Palestinian American Women’s Association Pulls Out of Women’s March LA
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Happy Arab Blog

When the Palestinian American Women’s Association (PAWA) was approached by the Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation to participate in this Saturday’s anniversary event, the invitation to include a Palestinian women’s organization was a welcomed step toward building a more aware and intersectional movement. Its organizers label the march as “Pro Peace, Pro Inclusivity focused on marginalized voices and the power of voting.”

However, PAWA recently became aware of LA March’s decision to include Scarlett Johansson in their lineup of special guest speakers. Johansson has expressed her unapologetic support of illegal settlements in the West Bank, a human rights violation recognized by the international community whose calls only led to a reaffirmation of her position, sending a clear message that Palestinian voices and human rights for Palestinians do not matter. While her position may not be reflective of all organizers at the Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation, PAWA cannot in good conscience partner itself with an organization that fails to genuinely and thoughtfully recognize when their speaker selection contradicts their message. 

Currently, 16 year old Ahed Tamimi is being held in custody for standing up to two Israeli combat soldiers who raided her family home in the middle of the night on illegally occupied land. Her story, one among hundreds of Palestinian children being abused and imprisoned by Israeli military, has been heard across the globe with calls to #FreeAhed, making the decision to invite Scarlett Johansson speak at an event highlighting “the struggles of marginalized communities and all attacks on human rights” all the more tone deaf.

We join Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, BDS-LA, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return and other organizations who have signed the petition below in boycott of the January 20 march in Los Angeles.

Moreover, we pledge to work harder to ensure the voices and partners we ally with are committed to justice and human rights that include the rights of the Palestinian people.

We urge people to read and sign the petition below, which also includes accounts of mistreatment toward grassroots organizers working for Palestinian human rights.

Open Letter to Women’s March L.A.: Women for Palestine Calls for Genuine Intersectionality
January 17, 2018

We embrace and applaud the intersectional analysis that marks today’s social movements, and decry the absence of this perspective in outreach for the Women’s March Los Angeles.

In a shocking move, you announced that a “Special Guest” speaker at WMLA 2018 is Scarlett Johansson, who is unabashedly a supporter of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. She served as a spokesperson, and indeed, was the face of the advertising campaign of SodaStream, whose factory was in a settlement built illegally on land stolen from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. As a result, she was forced to step down from her role as an ambassador for the humanitarian group Oxfam after working with the charity for eight years.

Johansson’s unapologetic support for Israel’s abuses of Palestinians confirms that she fully deserves the praise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaped on her in his speech to the Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington, several years ago. Netanyahu said Johansson should be “applauded” for opposing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights. Regardless of her claims to not be “political,” Johansson is now seen by Palestinians and their supporters as a defender of apartheid Israel.

While there are a host of OTHER examples that can be cited, here we want to focus on the impact on those of us who actively support the indigenous rights of the Palestinian people, especially in light of the recent international attention on women and child political prisoners, including 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian Rosa Parks.

Once again, grassroot feminists who promote Palestinian human rights are concerned that a hostile environment is promoted by the organizers of WMLA -- whether inadvertently, or not -- by the choice of featured speakers, major donors, and major partners.

The organizers of the Women’s March LA are well aware of the issues the “Women 4 Palestine” contingent faced at last year’s “Women’s March LA.” We were verbally abused with racist remarks, and bullied, to the point that some of us are reticent to return out of concern for our personal safety. Our concerns were brushed off by your organizers, in fact one of you accused one of our members as being anti-semitic when she posted an announcement for our Women's Rally to Free Ahed and All Palestinian Child Prisoners.

We also object to tone set as a result of the key role played by The National Council of Jewish Women LA, especially as a major donor to both the national and local Women’s March. When Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, said that “we didn’t want it to become an Israel-bashing fest...We got assurances that the march is not anti-Trump and not anti-Israel,” it was clear that they were determined to silence the voices of critics of Israel and supporters of Palestinian rights.

"We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights." - Mission Women's March Mission. Apparently that does not include Palestinian Human Rights.

Renowned Black feminist poet, June Jordan’s poetry embodies the intersectionality of Black and Palestine liberation. “I was born a Black woman / and now / I am become a Palestinian / against the relentless laughter of evil / there is less and less living room / and where are my loved ones / It is time to make our way home.”

Last year’s Women’s March, DTLA looked like it was covered with a fresh coat of snow studded with pink caps. In no way did it reflect the wonderful diversity of Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, we never heard that was a concern for WMLA’s leaders, either before the march when several of us raised these issues, OR afterwards. What a shame and missed opportunity.

