Wednesday, June 14, 2006

To Connecticut, and beyond!

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) 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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Please, if you have the contact information for Fida Qishteh, could you send it along?

We would like to encourage her work.


5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Dean of the College, an extremely articulate and intelligent woman, is thought to be the only Muslim academic dean in all of America.

Not quite.


And there are probably a number of male ones...

5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know of a few male Muslim deans, particularly in the sciences (esp. engineering and medicine.) Muslims aren't THAT rarified.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

congrats Leila

Thats cool

I wish you the best luck

More power to you

3:27 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

I mean Academic Dean of the entire college, not one of a single department. Still, others, I'm sure, exist, or are in the process.


4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leila, much as I adore yr blog, isn't it a bit self-defeating to deride a chap from ADL for representing a view different from your own? What's the point of putting the effort into touring the US and giving talks etc if you're only going to be addressing people who already agree with you? You never know, maybe he came away from the meeting having changed his mind a little, or maybe not, but what does it matter - the important thing surely is dialogue between Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians and so on. I go to a lot of these kinds of speeches and meetings, both Israeli and Palestinian, and what really annoys me is the tutting and general bullying which goes on when someone dares to express a view that goes against the majority one - something perfectly expresed by yr American Jewish lawyer who talks about "the intimidation tactics long used against her and others, who tried to stifle any discussion or opposition, especially amongst their own ranks".

8:43 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

there is a clear difference between genuine dialogue, or people interested in genuine dialogue-and those who are simply interested in destructive debate and bullying and/or heckling, which this man was. neverthless, as I mentioned in my post, I let him give his little "speech" (because he didn't really have questions, until I asked him), and responded to each and every point. we also spoke with him later, and so did Fida, trying to educate him about the situation in Gaza. Because to him, transfer is a legitimate policy, and so is collective punishment. I don't see much dialogue in that, do you?

And in case your not familiar with the ADL...well, that's another matter.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The man from ADL sounds as though he was interested in monologue, not dialogue. A familiar ADL tactic.

But enought about him.

I wish I could've seen your talks in person. Thank you for your updating this blog as often as you do -- even "when words fail" you. I tell many people to read your work.

Much love to you and your family.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

The Palestinians do have a clear demographic advantage. In N. Ireland, the same process has been going on. The Catholics who were once 1/3 of the population are approaching 50%. Among the youth, they have a clear advantage.

Interestingly enough, Palestinian violence has worked against the demographic advantage. Before the Intifada, tens of thousand of Palestinians worked in Israeli factories. The economy of Israel was linked to their access of Palestinian labor. If this economic dependency was allowed to grow, the Palestinians would be in a much stronger position to bargain by being able to threaten the economic well being of the Israeli state. Instead, the only immediate Palestinian leverage left is violence.

Back to the demographics, this will only matter if the Palestinian children have a future. Why are you dreaming about the Right of Return when there are no jobs for over 20% of Palestinians and 50% of the population lives below the poverty line? Even with the demographic difference, how many Palestinians will stay? What kind of life is being offered to them? Joining the local gunman (Fatah) or Hamas? Agriculture?

Making an honorable peace for now is the key to Palestinian long-term victory. But it would mean that someone will have to stand up and say no to non-negotiable items. Michael Collins ( made this deal for Ireland. The question is if the Palestinians have a leader of similar stature.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Christopher Brown said...

ADL people always show up at my events and do the exact same thing. I do the same as you; let them have their say, address the points one by one and rebutt all their unfounded claims.

If Israel is so correct in what they are doing in Palestine, why have the ADL and other Zionsists groups attend events when the only ting spoken at said events are lies? Could it be that you and I and others are on the right side of justice? Hmmm...did I strike a nerve?

12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why have you not blogged on the escalation of Hamas/Fatah violence, alleged Hamas assassination attempts on Preventative Security leaders, prospect of civil war, etc? It seems to me that these things would be hotly debated topics for Gazans so it amazes me that you have discussed it so little. I realize that, as a Palestinian, it's easier for you to report on "Israeli massacres" than Palestinian violence; but if you're journalist, shouldn't you be reporting all the news?

