Monday, July 30, 2012

ARAB AMERICAN NEWS reporter is met with hostility in Ann Arbor neighborhood:

"Reporter met with hostility in Ann Arbor neighborhood"

By Samer Hijazi
ARAB AMERICAN NEWS (Dearborn, Michigan)
Saturday, 07.28.2012, 10:47pm

ANN ARBOR — Last week The Arab American News (TAAN) published a story about an Ann Arbor neighborhood petitioning to have one of its residents (who's also an activist supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) remove an anti Israel flag from his property. 

Residents complained it was a distraction in the quiet neighborhood. The flag, hung outside of the resident's house from a tree, featured the Israeli flag with the recognizable "no" symbol in red slashed across it.

This week I decided to visit the Ann Arbor neighborhood and talk to residents from the 11 households who signed the petition. Unfortunately, the response I received was nothing short of insulting. 

Henry Herskovitz, the man responsible for the flag display, told us last week that his neighbors had been shunning him since the flag was put up in late May. During my trip out to the neighborhood, located on Mark Hannah's Place, Herskovitz was out of town and had temporarily taken down the display to avoid vandalism.  Figuring it would be a good opportunity to speak to neighbors now that the flag was removed, it was surprising that I was met with resistance and intimidation. 

Anyone who passes through the neighborhood on a typical day will see children quietly playing on their lawns, residents walking their dogs on the sidewalks, and neighbors chit-chatting on their front porches.  

To start, I knocked on the door of one of the first residents in the neighborhood who signed the petition. The man who answered the door was mildly hesitant, but nonetheless was respectfully nice enough to tell me that the petition was a neighborhood effort, not spear headed by anyone in particular. He told me that he didn't want to go into detail, but suggested I should knock on other doors, as there might be other neighbors willing to talk. 

While approaching the next household who signed the petition, there was a boy around seven or eight years old playing on the front lawn with his baseball. I asked him from a distance if he would grab his parents for me. The father who greeted me behind a screen door was cold, and as soon as I told him what newspaper I was with he quickly uttered that he wasn't interested and slammed the door in my face. I also noticed the child did not return outside to play, not even long after I left the property; as if I were some sort of threat to neighborhood safety.

I decided to go in front of Herskovitz's house to take some pictures, regardless of the flag having been temporarily removed. In the process, I could hear a man shouting. 

"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" a statement I heard coming from a window from across the street. Afterward the shouting man, who appeared to be in his fifties, came out of his house and approached me with his dog, and asked the question again. I responded by saying I was covering the story about the petition that the neighborhood, including him, had signed. He asked me what paper I was from, and after he learned, he quickly waved his arms in a hesitant manner and blatantly said, "Nope… I don't want to speak to you guys." 

Then he went back inside his home, slamming the door harder than necessary. I knocked on another door, a few houses down. The lady that answered was very polite at first, and again, as soon as I told her I worked for TAAN, her attitude quickly changed. "I'd rather not discuss this…goodbye," she said before slamming the door in my face. I received similar reactions from residents as I continued to knock on doors. I decided to call it quits at this point, because I began to feel unwelcomed. The residents had clearly taken a personal issue with TAAN. 

The feeling I left the neighborhood with that day has been experienced by me and my colleagues at The Arab American News before, which is why I thought it was important to address the issue. 

The bigger picture here is that Arab Americans are not too popular right now, and often as reporters for the largest Arab American paper in the country, TAAN's reporters fall victim to bias and misconceptions surrounding Arab and Muslim Americans in the mainstream media.  

Often when people find out what paper we work for their attitudes change, and they make unnecessary or hurtful remarks. 

TAAN is a part of ethnic media, and some people may perceive that as negative from our experience, although ethnic media continues to gain huge momentum. A majority of the events we cover are also covered by the mainstream media, and we believe we produce the same high quality news, while also presenting stories from unique angles. TAAN is widely known as an alternative to the mainstream media for covering important issues, and events the mainstream media too often ignores, as with this particular case regarding the anti-Israeli flag, which had not been reported by virtually all other media outlets.    