It’s well past time to be genuinely intersectional, inclusive, transparent, and welcoming of marginalized people, including the Palestinian community, an approach exemplified by the International Women's Strike, which mobilized thousands of women in March of 2017 for gender, economic and social justice, while also centering the "Decolonization of Palestine," anti-imperialism, and an end to gendered state violence. IWS organizers are once again mobilizing for March 2018 International Women's Day marches and strikes.

In that spirit we invite you to join us, when many of us will participate in the International Women's Day March & Rally 2018-Organized by AF3IRM, in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018, noon to 3pm. This march is convened and led by transnational/women of color, but all people are welcome.

Women for Palestine L.A.

(List in formation; affiliations listed for identification only)

Amani Barakat, National Chair of Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition; Palestine Foundation; LA4Palestine

Mary Ellen Bennett, LA4Palestine and CodePink

Cathy Castro, founder, Threads of Peace, a 501c(3) dedicated to promoting peace, one thread at a time; Creator, #BlanketofLoveforGaza, a traveling peace and Gaza awareness exhibit

Estee Chandler, Founding Organizer, Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles; Producer/Host Middle East in Focus & Middle East Minute, KPFK-LA 90.7FM; SAG/AFTRA

Sherna Berger Gluck, Founding member, USACBI: Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; HP Boycott-LA; Grassroots Community Radio Coalition; Women’s Studies Emerita, California State University, Long Beach, and feminist oral historian/author

Mary Hughes Thompson, co-founder, Free Gaza Movement; Women in Black-Los Angeles; International Solidarity Movement; Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation member; WGA

Dr. Ahlam Muhtaseb, PhD., Professor
, Communication Studies, 
California State University, San Bernardino; Co-Director/Executive Producer, 1948: Creation & Catastrophe

Cindy Newman, artist; LA4Palestine

Karin Pally, MPH; founding member, Women in Black-LA; LA4Palestine

Karen R. Pomer, co-founder, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, LA4Palestine, #MeToo March International, and the Rainbow Sisters Project for Rape Survivors; former producer/publicist, Democracy Now!; lifelong feminist activist/organizer

Marsha Steinberg, BDS Los Angeles for Justice in Palestine

Marcy Winograd, former congressional peace candidate; Jewish Voice for Peace; Secretary, Progressive Caucus, California Democratic Party (for identification purposes only)


Additional Initial Signers

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, PhD, Director and Senior Scholar, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, San Francisco State University

Suzanne Adely, International Women's Strike US Coordinating Committee; US Palestine Community Network; Al-Awda-NY Palestine Right to Return Coalition, National Lawyers Guild, International Committee; Co-Chair, International Association of Democratic Lawyers

Kim Anno, Artist/filmmaker,

Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, MD, Palestinian-American human rights activist and humanitarian

Ellen Barfield, Board Member, War Resisters League; Director, Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter Veterans For Peace

Joanne Berlin, Coordinator, Committee for Racial Justice

Tithi Bhattacharya, National Organizer, International Women's Strike; USACBI: Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Maylei Blackwell, Associate Professor, Chicano and Chicana Studies and Gender Studies, UCLA; author ¡Chicana Power! Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement

Renate Bridenthal, Professor of History (retired), Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Dena Chertoff, Jewish Voice for Peace

Rick Chertoff, Jewish Voice for Peace, Steering Committee LA Chapter

Julie Dad, Member, Democratic State Central Committee

Lamis J. Deek, J.D, International Women's Strike US Coordinating Committee; Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition; Global Justice and Human Rights Law Network; Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad; US Palestine Community Network

Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey, Irish Republican Socialist, feminist, and human rights activist

Frank Dorrel, longtime L.A. activist and blogger

Nada Elia, NWBDS; USACBI: Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Dahlia Ferlito, White People 4 Black Lives

Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor and Professor Emerita, Department of History, UC Santa Barbara

Irene Gendzier, Professor Emerita, Political Science Dept., Boston University

Ariel Gold, National Co-Director, CODEPINK Women for Peace

Trudy Goodwin, co-founder, Committee for Racial Justice Santa Monica, Justice Warriors for Black Lives, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Black Lives Matter, Los Angeles

Sondra Hale, Research Professor, UCLA and founder/Joint Coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Kathleen Hernandez, Veterans For Peace, Los Angeles; co-founder, MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles

Jane Hirschmann, co-founder, Jews Say No!; U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope; Co-chair, NYS coalition to fight the anti-BDS bills

Ruth Jennison, UMass-Amherst; Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA-NEA; Labor for Palestine

Charlotte Kates, International Coordinator, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

