Palestinian-American candidate is source of West Bank pride

A Palestinian girl offers sweets to family members of Rashida Tlaib — aunt Fadwa, center, grandmother Muftiyeh, right and uncle Bassam — as they celebrate Rashida’s US election victory, at the family house, in the West Bank village of Beit Ur Al-Foqa on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2018

Palestinian-American candidate is source of West Bank pride

  • The family’s story is typical for many Palestinians, with relatives scattered across the West Bank, Jordan and the US
  • On the campaign trail, she criticized the influence of “big money” on politics and took aim at President Donald Trump

WEST BANK: The Michigan primary victory of Rashida Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the US Congress, triggered an outpouring of joy in her ancestral village on Wednesday.

Relatives in Beit Ur Al-Foqa, where Tlaib’s mother was born, greeted the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she will take on a US administration widely seen as hostile to the Palestinian cause.
“It’s a great honor for this small town. It’s a great honor for the Palestinian people to have Rashida in the Congress,” said Mohammed Tlaib, the village’s former mayor and a distant relative. “For sure she will serve Palestine, for sure she will serve the interests of her nation. She is deeply rooted here.”
Rashida Tlaib, a former state lawmaker, defeated five other candidates to win the Democratic
nomination in her Michigan district in Tuesday’s primary. She will run unopposed, setting her up to take the spot held since 1965 by John Conyers, who stepped
down in December citing health reasons amid charges of sexual harassment.
Tlaib, 42, is the eldest of 14 children born to Palestinian immigrants in Detroit. On her website, she advocates progressive positions associated with the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, such as universal health care, a higher minimum wage, environmental protection and affordable university tuition.
As a state lawmaker, she sought to defend Detroit’s poor, taking on refineries and a billionaire trucking magnate who she accused of polluting city neighborhoods. On the campaign trail, she criticized the influence of “big money” on politics and took aim at President Donald Trump, whom she famously heckled in 2016 while he was delivering a speech in Detroit.
While noting her Palestinian heritage, her website makes no mention of her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a 2016 op-ed explaining why she disrupted then-presidential candidate Trump, she described herself as “American, parent, Muslim, Arab-American, and woman.”
In the West Bank, family members were jubilant as news of her victory came in early Wednesday. Relatives served baklawa, a sweet pastry, and grapes, figs and cactus fruits from their garden to visitors celebrating her win.
Tlaib’s uncle and aunt were speaking on an iPad with her mother, Fatima, back in Michigan.
“Thank God. Thank God,” her mother said. “This is for the Arabs and Muslims all over the world.”
She said her daughter detests Trump and that “God willing” she will defeat him and become the next US president. “She stood up to him during his campaign. God willing, she will do it again and win.”
The first visitor was Mohammed Tlaib, the former mayor, who predicted his five-year-old daughter, Juman, will grow up to be like her famous relative. “Look at her. She is beautiful, smart and strong like her. From now on, I will name her Rashida,” he said.
The family’s story is typical for many Palestinians, with relatives scattered across the West Bank, Jordan and the US. He said some 50 people from the small village have immigrated to the US and now have children in schools and universities in America. Relatives said Tlaib’s late father was from east Jerusalem.


’Sister protests’: Lebanon, Iraq look to each other

Updated 11 November 2019

’Sister protests’: Lebanon, Iraq look to each other

BEIRUT: A Lebanese flag flutters in the protest-hit Iraqi capital. More than 900 kilometers (500 miles) away, a revolutionary Iraqi chant rings out from a bustling protest square in Beirut.
“Don’t trust the rumors, they’re a group of thieves,” sings a group of Lebanese musicians in Iraqi dialect, referring to political leaders they deem incompetent and corrupt.
“The identity is Lebanese,” they continue, reworking the chant by Iraqi preacher Ali Yusef Al-Karbalai, made popular during the street movement there.
Such recent shows of solidarity have become a common feature of protest squares in the two countries, where corruption, unemployment and appalling public services have fueled unprecedented street movements demanding the ouster of an entire political class.
They serve to “shed light on similarities between the two movements and boost morale,” said Farah Qadour, a Lebanese oud musician.
“The two streets are observing and learning from each other,” said the 26-year-old who is part of the group that adopted Al-Karbalai’s chant.
In Lebanon’s southern city of Nabatiyeh, hundreds brandishing Lebanese flags chanted: “From Iraq to Beirut, one revolution that never dies.”
And in the northern city of Tripoli, dubbed the “bride” of Lebanon’s protest movement, a man standing on a podium waved a wooden pole bearing the flags of the two countries.
“From Lebanon to Iraq, our pain is one, our right is one, and victory is near,” read a sign raised during another protest, outside Beirut’s state-run electricity company.
In Tahrir Square, the beating heart of Baghdad’s month-old protest movement, demonstrators are selling Lebanese flags alongside Iraqi ones.
They have hung some on the abandoned Turkish restaurant, turned by Iraqi demonstrators into a protest control tower.
Banners reading “from Beirut to Baghdad, one revolution against the corrupt” could be seen throughout.
Lebanon and Iraq are ranked among the most corrupt countries in the region by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, with Iraq listed as the 12th most corrupt in the world.
Public debt levels in both countries are relatively high, with the rate in Lebanon exceeding 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
“What’s happening on the streets in Iraq and Lebanon, they’re sister protests,” said Samah, a 28-year-old Lebanese demonstrator.
“They’re the result of an accumulation” of years of problems.
One video that went viral on social media networks showed a masked Iraqi protester dressed in military fatigues demanding the resignation of Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, one of the main targets of protesters in the small Mediterranean country.
In a video released online, a group of young Iraqi men had filmed themselves singing, “Lebanon, we’re with you!“
The two movements also seem to be adopting similar protest strategies.
In both countries, rows of parked vehicles have blocked traffic along main thoroughfares in recent weeks.
University-aged demonstrators wearing medical masks or eye goggles have occupied bridges and flyovers, refusing to believe pledges of reform from both governments.
The big difference is that in Iraq, the demonstrations have turned deadly, with more than 300 people, mostly protesters but also including security forces, killed since the movement started October 1.
Lebanon’s street movement, which started on October 17, has been largely incident-free despite scuffles with security forces and counter-demonstrators rallying in support of established parties.
The two movements, however, are united in their anger about the kind of political system that prioritizes power-sharing between sects over good governance.
The consecutive governments born out of this system have been prone to deadlock and have failed to meet popular demands for better living conditions.
“We are united by a sense of patriotic duty in confronting this sectarian political system,” said Obeida, a 29-year-old protester from Tripoli.
He said he had high hopes for Iraqi protesters because the sectarian power-sharing system there is relatively new, having emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
“In Lebanon, it’s more entrenched,” he said of the arrangement that ended the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.
On a Beirut waterfront, dotted with luxury restaurants and cafes, a 70-year-old Iraqi man who has been living in Lebanon for five years looked on as demonstrators laid out picnic blankets on the grass.
With a Lebanese flag wrapped around his neck, Fawzi said the protests looked different but reminded him of those back home.
“The goal is one,” he said.