Diana Buttu–A Palestinian Negotiator

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Diana Buttu spoke last March, but your reporter is only writing it up the second week of September because of the urgency of the upcoming bid for Palestinian Statehood at the U.N. (United Nations) in New York City (N.Y.C.) soon.

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and a former spokeswoman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). She is best known for her work as a legal adviser and a negotiator in the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Dr. Buttu was born in Canada to Palestinian parents. She received her B.A. in Middle East and Islamic Studies, an LL.M. from the University of Toronto, a JD from Queen’s University Faculty of Law, a J.S.M. from Stanford Law School and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern.

Diana was born and raised in Canada yet her parents were Palestinian citizens of Israel. Still, they hardly ever discussed their Palestinian identity at home, for the prejudices and injustices against them in the Zionist sphere forced them to exit their natal territory. They moved out of the Middle East to protect their children from the disrespect and the day-to-day bodily dangers there.

She only returned as a visitor in 1987 — shortly before the outbreak of the Second Intifada — and “Seeing the images, and asking people about them created this personal awakening,” within me. She explains. “I realized I was Palestinian and a part of this big nation.” She, then, accepted a position with the Negotiations Support Unit (N.S.U.) – the only female advisor to the Palestinian Authority (PA) — of the Muslim-dominated but bi-sectarian PLO. She found her work to be “…like negotiating with a gun to your head; where the people under occupation have to negotiate their own release!” Thus, the power over the weak became such that everything that Ramallah was willing to concede to their Jewish counterparts, was never acceptable to the latter. Further, the U.S. refused to recognize that transposing a populace out of their birthright illegally is illegitimate.

Buttu, finally, decided to explain the Palestinian story to the media. This aspect of her service angered her Israeli supporters, and cost her the NSU job. She has, also, lived in Gaza City testifying to the lack of drinkable water and electricity for the Strip to even fulfill its basic humanitarian needs.

Ms. Buttu, Esq. considers herself to be an unremarkable woman (Sic!); the only thing in which she considers to have partially failed is the negotiations in which she took part. As her introduction from Barbara Lubin the director of the sponsor, The Middle Eastern Children’s Association (or MECA), of the event stated that she is a real woman fighting against (real) repression. Why the PLO achieved legitimacy seventeen years ago and is now going for full international recognition at this moment at the U.N. headquarters on the Hudson is similar to the current unfolding events of the Arab “Spring.” At the same time, curiously, Palestina began that “Spring!”

In the (former Mandate/Province of) Palestine, the Levant was a tri-sectarian majority-Arab nationality. After the Partition (1948), European Settler Colonialism influenced one religio-ethnic group, an ad hoc pseudo-nationality, to supplant the primordial nationality from its territory.

Israelis have been dividing Arabic territory within the Biblical State in order to dominate Palestine. Israel also attempted to divide the continental European powers by inaccurately describing herself as a negotiator. There are benefits with negotiation, and that is diplomatic recognition; and therefore international rehabilitation, and more US cash.

During this period the Settlers multiplied; filling the valleys of Palestine with an alien people. Israel’s initial goal for negotiations was to legitimize herself in the eyes of the world — while displacing a place’s people. A Bantuization, a South African word that alludes to the separation of peoples during the Apartheid period, within the Holy Land developed. The Palestinians lost their identification of themselves and by others of being a distinct people since the 1948 end of the (already defunct) League of Nations’ Mandate.

The current upheavals in North Africa and West Asia are tsunamis, revolts against the division of the greater Arab nation after the two World Wars into subsequent lesser nation-states. This Revolt began in Palestine, she argues. Buttu believes negotiations will continue to discourage a substantial withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. Thus, the West Bank and Gaza will continue to endure Bantu-like cantonments.

Through its facade of false talks, the Israelis have reversed their strategy of “…carrots instead of sticks” whenever possible. Henceforth, “…we Palestinians must be the ones employing the sticks!” We (the PA and our civil society and the progressive international communes) must not be shy about boycotts (against the Zionist State) to convince the centrist Israeli of the international disapproval of their government.

At the time of her speech in this city (above), the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) passed a law to criminalize anyone advocating a boycott. This must be reversed! The international criminal renegade that the Hebrew State has become through her own government must be reversed by her own people and International People of Conscious for the sake of self-agency for the Palestinian entity itself!

Her (Buttu’s) Grandmother returned to Palestine (by then Israel), and latter informed her dear young daughter in Canada, “I had to liberate Palestine on my own!”


Community News (V12-I14)

Shah R. Ali Receives Soros Fellowship

679E This is a second in our continuing series on profiles of young Muslim American achievers who are recipients of 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. 

Shah R. Ali came to the USA  from Pakistan at the age of 10. He quickly adapted to life in New Jersey and excelled in math and science: he spent two summers doing research in chemistry at New York University. He graduated summa cum laude in three years from the Honors College at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, where he spent additional years on a nanotechnology project to detect dopamine for potential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. His work led to several first- and second-author publications in Journal of the American Chemical Society and Analytical Chemistry, among others.

Now 25, and a second-year medical student at Stanford University, Shah is working in the lab of Irving Weissman, where he is studying cardiogenesis using embryonic stem cells. He has recently become interested in neglected tropical diseases: in addition to helping organize a conference at Stanford Law School on access and drug development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), he is leading the Stanford chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and a related lecture series. He has also interned at the Institute for OneWorld Health. He hopes to dedicate his career to drug development for NTDs.

