Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Lawsuit challenges unconstitutional anti-BDS bill in Kansas

Today, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging an anti-BDS law in Kansas.
The Kansas law requires prospective state contractors to certify that they do not support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian rights. The lawsuit challenges the Kansas law on First Amendment grounds, arguing that political boycotts, like boycotts for Palestinian rights, are protected by the First Amendment and that the state cannot condition government contracts on a First Amendment litmus test.
For years, Israel advocacy organizations have engaged in a number of tactics to silence and suppress speech critical of Israeli government policy and supportive of Palestinian rights. Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights documented these efforts in a 2015 report, The Palestine Exception to Free Speech (a 2016 update is available here).
Since 2014, as public support for Palestinian rights has grown, Israel advocacy organizations have increasingly turned to state lawmakers, pressuring them to enact anti-BDS laws. The leader of one Israel advocacy group boasted, “[w]hile you were doing your campus antics, the grown-ups were in the state legislature passing laws that make your cause improbable.” In many states, anti-BDS laws have passed with broad bipartisan support despite warnings from Palestine Legal and other civil liberties experts that the laws infringe on First Amendment-protected rights.
“This lawsuit, the first to challenge an anti-BDS law, will send a clear message to those Israel advocacy groups and legislators who have shown a willingness to trample on constitutional rights in order to shield Israel from criticism and accountability,” said Palestine Legal Director Dima Khalidi. “In the Trump era especially, we must vigilantly safeguard our right to dissent, including the First Amendment right to support boycotts for Palestinian rights. Elected officials should be in the business of safeguarding our constitutional rights, not legislating them away.”
Palestine Legal has worked with human rights activists across the country to oppose anti-BDS bills. While Kansas and 20 other states have enacted anti-BDS laws, activists have successfully defeated anti-BDS legislation in several other states, including Maryland, Virginia, and Montana.
Palestine Legal tracks anti-BDS legislation at www.righttoboycott.org.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Discussing the #RefugeesWelcome Guide on OC Talk Radio's The Raad Life

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Watch Dena Takruri's full speech at 'Arab American Heritage Gala'

If you missed the Arab American Civic Council's second annual Arab American Heritage Gala on April 22, 2017 in Laguna Hills, California, watch Dena Takruri's entire speech here. The AJ+ Senior Presenter received the "Truth in Media" award for her courageous reporting on refugees, Palestine, Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and more.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CA Dem Party's Arab Caucus elects its first ever LGBTQ Vice Chair

During California Democratic Party's 2017 convention, the Arab American Caucus of the Party elected its first ever openly gay executive committee member. Ahmad Zahra, a delegate from the 65th Assembly District, was elected Southern California Vice Chair.

Zahra is a Syrian-American Fullerton-based filmmaker who was elected delegated this past January.

The election of the Arab American Caucus took place during its meeting on Saturday evening at the Sacramento Convention Center. The newly-elected executive committee members are:

Iyad Afalqa, Chair
Hosam Haggag, Northern California Vice Chair
Ahmad Zahra, Southern California Vice Chair
Sara Abed, Treasurer
Amira Abed, Secretary

In a historic resolution, the California Democratic Party decries U.S. support for Israeli occupation

Delegates to the annual convention of the country’s largest state Democratic Party Sunday approved a resolution (see page 4) decrying the failure of U.S administrations to back-up measured criticism of Israel’s occupation “with actual steps to change the status quo and bring about a real peace process.”

It calls on Washington to work through the United Nations and other international bodies to promote “a just peace based on full equality and security for Israeli Jews and Palestinians alike, human rights and international law.”

Quoting Sen. Bernie Sanders, the resolution says that peace “means achieving self-determination, civil rights and economic well-being for the Palestinian people.”

This resolution is evidence that increasing numbers of Americans, including American Jews, support equality and human rights rights for Palestinians and Israelis, and believe that accountability is an important step toward peace.

