Saturday, October 8, 2011

Palestinian-American Poet Naomi Nye..... "a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”

Palestinian-American Poet Naomi NyeThe third season of Wyoming Chronicle debuts with an interview of Naomi Shihab Nye, an Arab-American poet, talks to Wyoming Chronicle about peaceful ways to resolve conflicts in the Middle East, with a backdrop of fierce debate in the United Nations over Palestinian statehood.

In a Chronicle short feature, Sen. Malcolm Wallop, who passed away in September, is remembered.

Nye’s Palestinian grandmother and father lost their home in Jerusalem in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, in which they were not participants. Nye was born in St. Louis in 1952, and now lives in Texas. An author of poetry and young adult books, Nye recently toured Wyoming as part of a campaign by the Wyoming Council for the Humanities for civility in public discourse.

A keen observer of the Arab Spring and the turmoil in the Middle East, Nye has used her writing to provide a human face to the oft-caricatured Arab. While she provides insights into the despair that leads to violence in the Islamic world, she has also taken a strong stand against terrorism, expressed in her widely published “Letter to Any Would-be Terrorist.”

Above all, though, Nye is a talented, award-winning poet, with books like “19 Varieties of Gazelle”, and the soon-to-be-published “Transfer.” She has also written a young adult book, “Habibi.”

About her work, the poet William Stafford has said, “her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life.”

Nye has received awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Carity Randall Prize, the International Poetry Forum, as well as four Pushcart Prizes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. In 1988 she received The Academy of American Poets’ Lavan Award, selected by W. S. Merwin.

Her poems and short stories have appeared in various journals and reviews throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East. She has traveled to the Middle East and Asia for the United States Information Agency three times, promoting international goodwill through the arts.

She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010.



The Elders: For the recognition of a Palestinian state... Peace negotiations must be "based firmly on international law and universal human rights"

from the Elders

... Any future peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians cannot be a return to business as usual. If they are, they will be doomed to failure. Instead they must start on a fresh basis, one based firmly on international law and universal human rights with clear parameters and an agreed deadline for their conclusion.

Twelve months ago US President Barack Obama used his annual address to the UN to declare that he looked forward to welcoming Palestine to the ranks of the UN’s members by the start of its next session. Unfortunately, the bilateral negotiations that might have produced this desired result have not been possible, due in large part to the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

These settlements have repeatedly been declared by the international community to be illegal under international law. To salvage the remaining opportunity to create a “contiguous and viable” Palestinian state, all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem intended solely for Jewish occupants must halt immediately.

Any negotiations that resume following action at the UN should aim to define the boundaries of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Such an accord could entail equal land swaps to allow for minor adjustments.

Fair and robust external mediation will be another essential ingredient as, under present circumstances, the parties are unlikely to be able to reach an agreement on their own. In this regard, a positive and united stand over the anticipated UN resolution by the European Union, Israel’s largest trading partner and, at a billion Euros per year, by far the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, would give it leverage to play a bigger political role to help resolve the conflict.

For over two decades, negotiations have been more about process than real substance, leading to understandable disillusionment and frustration among Palestinians and all those who seek a just and lasting peace agreement. It has been almost 65 years since the UN agreed to the creation of two states – this solution has been delayed for far too long

Three women, two Liberians and a Yemeni, win Nobel Peace Prize,0,5816697.story
Three women, two Liberians and a Yemeni, win Nobel Peace Prize
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman share the Nobel Peace Prize. (EPA, Associated Press, Reuters)

Sharing the award were Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first democratically elected female head of state; her countrywoman Leymah Gbowee, a peace activist who challenged warlords; and Tawakul Karman, a Yemeni human rights leader seeking to overthrow an autocratic regime as part of the regionwide "Arab Spring" movement.

"We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society," said the citation read by Thorbjorn Jagland, head of the Nobel committee, based in Oslo.

The Norwegian panel said it hoped the award would help end "the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent."