St. Cloud rally in support of Muslim students

ST.CLOUD,MN–A rally was held on Monday in support of Muslim students who attend St.Cloud schools. About thirty people showed up.

The St. Cloud Times reported on Monday that the group claimed that school staff members are not doing enough to keep Muslim students from being harassed and sometimes contribute to it.

The rally crowd Monday was mostly adults. They chanted and held signs that said “Discrimination is intolerable” or “St. Cloud school district must integrate” among other things.

Superintendent Steve Jordahl says the staff responds appropriately to each complaint and denies that staff members aren’t doing enough to stop harassment of Muslim students.

A Muslim civil rights group in Minnesota has called for a federal probe of harassment complaints at two St. Cloud schools.

Kamran Pasha speaks at Islam Awareness Week

BOSTON, MA–Boston University’s Islam Society celebrated the second day of Islam Awareness Week Hollywood- style.

Screenwriter, director and writer Kamran Pasha detailed his experiences and challenges as one of the first Muslim-Americans in the film and publishing industries at the Islam Society’s “Lights, Camera, Islam! The Story of a Muslim in Hollywood,” the Daily Free Press reported.

He encouraged the audience to pursue diverse careers which can be fulfilling.

College of Arts and Sciences junior and Islamic Society President Hassan Awaisi said he really appreciated that Pasha encouraged members of the Muslim community to pursue fields that are viewed by Muslim society as “unconventional” and insecure.

“He encouraged everyone to see they can be a devout and practicing Muslim by using their talents to serve God through arts, film and music,” he said. “By sharing personal stories, Pasha allowed people to identify with him and revealed issues many Muslims are dealing with such as inferiority and modernization.”

New mosque opens in Highland

HIGHLAND, IN–The Illiana Islamic Association opened a new 24,000 square foot facility in Highland. The Muslim community now comprises of around 150 families. They earlier used to rent places for worship.

Iman Mongy Elquesny, of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center in Merrilville, reminded the congregation that with the new facility also comes responsibility.

“Don’t think you’re done now,” he said, smiling. “Today is the beginning because today, you have exposed yourself. You’ll be asked to visit places and have people visit you.”

The leadership of the mosque thanked the township for their cooperation in securing the facility.

Muslim Students Bring Food, Conversation to Florida Homeless

By Imran Siddiqui, Voice of America

In the southern U.S. state of Florida, a group of American Muslim students is running a non-profit organization called Project Downtown.  The project’s goal is to help the poor, poor people of all backgrounds and cultures.  Our correspondent went down to the city of Tampa, Florida to learn more about Project Downtown and the Muslim students who belong to it.

Like just about any major city in the United States, the city of Tampa has its share of homeless people.  But it also has people who are reaching out to help Tampa’s homeless. 

“We are here because, in Islam, we are supposed to feed the hungry,” said one of the students. “So that’s our purpose here.  That’s all.”

The students belong to Project Downtown, an organization that started about two years ago in Miami and now has branches other U.S. cities.  The Tampa members of Project Downtown say what motivated them was seeing people in need.

“Project Downtown was started by a couple of groups and a couple of university students back in Miami, and people have been gathering money after seeing a problem in the community, went out and bought sandwiches,” said another student. “They went to the local city hall and started feeding.”

The city of Tampa has almost 350,000 people.  It is estimated that about 11,000 of these are homeless.  That’s about three percent of the population.  For the students of Project Downtown, the religion of the people they are helping does not matter.  What matters is that they are in need.  Jill Moreida is a member of Project Downturn.

“We come up to them,” said Jill Moreida. “We don’t just give them food and walk away.  We don’t feed them like they’re at the zoo.  We make friends with them; we talk with them.  We interact with them.  Week after week after week.  And we know stories about their family.  We know when they’re sick.  We get to develop relationships with them.”

“Oh, we wait for them!  We wait!  You see, we waited in the rain,” said a homeless man. “We got caught in the rain!   We feel beautiful with them coming.”

As the relationships develop, Jill says, the homeless gain a new understanding of Islam.

“They say they cannot believe how amazing the Muslims are,” said Moreida. “And it’s acts like that, that not only are we serving…we do it for the sake of Allah, when we’re feeding them.  But there’s a bigger message being brought, and it’s exposing a whole new realm of people to Islam.  Teaching them to not be afraid of us, to not have that stereotype that we’re going to hurt them or anything.”

Project Downtown is one of several outreach efforts sponsored by the Muslim community of Florida.  Its funding comes from other Muslim groups in the state, including the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance.  Dr. Hussein Nagamiya, a cardiologist, is head of the alliance.

“Our main idea is to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to address their needs, because these are homeless people, and they don’t have anywhere to go,” said Hussein Nagamiya. “So, we give them conveyances such as bicycles that were given away.  We conduct their [medical] tests.  Some of them may never have a test in the entire year.  We detect diseases for them and send them on to free clinics, etc.” 

In addition to helping the poor and teaching people about Islam, organizations like Project Downtown and the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance hope to achieve another goal: Showing their fellow Americans that, in the words of Dr. Nagamiya, the vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens who make positive contributions to the United States.  (Courtesy: Voice of America)