. We cried when he called for his mother. And we were filled with anger when no one responded to his pleas and came to his rescue. And we are also heartened by the ongoing battle for justice, equality, and peace waged across our nation.

As mothers, we cannot ignore the issues that are plaguing our communities. Like our African American sisters, we also have had talks with our own children on what to do when encountering a police officer. While this discussion is new for our community and became necessary after September 11, 2001, unfortunately, for our African American sisters, fear of law enforcement officers began many years ago with the birth of our nation. We cannot continue to fear the police and avoid our police departments whose missions are to protect Americans from physical harm–us and our African American neighbors and friends.

America’s deeply embedded racial legacy continues to produce inequity in all it forms, as COVID19 is clearly demonstrating. Ending America’s hateful legacy can no longer be postponed or delayed. The time to stop racism is now. For that reason, we are making a public plea for all members of our community to be the activist, leaders, advocates, and scholars that advance social justice in words and deeds, in speech, in writing, narrative, rhetoric, philosophy,  research, theater, dance, film, disposition, fellowship, and leadership.

As Palestinians, we know the struggle for equal rights is difficult, but we also know working for justice liberates the abused and abuser, the corrupt police and their victims. Staying focused on restorative justice and service we can become proactive social agents for change. Ending racism is our collective responsibility, its weight has never been heavier or more costly in life and limb than today. Our African American sisters and brothers have raised their voices and called for equal justice for all Americans for far too long.  Today more than ever they need us to join them and loudly demand an end to the chronic injustice that has marred our nation since its inception. Equal Justice for all Americans is a non-negotiable right, and absolutely yes, Black Lives Matter!

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The Birth and Life of Jesus is the Living Experience of the Palestinian Christians

10 Dec

Christmas season in Palestine is unlike any experienced by any Church in the world.  In Palestine, Advent marks the birth of the faith of the Palestinian Christians, their witness, and truths. Jesus lived and witnessed a heartless world, confronted injustice and defended the vulnerable. No place on earth is more callous than the Israeli occupied and militarized Palestine where Jesus was born.

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Mai Abdul Rahman     December 2019

In Palestine the Advent season is unlike any experienced by any Church in the world. For the Palestinian Christians, observing Advent in context and purpose is defined by their uninterrupted connection to the first followers of the Christian faith. During Advent, Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus and remember the real meaning of Christmas. For the Christians of Palestine it marks the beginning of their faith and  the daily truths they live that determine the measure of their hardships.

On the first day of Advent candles are lit and church pastors in their special way mark the beginning of the Christmas season. Palestinians never take for granted these simple acts of faith. Advent under Israel’s unpredictable political climate and military occupation is an out of the ordinary experience. Observing Advent is a test of faith. Fulfilling the same customs set by their ancestors thousands of years ago is a trial of endurance. Even dipping the first candle in freshly pressed olive oil and lighting the last candle are formidable challenges. In Palestine, preparing for Advent and celebrating Christmas requires greater effort, ceaseless worry, and abundance of faith. The desperate world Jesus lived is affirmed in the daily trials and tribulations of ordinary Palestinians. No place on earth is like the Israeli occupied and militarized Palestine.

Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem to bring joy to the world. On the first week of Advent the birth of Jesus is commemorated by lighting Christmas trees in town squares across the world without fear or apprehension. However, the city of Bethlehem’s Christmas tree is lit right beneath Israel’s illegal wall and watchtowers that seal Palestinians from their families and the rest of the world. Palestinians take comfort that Jesus also lived in a desperate and cruel world. However, those truths do not make it any easier for them to live an unjust world.

Celebrating Advent is ordinary and effortless for most Christians. But not for the Palestinian Christians. It requires special permits from Israel’s military administrators. During Advent church pastors, priests, and bishops all across the world recite the story of Jesus, his birth,  life and family that hailed from Nazareth. An Nasira (Nazareth) is less than sixty miles away from the Church of Bethlehem. For Palestinians the prospect of traveling 3,232 miles to Sweden is more plausible than clearing the 103 military manned Israeli check points that separate Bethlehem from An Nasira.