The trio joined an exclusive group of about a dozen female Nobel peace laureates among the scores of men who have won the honor over the decades....READ MORE

Thursday, October 6, 2011

American Task Force on Palestine Proud to Announce PM Salam Fayyad as 2011 Gala Keynote Speaker

ATFP [The American Task Force on Palestine] is strictly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians no matter the cause and no matter who the victims or perpetrators may be. The Task Force advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts.
Palestine's Salam Fayyad
The American Task Force on Palestine is pleased to announce that the theme of this year’s annual gala will be:

Honoring Heritage, Embracing Originality

ATFP is proud to announce Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as
gala keynote speaker.

We will honor four distinguished Palestinian Americans: Maha Freij, Hanan Munayyer, Nawaf Soliman and Maysoon Zayid.

We are privileged to crown the event with a Concert of Arab Vocal and Instrumental Music by internationally recognized Palestinian American musician and composer Simon Shaheen and Ensemble.

We are delighted to have the very talented Palestinian American comedian Dean Obeidallah as our MC for the evening.

Registration: 5:30PM
Reception: 6:00PM
Program & Dinner: 7:30PM

This will be a black tie event.

Please click here to purchase tickets
Please click here to get more information about sponsorship.

More than fifty dignitaries have joined our Honorary Host Committee so far
Please click here to view the list of members.

The raison d'être of the American Task Force on Palestine | The American Task Force on Palestine

Ziad Asali

Ghaith Al-Omari
Hussein Ibish
To follow Israel-Palestine news, subscribe to APN's News Nosh and ATFP's News Roundup Between them, you will miss almost nothing at all.


Promoting economic and educational opportunities for the Palestinian people

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Falling test scores try Palestinian educators

National achievement tests show, for example, that refugee students at UNRWA schools are outperforming many government-run schools. All Palestinian schools, except some private schools, use the same curriculum and Matar thinks the educational strategies of UNRWA teachers and administrators are responsible for students’ higher rates of success... al-Khouli, 9, in a technology class at al-Mu'tasem Elementary School in Gaza City. Suhair Karam/IRIN

Aref Husseini, who heads an education non-profit in Ramallah, believes that if teachers provided students with the skills necessary to research and gather information, they would do better on the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the international test where Palestinian scores fell between 2003 and 2007.

“Most of the questions on the TIMSS are related to critical and logical thinking. It has nothing to do with information or memorizing,” Husseini said. Learning by heart Newtons’ law and other laws of physical science will not help students pass the test if they cannot apply them.

Giving an example, Husseini said TIMSS asked students what would be left of a chair if all its atoms were taken away. He said that over 70 percent of students said the chair would still be there, instead of the correct answer: nothing. He argues that students are not using critical thinking skills and problem-solving to connect what they are learning in school with the wider world.

Husseini is the founder of Al-Nayzak for Extracurricular and Scientific Innovation, which runs after-school programs in Jerusalem and Ramallah that encourage students to think more critically.

Intesar Hamdan, a spokesperson for the Teacher Creativity Center in Ramallah, echoed other officials in saying that teaching methodology must improve in order to reverse the downward trend in Palestinian learning.

She said that teachers tend to rely on practices that reward students for memorizing lecture material. Students are evaluated based on their ability to remember information, rather than their ability to apply it.


Hamdan added that the student-to-teacher ratio is too high in many Palestinian schools, reaching forty-to-one at some government classrooms. In Gaza, schools run by the United Nations refugee agency, UNRWA, report 50 students in most classrooms. With high numbers of students, teachers find it more difficult to give students individual attention.

The shortage of classrooms is also acute in Area C in the West Bank, where Israel remains in control and blocks Palestinian construction. According to UNICEF, 10,000 students in Area C study in tents, caravans or tin shacks and one-third of schools have insufficient water or sanitation.

