Has President Obama Heard about Mohammad Othman?

I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked whether there is an Arab counterpart to Jewish Voice for Peace.  The implicit false assumptions behind the question are clear: Palestinians are violent; Jews seek peace but there is no one peaceful on the other side of the equation.

Press Israel to Free Mohammad Othman
Tell President Obama:
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Press Israel to Free Mohammad Othman

Even President Obama, in his Cairo speech, exhorted the Palestinians to seek a resolution to the violent Israeli/Palestinian conflict through the use of nonviolence — without dedicating a word to Israel’s attack on the civilians of Gaza.

I used to get frustrated when asked the question, because I know that that its framework is false.  I no longer get frustrated — now I use it as an opportunity to share what I know about so many Palestinian organizations and individuals that carry out acts, both small and large, of peaceful resistance against the occupation.  People like Mohammad Othman.

My list is too big to contemplate, and the acts are nothing short of heroic.  In reference to the weekly demonstrations in Bil’in against the theft of that village’s land to build the wall and to expand settlements, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said,

Just as a simple man named Gandhi led the successful nonviolent struggle in India and simple people such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King led the struggle for civil rights in the United States, simple people here in Bilin are leading a nonviolent struggle that will bring them their freedom.1

Bil’in is not unique, of course.  Neither is the crushing response from Israel.2

Palestinians who travel abroad to advocate their cause are at risk too.  They may be unjustly detained by Israel when they come back home.  This is what happened to Mohammad Othman.  He was arrested September 22 by Israeli soldiers on the Allenby Bridge Crossing, the border from Jordan to Palestine.  He was returning from a trip to Norway, where he was advocating for Palestinian human rights.  He is now sitting in jail.  International pressure on Israel may set him free.

Thank you in advance,

Sydney Levy
Sydney Levy
Jewish Voice for Peace

P.S.  Read JVP’s statement on the Goldtsone report.  Our new Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson was in DC yesterday at his press conference and sent us live updates on Twitter.  To join our twitter feed for more tweets, got to twitter.com/jvplive.


1  Ethan Bronner, “In Village, Palestinians See Model for Their Cause,” New York Times, 28 August 2009.

  Neve Gordon, “Palestinians and Israelis Follow Thoreau, But Is Anyone Watching?” Antiwar.com, 28 September 2009; and <www.stopthewall.org/downloads/pdf/repress.pdf>.

For more information, go to <jewishvoiceforpeace.org> and <freemohammadothman.wordpress.com>.