Its difficult to really talk about anything in light of the ongoing tragedies back home. I spoke a little about it this mornig on Pacifica's WBAI. I was really stunned after Friday's massacre, and then I wake up this morning to learn of yet another. Gaza is on the brink of implosion, and I'm not sure how much more it can take.
Well, because of all this, I did not have a chance to upload my final post on the rest of Fida and I's speaking tour. So, her it is, complet with pictures. Fida is on her way back to Gaza, I just pray she makes it safely:
Our travels continued as we made our way to Groton, Connecticut, “the submarine capital of the world”. I’ll be honest with you-we were a bit nervous about coming to Connecticut, staying with families we had never met or knew, and speaking to a variety of audiences in 3 different locations.
I can tell you, our experiences far exceeded our expectations. Our hosts-Liz and Peter Viering, and co-hosts and organizers, Hasan and Marge Fouda, were so unbelievably warm and welcoming, we might as well have been at home. We were truly overwhelmed by their hospitality and inspired by their tireless activism.
Peter is an Attorney with the Legal Department of the Liberty Alliance, and also a board member of the Council for the National Interest
. He and his wife, who is on the board of If Americans Knew
, hosted us in their beachside summer home (although the weather, typical of New England, did not match the month). We slept to the playful crash of waves and the intoxicating honey-sweet smell of “beach roses” (Rosa Rag osa), which grow on their own in the area and saturate the air.
Peter, Liz, and Hasan-a retired Egyptian American chemist and community activist- were also election monitors sent by the CNI to observe the Palestinian polls, along with former US ambassadors (their report is available on CNI's websit). During the course of their trip to the West Bank, Gaza, and beyond, they interviewed a plethora of figures, including Mahmud Zahar, Mohammad Dahalan, Nayef Rujoub, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and Lebanese president Emil Lahoud.
When I thanked Peter for welcoming us into their town, he joked that Americans needed Palestinians to liberate them “from the Israeli occupation of the U.S.”
We gave two talks-one at a local church in Groton, another at the Islamic Center of New London (which was covered by the Local paper, the New London Day, here
)...one minor error-the person Fida saw shot dead in front of her, and whom she carried, was actually a ten-year-old child (and, I'm sure, the IOF blamed it on "pollywood").
Barring a few technical setbacks, they were both well-attended, and by a diverse audience at that.
The first talk was also “monitored” by a representative of the Anti-Defamation League, who was furiously scribbling notes during our talk and was quick to give the usual Zionist harangue in the Question and Answer Period in an attempt to silence and obfuscate (“what they failed to mention was that the reason Karni was closed was because of homicide bombings. You have a terrorist government that wants to destroy Israel. Blah blah blah blah blah.”).
I’m still not quite certain how he had the audacity to make some comments after such powerful first-hand testimony.
I had little patience for his irreverent attacks, and neither did Fida.
Still, I let him have his say, and answered his points one by one, and when he asked for my “formula” for a just solution, he listened intently until I mentioned “right of return”, when he did a double-take and gawked “right of what?? Oh NO NO NO…[sound out]”
And his thoughts on the un-sustainability of maintaining the Jewish majority?
“Educate the Arab women so they’ll bear fewer children.”
His “question” was followed by a comment from a woman in the audience-a Jewish-American lawyer who wanted to express her thanks and support, and her distaste of the intimidation tactics long used against her and others, who tried to stifle any discussion or opposition, especially amongst their own ranks.
On Wednesday we traveled to Farmington, CT where we spoke at Tunxis Community College, where I was able to catch up with a long-time friend from my college days, the wonderful Mazin Qumsiyeh.
The Dean of the College, an extremely articulate and intelligent woman, is thought to be the only Muslim academic dean in all of America.
By this time, we really felt our presentation style had improved, as we relayed our personal journeys and struggles as women under occupation. At the end of the talk, Colleen asked who in the audience felt they had come out with something from the night’s talk, or had learned something knew, and almost everyone raised heir hands to our astonishment. We were truly overwhelmed.