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The Christmas season is a time of spiritual reflection on the important foundations of the Christian faith. Palestinian Christians celebrate God’s love for the world within their walled and sieged churches. The tiny manger where Jesus was born is kept in the Church Bethlehem under the watchful eyes of Israel’s military occupation soldiers- who control their movement and access to their cherished church. Cruelty is carried on unabated in the same land and fields where Jesus witnessed wicked callousness.

During Advent the story of Jesus and the heartless world He experienced are abstractly described around the world. For the Palestinians, the cruel world Jesus confronted is contextually understood through the imposed conditions made possible by the callousness of neighbors and strangers. The life and world Jesus encountered is the living experience of Palestinian Christians.

Palestinians reside in the small town where Jesus was born, their cities were visited by Jesus, their fields is where Jesus the shepherd roamed, their orchards shaded Jesus, and His sermons were heard and recounted by their ancestors. Within their walled off churches, towns, and communities Palestinians contemplate each detail about the birth and life of Jesus. However, unlike all others, these biblical stories are an affirmation of their strong connection to the first Christians and ancestral churches they must protect.

During the last week of Advent, clerics and priests retell the story of the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks at night and were foretold of the birth of Jesus. Palestinian shepherds roam the same fields keeping watch over their flocks day and night afraid of Israel’s settlers and soldiers who at will and without cause harm them and their flock. As an infant, Jesus promised peace on earth, ultimate and permanent peace, but the peace promised has yet to materialize for the Palestinians. The descendents of the first church are walled and sieged as the world silently watches the zealots actively plot and plan their demise and the downfall of the Jewish people and Israel.

Christmas Day, Catholic and Protestant clerics will bear their ecclesiastical vestments that display Palestinian traditional dalmatic embroidery that was first worn by early Palestinian clerics. They will quote the scripture that was elucidated by early Palestinian scholars. Yet, few if any, will utter a word of concern for the plight of the Palestinian Christians. Their daily struggle to worship and maintain Christendom’s first churches are ignored.

Jesus defended the innocent. Cruelty is facilitated in the land and fields where Jesus protected the vulnerable. By any means necessary, Christian Zionists want Palestinians to relinquish their ancestral lands to the Israeli settlers. They strategically choose to intensify the tension and conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. They scheme to empty and reshape the Palestinian landscape. By funding, supporting, and expanding Israel’s illegal settlements they encourage the robbing Palestinian lands, fields, and water. Their goal is to affect the life and livelihood Palestinians. The consequences of their actions on the Palestinian Christians is by design.  In their view, Palestinian Christians are the necessary casual victims in their plot and scheme to hasten Armageddon.  However, unlike the Christian Zionists, Palestinian Christians faithfully advocate peace for friend and foe. They practice and honor the faith of their forefathers, speak truth to power, and work for justice and peace for their own people, and their occupiers. They carry the cross saddled upon them by fellow Christians with grace.

The Palestinian Christians live the true meaning of Advent all year long. Two thousand years of faith connects them to their past and present. Neglected by those who share the tenants of their faith, they draw comfort from the just and compassionate path that Jesus called upon their ancestors. Their faith is their hope. They pray the sluggish conscious of the faithful is aroused. And tirelessly work to bring peace where the Prince of Peace was born.

 

 

Peace is Doomed Without the Full Participation of Palestinian and Israeli Women 

1 Sep

Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists must become fully involved in shaping the peace they envision. Their shared outlook on the human cost of the Israeli military occupation on their young is an asset to Palestinians and Israelis. Had they been invited to participate, especially during the Oslo negotiations, Palestinians and Israelis would more likely be living as neighbors. But all is not lost.

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mai abdul rahman        September 2019

Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists share a unique perspective on the impact of the Israeli military occupation. Their outlook on the human cost of the daily violence on their young transcends the general view held by the predominantly male political establishment within Israel and Palestine.

Women Peace Activists Surpass the Limits of their Political Landscape

In spite of their difficult political environment, Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists have managed to transcend their fractured communities. They have built trusting relationships to end the cyclical wars and senseless suffering. They are guided by one shared goal. To realize the peace that has eluded Palestinians, Israelis, and the world. Their absence in every major and minor development as well as the decades long failed peace process has proved too costly. The relationships they built during and since 1980’s are an asset to Palestinians and Israelis.

