UMA Symposium Censures Atrocities in Gaza
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Speakers at the UMA Symposium
Dr. Paul Larudee, a leading International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist and Co-Founder of the Free Gaza Movement, believes that “ Palestine will be freed in our lifetime.”
He made this observation while addressing a United Muslims of America Symposium at a San Francisco Bay Area restaurant on February 1.
In an emotionally charged speech, Dr. Larudee said that we are not free unless Palestine is free. “We are all Palestinians…What happened to Palestinians can happen to everyone.”
A former Fulbright-Hayes lecturer in Lebanon, Dr. Paul Larudee was among seven unarmed ISM volunteers wounded during a nonviolent protest in the West Bank on April 1, 2002. He argued, “We should defend Palestinians’ rights so that they are able to spend normal life. Remember what Martin Luther King said: ‘Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.’ ”
Two sisters, Darlene Wallach and Donna Wallach, from the Free Gaza Movement, stole the show with their graphic and emotional description of the sufferings of the Palestinians in Gaza which has remained under economic blockade since June 2006.
American Darlene Wallach, Italian Vittorio Arrigoni, and Scottish Andrew Muncie, reached Gaza by boat in late-August 2008 as part of the first Free Gaza delegation. They worked with the International Solidarity Movement alongside Palestinian fishermen.
Darlene recounted her abduction at gunpoint by Israeli navy commandos on November 18, 2008 when she was accompanying Palestinian fishermen seven nautical miles off the coast from Deir al-Balah. Darlene was later deported to New York. It was her second arrest. She was earlier arrested in 2002 during protests in the occupied West Bank.
Speaking about the history of the Israeli carnage in Gaza, Dr. Hatem Bazian, Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley, said that the latest Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza was a strategic decision by the US, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to reverse the outcome of the 2006 Gaza elections. The objective is to discredit the Hamas-like groups in the Muslim countries because, according to a CIA analysis, if free elections are held, Islamic-oriented governments would be winning in all the Middle Eastern/Islamic countries. However, Dr. Bazian, who is also the President of the American Muslims for Palestine, stressed that the carnage in Gaza was aimed at crushing the will of the people but it failed to achieve its objective.
Jalal Shreim, a community activist, emphasized that “we must stand against injustice and aggression anywhere in the world.” He contended that Israeli aggression against innocent Palestinian children, women and men was possible only because of the US support. He said the State Department is run under the wrong notion that whatever is good for Israel is good for the US.
He thanked sisters Darlene Wallach and Donna Wallach for supporting the Palestinian cause. He also thanked Dr. Paul Laurudee of the Free Gaza Movement.
Hamayoun Jamali said that donations would be channeled through the Islamic Relief charity organization. With graphics, Jamali explained the global relief work of Islamic Relief.
Islamic Relief Worldwide was founded in 1984 in response to the famine in Africa. For the fifth consecutive year, Islamic Relief USA has been awarded a four-star rating by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the United States, which aims to "help charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions by providing information on over five thousand charities and by evaluating the financial health of each of these charities."
Earlier, Shafi Rifai, the UMA President, welcomed the guests on behalf of his organization.
The program ended with Syed Rifat Mahmood, President of the American Institute of International Studies (AIIS), proposing a resolution that said: “Investigation should be initiated within our American Government to determine the amount of responsibility of the war crimes in Gaza that are attributable to the United States.”
It was also demanded that “ Israel should pay restitution to the people of Gaza to rebuild their homes and to restore the infrastructure required to maintain the Gaza population.”
At the end of the symposium Dr. Rajab Ali, a community leader, conducted fund raising for Gaza.
Ahsan Baig, a prominent community activist, was the master of the ceremony.