Schools built in Area C can be threatened with demolition, says Hamdan. According to the UN, at least 23 schools in Area C and East Jerusalem have demolition orders and could be destroyed at any time.

New York Times Art & Design Placing Islamic Art on a New Pedestal

A 14th-century prayer niche, or mihrab, from a theological school in Isfahan, Iran. (Photo by Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)

The Damascus room, from the 18th century

Placing Islamic Art on a New Pedestal

Published: September 22, 2011
IN one of Washington Irving’s tales from “The Alhambra,” the short-story collection that rooted the great 14th-century Moorish landmark in the American imagination, a poor Spaniard and his daughter discover a hidden chamber deep within the abandoned palace’s crumbling walls and spirit away the treasure inside.

Over the last three years in a suite of galleries concealed from public view on the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it is as if Irving’s fable of Islam’s rich past has been unfolding in reverse. Treasures, in this case more than a thousand pieces from the museum’s extensive holdings of Islamic art, have been slowly populating newly constructed rooms, taking their places in gleaming new vitrines with Egyptian marble underfoot and mosque lamps overhead, amid burbling fountains and peaked arches framing views of 13 centuries of art history.

When this 19,000-square-foot hidden chamber is finally opened to the public on Nov. 1 with the unwieldy but academically precise new name of the Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia, it will not only represent the culmination of eight years of planning and work. The reinstallation and enlargement of the collection — one of the most important outside the Middle East — also promises to stand as a watershed moment in America’s awareness of the visual culture of the Islamic world, at a time when...READ MORE

Mechthild Baumeister, right, a conservator, with Daniel Olson, a carpenter, in the new galleries.

A Spanish plaque from the late 10th or early 11th century.

France opposes rapid Palestinian bid to join UNESCO

A Palestinian walks past the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. France says it opposes moves by the Palestinian Authority to seek rapid recognition as a full state member of the United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

France said Wednesday that it opposed moves by the Palestinian Authority to seek rapid recognition as a full state member of the United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO.

"We don't think UNESCO is the appropriate arena," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said, after Arab members of the world body said they wanted the Palestinians to be promoted from observers to full members.

Palestinian leaders have demanded full recognition as a state by the United Nations Security Council in New York -- in the full knowledge that the United States will veto such a move, in support of its ally Israel.

Now their Arab allies in Paris-Based UNESCO have opened up a second front, hoping to add to the growing trappings of Palestinian statehood.

And UNESCO membership would not only be a diplomatic feather in Palestine's cap -- it would allow it to apply to class its monuments as World Heritage Sites at a time when the heritage of much of the Holy Land is under dispute.

France has tried to ply a middle course in the debate, while insisting it fully supports eventual Palestinian statehood in the framework of a two-state solution that guarantees Israel's security and a viable Palestine.

But Valero said France felt it "was not the time" for the Palestinians to push the UNESCO issue, and insisted that the "priority must be the resumption of negotiations" with Israel on an eventual settlement of the dispute.

Yasser Arafat's scarf maker gets Internet lifeline

A man works a machine in a factory that manufactures keffiyeh scarves in the West Bank city of Hebron. Instead of selling to a dwindling local market, Joudeh Hirbawi is working with a group of Palestinians overseas to market the scarves abroad, even harnessing social media to connect with customers. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader)

Related Article Yasser Arafat's scarf maker gets Internet lifeline

"In the old days, everyone used to wear them, especially in winter when it gets cold here and they kept people warm," Hirbawi said, seated in a small office in the factory.

"But now it's really something that you only see older Palestinians wearing," he said. "And the competition from Chinese products is simply more than we can take on."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lebanon news - NOW Lebanon -Arab-Americans rejoice, Awlaki is gone!

