Protests were held around the world yesterday in response to Israel’s assault on Lebanon and Palestine. From San Francisco to Cairo, Montreal to Rome, tens of thousands took to the streets to call for an end to Israeli aggression in the Middle East. We go to Dearborn, Michigan to speak with the publisher of "The Arab American" newspaper. [includes rush transcript]
Protests were held around the world yesterday in response to Israel’s assault on Lebanon and Palestine. From San Francisco to Cairo, Montreal to Rome, tens of thousands took to the streets to call for an end to Israeli aggression in the Middle East.
On Tuesday, hundreds gathered across the street from the Israeli Mission in New York City. Protesters demanded an end to U.S support of Israel’s attacks and freedom for all Palestinian prisoners. Some of the speakers directly criticized New York Senator Hillary Clinton for her remarks at a rally on Monday in support of Israel.
- Sen. Hillary Clinton (D–NY), speaking on July 17, 2006.
- Jane Toby, protester speaking on July 18, 2006.
- Maymanah Farhat, protester speaking on July 18, 2006.
Another large protest took place on Tuesday in Dearborn Michigan — the city home to the largest number of Arab-Americans in the United States. Nearly 10,000 people marched through the center of the city to demand that the United States pressure Israel to halt attacks in Lebanon and Gaza. One of the organizers of yesterday’s protest joins us today from Michigan–Osama Siblani is the publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Dearborn-based weekly bilingual newspaper, "The Arab American."
AMY GOODMAN: Here’s what Hillary Clinton had to say.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: We will support her efforts to send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrians, to the Iranians, to all who seek death and domination instead of life and freedom, that we will not permit this to happen, and we will take whatever steps are necessary.
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! producer Yoruba Richen spoke to some of the protesters who came out yesterday in New York. This is Jane Toby, who came from upstate New York to take part in the protest.
JANE TOBY: I’m Jewish. And I’m here because I feel that the Jewish community needs to talk out, to speak out against the crimes that the U.S. government and the Israeli government is perpetrating against the people in Palestine, committing genocide in Gaza and killing people in Lebanon.
AMY GOODMAN: The New York protest brought together Orthodox Jews, Palestinians and other American activists. Many Lebanese Americans also attended in support of family members still in Lebanon. This is Maymanah Farhat, also speaking at the protest in New York.
MAYMANAH FARHAT: I was born in this country, but my father was born in Southern Lebanon. And I’ve been going to Southern Lebanon every year for the past 12 years.
YORUBA RICHEN: What are you hearing from family members there?
MAYMANAH FARHAT: The situation is completely out of control. I have several aunts and my grandmother, that are trapped in separate villages throughout Southern Lebanon. They can’t leave because the bridges have been completely blown up, so there’s no exit out of the villages. They’re afraid of food running out within the next week, because the populations of each village are anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people, and they have maybe like four grocery stores for the whole village.
My cousin was living in Dahiya, which is the southern suburb of Beirut that’s been bombarded so much. She was able to escape yesterday, thank God. When she escaped, she looked and saw that the majority of Dahiya was completely leveled.
AMY GOODMAN: Another large protest took place Tuesday in Dearborn, Michigan. When we come back from our break, we’ll talk to the editor and publisher of The Arab American news, one of the organizers of the protests. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to another large protest that took place Tuesday, this, in Dearborn, Michigan, the city home to the largest Arab American population in the United States. Nearly 10,000 people marched through the center of the city to demand U.S. pressure Israel to halt the attacks on Lebanon and Gaza. One of the organizers joins us now from Michigan. Osama Siblani is publisher and editor-in-chief of the Dearborn-based weekly bilingual newspaper, The Arab American. He helped found the Arab American Political Action Committee in Dearborn and the Congress of Arab American Organizations. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Osama Siblani.
OSAMA SIBLANI: Good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. You are Lebanese?
OSAMA SIBLANI: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What word do you have from your family?
OSAMA SIBLANI: Well, I talked to my family yesterday. They are fine. I’m concerned about my family, but I’m concerned about the Lebanese people in general, as much as I’m concerned about my family. I tell you, frankly, I called my family to ask them about the situation in Lebanon, more than I called them to ask about themselves.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, what do you understand right now is happening on the ground?
OSAMA SIBLANI: Well, you know, I heard your interview with Robert Fisk. I think he described it pretty eloquently, what’s happening. On a massive scale, there are massacres being committed against civilians in villages in the south. He talked about Marwaheen massacre. There are others in Tyre that happened yesterday, that totally killed an entire family, a bomb that landed on their home by the Israeli military forces. Israelis are just raping Lebanon right now and destroying its infrastructure. Robert Fisk alluded to all these things.
