“Atmosphere of Hate”: AFSC Leader & Palestinian Vermonter on Shooting of 3 College Students—report from Democracy Now (November 28, 2023)
Excerpts from an update on the three university students of Palestinian descent who were shot Saturday in Burlington, Vermont on November 25, 2023. Full program here.
HOST AMY GOODMAN: …Two were wearing keffiyehs and speaking Arabic at the time of the attack. Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmad are now recovering, though Hisham Awartani, who was shot in the spine, has reportedly lost feeling in the lower part of his body. The FBI is reportedly investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime. “This atmosphere of hate” starts “from the federal level,” declares Wafic Faour of the organization Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, who joins us to discuss the recent history of Vermont’s suppression of pro-Palestinian sentiment. “If you talk about Palestinian rights, you’re going to be called ‘terrorist,’” says Faour, yet although “the attacker is a white supremacist, … we don’t call it as is.” We also speak to Joyce Ajlouny, former director of the Ramallah Friends School in the occupied West Bank, where the three victims were students together. She reads poems they wrote in sixth grade and notes that over the course of the decadeslong occupation, “Palestinians of all faiths … have not been offered the humanity and dignity that they deserve.”…
WAFIC FAOUR, VERMONTERS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE: …we should talk about what brought this atmosphere of hate. And this is a hate crime, and we should call it as is. From the federal level, the actions of Biden administration’s and Secretary of State Blinken and the defense secretary, they’re supporting Israel unconditionally and talking about the Palestinian victims and questioning the numbers of the Palestinian Health Ministry. This is on the federal level. And here in Vermont, for the past two years we have living under siege, too, from attacks from institutions here. When we brought resolution to talk about Palestinian rights, human rights and the protection of the Palestinian people, we found attacks from administrations in UVM, University of Vermont in Middlebury, and, unfortunately, from many faith-based institutions. And they called us antisemitic. And this atmosphere will bring to the American public that if you talk about Palestinian rights, you’re going to be called “terrorist.” If you wear a keffiyeh like this, you’re going to be called “terrorist.” And this is what brought this crime. And it is hate crime. Unfortunately, our leaders here in Vermont didn’t call it as is. And we should call it as is and use the right words….
JOYCE AJLOUNI, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE RAMALLAH FRIENDS SCHOOL AND THE CURRENT GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE: …Palestinians are — you know, even in our grief, we are depicted as Palestinians “dying” — right? — while Israelis are being “killed” and “massacred.” So language really matters. And I think that is what we have seen time and time again. You know, 47 children died on the West Bank between January and August of this year, way before this war started. And I wonder, like, who cried for them. Who mourned them? Where was the U.S. mainstream media talking about them? And so, it’s not just the language. It’s also the framing — right? — that this is the worst attack since the Holocaust, painting Palestinians as Jew haters, as that this is a religious struggle rather than a people seeking freedom, seeking liberation from a settler colonial system, and remembering, you know, that Palestinians of all faiths are in the same struggle, as well, and they have not been offered the humanity and the dignity that they deserve. And so, I think this is all — this is manifest due to the continued dehumanization, not only by the media but by our government, you know, as Wafic said, that they continue to turn a blind eye. They’re not calling for a ceasefire. They continue to embolden the Israeli atrocities by sending more aid, doubling their aid, and supporting the genocide of our people. And so, that is truly the reason why this is happening….
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