"The bottom line is that Awlaki preached that all Americans, of whatever origin, were fair game and should be killed at every possible opportunity. That, of course, includes Arab- and Muslim-Americans. So Awlaki not only threatened the reputation of these communities, but also potentially their members as well." Hussein Ibish

Coming Soon: There Is No Long Distance Now... very short stories by Naomi Shihab Nye

There Is No Long Distance Now

Very Short Stories

On Sale: 10/11/2011
Formats: Hardcover | eBook

Book Description

In these forty life-altering, life-affirming, and extremely short short stories, the award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye proposes that no matter how great the divide between friends, siblings, life and death, classmates, enemies, happiness and misery, war and peace, breakfast and lunch, parent and child, country and city, there is, in fact, no long distance. Not anymore. Read Now

What's Up: Palestinian Sunbird

The Visitor Information Center (VIC) in Bethlehem was established by Franciscan Father Ibrahim Feltas in December, 2010, as a project of the John Paul II Foundation, with its base in the Middle East in Bethlehem. VIC’s main goal is to serve tourists in Bethlehem with relevant for their visit.
Palestine’s location on the migration route from Europe and Western Asia to Africa is responsible for the very large number of bird species in the country.
Palestinian Sunbird
The bird is commonly associated with the area of Palestinian land and even its picture has been used on post stamps.

It has been as well used by an artist Khaled Jarrar in the design of a potential “State of Palestine” border control stamp, which he stamps into international visitors passports as a call for freedom of Palestine.

To learn more about Khaled Jarrar’s project check his Facebook page.

Great works of literature, theater, dance, fine art, and music reach us through a universal language that unites us regardless of background...

The problem we all live with — by Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), depicting an incident in the American Civil Rights struggle of the early 1960s, when Ruby Bridges entered first grade on the first day of court-ordered desegregation of New Orleans, Louisiana, public schools (November 14, 1960). Originally published in Look magazine.The painting is currently displayed in the West Wing of the White House, just outside President Obama's Oval Office.

"Like Rockwell's painting, art in all its forms often challenges us to consider new perspectives and to rethink how we see the world. This image still moves us with its simple poignancy, capturing a moment in American history that changed us forever. This is the power of the arts and humanities -- they speak to our condition and affirm our desire for something more and something better. Great works of literature, theater, dance, fine art, and music reach us through a universal language that unites us regardless of background, gender, race, or creed...

We must recognize the contributions of the arts and humanities not only by supporting the artists of today, but also by giving opportunities to the creative thinkers of tomorrow. Educators across our country are opening young minds, fostering innovation, and developing imaginations through arts education. Through their work, they are empowering our Nation's students with the ability to meet the challenges of a global marketplace. It is a well-rounded education for our children that will fuel our efforts to lead in a new economy where critical and creative thinking will be the keys to success."

The White House: Presidential Proclamation -- National Arts and Humanities Month, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

May We Never, Ever Become Like Them by Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

This morning another mosque was burned. This time it was located in a Palestinian village inside Israel, a novelty for Jewish extremists who usually target Palestinian villages in the West Bank. The mosque burning is just the last in a chain of “price tag” measures taken by bitter settlers who are angry at their government and of course at the Palestinians who are always the perfect scapegoat for their fury.

Burning mosques and copies of the Quran and scrawling offensive graffiti across Palestinian university walls and Palestinian homes are a few of the ways Jewish settlers have been waging their own war of attrition on the Palestinians – wearing them down bit by bit, pushing them out inch by inch until one day the very ground they stand on has been pulled from beneath them. That is what the “price tag” policy is all about – settlers say it is a way of taking revenge on the government for even considering the evacuation of minor settlement outposts (major settlement blocs are not even in the picture) but the ultimate goal is to wreak havoc in the lives of the Palestinians on whose land these settlers squat and to eventually drive them out.

What is even worse than burning down a mosque – although this is atrocious and highly offensive to Muslim sensitivities – is the abhorrent act of burning down olive trees. Over the past few months several hundred olive trees have either been cut down or set afire by rampant settlers descending on Palestinian farmland, armed and rabid and set out to do as much harm as possible.

