[News] US senator filibusters live coverage of powerful Palestinian testimonies

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Aug 5 11:42:26 EDT 2014

  US senator filibusters live coverage of powerful Palestinian testimonies

Submitted by Rania Khalek on Tue, 08/05/2014

On Friday, 15-year-old Tariq Abukhdeir 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/tariq-abukhdeir> spoke at a hearing 
on Capitol Hill 
about the brutal beating he endured at the hands of Israeli police in 
early July.

The purpose of the hearing was to address Israeli impunity and US 
complicity <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/complicity> in crimes 
against Palestinians. Tariq was one of six panelists to address the 
room, which was overflowing with congressional staffers.

Moderated by author and campaigner Josh Ruebner 
<http://electronicintifada.net/people/josh-ruebner>, other panelists 
included Tariq's mother; Suha Abu Abukhdeir; Hassan Shibly of the 
Council on American-Islamic Relations 
Florida chapter; Sunjeev Bery from Amnesty International 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/amnesty-international>; Brad Parker 
from Defence for Children International 
and Palestinian author Laila El-Haddad 

Though he was just one of six speakers, Tariq's testimony was especially 
powerful as he relayed to the audience the horrors and discrimination he 
witnessed and experienced as a Palestinian-American child visiting his 
ancestral homeland.

But just as Tariq started to detail the Israeli beating that left him 
and unrecognizable, CSPAN 2, which was broadcasting the hearing live, 
cut to the Senate floor.

You can watch the whole thing back on CSPAN's website 
<http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4505836/barbara-boxer>. The cut from 
Tariq to Boxer occurs soon after time code 03:30.

    Suppressing Palestinian voices

Tariq began his testimony by describing the widespread violence Israeli 
soldiers inflicted on his neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem after 
his cousin and best friend, 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/muhammad-abu-khudair>, was kidnapped 
and burned alive by Jewish vigilantes who were incited to violence by 
Israeli leaders following the murder of three Israeli teens hitchhiking 
from an illegal settlement in the West Bank.

Tariq and several of his cousins watched from an alley, Tariq explained, 
as Israeli soldiers shot rubber bullets at protesters. Eventually the 
soldiers were attacking in Tariq's direction, prompting a terrified 
Tariq to run. After he jumped a fence and tripped, "the Israeli police 
grabbed me from behind, slammed my face into the floor, zip-tied my 
hands behind my back and started to kick me and punch me in the face and 
in the ribs," recounted Tariq.

For those tuning into CSPAN, this was the last they heard from Tariq, 
whose speech was suddenly replaced by Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/barbara-boxer> from California on 
the Senate floor agitating for greater support for Israel to a mostly 
empty room as most most elected representatives had departed that day 
for a five-week recess.

CSPAN told the The Electronic Intifada that the channel is required to 
cut to the Senate floor when an elected official is speaking.

Boxer's office did not respond to calls asking if the senator was aware 
that the hearing was taking place. However, organizers collecting names 
of congressional staffers in attendance told The Electronic Intifada 
that an intern from Boxer's office tried to get into the hearing but 
left because there was no space, suggesting Boxer knew she was 
interrupting the hearing.

    Israeli talking points

Boxer spent the next 15 minutes spewing semi-coherent platitudes about 
Israeli victimhood. "We all know that our ally Israel is in a fight for 
its survival because a terrorist group, so named by the United States 
and Europe, is at war with Israel right now," Boxer declared.

In what seemed like a transparent attempt to counter Tariq's narrative, 
Boxer added, "we remember how it all started with the kidnapping of 
three Israeli boys and their torture and their death and a mosque 
praised that. Tragically there was a revenge killing and the Israeli 
government arrested the Israelis responsible for that and they are going 
to face justice while Hamas praises, praises what happened."

As usual reality tells a much different story.

Even Israeli officials openly admit that Hamas was not responsible 
<http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/killed-turning-onslaught.html> for the 
kidnapping or the murder of the three Israeli teens, whose disappearance 
was used by the Israeli government as a pretext to rampage through the 
West Bank, ransacking homes and arresting hundreds of people under the 
guise of a rescue mission for three boys that authorities knew had been 
hours after they were reported missing.