The Making of Women Peace Activists

During the first Intifada (shaking off in Arabic) in the late 1980’s, Palestinian women began organizing at the grass roots level with Israeli women. Many Israeli women lead protests against Israel’s occupation policies within Israel. Together they collaborated in organizing events that involved educating Israelis about the occupation. Israeli women were actively involved with Palestinian women in planning and documenting Israel’s acts of violence, and participated in nonviolent direct action alongside Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Both parties understood the human cost of the occupation on their young, and both were driven to end it.

Transcending the Political Divide

Palestinian-Israeli women activism took root during the first Intifada. Twenty years after Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, an Israeli military truck collided with cars carrying Palestinian laborers in the Jabalya refugee district of Gaza. Four Palestinians were left dead, and another 10 were wounded. Few hours later, Palestinians spontaneously poured into the streets of Gaza. The following day, on December 8, 1987, Israeli soldiers killed a 17 years old Palestinian protester, and injured 14 others including underage children, sparking the first Intifada. Their exasperation of two decades of Israeli occupation was mirrored across the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A massive nonviolent uprising soon spread throughout occupied Palestine. Israel’s brutal response towards the Palestinian protesters gave the impetus for Israeli women peace activists to mobilize against Israel’s military occupation and policies.

The Israeli  military response to the unarmed protesters included a government sanctioned policy of breaking the bones of Palestinians irrespective of their age rapidly increased the number of fatalities. For example, in one swoop, the entire young population in Ama’ri refugee camp were “hopping on crutches or were in casts.” By any measure, this official Israeli response was too much to stomach.

According to the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, during the first Intifada alone the Israeli forces killed 1,070 Palestinians, including 237 children, arrested and routinely tortured more than 175,000 Palestinians many of whom were underage children. To boot, Israel’s illegal settlers  killed 254 Palestinians and injured countless others. In addition, Israel imposed long and recurring school suspensions (Kindergarten-college) and curfews, and deported hundreds of household heads. Israel’s open hostility towards the Palestinian protesters evoked the compassion of most observers including some Israelis.

More critically, the first Intifada’s limited aim gained the support of Israeli women. Palestinians sought self-determination only within the Palestinian Territories, not all of historic Palestine where from many of the protesters were forcefully expelled rendering them homeless stateless refugees. Their primary motivation was to divest from Israel’s military rule. The fierce desire of the approximately 1.7 million Palestinians, who had lived for two decades under the strict mandates of the Israeli military occupation to be free, made it possible for Israeli women to join the Palestinian call.

Also during that period, Palestinian women’s collectives had multiplied across the occupied territories. These collectives were keenly interested in reaching out to Israeli women. This was a radical departure from the past. The goals of the Palestinian Women’s Action Committees, the Working Women’s Committees, the Union of Women’s Committees, and the Women’s Committee for Social Work included the engagement of Israeli women.

Within the Green Line (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza) Palestinian women lost husbands, children, relatives, and communities. They witnessed unspeakable cruelty. In addition to confronting Israel’s daily violence on unarmed protesters, women faced family separation, and food insecurity that affected them and psychologically traumatized their children. Their social structures were destroyed, their relationships and traditional networks were severed, and they were left to head their households and communities

Israel’s harsh measures left a leadership void in every Palestinian sector, which necessitated Palestinian women to step in. They took over top political positions issuing directives to guide the Palestinian uprising, and managed the daily needs of thier communities.  Palestinian women coordinated strike days, distributed secret leaflets outlining weekly protest strategies, organized tax revolts, operated underground schools, ran agricultural collectives, set up mobile clinics and victory gardens, and sanitation projects. The first Intifada showcased Palestinian women as leaders and organizers. Above all, their collaborative association with Israeli women across the Green Line changed perspectives in their own society.

On the other side of the Green Line, Israeli women began establishing women lead groups in support of the Palestinian demands. ‘Women in Black’ was organized in 1988 to protest Israel’s military occupation. Israeli women were also key players in forming several Israeli human rights organizations including ‘B’Tselem’ and the ‘Israeli- Palestinian Committee Confronting the Iron Fist’. Several female Israeli lawyers, most notably Felicia Langer and Leah Tsemel dedicated their time and legal practice to defend Palestinian activists and prisoners in Israeli courts. Both were instrumental in calling attention to Israel’s mistreatment of underage children. All of which made it possible for Palestinians to distinguish between the Israeli State and its far right politicians whose actions robbed them their freedoms and lands, and Israel’s peace activists who rejected the actions of the Israeli State, its settlement enterprise, and political leaders. Their earnest dedication gained the respect of many Palestinians. It also opened the space for Israelis to question the human cost of Israel’s military policies.