This cuts to the bone for every Palestinian. Burning olive trees is almost sacrilegious, an act tantamount to murder. Olive trees are the soul of Palestine, the livelihood of thousands of farmers and the symbol of our homeland. It takes decades for a single tree to bear fruit, years of careful tending and pruning. The condition of a farmer’s olive tree is evidence of his skill at farming and a source of immense pride. So, when settlers decide it is their right and perhaps even duty to hack at these precious trees it stabs at the very heart of all that is Palestinian.

Some may say it is difficult to stay human in a reality that is so insanely inhuman. In Syria, a grieving mother of a 15-year old boy who was tortured, mutilated and killed by Syrian secret security forces tearfully says they will never be like the monsters. “Don’t they have children too?” she asks. But that is our moral duty as Palestinians and as people, to stay human and to never copy their ways.

This can be a challenge, one which we may fail at times. It is very tempting to stoop to the level of our tormenters with the urge to have them “taste their own medicine.” But it is an urge we must resist at all times because our humanity is what will legitimize our existence.

Israel today is slowly eroding from the inside and it is partially because there are settlers who draw no moral lines and a government which allows them to do so because it serves their long term goals. The Palestinians today are demanding a state of their own, one they rightfully deserve. Israel’s settlers are expected to fight this state tooth and nail because of some twisted and racist logic that says this land is for Jews only.

In this battle for our precious land on which our precious olive trees have grown for thousands of years, we Palestinians must maintain our humanity even when we fight hard. Because in the end, when the settlers are gone and the Palestinian flag flies freely, we want to be proud of what we achieved and how we achieved it.

Joharah Baker is Director of the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Poet Ibtisam Barakat's current status:

The rose that grows in Palestine everywhere is called ..........."Peace Keeper" I learned today.. الورد الجوري -- so the most gorgeous, fragrant flower is a failure at its task? :D :D These flowers gave me more than peace though during times of peace and war.. The queen of all flowers.. -- Ibtisam barakat 2011

Farewell to Palestinian Poet Taha Muhammad Ali

Arabic Literature (in English)
From Ali’s “Twigs”:

And so
it has taken me
all of sixty years
to understand
that water is the finest drink,
and bread the most delicious food,
and that art is worthless
unless it plants
a measure of splendor in people’s hearts.

(Read the whole poem.)

Israeli wins right to be classed as 'no religion'

"Israel registers its citizens according to both their religion and their ethnicity, although it does not include an "Israeli" ethnicity, labelling its Jewish citizens as of "Jewish" ethnicity.

That has raised the ire of secular groups who have petitioned the interior ministry for years to replace the Jewish ethnicity label with an Israeli one."

An Israeli writer has won a historic court victory granting his request to be officially registered as "without religion" rather than "Jewish," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday....READ MORE

Poetry Dispatch No. 220 : Where by Taha Muhammad Ali

Poetry hides
behind the night of words
behind the clouds of hearing,
across the dark of sight,
and beyond the dusk of music
that’s hidden and revealed.
But where is it concealed?
And how could I
possibly know
when I am
barely able,
by the light of day,
to find my pencil?

from SO WHAT New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005, Copper Canyon Press, 2006, $18

Taha Muhammad Ali was born in 1931 in a village in Galilee–then Saffuriya in Mandatory Palestine. At seventeen he fled to Lebanon with his family after the village came under heavy bombardment during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. A year later he slipped back across the border with his family and settled in Nazareth, where he has lived ever since...READ MORE

Abbas aide urges Quartet to press for Israeli settlement halt

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demanded Saturday that international mediators insist on a halt to Israeli settlement construction, after their initiative to restart peace talks was jolted this week by Israel’s decision to advance building plans on West Bank land annexed to Jerusalem.