The irony in all of this was that I originally wasn't too sure about Herskovitz's decision to display an anti-Israeli flag in front of his house, although I agree with his cause, because the move may have been too bold.  I went to the neighborhood to hear the other side. But now it has become clearer to me why Herskovitz put the flag there in the first place. It was to open people's minds to a serious issue (Israel's continued occupation and brutal treatment of Palestinians), and also to build toward a much-needed dialogue with people like the residents who refused to speak with us this week. 


Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Ann Arbor neighborhood petitions against resident's anti-Israeli flag"

Ann Arbor neighborhood petitions against resident's anti-Israeli flag

By Samer Hijazi
Friday, 07.20.2012, 08:52pm

ANN ARBOR — A neighborhood in Ann Arbor has worked together on an initiative to take down an anti-Israeli flag being demonstrated in front of another neighbor's house. But the petition that has so far been signed by 11 households is not discouraging the man responsible for the display, as he has responded with a five page  letter defending his freedom of speech rights, asking his neighbors to re-consider their request.

The anti-Israeli flag hanging from a tree in front of Herskovitz's residence in an Ann Arbor neighborhood has displeased many of his neighbors, who have spearheaded a petition to have it removed.
Henry Herskovitz has lived on the block of Mark Hannah Place for over 29 years and has never really had problems with his neighbors, that is until now. The Jewish activist, who has been a prominent member of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends (JWPF)  since its creation over eight years ago, decided to put up a flag hanging from a tree in front of his house that depicts the Israeli flag with a red "no" symbol slashed across it. Since the flag was put up in late May, he was surprised to receive a petition from his neighbors asking him to  take it down.

Now Herskovitz says that he's tried to talk to his neighbors about the situation in a peaceful manner, but he has been greeted with cold reception. This isn’t even the first flag Herskovitz has put in front of his house. He first had a purple "peace" flag with a white dove carrying a green olive branch. Then after taking a trip to Palestine in 2002, he returned to his residence and displayed the Palestinian flag. He says his neighbors were always aware of his activism but rarely wanted to discuss it with him.

"A lot of the neighbors don't want to talk to me about this. I used to have good relations with all of them, so it's kind of sad that they are shunning me,' Herskovitz stated. 'I'm standing up against a racist, suppressive state. I don't think I'm a bad guy but I'm definitely being treated like one.'

The petition states the following; 'We need to express our concern about your modification of the flag of Israel, namely the red circle and slash. Many of your neighbors are offended in that the circle and slash speaks so negatively about a religion, a people, and a country…we see this flag as offensive, one that may be appropriate for a political demonstration at say the post office, but inappropriate in the neighborhood where we raise our children."

Herskovitz says that his neighbors have even gone as far as contacting city officials to try to help them with the initiative to take the flag down. Despite his neighbors' initial reactions, Herskovitz stresses that he never intended to offend them in the first place. 

"It's not a personal intent to inflect discomfort or pain on my neighbors. Hurting people intentionally was never my purpose," Herskovitz added. "They say the symbol is against the people and against the religion, but it's really just against the state of Israel. "

Herskovitz, along with other members of JWPF, have spent the last eight years raising awareness about the occupation of Israel around Ann Arbor. They've held demonstrations all over town, including at the university, the city hall, at synagogues and other public locations.  Regardless, Herskovitz says no matter where the location is, they are always met with the same response.

"The funny thing is, the letter indicates that the flag would be more worthwhile elsewhere like at the  post office.  We can be at a post office, standing in front of city hall, or even in front of a synagogue, and people will always say 'this is not the right place,'" Herskovitz added. 

Blaine Coleman, an activist and friend of Herskovitz, says he is not surprised that Ann Arbor residents have reacted this way because they have always been quick about defending the state of Israel in the past. Coleman however has faith that opinions might be able to change in the future if people engaged in peaceful dialogue.

"For many years, Henry and I have been part of a community that has demanded boycott against the apartheid state of Israel. We've demanded this boycott at City Council meetings, at University student government meetings, and at many demonstrations and vigils," Coleman stated. "In the most hostile environment, Henry publicly demands the immediate liberation of the Palestinian people. This is a high honor. One day, Henry's neighbors will petition the City to re-name their street after him. One day the City will brag that it was Henry's home." 

