Student wins right to display Palestinian flag at Texas graduation

June, 2013                                                                                                                                    Fidaa Elaydi 
 

Malak Abdallahi had to fight to be allowed carry the Palestinian flag at her graduation ceremony in Texas earlier this month.

She overcame opposition by administrators at the Fossil Ridge High School just outside Fort Worth.

Officially, the school is happy to celebrate the diverse origins of its students by displaying the flags of numerous countries during the graduation procession.

When Abdallahi decided that she wished to have her Palestinian identity recognized during this year’s ceremony, she went first to her vice-principal Buddy Read. He told her that there shouldn’t be any problem with obtaining a Palestinian flag for the event.

A few days later, the vice-principal called her into his office where he informed her that the administrators were not comfortable with her carrying the Palestinian flag. Abdallahi was shocked but did not know how to respond. “I’m not one to argue, and I didn’t want to come off aggressive, immature, or unprofessional,” she said.

Abdallahi decided at that moment that she would fight for her right to represent her homeland, but she needed some time to prepare her response.

“Uncomfortable”

She asked Read for an explanation. Read informed her that there was a conflict and that she could not carry the Palestinian flag, she recounted. He explained that her commencement is a public ceremony and that the administrators did not want to make any of the attendees uncomfortable.

“He was so uncomfortable and couldn’t look me in the eye,” Abdallahi said. “He offered that I could carry another flag. I told him that if he was trying to suggest Israel, then no thank you.”

After her meeting with Read, a visibly upset Abdallahi was stopped by one of her teachers who inquired about what was bothering her. She recounted the conversation that she had with Read. Her teacher encouraged her to resist the administration’s decision, to involve her parents and reminded her that she, like any other student, deserved the opportunity to carry her country’s flag.

She spoke to her older sister, who had been denied the same opportunity a few years earlier. Her sister suggested that she get in touch with local Palestinian activists who would be willing to help her fight this decision.

A few more of Abdallahi’s teachers learned of the administration’s refusal to let her carry the Palestinian flag and quickly offered their help and encouragement. Her boxing coach encouraged her to bring this issue before the head principal David Hadley.

She informed Read that she was appealing his decision to Hadley.

Asked for a comment, Read told The Electronic Intifada that the “only obstacle” to accommodating Abdallahi was a question of “how do we interpret the combination of allowing the student to represent her heritage versus what the political climate is.”

Read admitted that “my initial answer” to Abdallahi’s request was “no.” He added: “I didn’t feel strongly about it. I was simply going on my interpretation of the district rules.”

Read said that he provided advice to Abdallahi on how she could appeal against his decision. “I applauded her for her perseverance for pressing this on,” he said.

Abdallahi worked with a local Palestinian activist to draft a letter to Hadley. She tried on several occasions to make an appointment to meet with Hadley but didn’t receive one.

Finally, she emailed Hadley directly. Hadley replied that he would speak with her the next day.

“I cornered him on Monday and entered his office,” she says. “I didn’t want to come off as stubborn, but I needed [the administration] to understand how important this is and that other students would make requests to carry other flags too.”

“We’ll deal with it”

Abdallahi told him that US foreign policy should not define which students are permitted to participate in the flag ceremony and insisted that students from all backgrounds be entitled to equal treatment, whether they be from North Korea or an indigenous American tribal nation.

Hadley replied that the school’s administrators had met earlier that morning and discussed if the Palestinian flag should be included in the procession. Hadley told her that there was a particular individual who was especially opposed to Palestine being represented. The person’s opposition was based on the United States’ political decision not to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state.

Abdallahi told Hadley that she was being denied her right to self-expression and being targeted because of one person’s narrow-minded views.

Hadley assured her that he would make his decision based solely on the high school’s mission and eventually agreed to have Palestine represented at the ceremony. “We will buy you a flag and if someone gets upset, we’ll deal with it,” he said, according to Abdallahi. “It’s your graduation and you have a right to represent your heritage.”

Abdallahi was overjoyed. “I cried. I felt so Palestinian. You can go to Palestine or any other place and eat their food and breathe their air, but it’s not until you do something in their name that you feel that pride.”

And so, Abdallahi marched through the Fort Worth Convention Center on 8 June, carrying the Palestinian flag. It was a small victory but not an insignificant one.

Editor’s note: this article was originally published under an incorrect byline. It has since been corrected.

Fidaa Elaydi is a Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activist and law student.

Sami Kishawi contributed to this report.

    Tags:        Texas    Malak Abdallahi
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TIAA-CREF Divesting from Sodastream

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We Divest A Coalition Demanding that TIAA-CREF Divest from Companies Profiting from the Israeli Occupation.

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It is an exciting time for the We Divest Campaign!
Today, we released the news that according to TIAA-CREF’s available financial data, they have dropped their investments in SodaStream–the Israeli company which manufactures its home seltzer machines in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Read more about TIAA-CREF dropping SodaStream!
Tomorrow, is the CREF shareholder meeting and the We Divest National Day of Action! We Divest activists will be taking to the streets in over a dozen cities nationwide. Locate a demonstration near you and join us!
If you can’t join us in the streets, you can always be part of making our demand that TIAA-CREF divest from the Israeli occupation right from your couch! Log-on to Twitter and/or Facebook and help spread the word!
 
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Palestinian national strike to stop Israel’s “Prawer plan” ethnic cleansing

Join our North Texas BDS protest today, July 15th, in front of the Tarrant County Courthouse, 100 Weatherford Street in Fort Worth   6:00-7:00 pm

         
(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)              
    Submitted by Linah Alsaafin on Mon, 07/15/2013 – 11:38  Electronic Intifida  

Israel’s Prawer plan, which passed a first reading in parliament in June, aims to expropriate over 800,000 dunums of land in the Naqab desert and expel between 30,000 to 50,000 Palestinian Bedouins.

Thirty-five unrecognized villages would also be demolished, culminating in an unnervingly blatant ethnic cleansing campaign that will occur under the nose of the international community. These Palestinian Bedouins will be expelled to one percent of the land.

On Twitter and Facebook, the hashtags #StopPrawerPlan and #برافر_لن_يمر have been used to mobilize and create awareness. Monday 15 July has been designated as a national day of rage and “Anger Strike” by Palestinians from the river to the sea. Gaza and the West Bank have also planned for protests to take place on Monday.

Unsurprisingly, the PLO has denied (Arabic) issuing a statement that supported the Anger Strike. 

The main protest took off from Ben Gurion University in Bir al-Saba at 10 am on Monday and marched to the building of the Bedouins Settlement Authority. So far, 14 Palestinians have been arrested, including two minors.

Cities, towns, and villages inside the 1948 occupied territories including the Galilee in the north, the Triangle in the center, and the coast have organized their protests at busy street junctions, squares, and roundabouts.

Abir Kopty has put together a schedule of the protests that will happen today throughout Palestine. 

Why now? Why carry out the largest demolition, land confiscation and forced displacement campaign now? Anas Abu Daabas, president of the Academics Association in Rahat, explained at a 20 April seminar held by the al-Bireh Municipality I attended.

In recent years the largest economic hardship Israel has faced is the housing crisis, he said. Israel seeks to take advantage of the vast lands of the Naqab by building  towns and cities for soldiers who will be closer to the military training camps, which Israel has transferred to the south of the country. This plan comes at the expense of the indigenous, who they mis-characterize as “invaders” and “nomads.”

“The embodiment of racial discrimination”

Amir Qweider, a student at Ben Gurion University who lives in the unrecognized village of Zarnouq, spoke at the same seminar about the reality of Bedouin villages in the Naqab. They are forbidden to house any permanent structures and risk immediate demolition if they do so. 

“There are no paved roads, no schools, no electricity or water grids, no telephone lines, and no sewage system,” he said. “The difference between the Jewish settlements and Arab villages is the embodiment of racial discrimination, even though we both are Israeli citizens.”

“Using the term ‘nomads’ to classify us is a way for Israel to justify the colonizing and settling of the Naqab, saying that since we roam the lands we do not own them,” Abu Daabas said, “but that is an outright lie. Our forefathers and tribes lived in villages, and [the Israeli lie] doesn’t explain why we still have structures of buildings like schools and homes dating to before the Nakba.”

On 30 March 1976, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel protested at the state’s announcement it would confiscate 60,000 dunums of Palestinian land. A general strike was organized from the Naqab desert to the Galilee, and the Israeli army killed six Palestinians as protests ensued. This became known as Land Day and is commemorated every year.

Palestinians should all take to the streets today and protest Israel’s land grab of 800,000 dunums in the Naqab. Just as Land Day, in the words of Arjan el Fassed “reaffirmed the Palestinian minority in Israel as an inseparable part of the Palestinian and Arab nation,” the Anger Strike of 15 July asserts that despite political division, non-representative and collaborative leadership, Palestine remains from the river to the sea, with the Bedouins in the Naqab an integral component of the Palestinian population.

Jerusalem, Sakhnin, Yafa, Umm il-Fahem, Shifa Amro, Gaza, Nablus, Hebron, Jenin, Upper Galilee, Ramallah, Kufr Kanna, Nazareth, Haifa. Israel can’t win on this.

History of Israeli land grab

The Naqab desert, historically neglected in Palestinian discourse, makes up 60 percent of Palestine, and its importance was not lost on David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. In a letter to his son Amos written in 1937, Ben Gurion emphasized how total colonization of the Naqab is essential for Israel’s settler colonial concept:

We must expel Arabs and take their place … and if we have to use force, we have force at our disposal not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev, and transfer them, but in order to guarantee our own right to settle in those places.

The ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948 affected 90 percent of the Naqab’s population, who were forcibly displaced to Jordan, Gaza and the Sinai desert. About 11,000 Bedouins remained in the desert, and between the years 1948-1965 were forced to live under an Israeli military regime. Internal displacement forced many of these Bedouins around the Bir al-SabaJaffa road to an area called Siyaj, on the border close to Hebron.

Under the occupation policy of confining the biggest number of Palestinians on the smallest percentage of land, Israel used a number of laws like the Land Ordinance Law, the Land Acquisition Law, and the Absentee Property Law to consolidate their land grabbing of the Naqab and legalizing the dispossession of the indigenous population. In 2004, the Expulsion of Invaders law was put into effect, demonizing Bedouins as trespassing attackers in their own land.

Between the years of 1993-2007, Israel increased demolitions of Bedouin homes, buildings, and other structures. On 11 September 2011, the Netanyahu government approved the Prawer plan, named after Ehud Prawer, the former deputy chair of national security. In that year alone, 1,000 houses were demolished and 2012 continued in the same vein.

In 1969 and throughout the 1970s Israel planned seven townships to push the Bedouins in, as part of its grandiose scheme of settling one million Jews in the desert. The largest of these townships today is called Rahat, ranked two out of 10 on the Israeli socio-economic ladder, and has 60,000 Palestinian Bedouins living there. There are 46 Bedouin villages (which have existed since before 1948), with 35 of them unrecognized by the Israeli state. The remaining ten are supposedly recognized but they are not offered even the most basic of government services. 

    Tags:        land confiscation    Negev (Naqab)    ethnic cleansing    bedouins    Prawer Plan    Anger Strike 15 July 2013

 

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Live blog: Protests across Israel/Palestine against Prawer Plan

Join our North Texas BDS protest today, July 15th, 6-7 pm in front of the Tarrant County Courthouse, 100 Weatherford St, Fort Worth

Protests were planned across Israel and Palestine Monday against the Prawer-Begin Plan, which if implemented, will displace tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel from their villages and homes in the Negev.

Click here for +972′s full coverage of the Prawer Plan

Protests were planned in Beer Sheva in the morning. At 4 p.m., protests were planned in Gaza City, Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus. In the evening, demonstrations were expected to take place in Umm al-Fahm, Sakhnin, Jaffa and Jerusalem.

In addition to the demonstrations, Palestinians activists and civil society called for a general strike to protest the Prawer-Begin Plan.

——————-

Update (5:53 p.m.):

A second protest took place in Gaza against the Prawer-Begin Plan to displace Negev Bedouin Monday afternoon. Roughly 100 people gathered in the Unknown Soldier Square (al-Jundi Square) with signs and chants against the Prawer Plan and Israel.

Update: (5:40 p.m.):

Some 1,000 protesters were blocking an intersection in Sakhnin in protest of the Prawer Plan. Another protest started at the same time in Umm al-Fahm.

Update: (4:28 p.m.):

Several hundred Palestinians in Ramallah began marching in solidarity with Bedouin Palestinians in the Negev Monday afternoon. Similar protests took place earlier in the day in Beer Sheva and were scheduled to begin in cities across the West Bank and Israel.

Update (1:50 p.m.):

Several hundred Palestinians in Gaza City protested against the Prawer Plan outside the ICRC offices in the city Monday morning. The protest, which was associated with the PFLP, took place alongside a weekly vigil for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. A dedicated anti-Prawer protest was scheduled to take place later in the day in al-Jundi Square.

Update (1:15 p.m.): Police arrested a total of 14 people at the Beer Sheva protest against the Prawer Plan, civil rights group Adalah reported.

The following video appears to show the beginning of the arrests at the demonstration (around the 0:58 second mark):

Update (11:35 a.m.): Police forcefully broke up the protest in Beersheva against the Prawer Plan, arresting around 10 people. More updates to come.