Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Sept/Oct 2010, Pages 44-45

Southern California Chronicle

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) Continues to Put Israel's Interests First

By Pat and Samir Twair

Picketers protest outside Rep. Brad Sherman’s July 11 town hall meeting at Reseda High School. (Staff photo S. Twair)

Proving his allegiance to Israel, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) stated during a June 4 press call organized by The Israel Project that all American citizens aboard the humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza should be arrested and prosecuted for supporting Hamas.

In response, indignant outcries by humanitarian organizations were heard around the world. On June 10, a contingent from CODEPINK called Sherman's bluff and showed up at his Capitol Hill office loudly pronouncing they were ready to be arrested (see August 2010 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 64).

On June 19, about 30 noisy protesters assembled outside Sherman's 27th congressional district office in Sherman Oaks brandishing signs reading "Brad Sherman Is Loyal to Israel Not Us" and "Humanitarian Aid is Not Terrorism." As criticism of Sherman's anti-flotilla stance filled Internet sites, the Democratic congressman sought support from his Jewish constituents at a selective "town meeting" July 7 in Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge.

The July event clearly was not intended to discuss general concerns of his constituents, but to enroll support for his pro-Israel policies. The session was not announced on Sherman's Facebook page—but an advertisement in the July 2 Jewish Journal promised that Israel's deputy consul in Los Angeles would be there as his guest.

Hundreds of synagogue members in attendance applauded Sherman when he stressed his efforts to suppress criticism of Israel on local university campuses such as University of California Irvine (see August 2010 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 45). A handful of brave dissenters who tried to question Sherman on his flotilla statements were vociferously booed.

Incredibly, Sherman, a member of this year's Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, congressional "Hall of Shame" (see p. XX) went so far as to boast of passing up a chance to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, which deals with funding for critical domestic issues, so that he could retain his seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he can best protect Israel's interests.

Four days later, on July 11, Sherman met several hundred more of his constituents at a town meeting at Reseda High School. In response to his statement that he voted for the stimulus program to stop the economic free fall, several people called out, "Stop the war."

Audience members selected at random in a lottery drawing stood at two microphones to voice their concerns about local issues. Amazingly, question after question dealt with why Sherman supports the apartheid state of Israel, why there hasn't been an open investigation of Israel's bloody1967 attack on the USS Liberty, and why he is for Israel's draconian boycott of Gaza.

Sherman replied to the rowdy crowd that Gazans are not going hungry—in fact, he claimed, they're in better health than many Americans. He justified Israel's Jews-only highways as a means to stop terrorism, and alleged that one ship in the Gaza flotilla was carrying thugs who were intent on killing as many Israelis as possible.

The San Fernando Democrat is running for his eighth term, and since he's a member, with fellow Democrats Henry Waxman, Howard Berman and Jane Harman, of Southern California's pro-Israel congressional quartet, it looks like he'll be a shoo-in.

Ambassador Ed Peck Recalls Israeli Assault on Gaza Flotilla

Ambassador Ed Peck (l) and Leena Barakat shared the podium at MPAC’s June 19 program. (Staff photo S. Twair)

"When we saw those masked, armed Israeli commandos invading our ship, we knew they weren't there to feed the pigeons," explained Ambassador Edward Peck, who was aboard the Greek passenger ship that was part of a six-vessel flotilla taking humanitarian aid to Gaza.

No one was murdered aboard Peck's ship, the Sfendoni, but nine civilians—including one American—were killed and more than 50 wounded on the Mavi Marmara when elite Israeli troops landed, firing, on the deck of the Turkish humanitarian aid vessel May 31.

The retired U.S. career diplomat was the featured speaker June 19 at a Muslim Public Affairs Council program launching a national campaign to counteract Israel's propaganda cover-up of its brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people.

When he was asked to be one of the 700-plus participants in the flotilla to deliver critically needed food, medicine and materials to the blockaded Gazans, recalled the former U.S. chief of mission in Iraq during the Carter administration, he decided it was time to stop talking about the Israeli-Palestinian impasse and see if delivering aid would help.

"I was in Gaza to monitor the 2006 elections—they were honest—but the U.S. government said the wrong party [Hamas] was elected," he continued.