Nerdeen Kiswani, NYC Students for Justice in Palestine

Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles; Fellow, University of Southern California, Institute for the Humanities; Chair, Board of the Office of the Americas

Cecelia Lavan, OP Justice Promoter, Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt, NY; WESPAC Middle East Committee

Kristina Lear, White People 4 Black Lives / SURJ Affiliate Los Angeles

Alita Z. Letwin, activist and educator

Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine, Labor for Standing Rock, USACBI: Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325; Red Tide, L.A. (1971-1975)

Julie Levine, Co-Chair, MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles

Linda Milazzo, Jewish Voice for Peace

Ruwayda Odeh, Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition; NYC Students for Justice in Palestine

Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Political Science, Hunter College & the Graduate Center, City University of New York (for identification purposes only); Coordinating Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace-New York City

Margaret Power, historian, Illinois Tech; Co-Chair, Historians for Peace and Democracy

Dorothy Reik, President, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains

Rosalie G Riegle, Professor Emerita, Saginaw Valley State University; Su Casa Catholic Worker; War Resisters League; Jewish Voice for Peace

Lisa Rofel, Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz

Steven Salaita, Writer

Azalia Torres, Esq., Former Chair, Attorneys of Color of Legal Aid, ALAA/UAW 2325

Hussain Turk, Esq. Director, LA HIV Law & Policy Project

Devra Weber, Professor of History, UC Riverside

Souphe Widdi, Al-Awda-NY Palestine Right to Return Coalition

Michele A. Wittig, Professor Emerita, CSUN

Sherry Wolf, author, Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation; editorial board, International Socialist Review

Open Letter Brings Wide Attention to Palestine at Women's March L.A. -- KEEP THE PRESSURE ON!

Women 4 Palestine L.A.

Jan 21, 2018 — Women for Palestine L.A.'s open letter and the Palestinian American Women's Association boycott inspired several powerful on-stage statements yesterday at #WMLA, and prominent media coverage.

Melina Abdullah, Chair of Pan-African Studies at Cal-State LA and Black Lives Matter-LA organizer, gave a rousing speech on the main stage.

Then, in a surprise move, she handed the mic to her daughter, Thandiwe, whose speech on Palestine was livestreamed on Facebook to hundreds of thousands viewers (watch here: She said, in part:

"Hi. My name is Thandiwe Abdullah. I’m 14 and as a black Muslim girl, it is very important to me that Black Lives Matter also values the lives of the Muslim women in Palestine; the Muslim women and fems in Palestine. The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people."

Similarly, Asmaa Ahmed of CAIR - Greater LA, dedicated her speech to 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian Rosa Parks.

And Lydia Ponce, of AIM So-Cal, on the Pershing Square stage during an opening prayer for "all children to be kept safe out of harms way," held up a Free Ahed Tamimi poster.

Meanwhile, PAWA's boycott of WMLA was covered in the L.A. Times, NBC Los Angeles, Mondoweiss, and other media.

PAWA's boycott was sparked by WMLA's choice of "Scarlett Johansson in their lineup of special guest speakers. Johansson has expressed her unapologetic support of illegal settlements in the West Bank," thus ignoring the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian human rights .

Adding insult to injury, WMLA organizers featured Natalie Portman, another prominent defender of apartheid Israel.

The boycott of WMLA also parallels a boycott by women of color of the Women's March in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

PAWA's statement endorses Women's for Palestine L.A.'s open letter, with over 4,000 signatures and rising, calling for "genuine intersectionality" by supporting Palestinian human rights.

Linda Sarsour, Women's March National Board Member, has endorsed the petition, along with human rights organizations including, Jewish Voice for Peace LA, Al-Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Jews for the Palestinian Right of Return, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Elsewhere, women's march contingents demanded to Free Ahed Tamimi and other Palestinian women imprisoned and abused by Israel. One sign in New York City said, "No feminism without Palestinians -- Dump Scar-Jo," referring to Johansson's featured role in Women's March L.A.

Let's keep the pressure on -- Please sign and share the open letter widely on social media:

Moderator's Note: The turn-out of more than 500,000 people at the LA March was an inspiration as well as the significant increase in the diversity of the participants as well as speakers along with the increase in organized delegations and the shared focus on ACTION in ALL arenas. The failure to stand with the struggles of Palestinian and Palestinian American women sure as hell shows our political challenges continue. Our work is for our movement to come to the recognition of the Palestinian cause.  Within our broad anti-Trump coalition there are going to be people with whom we disagree.  The key is the breath of our shared movement and within that to raise the criticism of Israel and support for Palestine. We can do this!

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