David L. Mandel, an elected convention delegate, said that diligent organizing by supporters in the weeks before the convention led to endorsement by more than 200 delegates, making it likely the resolution would have come to the floor by petition even if the Resolutions Committee had not prioritized it, which it did, unexpectedly Mandel was a primary author of the resolution, along with Karen Bernal, chair of the state party’s large Progressive Caucus, and Murad Sarama, outgoing chair of the state party’s Arab American Caucus.

In the end, the resolution was approved as part of the package of measures on the convention floor, without debate. “We think those who might have opposed it realized that our resolution would pass,” Mandel said. “So they met us more than halfway on language and preferred not to call more attention to the resolution.”

Moreover, added Estee Chandler, a delegate proxy who supported the resolution, “opinions are changing among American Jews and others who until recently recoiled at any serious criticism of Israeli policy. More and more Democrats of all stripes are alarmed by the extremist, anti-democratic and violent policies of the Netanyahu government and the Trump administration. The need to achieve Palestinian freedom and equality is pressing to prevent even greater catastrophe.”

A final paragraph in the resolution puts the party on record as rejecting “any effort to restrict or discourage full and open public discourse” on Israel-Palestine; “disavows conflation of criticism of a country’s policies with hatred of its people”; “opposes anti-Semitic or Islamophobic language brought into the debate and any attempt to restrict or penalize those who exercise their right to express their views through nonviolent action to effect change.” This clause, Mandel explained, was directed at widespread campus persecution of Palestinian rights advocacy and at the many resolutions and bills introduced recently in Congress and state legislatures, including California’s, that aim to stigmatize, suppress and penalize – even criminally in some cases – those who seek to use boycotts or divestment campaigns to pressure Israel.

“All these measures are unconstitutional violations of First Amendment protected speech,” Mandel said, adding that he hopes dissemination of the resolution will now help to dissuade legislators from supporting them and contribute to the “robust, constructive conversations we need to bring about real change.”

[via Jewish Voice for Peace]

Friday, May 19, 2017

Why I am not voting for Bauman for CDP Chair

I received messages from Eric Bauman's campaign for the California Democratic Party chair race asking whether I'd support him this weekend. While Eric's positions on most issues are commendable, his stance on BDS is troubling.

Eric attended the Arab American Caucus meeting in Long Beach last year when one of the issues addressed was the anti-free speech anti-BDS bill in the California Assembly. The bill was designed to crackdown on activist who engage in a nonviolent form of resistance - boycotting companies that benefit from a violent military occupation and an apartheid system.

Read about the anti-BDS bill here.

When Eric was given the opportunity to speak, although he spoke against discrimination against Arabs and Muslims, he told a room full of Arab Americans that he stands against BDS, the nonviolent movement against the longest colonial-settler military occupation in recent history.

That's like going to the African American Caucus and saying #BlackLivesMatter is an illegitimate movement, or to the LGBT Caucus and saying you're against marriage equality and expecting support, or attending the Native American Caucus and expressing your support for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, or the telling the Latino Caucus members that we must build a wall!!

Thanks, but no thanks, I will not vote for Eric.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Senator Newman’s Resolution to Honor Arab American Heritage Month in California Passes Senate

Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 42 passed the California State Senate today with unanimous support. SCR 42 commemorates the month of April as “Arab American Heritage Month” in California, and recognizes the important contributions of Arab Americans to our state.

“SCR 42 is part of a broader effort toward creating awareness and paying respect to the approximately 800,000 Arab American Californians, while celebrating their achievements and highlighting their commitment and contributions to a peaceful and diverse society, by recognizing the month of April as Arab American Heritage Month,” said the resolution’s author, Senator Josh Newman.
For well over a century, Arab Americans have been making valuable contributions to virtually every aspect of American society, to include leadership and groundbreaking contributions in medicine, law, business, technology, government, and culture.
Senate District 29, which Newman represents, has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the state, in a region called “Little Arabia”. The State of California boasts the largest population of Arab Americans in the Country, with a population of approximately 800,000.
Senator Josh Newman represents the 29th Senate District, which includes cities across Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties.