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May 2, 2013

Advocate For Palestinian Prisoners On U.S. Tour


Sahar Francis

In an effort to garner American attention and support for Palestinian political prisoners, a representative of Addameer, a Palestinian NGO based in Ramallah, is scheduled to deliver presentations on the topic in several U.S. cities this month.

Sahar Francis, Addameer’s General Director, will likely address perceived issues in the Israeli prison system for Palestinian prisoners, but she also seems to be engaged in an effort to analogize the Palestinian prisoner cause to the way the criminal justice system in the U.S. addresses issues of crime in the inner-city.

Francis’s talks will take place in several cities that have faced troubling rises in crime, including Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. The titles of the presentations, “From Pelican Bay and Guantanamo to Palestine: Prisons, Repression, Resistance;” “Ending Mass Incarceration: From Palestine to Pennsylvania;” and “Juvenile Injustice: Criminalization of Youth in Palestine and Chicago,” underscore Francis’s apparent goal of linking problems in the American prison system, such as discrimination, racial profiling and lack of rehabilitation options, to the issues faced by Palestinian prisoners.

Sponsors of the events vary widely and include many groups whose missions seem to be wholly unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, the Black Youth Project in Chicago and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. The diverse number of groups supporting these events is likely to further credibility to Addameer’s intended comparison between the Palestinian prisoners’ cause  and problems in the inner-city.

Several of the other scheduled speakers work on social justice issues related to undocumented students and immigrant rights. At the Philadelphia event, for example, the other speaker is a member of DreamActivist PA, a youth organization that advocates for immigrants.

Francis has been outspoken about the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners. In a 2010 interview with Electronic Intifada, she asserted that Israel tries to demonize Palestinian resisters by describing them as “terrorists” but that “citizens should be aware that Palestinian political prisoners are not terrorists.”

She also alleged that “torture, ill treatment and abuse” are norms of the Israeli prison system, and that Israel’s “policy of imprisonment” is aimed at suppressing nonviolent resistance like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaigns against Israel. In her talks, Francis urges her audience to call for the unconditional release of all Palestinian political prisoners despite the fact that many of these prisoners have been convicted of violent crimes against Israeli civilians.

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February 10, 2012

Anti-Israel Hostility Pervades Penn BDS Conference

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) conference held at the University of Pennsylvania last weekend featured speakers representing a wide range of strategies used to delegitimize Israel. As expected, many of the speakers promoted mistruths and biased narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and offered strategies on how to advance BDS initiatives and to further delegitimize Israel.

Several of the anti-Israel activists who headlined the Penn BDS conference are scheduled to next month’s One-State “Solution” Conference at Harvard, including Ali Abunimah, Dalit Baum and Sarah Schulman.
Below is a sampling of statements made at the Penn conference:
  • Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, claimed that Israel is governed by an “extremist ideology” and that it is a “racist oppressor” and an “apartheid state.” Barghouti also made reference to the disproportionate role “Israel’s lobby groups” play in the U.S., adding that “it is crucial to reveal how Israel is right at the center of the 1% agenda,” referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement. 
  • Ali Abunimah, the founder and executive director of “Electronic Intifada,” an anti-Israel Web site,  reportedly said, “Nakba denial is the equivalent of Holocaust denial.”
  • Professor Amy Kaplan, professor in the English department at the University of Pennsylvania, offered suggestions in a Q&A session on how BDS could be integrated into the classroom. According to an audio recording of her response, Kaplan said, “you take a thematic course and you bring in themes from this issue [BDS], and literature is really a great way to teach students about what’s going on.”

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February 2, 2012

Two Days to the Penn BDS Conference

In advance of this weekend’s BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania, we are highlighting five of the most anti-Israel individuals scheduled to speak at the conference.
Today we profile Ali Abunimah, the founder and executive director of “Electronic Intifada,” an anti-Israel Web site. Abunimah is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at this weekend’s conference.
In his book “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse” and during various speaking appearances, Abunimah advocates a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would dismantle the Jewish state. He has not hesitated to compare Israel to South African apartheid and Nazi Germany, including describing Gaza as a “ghetto” and a “concentration camp” and arguing that “Zionism is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.”
Abunimah also claims that many of Israel’s security-related policies are predicated on racism and not genuine security concerns. For example, in a June 2011 interview on the news channel Russia Today, he claimed that Israel imposes a blockade on Gaza “because they are not Jews” and described it as “fundamentally racist.”

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