Peck's ship sailed from Greece nearly one week before it met up with five other aid vessels May 30. Thereafter the flotilla was harassed and then surrounded by an Israeli fleet of four battleships, three helicopters, two submarines and 30 Zodiac speedboats.

Among the 53 other passengers on the Sfendoni, commandeered by the Israelis in international waters, was Joe Meadors, a survivor of Israel's 1967 attack (also in international waters) on the USS Liberty. More than 40 years later, there still has been no official investigation of this deliberate assault resulting in the deaths of 34 Americans, but Liberty survivors stand by the motto: "Not one step back."

"There has been so much misinformation over the years that it won't be easy to raise awareness in Americans of what's going on," Peck stated. "Americans only hear about the Judeo-Christian tradition, and not the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jesus is mentioned multiple times in the Qur'an but, of course, not once in the Torah."

Leena Barakat discussed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. She alerted the audience never to buy a product which has 729 as the first three numbers above the bar code. "Beware," she said, "729 means the item was made in an illegal Israeli settlement, even if the label says it comes from Jordan."

The audience gave a standing ovation to musician/composer Rich Siegel, who sang in flawless Arabic as well as performing his composition, "In Palestine." He grew up in a Zionist family, the artist said, but when he investigated facts on the history of Israel/Palestine, he was shocked to discover he'd been lied to all his life. "In Palestine" can be heard at <www.vimeo.com/6630724>.

Thanks to PCRF, Abdullah is Walking Again

Enjoying a California barbecue are (l-r) Abdallah al-Athamna 11, and George and Sami Abuhamad. (Staff photo S. Twair)

Abdallah al-Athamna, 11, has experienced more tragedy, pain and surgical procedures than most Americans five times his age. His mother, two sisters and 15 members of his extended family were killed when an Israeli tank shelled his home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza in November 2006 (see July 2010 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 41).

His frantic father carried Abdallah—whose foot was severed from his right leg and intestines spilling from a gaping wound in his side—to a taxi to transport them across the Rafah border to medical care in Cairo.

After two unsuccessful surgeries on Abdallah's leg stump, the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) arranged for his travel to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles for double surgeries that capped the tibia and fibula bones.

PCRF annually brings up to 20 young victims of violence in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine to the U.S. for medical care. Its volunteers serve as translators in hospitals and as host families during the recuperation period.

If there were such a thing as a lottery for host families, one could say Abdallah won the jackpot on Feb. 18, when he entered the Yorba Linda home of George and Joan Abuhamad and their children, Sami, 11, Angel, 8, Cierra, 4, and Alison, 17. There's also a sheep dog, a cat, a turtle and a rabbit. Abdallah was responsible for feeding the rabbit and cleaning its cage.

Throughout his stay, Abdallah received tutoring twice a week from a visiting teacher from the Placentia/Yorba Linda School District. His host mom, a registered nurse, arranged for threegratis treatments from the family dentist for Abdallah, who never had been to a dentist.

For three-and-a-half years, Abdallah had no choice but to hop or rely on crutches to be mobile. He could only watch other boys play soccer in Gaza or watch Sami and his friends play baseball in Yorba Linda. Sometimes tears rolled down his cheeks as he sat alone watching the Abuhamad youngsters climb a ladder to their tree house.

All that ended the third week in May when, after two adjustments were made on the fit of his prosthetic foot, Abdallah returned from Children's Hospital determined to do everything 11-year-old boys do.

Within days, he was riding a bicycle, playing baseball and climbing to the tree house. On June 20—Father's Day—George and Joan reluctantly drove Abdallah to the L.A. International Airport. Everyone cried—but then had to contend with the red tape of security x-raying the Palestinian boy's prosthetic foot to make sure no terrorist device was hidden inside it.

Lufthansa kindly allowed Abdallah's excess baggage with no charge. The boy arrived in the U.S. with only an overnight valise—but was returning with three large suitcases filled with clothing, toys and gifts for his family. He'll be back at least two more times to have new prostheses fitted until he stops growing.

"We gained a second son and we'll always remain in touch," vowed Joan, while husband George says he's talked to Abdallah's father numerous times since the boy safely returned to Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

Pat and Samir Twair are free-lance journalists based in Los Angeles.