12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, and Dr El-Shabini is the dean of the College of Engineering. And I'd be surprised if there aren't a number of other Muslim deans. Perhaps you meant president of a university?

1:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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.”

No need to change the name of the blog (DIARY OF A MOTHER UNDER OCUPATION).
You are still under ocupation. The Zionist lobby is ocupying the US .

6:11 AM  
Blogger busy hands said...

I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. I heard about this blog via 'democracy now' and am really moved by your bravery and honesty.

Thank you.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Laila

Actually, I disagree with you once again - I am sure you are too polite to have responded "ADL dimbo go home!!" but surely people who think "transfer is a legitimate policy, and so is collective punishment" are just the people who need to meet and talk to Palestinians.

"And in case your not familiar with the ADL...well, that's another matter."

As a Jewish journalist, God knows I am familiar with the ADL...can't say I'm particularly obsessed with anti-Semitism and all they seem to do is be outraged by things which is a bit tedious...but my perception is that they are a Jewish-focused org that supports Zionism...does that make them a Zionist org? Similarly, I write for a Jewish paper that is quite fond of Israel, so does that make us a Zionist paper? [tho we have more stuff about bagels than the occupation, probably...] And are we then, by definition, anti-Palestinian [tho that is not my perception].

Wld be v interested to know thoughts.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Halla said...

Keep up the good work Laila!!

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When ABC first covered the Gaza massacre the reporter/anchor, Terry Moran seemed annoyed that someone in the newsroom allowed it to air and then went promptly to World Cup news.

Last night Wolf Blitzer, an “Israeli” national and Zionist, of CNN had Benyamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel, on his show trying to convince the American public of taking a position against yet another country for Israel. Of course no mention was made of how dangerous a nuclear armed Israel is or why they are allowed to have nuclear weapons or their Dimona reactor. Blitzer interviewing Netanyahu, one hand washing the other.

Here is what this thing said in 1989...

"Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories."
-- Benyamin Netanyahu, then Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, former Prime Minister of Israel, speaking to students at Bar Ilan University, from the Israeli journal Hotam, November 24, 1989.

Also last night CNN’s L. King, Zionist Jew, interviewed Daryl Hannah of “Splash” movie fame, she was hot then, about how she spent the whole night in a tree to save the south central farm in LA. Hannah, is she a Zionist as well? Do you think she would care to become a real activist and champion the Palestinian cause? The second half was about some woman who killed her Pastor/husband. I’m really not a regular, I was just curious about what went down as news in light of the continued genocide in Palestine.

I was surprised to find Cher on C-span. She’s upset because our “heroes” murdering civilians in Iraq don’t seem to have the proper helmets for the job. I met her ex-husband Sonny in an airport years ago about three months before he died; he wasn’t wearing the proper helmet either when his head became one with a tree. I told him that I had watched their show on a retro TV channel. He mumbled, “Thanks a lot” as he looked at me with glassy eyes. I don’t think he felt much pain when he died; he was likely high then too. the Progressive, anti-war, three million member group that reminds me that I am a member just because I’m on their list serve every time they come asking for donations, has no mention of Palestine or even related links on their homepage. When I see articles about Israeli terrorism in their forum, they are not sent to the main forum even if they have a 100% agree rating by the 8 to 10 who voted. Move On, because they assume that Democrats are anti-war, supports even the Democrats who voted for 4681. Can you believe that after all this time most Progressives still think it was about oil? Sorry Move On, I can’t vote Democrat either, not that it matters much since both elections were stolen. I think the next one will be also.

Indy media. A so-called liberal collective of independent news websites in the US and other countries. I have noticed that while the ones I have seen in the US will have a post about Israeli terrorism somewhere in the newswire, the main page seldom does. Are most of the Indy editors Zionist Jew swine also? Do you know that most Americans still don’t know who Rachel Corrie was? I had the honor of marching with her parents Craig and Cindy a few years ago. Her killer, believed to be an American Jew, walks freely to this day.

