Thursday, February 11, 2010

ACTION ALERTS! Muslim students threatened with expulsion, and more

Dear friends,

There's been a lot going on lately. Here's just a sampling. I'll be sending my Spring Tour schedule very soon...


On Monday, eleven members of the Muslim Student Union at the University of California at Irvine were arrested after repeatedly interrupting a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren co-sponsored by the UCI Law School and Political Science Department. Following the disruption, the students were arrested and are now being threatened with punishment as severe as expulsion.

Watch a short clip of the event at (skip to minute 10:25). Towards the end you'll see an angry man announcing to each one, "You are failing your exams." You can read why they chose to interrupt Mr. Oren here: The UCI Muslim Student Union is one of the most committed, organized, and inspiring groups I have ever worked with. They are true allies and they need our support now!

Please write UCI Chancellor Michael Drake ( and the Dean of Students (, who will be determining the punishment. Here are some important points to bring up:

* It is unjust to threaten to expel students for having the courage to stand up and speak out against a man responsible for propagating the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
* Civil disobedience has historically played an instrumental role in the civil rights movement in America that fought for equality and human rights for all minorities.
* Michael Oren is a representative of a state that is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in the world, and he should not be honored at UC Irvine.
* As concerned community members, we will not support an educational institution that threatens to punish its students with suspension and expulsion for standing up for their principles.

You can also join their Facebook group, Drop All Charges Against the Eleven (

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In other news, in case you haven't heard, The New York Times has confirmed that the son of Ethan Bronner, their chief reporter on Israel/Palestine, is a soldier in the Israeli Army. The Times announced that it does not see any conflict of interest posed by the Jerusalem bureau chief's familial ties to the Israeli military. The Public Editor, representing readers, determined that Bronner having a son fighting for one side is cause for finding someone else to cover the region (, but the Times editors say they like Bronner's work and so they're keeping him.

I would argue that nobody can remain neutral with their child on one side of crossfire. I would also argue that Bronner has not shown neutrality in the past. American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University Richard Falk co-authored an entire book on the subject (Israel-Palestine on Record: How the New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East), an If Americans Knew study found the Times to be "Off the Charts" in misrepresenting the issue (, and Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has come to similar conclusions (

The Times chose not to disclose Bronner's family ties to the Israeli Army until EI broke the story (, after which they were forced to.

Consider writing the New York Times editors (,, to voice your opinion.

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One piece of good news on the media is that National Public Radio (NPR) aired a piece called "Should Israel Birthright Include Implications for Occupied Territories" contrasting Birthright Israel and Birthright Unplugged ( last month on "Morning Edition" ( NPR generally avoids this issue so even if you're not usually impressed with their coverage, consider writing to thank them (, select "Morning Edition"), with hopes this won't be the last time!

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Once you're done with all that emailing, take to the streets! A coalition of Israelis & Palestinians is working to coordinate an International Day of action on February 25th. This date marks 16 years since the Baruch Goldstein massacre of 29 Palestinians in Hebron, after which Israel closed Shuhada Street to Palestinians. Shuhada Street used to be the principal street in the city of Hebron, with homes, businesses and a very active market place. Today, because it runs through a Jewish settlement, Shuhada Street is closed to Palestinian movement and is a ghost town which only Israelis and tourists are allowed to access. Hate graffiti has been sprayed across the closed Palestinian shops and Palestinians living on the street have to enter and exit their houses by climbing over neighbor's roofs.

The campaign is focusing on Shuhada Street as a symbol of core issues everywhere in the West Bank: Israeli settlements, policies of segregation, restricted movement and the basic denial of freedom for Palestinians. People in cities around the world can participate by symbolically shutting down a major street in their cities and/or organizing a demonstration in a strategic location (i.e Israeli embassy/consulate, city center, college campus, etc.) on February 25th in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of Shuhada Street. Take 2 minutes to watch the campaign video here:

Demonstrations are already scheduled to take place in 15 different locations around the world. For more details about the campaign, join the campaign's Facebook group (, visit the website (, or email

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The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has put out a new program calculating how much your state is giving in military aid to Israel, and what else that money could have bought (eg: affordable housing grants, green jobs training, early reading education, and primary health care). This is a great advocacy tool to bring home the extent to which unconditional support to Israel is not only contrary to international law, human rights, and basic decency, but also local interests:

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Finally, here's a good new website that Haithem El-Zabri just launched: It has informational resources (links to Gaza blogs, diaries, and videos, including the film everyone's talking about: "To Shoot An Elephant" about a team embedded with medics during Operation Cast Lead, which you can download for free), a list of 10 things you can do for Gaza, and a small store where Gaza-related items are offered (with 10% of the proceeds donated half to humanitarian aid and half to advocacy efforts) including T-shirts and hoodies.

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If you got this far, Mazel Tov! Spring Tour schedule coming in the next few days...



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