Boxer also championed the lie that Hamas broke the ceasefire that same 
Friday morning by capturing an Israeli soldier.

It has since been revealed that the Israelis broke the ceasefire 
and subsequently carpet bombed Rafah 
<http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.608715> with 
the stated aim of killing an Israeli soldier because the Israeli army 
suspected he had been captured --- a procedure known as the Hannibal 
In an attempt to kill their own soldier, the Israeli army slaughtered 
over 150 Palestinians across Rafah, which has sustained incalculable damage.

As Boxer continued to spew Israeli talking points, the reason for her 
tirade on the Senate floor became increasingly unclear. One moment she 
was blaming Hamas for violating that morning's ceasefire and the next 
she was urging the Senate to allow Israel to participate in the US Visa 
Waiver Program <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/visa-waiver-program>.

At the end of Boxer's rant, CSPAN cut back to the hearing in time to 
catch Suha Abu Abukhdeir's closing remark: "The life of a Palestinian in 
Gaza should be valued as much as the life of any human being."

Next at the podium was CAIR Florida's Hassan Shibly, who said, "As an 
American attorney, what happened to Tariq Abukhdeir at the hands of a 
nation that claims to be a democracy and claims to be an ally of the 
United States and ---" That's as far as Shibly got before he was 
replaced by live footage of Boxer once again on the Senate floor. This 
time Boxer was joined by Democratic Senator Harry Reid from Nevada. The 
two interrupted the remainder of the hearing discussing various pieces 
of legislation that can't even be voted on until the Senate reconvenes 
in September.

Given the choke-hold pro-Israel lobbying organizations like AIPAC have 
on US elected officials, it is plausible Boxer's maneuvering was 
orchestrated to suppress the reach of an open and honest conversation 
about Israeli criminality, much like US President Lyndon Johnson called 
an impromptu press conference to interrupt televised coverage of former 
sharecropper and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer's moving 
testimony <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07PwNVCZCcY> at the 1964 
Democratic National Convention.

    Palestinian voices are a threat

The pro-Israel community has every reason to worry about the airing of 
Palestinian voices like Tariq's, Suha's and Leila El-Haddad's.

Their experiences are undeniable proof of the supremacist ideology that 
governs Israeli society and subjugates Palestinians, even those who hold 
American passports. Indeed, it is because Tariq is American that his 
story is so powerful.

In the United States, he is afforded basic rights that he was violently 
denied in occupied Palestine simply because he is Palestinian, a paradox 
that shatters the myth of Israel as a democratic state.

    A family under attack

"The Palestinian people, they don't have rights," said Tariq at the 
hearing. "When I visited over there, I actually forgot that I had 
freedom. And for my cousins, I really wish that they had the same 
freedoms that I have living in America."

Tariq later explained to The Electronic Intifada that his cousins and 
friends who were beaten and arrested alongside him in early July are 
still languishing in Israeli jails.

One cousin in particular, Mahmoud, is Tariq's closest friend and was 
beaten and arrested while trying to help Tariq.

"Mahmoud is 15 and a half like me," Tariq told The Electronic Intifada. 
"Him and Mohammed [Abu Khudair], God rest his soul, were my first two 
friends that I made in Palestine. I hung out with Mahmoud and Muhammad 
every day."

Hours after learning that their best friend was forced to drink gasoline 
and burned alive, Tariq and Mahmoud were chased and tackled by Israeli 
police as part of the Israeli government's ongoing war on Muhammed Abu 
Khudair's entire extended family in the Shuafat 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/shuafat> neighborhood of occupied 
East Jerusalem.

"Mahmoud got away but he came back to help me and got grabbed and 
punched and kicked and just like me," recounted Tariq.

The arrest and terror campaign inflicted on the extended Abu Khudair 
family by the Israeli government has denied them an opportunity to truly 
mourn the loss of Muhammad.

