Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 2007, pages 46-47
Northern California Chronicle
Women in Black Spread Message of Peace, Opposition to War, Violence
By Elaine Pasquini
CONTINUING a six-year tradition, some 40 members of Bay Area Women in Black paraded silently through the heart of San Francisco’s shopping district the day after Thanksgiving to bring attention to their message of peace, and opposition to the Iraq war and to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and killing of Palestinian civilians. Dressed in black, the women, and also several men, carried signs reading, “War is Terror,” “We Refuse to Be Enemies,” “Mothers Are Grieving in Israel and Palestine,” and “Support Our Peacemakers.” Motorcycle patrolmen accompanied the group as it was dogged by a noisy handful of pro-Israel hecklers.
Activists Assail AIPAC Agenda
Californians opposed to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) influence on U.S. foreign policy and the $3 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel protested at the pro-Israel lobby’s recent Northern California membership fund-raisers. Some 70 activists demonstrated outside Sacramento’s Radisson Hotel Dec. 3, while an equal number protested at Santa Clara’s Convention Center the same day. The following day, while AIPAC supporters dined inside San Francisco’s Moscone Center, demonstrators outside the tony fund-raiser venue held a large banner reading “AIPAC DOES NOT SPEAK FOR US.” Later that evening more than 75 activists rallied outside Oakland’s Marriott City Center. The two-day campaign against AIPAC was organized by StopAIPAC.org, a group of Bay Area peace and justice activists. Through the fiscal sponsorship of The Rebuilding Alliance, <www.rebuildingalliance.org/>, the group placed a full-page statement of conscience endorsed by 200 individuals in the Nov. 29 edition of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Calling on congressional representatives to “reject the dangerous politics of militarism and confrontation promoted by AIPAC,” the group demands that their representatives “support a new foreign policy based on respect for human rights and international law.”
War Vets, Resisters Speak in San Francisco
“Action is the only thing that’s going to stop this war,” Iraq war veteran Darrell Anderson told some 75 supporters at San Francisco’s War Memorial Veterans Building Dec. 9. The Purple Heart recipient was discharged from the Army in October 2006 after he returned to the U.S. from Canada, where he fled the night before he was to return to Iraq for his second tour of duty in January 2005. The 24-year-old armored vehicle specialist is presently a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) cross-country bus tour designed to raise awareness and support military resisters and their families.
Army Pfc. Kyle Snyder, 23, AWOL since April 2005, addressed the crowd by telephone. “I just couldn’t be a part of what I believe to be an illegal and immoral war,” he said of his decision not to fight in Iraq.
Standing in front of the IVAW bus parked on the street across from City Hall, Bob Watada and Rosa Sakanishi, father and stepmother of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, the Army’s first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, spoke to their supporters and the media. “Lack of courage is not Ehren’s reason for refusing to serve in Iraq,” Sakanishi said. “He should not be punished for raising his voice and taking a stand, but that’s what he’s facing.” The 28-year-old Hawaiian faces court martial for his decision to go absent without leave.
Consular Corps Ladies Hold Holiday Bazaar
The Ladies of the San Francisco Consular Corps held their second annual holiday bazaar Dec. 2 at San Francisco’s City College. Susan Somaya, wife of Honorary Consul of Mauritius Jitu Somaya, chaired the bazaar, which featured crafts, gifts, and holiday traditions from San Francisco’s 76 international consulates. Proceeds from the event benefited local charities, including St. Anthony’s Foundation and the Tenderloin After School Project. The non-profit group also will fund a City College scholarship for foreign students.
Emphasizing that the group ignores political differences, Somaya explained, “We wish to give something back to the community we all live in.”
Among the items for sale were a specially designed Christmas tree ornament featuring a dove with the words “Peace on Earth,” and The Diplomatic Apron, a cookbook of recipes from the members’ various kitchens. The Egyptian and Indian consulates offered delicious native cuisine. Music and dancing completed the event along with a silent auction and raffle.
ACCC Celebrates Christmas, Eid al-Adha
On Dec. 16 San Francisco’s Arab Cultural and Community Center (ACCC) hosted a holiday bazaar celebrating Christmas, the New Year, and Eid al-Adha, which occurred on Dec. 30. Beautiful handcrafted jewelry, crafts, purses, scarves and other items from the Arab world were offered for sale. Children from the ACCC’s weekly Saturday Arabic class enjoyed making holiday cards and decorations after their morning lesson. All the guests appreciated the holiday sweets and lively Arab music provided courtesy of ACCC youth program assistant director Ahmed Hashem, who acted as deejay for the afternoon celebration.
The Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha occurs on the 10th day of the Islamic month Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. It commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Isma’il in response to a command from God, and God’s mercy in substituting a lamb for Isma’il. Occurring at the end of the hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca), one of the five pillars of Islam required of all Muslims at least once in a lifetime if finances and health permit, this holiday is observed by sharing food with family and friends, and giving gifts to children.
Elaine Pasquini is a free-lance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.