What I wanted to talk more is about what the United States has been doing in order to encourage the Israelis, rather than discouraging them from going on and destroying Lebanon and killing innocent civilians. The President’s remark is, you know, is in my opinion — we reject it. And it is unfortunate that the President of the United States makes such a statement, when he says that, you know, it’s going to take sometimes the loss of innocent life in order to bring the issues to the forefront. I mean, you know, this is what Osama bin Laden will do, will say, killing 3,000 Americans in order to bring his issues to the forefront. Killing innocent civilians is justified by the President of the United States, the leader of the only superpower of the world? This is disgusting. It is disgusting. This is nuts, his approach.
AMY GOODMAN: Osama Siblani, I wanted to read to you from the Guardian newspaper on this issue of U.S. policy. The piece reads today, "The U.S. is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hezbollah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources. The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the U.N. Security Council, the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, and the European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. U.S. strategy, in allowing Israel this freedom for a limited period, has several objectives, one of which is to deliver a slap to Iran and Syria, who Washington claims are directing Hezbollah and Hamas militants from behind the scenes." Your response?
OSAMA SIBLANI: Well, this is the incompetence of the U.S. administration, in particular the Bush administration. We have seen this incompetence in several places. Katrina is one. Iraq, massive, massive incompetence. This is the peak of incompetence. Now again, we’re seeing it in Lebanon, you know, giving another week to destroy Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is getting stronger in Lebanon, because every time you kill innocent people, by Israeli American-made bombs, people will be angry at Israel, at America. They will not be angry at Hezbollah. Hezbollah has not been affected in here. The Lebanese people are being killed indiscriminately by bombs from Israel, and therefore they are supporting Hezbollah, because Hezbollah is retaliating, trying to protect the country. And they have to get it into their head that this is not helping the situation. This just shows one more time, that we have a president who is incompetent, led by another incompetent prime minister in Israel. And we are leading the world into a disaster.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Arab American reaction. Over a hundred Arab American leaders from around the country are traveling to Washington today to meet with congressional leaders and State Department officials. The Lebanese American Congress members — Nick Rahall of West Virginia; Darrell Issa, Republican from California; Ray LaHood, Republican from Illinois; Charles Boustany, Republican from Louisiana — will host a town hall forum with Arab American community leaders. During the afternoon, the delegation will meet with the State Department and also address the issue of Arab Americans being evacuated from Lebanon. Are you going to be going to this?
OSAMA SIBLANI: No, I am not. I am going to be talking to our people here, trying to mobilize them, trying to organize them, trying to get our voices heard by the American public. I have already given up on the Congress of the United States. It’s an occupied Israeli territory. You know, we have 435 — another incompetent Congress, that is rubber stamping what that administration is doing when it comes to Israel. I think we’re committing suicide, as far as the U.S. in the region.
Here, we have a policy, the United States, the Bush administration has a policy, the declared policy. It says that we want to go out and gain the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims around the world. Is this how you gain the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims, by giving the Israelis an open invitation and support, total support, to go and kill innocent people and destroy the infrastructure of a country? This is not the way you gain the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims. And whether Democrats or Republican, they are committed to the help of the Israelis. They’ve been bought. Their soul has been bought. And therefore, talking to them is useless. Useless.
We have to talk to the American people. We have to start talking directly to the American public and showing them the way to become a greater nation.
AMY GOODMAN: Osama Siblani, you say the Congress is an occupied Israeli territory. Noam Chomsky says it’s not so much the U.S. serving Israel’s purposes, as Israel serving U.S. purposes.
OSAMA SIBLANI: Well, what is the U.S. service in here and the purpose in destroying Lebanon? I don’t understand. I mean, this is making Syria stronger. This is making Iran stronger. Look, we went to war in Iraq in order to strengthen Iran. You know, Iraq stood against the Iranians. And in Afghanistan, we went out to take Taliban that were standing against Iran. We are making Iran stronger in the region. It is our own policy that’s making Iran stronger.
And I tell you, this is a failing policy. This is a policy that is going to pay dividends, negative dividends to the American people in the long run. When they come and attack us again, I don’t want to hear, "Why do they hate us?" It’s very obvious why. Look at what’s happening today and what we’re doing today to the world, to the Arab world and to the Muslim world. And then, the answer of why they hate us is very obvious.
AMY GOODMAN: Osama Siblani, I want to thank you very much for being with us, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Dearborn-based weekly, bilingual newspaper, The Arab American.