ANSWER Presents a Forum on Palestine

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

The plight of the Palestinian people has disturbed the peace of all humanitarians. This plight is never so moving as when it is described by eyewitnesses to the brutality of the Israeli occupation.

The Los Angeles chapter of ANSWER (Act Now to stop War and end Racism) sponsored a public forum and film premier this past weekend in their headquarters. The event was titled: “Eyewitness Palestine” and filled the meeting room with a standing room only audience.

Muna Coobtee, a Palestinian America activist and a leader of the Free Palestine Alliance, began the forum with a presentation on the current peace talks. She spoke with a pessimism born of experience. “The White House aims to create a weak, disarmed and broken-up state side-by-side with and dominated in every respect by Israel.”

She referenced the Oslo Accords born amid great hope but resulting in more control by Israel.

After Ms Coobtee’s presentation, an award winning film titled: The Sand Creek Equation” was shown to the audience. Travis Wilkerson, the film’s creator, was present in the audience. The Sand Creek Equation analogized the actions of a group of white men in Colorado in the mid 19th century with the actions of Israel toward Palestinians. Determined to keep Colorado white, these troops massacred more than two hundred Native Americans after assuring them of their safety.

Mr. Wilkerson travelled to Gaza, taking pictures of Palestinians who lost loved ones to Israeli military action. These loved ones included Palestinians who exited their homes carrying white flags; who were denied medical aid, and who were killed by settlers with de facto immunity for any of their actions. As heartbreaking as these photographs were, the resilience of the Palestinian people captured the audience.

The forum’s featured speaker was Tamara Khoury, a Palestinian American student at California State University Fullerton. Ms Khoury spent the summer at Birzeit University having been awarded a Rachel Corrie Scholarship by the Palestinian American Woman’s Association (PAWA). She was able to observe first hand the brutality of the Israeli military and the lawlessness of the settlers.

She visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron. In Hebron she witnessed Palestinians setting up stalls with goods for sale in an open area. A net had been placed over the area as settlers who lived above the city threw filth and garbage at the Palestinians below.

Particularly moving was her description of Dneisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. The walls of the camp were covered with murals of a very political and touching nature.

Ms Khoury spoke of meeting the Palestinian parents of a two year old child who had been blinded by Israeli settlers who threw Chlorox at him. She spoke also of the attempts of the parents to seek medical help for him.

“I cannot imagine anyone who would do that to another person much less a child.” said one young woman moved to tears by the narrative.

The ANSWER Coalition was formed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. While the group characterizes itself as anti-imperialist, it has over the years expanded its interests to include a variety of issues including Social Security and the Israeli Palestinian conflict. ANSWER has helped to organize some of the largest demonstrations in this nation’s history.

The Los Angeles chapter is one of the most active in the country.

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