I have felt a burden for the Palestinian cause long before the second intifada and while I am not Palestinian, I feel a kinship with your people that is hard to explain. Perhaps it is my British heritage that leaves me with a sense of guilt. I can’t blame it on anti-Semitism because Palestinians are Semites and I have no resentment for Jews in particular other than it seems that most of them are Zionists and I had not learned until several years ago that the Zionists had a hand in prolonging World War 1 which led to World War 2.

We could be doing better at educating fellow Americans about Israeli apartheid terrorism but then we have one hand tied don’t we? I am going to do some research on the number of Churches Israel has destroyed. One I seem to recall was St. Barbara’s in Aboud? Perhaps the Christian Zionists would like to hear about that issue.

I would like to see the Al Jazeera Channel on basic cable, right next to CNN and FOX.
I saw this post on an Indy site:

FOX and CNN 24 / 7 propaganda machines are undermining objective media.
Take action: Call your cable provider and tell them to carry the Al Jazeera Channel on “basic cable”.
“If everybody watches CNN, what does CNN watch? The Al Jazeera Channel.”
Friends of AlJazeera

Thanks for your work. Peace and blessings be unto you.
In solidarity for the liberation of Palestine.
Palestine Forever.

11:41 PM  
Blogger misneach said...

Wow, it's refreshing to hear that there are Americans willing to listen to the Palestinian side of the story. I only hope it may have some effect, although I must say I find it depressingly doubtful based on the media's constant omission of Palestinian voices and constant spotlight on Israeli victims.

I just found this blog from Thoughts From Baghdad, and while I haven't been able to read much of it yet, I hope to see what you have to say often.

Best of luck on your American speaking tour.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There can be no business as usual with a government that has not yet accepted the fundamental principle of peace

6:40 PM  
Blogger Edward Ott said...

Your blog is fantastic, i will be sending out links to it to everyone i know.


1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Former Dutch Ambassador Calls for Sanctions if Israel Refuses to Comply with International Law
Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 19 June 2006

Some weeks ago I heard Jan Wijenberg, a retired Dutch Ambassador, speak about what the International Community could do to break with its complicity to the ongoing violations of international law and human rights by the Israeli regime. Wijenberg served over a decade as an ambassador for the Dutch government in Jemen, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia. He regularly writes to Dutch ministers and politicians to remind them of the responsibility of the international community, and specifically of the Dutch Government and the European Union, to hold Israel accountable to international law. His views are expressed in this article.

[b]Israel is the problem[/b]

Quite often is spoken about the conflict in the Middle East between the Palestinians and Israel. If we look at the situation more closely we can observe something different. The media in Israel provide a platform for unpunished, insane calls for murdering peoples and a nation. An example is offered by Professor Arnon Sofer talking about Palestinians living in closed-off Gaza, "...those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam... So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day. If we don't kill we will cease to exist....."1

In 2005 Ehud Barak stated on Dutch television2 that - in a secret and illegal retaliatory campaign against the Palestinian hostage takers at the Munich Olympic Winter Games - he personally had murdered thirteen innocent citizens. According to Barak this would teach the world not to fool around with Israel. Barak was and is not prosecuted for premeditated murder and could achieve the position of the country's prime minister.

Among the settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories are opportunists and extremely violent Israeli's who aim to occupy East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The Palestinians must be driven out of these territories by all means possible, including murder. The government of Israel supports the settlers in full while they lay there hands on Palestinian property and act out their violence on Palestinians.

The annexation of East Jerusalem by Ehud Olmert while he was the mayor of West-Jerusalem can according to the Fourth Geneva Convention be interpreted as a war crime. After the last elections in Israel Ehud Olmert's Kadima party won the vote and he is now the Prime Minister of Israel.

Israeli policies are driven by the Zionist ideal of creating a Jewish state, including the Palestinian territories. Israel is aiming systematically at destroying the identity of the Palestinian people. The so called "conflict in the Middle East" between Palestinians and Israel does not exist. Zionist Israel is the problem.