After receiving the petition from his neighbors on June 5, Herskovitz finally decided to respond with a five page letter that explains his reasoning for putting up the flag, while also highlighting his time spent in both Iraq and the West Bank, where he gained knowledge about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Also attached to the five page response was a one page letter written by Yasmin Snounu, a Palestinian and former student from Eastern University who lived in Ann Arbor for two years. Snounu was a constant visitor at Herskovitz's residence and interacted with the neighbors occasionally. After hearing about the petition created by Herskovitz neighbors, Snounu wrote a letter from Gaza, asking his neighbors to reconsider. The following is an excerpt from her letter;

"Anyone who is concerned about the safety of his children should be exasperated to see the children of Palestine in a big jail in Gaza experiencing horror, either by seeing the Israelis killing their family members, or by experiencing fear and hearing tanks and military airplanes bomb! With all respect to the neighbors of my friend Henry, an Israeli flag with the red circle and the slash will never affect the safety of your children, but the military airplanes and the occupation would definitely affect their safety…If you have a cause and you want your neighbor to remove that "offensive flag," why do not you have a meeting with him and listen to him, and discuss it! Why do you avoid talking about it, about the legitimacy of Israel? Why do you keep closing your eyes and your ears! If the Israeli flag represents "religion" as you mentioned, how come this religion provokes killing, occupying and stealing people's lands, lives and safety?” the letter from Snounu stated.

So far Herskovitz says he has yet to hear back from his neighbors in response to his letter. He hopes they are willing to engage in proper dialogue in order to come to some sort of agreement. 


Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Boycotting Apartheid Israel"

Each Massacre Breeds New Boycotts

Boycotting Apartheid Israel

You may have noticed that Israel is getting hit with more boycott campaigns, not less.

It started on April 17, 2003.

That night, the Wayne State University Student Council approved a resolution against all university investment in “companies doing business in Israel”.

More divestment resolutions were approved by the University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government Senate, and by the faculty senate at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Then, on July 9, 2005, Palestinian Civil Society itself called for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, but they can’t blow this humanitarian campaign off the map. After every Israeli massacre, more boycotts are launched against Israel.
A recent example is the 2012 divestment resolution approved by the Arizona State University student government.

Before it’s over, you will see Israel clamoring for a “two-state solution” to preserve some kind of apartheid state.

Yet, in the end, no Israeli state, big or small, will be allowed to exist. It would only keep bombing and invading the Arab world. South Africa’s experience is instructive.

In 1994, international boycotts had killed the South African apartheid state.

Yet die-hard whites still pushed for a two-state solution. They called it a ‘Volkstaat’, a white state carved out of South Africa. That would have been a nightmare. It would have meant a resurrected white apartheid army, white nukes, and the resumption of white bombing raids all over Africa. So the people of South Africa never allowed any white-supremacist state to be resurrected. Thank goodness.

Today, in July 2012, we see that South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, is calling for an increased boycott on Israeli products. South Africans have not forgotten their suffering under the white dictatorship, and how tightly Israel was allied to the dictators.

Never again should an apartheid state be allowed to exist.

Blaine Coleman has urged the Ann Arbor City Council to boycott Israel since 2002 and is the plaintiff in Coleman v. Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

"The blood of 80 million Iranians"

"The blood of 80 million Iranians"

By Blaine Coleman

Saturday, 06.30.2012

The United States government, the entirety of the Democratic and Republican parties, has killed millions of Iraqis in the most beastly way. No one has objected loudly enough to stop the slaughter.

On top of that, virtually every Democratic and Republican politician has voted to give massive support to Israel.

So Israel slaughters thousands more Palestinians, thousands more Lebanese, and howls for the blood of 80 million Iranians.

I hope to see all of these politicians tried by the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

Virtually every U.S. politician, from the most pitiful Michigan student government member to the mightiest Congressmen and Presidents, is hip-deep in the blood of Arabs and Afghans.

They would like to be exonerated of their guilt for this slaughter. But they cannot be exonerated; they will be found guilty, guilty, guilty.

