Writer, translator, and social activist Yousef Aljamal brought his witness as a Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp in Israeli-occupied Gaza and has spent most of his life there, and as someone with many deep family ties to 1948 Israel and to the occupied West Bank, to Capitol Hill and to communities and classrooms in several places on the eastern seaboard of the United States over the past ten days.
While in Washington DC, Aljamal was able to meet in person with Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley, Andre Carson, and Hank Johnson, and with ranking staff members for another 18 Members of Congress. McCollum was the author of H.R. 2407, a still-pending House Bill that seeks to hold Israel (and all other recipients of U.S. military aid) accountable for any violations members of recipient military units commit against the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
In the photo above (kindly supplied by Rep. McCollum’s office), the Member is shown flanked by (l. to r.) Josh Ruebner of Progress Up Consulting, Yousef Aljamal, and JWE Executive Pres. Helena Cobban.
Here are a few other photos from the group’s time on Capitol Hill:
In his meetings on Capitol Hill and in well-attended community gatherings and college classrooms in– thus far– White Plains NY, Washington DC, Richmond VA, and Williamsburg VA, Aljamal talked about the privations he and all his neighbors in Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp have endured as a result of the violent, oppressive policies the Israeli military has pursued toward all two million residents of the Gaza Strip.
Stressing that the stories he told about his own family’s suffering were representative of what all Gaza Palestinians have had to endure, he told of a brother killed by Israeli military in 2004, of his sister Zainab’s death because the Israelis would not give her a permit to travel to Jerusalem for vitally needed medical care, and of his mother’s inability to visit her birth family in the West Bank for 12 years– also because of Israel’s denial of permits.
Aljamal also retold some of the searing personal accounts of Palestinian children in the West Bank who are survivors of the detention system that the Israeli military runs– including for Palestinian minors– in the West Bank. He was the translator from Arabic of a collection of these stories, Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak, copies of which he presented to the Members and staffers he met with on Capitol Hill.
In addition to his meetings in Congress, Aljamal has taken his witness about the realities of the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation to several community events and college classrooms already, in the first half of a U.S. speaking tour that will also include events in Milwaukee and Madison WI, Portland OR, and a couple of locations in Hawai’i, as listed here.
Members of Facebook can see a wonderful collection of photos from Aljamal’s event thus far, here.
Among the highlights of his tour so far was an event he did at the Palestine center in Washington DC, October 21, alongside the Israeli-American peace activist Miko Peled. A very informative, one-hour videotape of that event can be viewed here.
Peled prefaced his remarks by noting that he had previously spoken alongside Aljamal in several different countries, including Malaysia, New Zealand, and Turkey, adding– “but the one country in which we cannot now meet together is Palestine, because of the Zionists’ absurd apartheid laws there!”
We hope to share additional reports from Yousef Aljamal’s current U.S. speaking tour over the coming weeks.