We Are All Israa

Dear Friend, 

We were shocked to learn last week of the tragic murder of Israa Ghrayeb, a 21-year old Palestinian woman from Beit Sahour in the West Bank. Israa was murdered by members of her family after she posted a selfie video of an outing with her fiancé. The crime is being called an “honor” killing, but this is misleading and false. There is no honor in murder.

Israa’s murder has given rise to demonstrations throughout Palestine including Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza, with protestors demanding stronger laws to protect women from violence. Due to the protests and extensive social media exposure, the Palestinian Authority appears to be investigating Israa’s killing and has made several arrests to question people who may know the truth of how she died. 

Israa’s story is an extreme example of how patriarchy impacts women. Every Palestinian woman we know has been reeling from the details of Israa’s torture and death. This incident has sparked a robust conversation that names our oppression at the hands of men and demands an end to patriarchy and misogyny. 

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Patriarchy, domestic abuse, and homophobia are not exclusive to Palestine. It exists everywhere from South Africa to the United States, with its “grab them by the **%!” President. 

Unfortunately, conversations about these harmful attitudes among Palestinians have been muted. There is a long history of Western powers painting the Middle East and Islam as exceptionally barbaric cultures and using the trope of “saving” Middle Eastern women to justify colonization or pointing to Israel’s supposed acceptance of queer people to “pinkwash” its occupation of Palestine. For this reason, Palestinians have hesitated to engage in public discourse around violence against women and LGBTQ people fearing that the conversations would be used to further entrench and justify Israeli oppression. 

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Everywhere patriarchy and misogyny rely on coercion, fear and, many times, violence to maintain men’s control over women and any individual who threatens their supremacy. In the same way, homophobia, transphobia and violence against LGBTQ people are driven by a narrow definition of what it means to be a “real man.” 

Violence against the Palestinian LBGTQ community was thrown into the spotlight earlier this summer. On July 26, a Palestinian teen from the northern village of Tamra (in 48’ Palestine) was severely stabbed by his brother over the youth’s suspected gender and sexual identity. The incident took place near an LGBT youth shelter in Tel Aviv. Thankfully, the teenager survived. 

Following the attack on the transgender teen, a historic protest took place in Haifa to demand an end to violence against the LGBTQ community. The demonstration was led by the Palestinian queer community with the support of Palestinian human rights organizations, including Adalah Legal Center. The demonstration marked the first time that an intersectional frame was adopted in Palestine to link the queer struggle with the struggle against Israeli occupation. 

However, there seems to be an opening now in the wake of tragedy to push forward serious conversation and critique. As one of the signs at the Haifa protest earlier this month read, “Silence kills. It’s time we raise our voices.”

Al-Qaws, the Association for Sexual and Gender Pluralism in Palestinian Society, issued excellent pointers on how to support Palestinian queers. The same principles can be applied to supporting Palestinians calling for an end to patriarchy and violence against women.  

We affirm that all systems of control and violence must be eradicated to bring about true liberation. As Palestinians living outside our homeland, we stand with women and LGBTQ people in Palestine and around the world against misogyny and violence.  Freedom means freedom for all.

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With love,

Sandra and Izzy

Our meeting with AOC

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Dear Friend, 

Yesterday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told me straight up that she will not be a PEP, “Progressive Except on Palestine.” 

I’m still feeling moved after my meeting with AOC. I was joined by representatives of the Institute for Middle East Understanding and Jewish Voice for Peace. We were not sure what to expect from the Congresswoman. For so long and rightly so, Palestinians have been cynical of US power brokers and lawmakers who have left us outside their definitions of humanity and have supported time and time again any opportunity to further our oppression. But AOC made clear from the outset that she understands that Palestinian aspirations for justice must be part of her progressive agenda. In her, I believe we have a partner in organizing for our liberation. 

Let’s be clear. She doesn’t know everything about our issues. She acknowledged that she’s new to the question of Palestine and that she still has a lot to learn. The important message I heard is that she is  open to learning from Palestinians. She understands that Palestine is interconnected with efforts to end mass incarceration, reduce the impact of militarism and end colonialism here and abroad. 

Adalah Justice Project recognizes that we’ve won the progressive left and a few progressive members of Congress to our side. Our work now is to provide these allies with the political education, messaging and backing to speak up for Palestinian rights with deep analysis, confidence and strength. Adalah Justice Project is committed to amplifying Palestinian framing and demands that can be used by our allies. We are shaping the conversation and making sure it is Palestinians that are centered. 

My meeting with AOC was remarkable! I want you to know that your support of our work is making a difference. I’m more confident than ever that we will all get free!

Much love,

Izzy Mustafa
Communications Strategist

Demanding Palestinian Freedom In a New Era

We are certain you are also feeling the major shifts that are taking place before our eyes. In this last week, we have witnessed conversations around the right to enter into our homeland as Palestinians in the diaspora take center stage. 

Since Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were denied entry into Palestine by Israel a week ago, both lawmakers have unapologetically followed up by calling out Israel’s systematic racism.  This has opened up space for Palestinians, like us, to publicly take control of our own narrative and talk about the uncertainty of being able to see our land and our families again. Far too many have already been barred from doing so. The Palestinian issue is centered on the right of return for the millions of Palestinians who have no opportunity to even attempt to travel to their homeland.

The hashtag #MyPalestinianSitty was one way that we were able to take control of our own story. It was a pivotal point in how we talk about family separation and our rootedness in our peoplehood and our homeland. For Sandra and I, our grandmothers have always been a pinnacle of strength and steadfastness. They are the legacy that has been passed down to us to carry the torch to our people's freedom. We carry the the spirit of these women with us as we continue on this fight for Palestinian freedom into a new era.

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For Palestinians who have been barred from freely entering into Palestine, like Rep. Rashida Tlaib, this is a moment to highlight the heartbreaking but all too common experience of being stripped away from the physical connection to our land and our family. An experience our own very own Sandra knows too well. Some Palestinians, like Lana Barkawi, who spoke at a press conference this week sponsored by Reps. Tlaib and Omar, recounted her exile story about not ever going to Palestine because of the deep trauma and pain of having an Israeli soldier make the decision on whether to accept you to return to land that is yours.

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The weight of our stories are creating the waves we need to change U.S. public opinion. In the midst of this swell of change, we saw presidential candidates, like Bernie Sanders, talk about conditioning U.S. military funding to Israel. And we have seen influential figures chime in and question racist Israel’s treatment of Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar. Once again, Israel has overstepped in showing its racism to the world -- and there is no turning back.

This moment is a culmination of the grassroots organizing and power we as a movement have struggled for over the last decade and more. Let’s seize this opportunity. The discourse is shifting, and it’s on us to ensure that this period leading up to the 2020 elections is a time of serious shifts in public discourse on Palestinian rights. Palestinian freedom is inevitable and we are closer today than ever before. We will continue to hold our heads up high and forge ahead in this fight for freedom.

Much love,
Izzy Mustafa

P.S. Through engagement on our social media platforms, we see that Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib find the necessity in our voice. We hope you do too! By donating $5, $20, $100, or even $500-- you can help sustain our crucial work in bringing the voice of Palestinians to the forefront of our movement.P.S. We need your support during this time to help keep the vision of Adalah Justice Project going!

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