"Tariq was not able to grieve his cousin's death as a result of the 
beating Israeli police gave him that same day that his cousin was 
brutally murdered by Israeli extremists," said Suha Abu Abukhdeir. 
"Instead of the police protecting us they taunted us and told us that 
Muhammad was just the first to be killed and that 300 Palestinians would 
be killed for the three Israeli teenagers who were killed."

It appears they made good on that promise in Gaza, where more than 1,800 
Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, have been mercilessly 
slaughtered in one Israeli massacre after another.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has intensified its attack on Tariq's 

"The day after I left Palestine, they arrested all the males in the 
house I was staying in, without any charges," said Tariq, whose family 
home in occupied East Jerusalem was raided by Israeli police 
<http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/relatives-apparent-revenge.html> hours 
after he departed the country.

    Another American teen in Israeli jail

One panelist after another reminded the audience that the only 
exceptional things about Tariq's beating were that it was caught on 
film, and he has an American passport. Otherwise, what happened to him 
is routine for Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.

Perhaps the lack of video footage can help explain the ongoing 
imprisonment of 15-year-old Mohammed Abu Nie, an American citizen who is 
still in Israeli jail after he was arrested with Tariq in early July.

Tariq told The Electronic Intifada that he, Abu Nie and his cousin 
Mahmoud were together watching the protests when they were chased, 
tackled and arrested by Israeli police.

Abu Nie's imprisonment was largely unheard of until the daily US State 
Department press briefing 
<http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/07/229855.htm> on 28 July.

In response to a question about the status of Abu Nie's case, US State 
Department spokesperson Jennifer Psaki 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/jennifer-psaki> revealed that the 
American teen "was arrested on July 3rd during protests in the Shuafat 
neighborhood in East Jerusalem" and, like Tariq, stands accused of 
"rock-throwing, attacking police, carrying a knife, and leading 
protests," all of which is untrue, according to Tariq, who insists they 
were only watching not participating in the protests.

According to the State Department, Abu Nie has not seen his parents 
since the night he was detained and there are allegations that he has 
been beaten while in custody.

Psaki said that the US is "gravely concerned about the detention of an 
American citizen child" but is "calling for a speedy resolution" rather 
than Abu Nie's release.

    "My tax dollars killed my family"

Laila El-Haddad, a Gaza City native who lives in Columbia, Maryland, 
opened her speech with a soul crushing statement.

"My tax dollars killed eight members of my family this morning," said 
El-Haddad. She went on to list the names and ages of her slaughtered 
relatives, seven members of the El-Farra family 
Among them were three children. Two of them were fleeing when they were 
killed by a second Israeli air strike.

El-Hadded proceeded to deliver a short and damning history lesson about 
the population that Israel has ghettoized in the Gaza Strip.

    The reality is Gaza right now is being bombarded. It is completely
    blocked out, besieged and blockaded. This is a situation unheard of
    in modern history for a population that is already largely refugees,
    that is already besieged, that is already stateless to then be
    bombarded mercilessly with no intervention.

    Gaza is roughly twice the size of Washington, DC, where we all sit
    today. It has a little over a million and half inhabitants, 1.7
    going-on 1.8. Most of those inhabitants are under the age of 18.
    Three-quarters of them are refugees, meaning they are not from the
    place they are compelled to live. They are from towns and villages,
    many of them depopulated, destroyed, ethnically cleansed by Zionist
    militias prior to 1948 and they sought refuge in Gaza and they were
    besieged in Gaza and they are not allowed to return to their native

Thanks to Senator Boxer's lengthy tirade, El-Haddad's testimony did not air.

But at least one lawmaker heard her story.

Democratic Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota --- who recently 
issued a call in The Washington Post for an end to the crippling 
on Gaza, a rare and risky move for any American politician --- was the 
only elected official to attend the hearing.

Signifying a tiny but important crack in unwavering support for Israeli 
crimes among US elected officials, Ellison also made an appearance at an 
event featuring Tariq later that evening at Busboys and Poets, a DC 
restaurant that often serves as a progressive meeting spot.

"I'm embarrassed we haven't done more," he told the crowd that night.

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