Nabil Shaath characterized the response to Israel’s move by the mediating group known as the Quartet as a slap on the wrist and said that more robust action was needed to ensure that negotiations resume with ground rules that include a halt to Israeli construction on land the Palestinians seek for a future state....READ MORE

The raison d'être of the American Task Force on Palestine

Advocating the Establishment of a State of Palestine

On Wednesday, October 19, the American Task Force on Palestine will be hosting its Sixth Annual Gala in Washington DC. The Task Force, established in 2003, has been continuously expanding its presence in Washington over the years, with 100 people attending our first fundraiser in 2005 and 700 people attending our Fifth Annual Gala last year, addressed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Our gala has become an important fixture of the Washington political scene and a must-attend event for key players on Israel-Palestine policy. We are proud and humbled by the national and international stature that ATFP has achieved over the years. Yet the role and purpose of the Task Force is sometimes still misunderstood, so allow me to explain who we are, what we do and why.

ATFP's mission and strategic concept

Our work is grounded in principles and defined by pragmatism. From its outset, ATFP's mission -- to advocate that a negotiated end of conflict agreement allowing for two states, Israel and Palestine, to live side-by-side in peace and security is in the American national interest -- emphasized our identity as an American organization. We maintain that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is crucial for our country's interests, and over the years of ATFP's existence this has become a consensus view in Washington. ATFP, whose Board of Directors is made up entirely of Palestinian Americans, is an American organization advocating for a Palestinian state, but not a Palestinian organization.

The two-state solution is the official policy adopted by the PLO in 1988 and pursued, since the Oslo agreement, by the Palestinian Authority under President Yasser Arafat and then President Mahmoud Abbas. It also is the policy advocated by the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by Prince, and now King, Abdallah of Saudi Arabia and adopted by the Beirut Arab League Summit of 2002, as well as the Quartet which represents the USA, European Union, Russia and the United Nations. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel declared his government’s support for two states soon after he assumed office.

ATFP's decision to focus on mainstream advocacy based primarily within the Washington policy community was strategic, and designed to influence that policy by directly engaging those who shape it. The Task Force took an early decision not to be a grassroots membership organization because we knew we needed to chart our own course with rigorous independence. We understood that we were going to create a new model for advocacy for Palestinian independence in the American national interest. We never claimed to speak for any community, but only for ourselves and those who willingly affiliated with us based on support for our policies.

Another of our most crucial objectives was to help redefine the image of Palestinian Americans, Palestinians and Palestine in Washington and throughout the United States. At our annual galas, we honor four prominent community members for their achievements and contributions to our society, and emphasize the positive, uplifting story of the Palestinian-American experience. We are well aware of, and have ourselves experienced, the Palestinian tragedy of dispossession, exile and occupation. However, we also know that Palestinian Americans have thrived in and contributed greatly to this country, and we want to communicate that to our fellow Americans and our own community.

We also understand our mission to have a performative element, demonstrating to other Palestinian and Arab Americans the importance of shifting the focus to an emphasis on American identity and patriotism while advocating for a state of Palestine and accepting the state of Israel. Though there have been many pressures on us over the years to take our eyes off that ball, we decline to do so.

Our primary target audience is the policy-making and discourse-shaping establishment in our nation's capital. We are against the occupation, but not against Israel, and advocate policies that are in the American national interest. We support the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps, and with its capital in East Jerusalem. We support agreed upon solutions to the issue of refugees acceptable to both the Palestinians and Israelis. We have issued our vision of the character of a Palestinian state, which we recommend should be democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and based on the rule of law. We recognize and believe that the United States is the indispensable broker for the negotiations that will be essential to achieving a peace based on the creation of an independent Palestine.

ATFP's guiding principles

From the outset we found ourselves pushing on open doors because there is a recognized need in Washington for serious, constructive Palestinian-American voices advocating peace. We have therefore been able to establish strong relations with both Republican and Democratic administrations, key members of Congress, and the most important policy think tanks and media organizations.

