Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and the American Task Force on Palestine's Ziad Asali at an “independence day” celebration organized by the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.
Controversy has surrounded the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) since Haaretz's Natasha Mozgovaya tweeted a photo of the Task Force's President Ziad Asali at an "Independence Day" party held at the Israeli embassy in Washington DC. ATFP's Hussein Ibish has issued a response to critics at the Daily Beast's Open Zion blog:
ATFP works to bring Palestinians and Americans closer together, and to maintain strong relations with Palestinian and American leaders and working relations with Israeli officials. This is the only approach that anyone based in the United States who seriously wants to achieve anything practical for peace, or to improve the lives of Palestinians, can actually take.
Mozgovaya's photograph merely reconfirms what ATFP has always openly and frankly pursued: a public and strategic display of continued contact with the Israeli establishment to promote the goals of peace and ending the occupation.
Not sure that will assuage the critics. There is a petition at Change.org calling for Asali to step down. From the petition:
Dear Members of the Board of Directors of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP):
We—Palestinian-Americans, Palestinians living, working, and studying in the United States, and Americans in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle—are writing to express our outrage at the conduct of Ziad Asali, ATFP President. Most recently, we are appalled by his decision to attend an “independence day” celebration organized by the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.
As Palestinians all over the world gather to mourn and remember the Nakba, the great trauma and crime of ethnic cleansing committed against our society, it is intolerable to find that Ziad Asali, a man who purports to represent Palestinians, chose to celebrate this time with the very perpetrators of the Nakba.
More than 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their historic homeland during the Nakba in 1947-48. These were our grandparents, our parents and their grandparents. Everything was stolen from them – from all of us. Our hearts have been carved out by this monumental crime that has never really ceased. The Nakba continues to this day with daily expulsions, home demolitions, and the constant death that rains on our people without mercy by a state with the most powerful military machine in the Middle East, the same state that Asali celebrated!
We are all baffled, stunned, and left feeling betrayed by the images of Asali posing with smiles in a suit next to Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. in what amounts to a celebration of the greatest wound in the Palestinian psyche – a boundless collective pain that we pass on from one generation to another in hope of redemption, of justice, and the restoration of our dignity as native sons and daughters of Palestine.
How dare he? At a time when Palestinian prisoners are on the brink of death by starvation to protest the endless injustice against our people, Asali poses with smiles next to Oren, an American immigrant to Israel and chief propagandist in the U.S. for Israeli state policies that are tantamount to war crimes.
By attending this Israeli celebration, Asali is complicit in the attempts to legitimize a monumental trauma that we have suffered as a people and a nation struggling for its very survival. There can be no retreat from such a disgrace. There can be no justification. And no credibility can be salvaged for ATFP as long as Asali remains associated with this organization.
Ahmed Moor sent along the petition and adds:
Ziad Asali, one of Washington's dim-lit, flickering lampposts, made a silly blunder recently. The president of the American Task Force on Palestine recently attended an "independence day" celebration. But it wasn't anything to do with the Fourth of July - the event was organized by the Israeli embassy in Washington. And the celebration was in honor of Israel - that light unto nations.
It's worth noting that Asali's lack of integrity and historical sensibility (what is the Nakba, anyway?) is nothing exceptional for ATFP. The organization has long been a integral part of the Israel Lobby.
Read the full petition here.