Copyright © 2003-2011, Aishah Schwartz. Permission granted to circulate among private individuals, groups, or in not-for-profit publications in full text and subject title. All other rights reserved.

April 08, 2010

AMERICAN CITIZEN ALERT! How Much Military Aid to Israel Do YOU Provide?

Between 2009-2018, the United States is scheduled to give Israel--the largest recipient of U.S. aid--$30 billion in military aid. Through its illegal 42-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, Israel misuses U.S. weapons in violation of U.S. law to kill and injure Palestinian civilians, destroy Palestinian civilian infrastructure, blockade the Gaza Strip, and build illegal settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem.

How much of this total will your community provide?  Is this a good use of your tax dollars? What else could your taxes be used for in your community? Find out on the interactive map found here.

TAKE ACTION! Help Me Drown Out Glenn Beck's Net Neutrality Lies (Deadline April 26)

One of Glenn Beck's latest conspiracies involves a "gang of communists" who want to turn the Internet into a "Marxist utopia." That dangerous gang of communists he's warning Fox News viewers against? They're net neutrality supporters.

Glenn Beck has it all wrong: Net neutrality protects -- not threatens -- free speech online. Net neutrality is the principle that Internet users, not Internet service providers, should be in control. It ensures that Internet service providers can't speed up, slow down, or block Web content based on its source, ownership, or destination.

The FCC is accepting public comments until Monday, April 26, on a proposed regulation that would protect net neutrality. Will you join me in saying that you won't be fooled by scare tactics and that you support an open Internet? Just click here to get started.

MWA IN THE NEWS: U.S. Muslims Back Jewish Candidate's Gaza Stance

Launched in 2005, Ma'an News Agency (MNA) publishes news around the clock in Arabic and English, and is among the most browsed websites in the Palestinian territories, with over 3 million visits per month. Considered the main source of independent news from Palestine, MNA has become the first choice for online information for many Palestinians, and is also attracting a growing international readership and interest from prominent international news organizations and agencies.

Bethlehem - Ma'an (April 6, 2010) – The Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) has commended a Jewish-American Senate candidate for his stance against Israel's building of new settlements in East Jerusalem and its ongoing embargo on Gaza.

Jonathan Tasini (D-NY) is vying for the Senate spot up for grabs in the US state of New York's midterm election on 2 November. He must first defeat the incumbent senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, in the Democratic primary.

In continuation of its ongoing campaign to bring awareness to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza, MWA director Aishah Schwartz said that "for the 1.5 million citizens of Gaza, the support of candidates like Tasini cannot come soon enough."

"At a time when news agencies are reporting that nearly 300 members of Congress have signed a letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declaring reaffirmation of their commitment to 'the unbreakable bond that exists between [the US] and the State of Israel,' every voice counts," Schwartz added.

"In working toward educating American citizens about the urgency of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and in stressing to President Obama the dire need for immediate relief in the embattled region, Tasini further supports the 54 U.S. Representatives who delivered a list of embargo-breaking relief efforts to President Obama on January 21," Schwartz said late last month.

The candidate fought then Senator Hillary Clinton in the 2006 Democratic primary. Clinton won an overwhelming majority and her re-election bid. Gillibrand replaced Clinton when she was named Obama's secretary of state shortly after his inauguration last January.

Tasini echoed the Obama administration's criticism of Israel's recent decision to approve the construction of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, stating on his campaign Web site that "the decision by the Israeli government is counter-productive, done in bad-faith and sends a signal that the Israeli government is not serious about reaching a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East—which must result in the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state for any peace agreement to be long-lasting.

"But, our government must go further. I am calling on the Administration to recognize the humanitarian crisis that is taking place every day in Gaza as a result of the Israeli blockade and demand that the blockade be halted immediately. Gaza is home to 1.5 million people who are being denied regular access to food, electricity, and medical supplies because of the blockade," he added.

"The blockade violates international law because it imposes collective punishment on a civilian population as retaliation for the actions of armed groups which are illegally firing rockets at Israeli civilians. Violence against civilians cannot be tolerated—by either side. As well, the blockade will only serve to make long-term reconciliation more difficult because it further embitters a civilian population, which has already suffered decades of poverty and economic hardship because of the lack of a peace agreement and military conflict.

"I speak out not just as a candidate for public office. I speak as a Jew. I speak out as the son of a father who was born in Palestine, and who fought in the Jewish underground. I speak as someone who has had family members killed in the decades-long conflict, and who has lived in Israel and witnessed violence first-hand. And I speak as someone who has many family members still living there—and, therefore, I will not rest nor be silent, as a candidate and as a U.S. Senator, until our government is clearly an unstinting supporter of a two-state solution and is willing to speak up when international law is violated."

According to Schwartz, "The November 2, 2010 midterm senate races are crucial, with seven states holding the potential to affect a shift in the filibuster-proof majority that the Obama administration has held for the past year. New York is one of those states. If we're going to continue to talk about 'change'—let me add that change in U.S. foreign policy that provides funding to Israel for crimes against humanity, cannot come soon enough for the Palestinian people—and there is no better time for US citizens to register to vote."

Schwartz added: "In December 2009 I had the opportunity to see with my own eyes the conditions under which citizens of Gaza currently live; they deserve every glimmer of hope we can provide - and more."