Starving Iran to make Washington love you

Virtually every U.S. and Israeli politician is ready to re-open Auschwitz and barbecue Iran. 

The starved, burnt corpse of Iran is the most dearly treasured political currency in Washington today.

Even a few desperate Palestine solidarity activists are ready to starve Iran, just to buy some love from Washington. I heard one of those activists say, "Let the sanctions and diplomacy do their job"!  

I ask them: Don't you remember that Israel and America are thuggishly choking Gaza with sanctions? Why are you approving their thuggishness against Iran? 

That grinning rapist called America

Every year since 1953, Iranians have been attacked by that grinning rapist known as the United States:

First, a bloody U.S. coup d'├ętat;

Then, decades of torture by SAVAK;

Then an eight-year genocidal war;

Then the U.S. shoots down a big Iranian passenger plane;

Plus decades of devastating economic sanctions;

Plus assassins trained by America and Israel.

Don't play innocent – here is what you did to Iran

Ever since 1951, when Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh became Iran’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, Britain and the United States have been screaming that Iran was somehow a “threat” to the world.

In 1951, Britain was already telling the United Nations Security Council that Iran’s effort to nationalize its own oil industry was a "threat to the security of the world."

For the next two years, Britain did everything to starve and panic Iran.

'The U.S. news media compared Dr. Mossadegh to Hitler. Do you see how easily white people accuse Middle Easterners of being “Hitler”, simply for demanding independence?

In 1953, the United States launched a violent coup d'├ętat against Iran. The entire political spine of the nation was crushed.  

Dr. Mossadegh was caged and mocked by his tormentors. Life magazine called him “Mossy”.

In 1954, the New York Times crowed that ‘Today Mossadegh is where he belongs – in jail.”

For the next 25 years, Iranians were tortured and killed by SAVAK, which the United States and Israel trained.

Then in 1979, Iran freed itself from U.S. domination. So it became the target of a genocidal war backed by the United States’ allies.  By the mid-1980’s, the United States was urging Saddam Hussein to bomb more of Iran, and was providing him with the means to do it. Over a million Iranians and Iraqis died. 

Even now, the United States says it is ready to "obliterate" Iran. That is exactly how Hillary Clinton made the threat.  After her threat, President Obama named her as his Secretary of State. That is the soul of liberal U.S. opinion.

The soul of conservative U.S. opinion is represented by Senator John McCain, who happily sang "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" to the tune of "Ba Ba Ba, Ba Barbara Ann," during his campaign for the U.S. Presidency.

Among famous American politicians, even the least rabidly Zionist are still… rabidly Zionist. Here is Congressman Ron Paul giving Israel the green light to attack Iran or anyplace else:

"I believe I'm the only candidate who would allow Israel to take immediate action to defend herself without having to get our approval. Israel should be free to take whatever steps she deems necessary to protect her national security and sovereignty." (Ron Paul, interviewed in  Ha'aretz, Dec.28, 2011.)

Iran has never invaded anyone. Israel has invaded almost everyone in the Middle East.

Iran's civilization is not built on stealing Arab land.

Israel is a racist thugocracy; It stands for the robbery and rape of the Arab world.

So I say – keep your dirty hands off of Iran's throat.

I say – cut off every penny to Israel.

I say – stop spending trillions on killing Muslims.

I say – spend those trillions to re-build Detroit and every inner city in the United States. 

- The writer is a local community activist.


Sol Metz's Obituary

Human rights activist Metz passes away

ARAB AMERICAN NEWS (Dearborn, Michigan)
Saturday, 06.30.2012

Sol Metz, longtime Palestine rights activist 

ANN ARBOR — Sol Metz, a local longtime Palestine human rights activist lost his battle with cancer Monday in Ann Arbor. Metz was born May 15, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. 

He was a faithful participant in the Palestine human rights vigils every Saturday morning on Washtenaw, in Ann Arbor. 

He was an activist for peace and justice throughout his life. He played a role in the civil rights movement in Detroit, and in protesting against cruise missile production in southeast Michigan.

The family asks that charitable contributions be made in his name to Friends Committee on National Legislation at or the American Cancer Society by visiting