Palestinian Americans Weigh in On Homeland Crisis

Palestinian Americans Weigh in On Homeland Crisis

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DEARBORN — As the war rages on Gaza, Palestinian American activists told The Arab American News about the severity of the humanitarian situation, urging the community to organize and mobilize for the Palestinian cause.

Political science professor Abdelhamid Siyam, who writes for the Arabic daily al-Quds al-Arabi and teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey, spoke to The Arab American News over the phone from the West Bank.

He said his contacts inside the Gaza Strip told him that Israel is using "destructive firepower" in its offensive and that most of the victims are civilians, especially women.

"But the morale of the people is high," he said.

Siyam reported hearing sounds of explosions in Jerusalem from rockets fired by Hamas in Gaza. He said there has been a few protests in the West Bank against the Israeli offensive, but they do not rise up to the occasion. He added that the elements for a third intifada are not present because the Palestinian Authority is preventing it.

Siyam said the Israeli army is complacent in settlers' attacks against Palestinians. He said the settlers and the army work as one force to intimidate and "suffocate" Palestinians to push them to immigration.
Settlers burned a Palestinian boy alive last week in an apparant revenge attack for the death of three Israeli teenagers.

"The army protects the settlers, not the palestinians," Siyam said. "But when they commit such a big crime, the media say they will punish them. And then the news stops. Since 1976 until today, not a single settler has received an adequate punishment for killing an Arab. It is all propaganda. Who armed the settlers? Who represents them in the Knesset? Settlers are an inseparable part from the official israeli policy."

Siyam said the prospects for a Palestinian state are dim.

"Israel doesn't want a solution," he said. "It wants land with no people. It wants to separate the West Bank completely from Gaza. Now within the West Bank, Palestinian communities are fragmented by settlements. Israel will put up obstacles and create intended chaos to make it impossible for Palestinians to have a state. Israel's goal is one Jewish state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Now they want the PA to [officially] recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Even a traitor wouldn't do that."

Siyam said U.S. policy on the conflict has not changed strategically because of continued American military and financial support to Israel.

"Obama had good intentions," he said. "But the Israelis do not want peace. They kept building settlements, knowing that it would lead to Palestinians' leaving the negotiations. Even [secretary of state] John Kerry blamed Israel for the collapse of the peace talks."

Hasan Newash, the director of Palestine cultural office in Dearborn, slammed the local Arab American community for not organizing events for Palestine.

"People are busy. They are fasting," he said, sarcastically. "It's shameful."

Newash said all Arabs and Muslims should be working to end the attack on Gaza, adding that the "Dearborn community" is more concerned about the local politics than the events in the Middle East.
"What is the main concern of the organizations in the community here? What's on top of their agenda? It's power politics," he said. "We don't care about the cause. We care about the elections. We care about rising to the top. I expect more from the community for Palestine."

Newash described President Obama's policies on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as "beyond disappointing."

"He's worse than his predecessors," Newash said. "He cannot live up to his own opinions. He says he is against building settlements in the West Bank, but when the issue comes up before the UN Security Council, he vetoes it. It's disgusting."

Newash said Obama's call for peace while reaffirming military and political commitment to Israel is a ploy.

"Who is he trying to fool?" Newash asked. "He's definitely not fooling us. There is no movement on the Palestinian scene. The peace talks are meaningless. Everybody knows that."

Newash said he suspects the Israeli attack on Gaza will be a repetition of the previous wars, in which the Israeli military bombs Palestinians and Hamas keeps firing rockets on Israel until a ceasefire is reached.
"Netanyahu is losing popularity, so he wants to deliver something by punishing Gaza," he said. "But it will be innocent palestinians who get punished at the end. There will be a lot of destruction. It will be a similar scenario to what happened in 2008."

Newash added that Palestinians have less regional support than ever, because of the coup in Egypt-- which ousted Islamist president Mohamad Morsi-- and civil wars in Syria and Iraq.

"The Arab World is dreadful," he said. "There is no pressure on Israel from the rest of the Arab World. There are no signs of hope or progress. Israel will bloody Palestinians out until calm prevails at a certain point."

Local Palestinian activist Dr. Daad Katato echoed Newash's comments about the need for greater mobilization from the community for the Palestinian people.

"Our land is under occupation," Katato said. "Our people are under attack. Gaza is overpopulated, so there is a massacre with every bomb. This is an issue for every human with a free conscience. The humanitarian situation is unbearable there."

Katato suggested that all supporters of the Palestinian people across the United States gather in one demonstration in Washington D.C. to send one loud, clear message of solidarity.

"We must protest and say we refuse that our tax money is being used to kill our people," Katato said.