The Budding of a Possible Peace and its Doom

While the mass mobilization during the first Intifada was not new for Palestinian women, the inclusion and cooperation of Israeli and Palestinian women at every level of society was distinctive. The collaborative efforts of Palestinian and Israeli schoolteachers, nurses, farmers, lawyers, and housewives played a central role in ushering the Madrid Conference and Oslo Accords.

During the peak of the first Intifada on November 15, 1988, the Palestinian National Assembly met in the Algerian capital where members endorsed the Palestinian Declaration of Independence.  On May 22, 1989, the US Secretary of State, James Baker, addressed AIPAC. He told attendants Israel should end its expansionist policies. This brought about renewed international interest for advancing the two state solution. In 1991, President George H. Bush called on the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives to negotiate an end of the Israeli occupation.

However, the official Palestinian and Israeli delegation was largely made up of men. Half of the two populations were represented by  two Palestinian women and one Israeli woman. Strikingly, the sole woman representative on the Israel negotiating team was the chair of the Likud in the Knesset, Sarah Doron.  The Madrid Conference lead to the Oslo signing, an incomplete agreement.  Soon after, it became clear ending Israel’s military occupation was “more distant” than before the first Intifada. The Oslo Accords entrenched Israel control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza by circumventing the economic and human rights of the Palestinians.

The Exclusion of the Palestinian and Israeli Women

Many have since argued that excluding the Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists may have doomed the peace negotiations from the onset. A recent study of 40-peace processes in 35 countries, found that when women activists were heavily involved, agreement that satisfies both sides was more likely. The active participation and engagement of women resulted in long-lasting peace.

If the goal of a peace process is to build peace, than the individuals and groups who created bridges of understanding and brought the parties to negotiate peace should be represented. Both shared an interest in ending Israel’s military rule that exacts a heavy price on the young Israelis who administer Israel’s military policies as well as the Palestinians. Nonetheless, the Accords were ultimately negotiated entirely by men. As time progressed they even excluded the three women representatives from the discussions.

Research shows that if members of Israel’s peace movement that was dominated by women had the opportunity to participate, the terms of the agreement would have been different. Denying them their earned right to participate made it possible for Israel to dictate terms that helped the continuation of its occupation policies. Similarly, the Palestinian women who bore the brunt of the first Intifada were largely absent. Their victimization, endurance, and skillful ability to reach across the Green Line were dismissed. Their active participation in the negotiations from beginning to end would have more likely produced sustainable outcomes.

Women participation in the peace process broaden the discussions on the needs of the both parties. Their participation ensures the two parties address wide range of social, economic, human rights, and security measures that protect the rights of all. However, men largely focus on their respective security fears, try to maintain their power and hold, and disregard the needs of the other party. From negotiation to implementation the Oslo Accords are a case study on how to maintain the status quo.

The absence of the Palestinian and Israeli women peace activists was a significant contributing factor that produced the flawed Oslo Accords. The abundance of data on the role of women in building sustainable peace proves it. Excluding the Israeli and Palestinian women who desire peace resulted in the failure of the Oslo Accords. In fact, the Oslo Accords extended and entrenched Israel’s military occupation, and authorized the expansion of its settlements. These facts are irrefutable.

We may never know what could have been possible if the Israeli and Palestinian women activists and leaders were invited as full participants. However, there is a mountain of evidence that their participation could have produced a different outcome. Women participation is linked to expanding discussions on democracy, human rights, and mutual security, all of which would have changed the Oslo outcomes. More importantly, if the goal of a peace process is to build peace, than it makes sense that individuals and groups who seek and work for peace participate.

All is Not Lost

To date, Palestinian and Israeli women continue to collaborate and organize. Many are members and leaders of several NGO’s. They tirelessly advocate for the end of Israel’s military rule, organize, and participate in non-violent action against Israel’s settlement expansion schemes. While there is little both can do under Israel’s current political climate, they continue to operate under Israel’s severely restrictive military laws and military occupation. Women in both societies are participating in nonviolent activism to push their political leaders toward a peaceful settlement, and call for equal rights in their own society and for their neighbors. In the meantime, past failures are  informative.

