Saturday, February 10, 2018
I am a strong advocate of the phrase, “think global act local”. However, history is full of examples where countries take collective action. In the 1990s when global leaders focused on eliminating apartheid in South Africa, humanity won. Yet the world failed to act in Rwanda. Our leaders were aware of the extreme cruelty occurring during this time. They decided that apologizing is more convenient than clear, decisive action.
This brings me to the present-day case of Ms. Ahed Tamimi, otherwise affectionately known as “Shirley Temper” by her neighbors. She was born in what former British Prime Minister David Cameron called “the world’s biggest open-air prison,” and yet she has a disarming smile. With nothing more than her bare hands and a strong sense of duty to her community, she keeps an eye on the foreign military personnel who often terrorize her young friends. Now 16, she has practiced nonviolence since her first demonstration. I met Ahed’s father, Bassem, at an event years ago. Hearing him speak about the conditions in which they are forced to live was heart-wrenching. Snipers shoot youth in the legs during marches; their elite training ensures that they will render this child permanently disabled.
And still, Palestinians organize. Peacefully, after 70 years, they drag their wheelchair- ridden families right back to the same spot along the West Bank barrier, a physical wall that spans 440 miles. A modern Berlin wall separates them from the land on which they grew generations old olive trees. It divides families.
Back to Shirley Temper. I have been following this curly haired freedom fighter for years. The brutality of Operation Protective Edge in 2014 incited a deep urge for me to act. I took to social media and kept a close watch on the activities in the Occupied Territories long after the world put this siege to bed. That’s when I found Ahed. In her, I witnessed the growth of an unrelenting humanitarian. Her public addresses to the world through underground media connects our shared freedom. She echoes the sentiments of the ever-relevant Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he declared “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”.
My child hero is facing a decade in military captivity for hitting the soldier who shot her unarmed brother at point blank range… in the face.
It serves as a duty to those who fought for America’s freedoms that I take pen to paper. This narrative should be the shot heard ‘round the world. As a patriot, I see the spirit of the Founding Fathers in Palestine’s youth. As a Dutchess County resident, I recognize that we are facing increasing threats to our own liberties. As a human, I urge us to learn from history by making Ahed’s story end differently than that of our beloved Anne Frank. The truth is simple yet heartbreaking. We could have saved Anne. Her diary, although one of the greatest gifts to our collective consciousness, is a testament to our inaction.
There is no debate. Detaining minors in military detention facilities is wrong. Holding people captive in an outdoor prison is wrong. As much as Americans hate to face it during this time of sensationalism, some things are fundamentally unacceptable. Ms. Tamimi’s ability to fight for basic human rights in Palestine will determine the ability of your grandchildren to do the same here, in America. Our connected economies make human oppression a global issue.
Please join me in asking our Dutchess County Legislature to follow the example of the New Orleans City Council by passing a resolution pledging to avoid contracting with or investing in businesses that practice human rights abuses. Ever since World War II we have said “Never Again”. Ask your legislature to mean it.
Dutchess County resident Jasmin Vazquez is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz, where she received a bachelor's of arts degree in political science with a concentration in international politics.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
A FEDERAL JUDGE on Tuesday ruled that a Kansas law designed to punish people who boycott Israel is an unconstitutional denial of free speech. The ruling is a significant victory for free speech rights because the global campaign to criminalize, or otherwise legally outlaw, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has been spreading rapidly in numerous political and academic centers in the U.S. This judicial decision definitively declares those efforts — when they manifest in the U.S. — to be a direct infringement of basic First Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.