Our guiding principle has been to oppose the occupation while accepting the state of Israel with agreed upon borders, based on the principles laid out in UN Security Council Resolution 242 and subsequent resolutions accepted by the PLO, the Arab League and the entire international community. We have established contacts with American organizations across the political and ethnic spectrum without getting involved in their communal politics. And we have developed dialogue with American, Palestinian, Arab, European, Israeli and other governmental officials with un-wavering pursuit of a conflict-ending peace agreement consistent with our mission.

Our financial integrity has been scrupulously maintained, with full transparency and disclosure. We have posted on our website audited and signed financial statements for every year of our existence.

ATFP seeks to build a national coalition

Our main partners have been all those seeking a genuine two-state solution, including Americans, Palestinians, Israelis who are committed to moving beyond a binary, zero-sum mentality and embracing a win-win solution based on a genuine compromise. For years we have been trying to lay the groundwork for a national coalition for a two-state solution, and we continue to work towards that goal. ATFP believes it is necessary for all who understand that a two-state peace agreement is essential to the American, Israeli and Palestinian national interests to work together to achieve that single goal, regardless of any other differences. This can only be done on the basis of parity and mutual respect.

Our principal tools to advance our mission have been public and private advocacy within the policy community in Washington, in the media, and around the country, as well as outreach around the world, particularly in the Middle East. We hold and coordinate events with numerous organizations across the country while holding them on our own as well. And we work diligently on developing and maintaining our relationships with key officials and policymakers.

Challenges and criticisms facing ATFP

The Task Force has been confronted by a wide range of critics from many different political orientations. We have come and remain under continuous attack from certain right-wing Zionist groups that support the occupation. Naturally, we have been denounced by anti-Israel extremists who oppose any dealings with Israel or mainstream Jewish-American organizations. We also have been harassed by some left-wing ideologues, many of them neither Palestinians nor Arab-Americans, who out-bid us on support for Palestine and accuse us of “selling out” to the US government or the pro-Israel lobby. Respectful of all views, we expected many of these critiques, and we are not deterred by any of them.

Another expected challenge for us has been breaking through the orthodoxy of political correctness within the Palestinian and Arab American communities and their entrenched leaderships, many of whom cling to an anachronistic and dysfunctional zero-sum narrative of “us versus them.” This perspective does not recognize that in order to end the occupation, Israel must be the partner for peace. It also typically takes a confrontational approach to the US government and political system, thus rendering the community marginalized and diminishing prospects for the influencing of decision-making. By contrast, ATFP seeks to identify and partner with those in the United States, Palestine and Israel who understand that ending the conflict requires a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. The Task Force recognizes and appreciates the open American political system that has made this country great by allowing all citizens to participate freely and fully. ATFP emphasizes working within the system, and with the political and policy establishment in our country, in order to impact policy and redress real, important grievances. The accomplishments and political empowerment of all communities and causes have been based on precisely this approach of engagement and full participation in our open American system.

ATFP has adopted a time-tested and proven strategy, but one at variance with the orthodoxy within its own base community. Not surprisingly, this new approach has contributed to limiting the resources and funding available to the organization. Given what we have achieved with the modest resources thus far available, it is obvious what could be accomplished with more support. Most criticisms leveled against us, from whatever quarter, reveal a lack of understanding that ATFP is not an ethnic or community group, it is a goal-oriented organization that is dedicated to a strategic purpose: the creation of a state of Palestine alongside Israel. Those who disagree with us are welcome to another course of advocacy in any way they wish. This, after all, is a free country and these issues can and should be approached from many different perspectives.

How ATFP promotes its mission

The state of Palestinian and Arab American community organizations limits their ability to marshal the two most important components of political influence in our country: votes and money. Yet ATFP has fashioned three important tools that are actually within our power, and is using them to the fullest extent, to advance our mission.

First, we have contributed serious, important ideas based on insights stemming from our unique position, connections and expertise. These substantive ideas have proven their value to policymakers, and have been taken seriously among the key leaderships. Some of these ideas challenge existing policies, while others support or enhance them. But all are pursuant to the realization of our mission.