While peace between Israelis and Palestinians may now seem a distant prospect, women’s leadership and involvement in grass-roots organizing, peace-building and nonviolent resistance on both sides of the Green Line are hopeful signs that deserve recognition. When the future presents another opportunity for meaningful peace negotiations among Israelis and Palestinians, the women peace activists must take their earned seats. Without them a lasting peace is not likely.

 

Ramadan Mubarak

5 May

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims across the globe devote the entire month to thoughtful reflection, fasting, prayer, and compassion towards all God’s creatures. For example, for the past 1,440 Ramdans, Muslims are prohibited from hunting animals. Ramadan is dedicated for spiritual cleansing, repentance, redemption, healing, and giving. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims demonstrate their repentance through genuine acts of kindness towards others to mend the heart, soul, and health of the individual and community.

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Ramadan Kareem: May your acts of forgiveness and kindness grant you God’s grace and mercy

Muslims affectionately call  the 9th month of the Hijra calendar Ramadan Kareem, ‘Generous Ramadan’. It describes the heaps of rewards worshipers and community receive through prayfullness, genuine acts of compassion, forgiving, and altruistic acts of giving. Prayer and soul searching purify and rid the soul from harm committed by oneself. Genuine acts of mercy heal the worshiper and community. Tenderness and kindness towards the weak, poor, and suffering eases the burden of the distressed. Supplication, inner soul searching, and outward expressions of benevolence are performed to seek God’s pleasure and absolution.

Absolution requires sincere effort to awaken and recalibrate the conscience. Heartfelt reflection on the impact of ill deeds committed upon others and repentance, forgiving those who committed harm upon the individual and community, and easing the burden of the powerless, destitute, ill, heartbroken, and despondent.

Deliverance demands honest desire to alleviate suffering. For those of means it requires her to share her wealth with those in need, a friend, neighbor, or relative experiencing financial hardships, and by being kind, humane, and magnanimous. For those without the means genuine acts of forgiveness and the sharing a kind word, a smile, a warm greeting, and if possible sharing a meal is an expression of the spirit of the Holy month of Ramadan. Whether giving or receiving there is a blessing and grace in each exchange.

Ramadan is a reminder of our shared responsibility towards one another, the less fortunate, and an affirmation that each of us has the means to make a difference.  Heartfelt prayer, self-examination, purposeful deeds centered on compassionate giving and healing bless the giver and receiver. Hence, Ramadan is believed to bring blessings to all mankind.

While supplication and self reflection expunge pain, genuine acts of compassion towards all God’s creatures are performed to receive God’s mercy. However, they are incomplete without attending to the needs of the weak, and easing the burden of the poor and suffering. Genuine care and benevolence towards those in need heals the heart and mends the soul.

Ramadan Mubarak to one and all! 

APWA Condemns the Despicable Attacks on Christian Worshipers and Others in Sri Lanka

22 Apr

The despicable attacks on Christian worshippers celebrating Easter Sunday and others in Sri Lanka are outrageous and most appalling. May God speed the recovery of those injured, comfort the loved ones of those killed, heal the pain of the people of Sri Lanka, and unite them to erase all forms of hate and bigotry in their nation.

Palestinian American women stand with the people of Sri Lanka and fellow Americans of all faiths in condemning this act and all acts of violence wherever they take place and whomever they target. Today, we ask women around the world to pray and earnestly work to end of hate and division in their midst and in every corner of this earth.

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Happy Easter

20 Apr

This Easter, Palestinian Christians honor Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and sacrificed himself for the oppressed, sick, injured, imprisoned, and poor. They will draw comfort from the words he said of those who like them (Luke 6) struggle under considerable hardships to protect their families, children, life, and livelihood, and work to achieve justice and peace.

 “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be 
  comforted. 
  Blessed are you when people hate you, when they 
  exclude you,insult you and reject your name as evil
  Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after 
  righteousness for they shall be satisfied. 
  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called
  sons of God.
  Blessed are they that have been persecuted for 
  righteousness'sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” 
  (Luke 6).
            Happy Easter to one and All!

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