Rogue state

Israel is the world's sole remaining occupying colonial power. It systematically sabotages all international efforts to end the occupation. In its capacity of occupying power Israel violates numerous obligations emanating from Security Council Resolutions and the Geneva Conventions. It also breaches the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The USA applies a doctrine and the US-administration labels selected countries as 'Rogue states'. These countries possess weapons of mass destruction illegally, suppress large populations, torture, keep people in detention on a large scale and commit murder outside their national borders. Israel has adopted as a strategy the execution of land and water grabs, the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure (including in education and health), the carrying out of extraterritorial executions, torture, and collective punishments and keeping thousands of Palestinians imprisoned indefinitely without charge or prosecution. On the basis of the definition by the USA, Israel has ever since its establishment been a monumental Rogue state and a highly active member of the Axis of Evil.

Letter to Dutch ministers

In February Wijenberg wrote to the ministers Bot, van Ardenne-van der Hoeven and Nicolaï, ministers of Foreign Affairs, Development Co-operation and State Secretary of European Affairs respectively. He reminded them that according to article 90 of the Dutch Constitution "The government nurtures the development of the international order of law". So many previous Dutch governments violated this article when it concerns the Middle East. With referral to the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice of 9 July 2004 Wijenberg calls upon the Dutch ministers to show the world that they are serious about international law, justice and democracy. A copy of the letter was sent to the prime minister Balkenende and the minister of Justice Donner. In his view the United States and the European Union - including the Netherlands - have for too long condoned Israels disrespect for international law.

In its response the ministry of Foreign Affairs replies that the Dutch government is actively engaged in an ongoing dialogue with Israel. Wijenberg questions this policy. ""Since when do we politely ask notorious violaters of international law to stop their daily terrorisation of the Palestinian civilians, with assassinations in broad daylight and theft of property, houses, land and water? Why aren't the harshest peaceful means used to fight this?"

Cal for sanctions

In the view of Wijenberg the European Union and the Netherlands have become an instrument of Israels foreign policy by ignoring its own core values values and respect for international law and human rights. Europe can play a key role in achieving lasting peace for Israel and its neighbours. If Israel refuses to show respect for international law, heavy sanctions against Israel should be installed.

Adri Nieuwhof is an independent consultant and human rights advocate from the Netherlands.


[1] The Jerusalem Post, Up Front weekend supplement (21 May 2004)

[2] NOVA (15 December 2005)

(c)2000-2006 unless otherwise noted. Content may represent personal view of author. This page was printed from the Electronic Intifada website at You may freely e-mail, print out, copy, and redistribute this page for informational purposes on a non-commercial basis. To republish content credited to the Electronic Intifada in online or print publications, please get in touch via

4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good work, MashaAllah. May God reward you.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Dear Mrs El-Haddad,

Every time I read your blog I learn so much.
You have such strength.
This time I spent as much time as possible reading through the comments.

For you are action and they are reaction.

I find it interesting that people seek out one phrase that they can belittle just to announce something negative.

I draw a deep breath and say that I would not have the courage to leave my home now and go visit your homeland.

I notice alot of people who probably never lived outside of North America have a great deal to say about a place, a life, and a struggle they could not even dream of here. And if they are here they have purposefully left.

I vow..... I want to listen. I want to hear. I want to learn. And if I ever think that I am better or smarter or louder, and have a more "right" opinion.....I will have the gutz to travel to Gaza with no special recognition than an average family for a year and state that to a Palestinian crowd.
That sounds rediculous doesnt it! My point is that until any of us has walked in your shoes we should just listen and learn.
Teach me.
Thank You
My prayers for you and the message you can bring.

4:22 AM  
Blogger Angelo said...

Hi Laila, just wanted to commend you on your excellent blog :)

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ADL is a criminal unamerican organization. How many did do they have to get caught spying for Israel before someone with a spine shuts them down once and for all....

8:40 AM  

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