MWA Original Press Release

April 05, 2010

VISA SECURED! MWA Welcomes U.S. Visit of Palestinian Journalist, Mohammed Omer

Omer's admittance into the US is the most recent in a series, demonstrating an apparent reversal in the USA Patriot Act resurrection of 'ideological exclusion'; denying visas to foreign nationals with unfavorable political views.


International Campaign to Assist in Resolution of Visa Delay Resounding Success

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MWA) April 5, 2010
– In the wake of a successful international campaign to assist in resolving a previously unexplained delay in issuance of a visa for his three-city tour of the United States in promotion of the Newberry Library event, "Reflections on Life and War in Gaza", hosted by Haymarket Books, award-winning Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Omer's visit began today in Chicago. 

An email communication received March 26 from the office of the Consular in Amsterdam, just seven days after the March 19, 2010 letter writing campaign began, confirmed that Omer's visa was "was ready for issuance".

MWA joined in the letter writing campaign, launched by Haymarket after what appeared to be an unusually extended delay in issuance of the journalist's visa. MWA Director, Aishah Schwartz reiterated a call for reaffirmation of the Obama administration's pursuit of a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and respect, in line with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) campaign to eradicate ideological exclusion—the practice of denying visas to foreign nationals whose political views the government may appear to disfavor.

In a March 29 update distributed by Haymarket, Omer offered, "The support has been essential, and it proves that public pressure is effective. I am immensely grateful and can't wait to thank all of you in person. I have always regarded the United States as the champion of freedom of the press. This is where I hope to practice this right."

MWA Director, Aishah Schwartz attempted numerous times to solicit additional feedback from the journalist, however, ironically, after receiving the U.S. visa granting him the hoped for right to practice the freedom of the press he sought, he was unable to provide additional comment.

"Reflections on Life and War in Gaza" will be hosted in the U.S. cities of Chicago, Houston and Santa Fe.

Omer's admittance into the United States is the most recent in a series demonstrating an apparent reversal in the USA Patriot Act resurrection of 'ideological exclusion'; the practice of denying visas to foreign nationals whose political views the government apparently disfavors. Ideological exclusion violates Americans' First Amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the U.S.

Foreign nationals recently receiving visas after being initially denied include Oxford's Tariq Ramadan and African scholar and vocal Iraq War critic Dr. Adam Habib. 

The ACLU was instrumental in resolving the visa delay issues of Habib and Ramadan, as announced in January 2010 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to "exercise her exemption authority" for the pair's benefit, thus lifting the ban on their entry into the United States.

In agency reports on Clinton's announcement, State Department spokesman Darby Holiday was quoted saying, "Both the President and the Secretary of State have made it clear that the U.S. government is pursuing  a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

"On the subject of Palestine, I have heard time and again, 'if only Americans knew…'. U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison, following up on the humanitarian crisis that continues to ravage the region, spoke with Palestinian students in Gaza City on April 3 and will brief the U.S. Congress on the situation when he returns. I applaud Congressman Ellison, among 54 U.S. Representatives taking a position of solidarity on January 21, 2010 when they delivered a letter to President Obama advocating for implementation of a variety of immediate relief efforts," Schwartz stated.

The Congressmen stipulated, among other things, movement of people, especially students, the ill, aid workers, journalists, and those with family concerns into and out of Gaza; access to clean water, including water infrastructure materials, access to plentiful and varied food and agricultural materials; access to medicine and health care products and suppliers; access to sanitation supplies, including sanitation infrastructure materials; access to construction materials for repairs and rebuilding; access to fuel; access to spare parts; prompt passage into and out of Gaza for commercial and agricultural goods; and publication and review of the list of items prohibited to the people of Gaza.

Recent news reports indicate slight moves forward in addressing a few of the stipulations brought forward by the Congressmen and supported by MWA in a statement released January 26, 2010.

Palestinian Health officials reported on April 4 that the necessary travel documentation for conjoined twins and their family to travel from Gaza to Saudi Arabia where doctors will separate the week-old infants.  Also, on March 30 it was reported that for the first time in two years, Israel announced a decision to allow thirty truckloads of clothing and shoes into the region over a three-day period. Many of those items, however, are damaged after sitting in storage for so long. Reports in early March also indicated that the Karem Abu Salem crossing was opened briefly to allow entry of 84-94 trucks carrying aid and goods for commercial and agricultural sectors, including limited quantities of cooking gas and industrial diesel to run the Gaza power plant.

"Those efforts, while enjoying mainstream media coverage, are a mere drop-in-the-bucket in relation to the actual needs of the Palestinian people," stated Schwartz, who visited the region in December 2009.

She added, "I look forward to hearing Congressman Ellison's upcoming report in the hope that it will encourage additional support among Representatives not yet fully comprehending the extent of the ongoing humanitarian crisis."

MWA Rejects Ideological Exclusion as US Delays Visa of Palestinian Journalist
MWA Commends Action of 54 U.S. Congressmen Supporting End to Embargo on Gaza
MWA Joins Jewish Voice for Peace in Call for End to Settlement Construction and Blockade of Gaza
Mohammed Omer Campaign Letter to President Obama
MWA Commends Jewish NY U.S. Senate Candidate, Jonathan Tasini on Support of Gaza
MWA Director Arabic Media on Gaza
MWA Director Among 86 Breaking Siege on Gaza
MWA Director, Gaza—Never Forget

Established in 2006, MWA is an internationally-based collaboration of Muslim women writers working together to counter negative and inaccurate perceptions regarding members of the Muslim community and the Islamic faith.

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