Second, we have established our credibility by doing the right thing in the right way, and always saying the same thing consistently to all audiences, in English and in Arabic. We were fully aware from the outset the significant political and social costs we would incur, and have indeed incurred, for some of our principled positions. Such vital credibility cannot be won or sustained in any other manner. We have worked hard to ensure that no one can seriously dismiss us, even when they take issue with our opinions. Credibility requires courage, taking clear stances on controversial issues and making difficult choices that cannot be avoided. Our lack of any official status or funding from any government sources whatsoever has enhanced rather than inhibited our credibility. We have rigorously protected our independent decision-making of all forms of pressure, from all sources.

Third, the quality of our ideas and credibility has allowed us to develop exceptionally broad and high-level contacts and access. Important people among the key players talk to us seriously, both publicly and privately, because they know other important people talk to us as well. They listen to what we have to say, just as we listen to what they have to say. This places us in the unique and vital position of being able to understand the Palestinian leadership’s decision-making and to explain it to American officials and vice versa, and at the same time to be able to communicate seriously with Israeli leaders as well.

It is sometimes argued that we have attained access without influence, but it is impossible to have influence without access. We are well aware of the limitations we are still working to overcome, and are guided by what we can actually achieve given our resources and the political realities. The first step towards gaining influence is attaining access, and we have acquired a significantly greater measure of both than anything that has been yielded by more traditional Palestinian-American advocacy. Obviously there is a long way to go, but our experience tells us that we are without question on the right track. Our effectiveness would be significantly enhanced if and when a broad base of supporters throughout the nation advocates along the same lines in their local and regional political settings.

As a goal-oriented organization, in the long run ATFP will be judged on the basis of what it can achieve and the results it can help deliver. Our approach will remain suspect in the eyes of some until tangible evidence of its success becomes irrefutable. Nonetheless, we have already established an organization with national and international influence. This is our modest contribution to all those forces fighting for peace, dignity and a better future. We are guided by what we can actually achieve in the real world with the resources at our disposal. We stay focused on our mission, and are committed to the art of the possible. Given the mission of the Task Force of advocating the establishment of a state of Palestine, we focus on strengthening the American-Palestinian relationship, and bringing them closer together at every level. This is the raison d'être of ATFP.

Ziad J. Asali

American Task Force on Palestine, President

September 30, 2011

Hussein Ibish: Gilad Atzmon and John Mearsheimer: self-criticism, self-hate and hate

"Ever since he and Walt began criticizing the role of the pro-Israel lobby (Jewish power in Israel and the United States being a subject that deserves serious interrogation of the kind being done by Peter Beinart, among others), Mearsheimer (far more than Walt) has been developing an outright vendetta with the Jewish mainstream that, I fear, has become deeply personal and therefore distorted. Last year he gave a dreadful speech at the Palestine Center in Washington in which he abandoned his long-standing good advice to Arab and Muslim Americans to develop an alliance for a two-state solution with peace-minded Jewish Americans. Instead, he counseled Palestinians and their allies that Israel would never agree to the creation of a Palestinian state and that because of demographics and other factors, Palestinians would ultimately prevail, and that in effect they need do nothing to achieve that victory (save, he noted, not engaging in the kind of violence that might rationalize another round of Israeli ethnic cleansing). In response to that worst of all possible advice, I dubbed him the “Kevorkian of Palestine,” because I believe he was preaching a form of assisted suicide. He was repeating the siren song Palestinians and other Arabs have been telling themselves about Israel and Zionism since the 1920s: that demographics are destiny and steadfastness alone would secure a victory over the Israeli national project. To say that history has proven this logic incorrect, and led from defeat to defeat, would be a gross understatement." Hussein Ibish: Gilad Atzmon and John Mearsheimer: self-criticism, self-hate and hate