Those advocating for issues of importance to Arab Americans rarely have anything to celebrate. In an era defined by the growth of anti-Arabism and Islamophobia in the West, activists’ work is necessary, although uphill. Last week, activists fighting for related causes won rare, but small, victories.
Groups protesting an Israeli settlement-supporting diamond company obstructed its plans to set up shop in Dubai. And supporters of imprisoned Palestinian professor Sami Al-Arian were able to put the spotlight on his mistreatment and have some of his scant rights as a prisoner recognized.
Dubai says jeweler has no license
As previously reported in The Arab American News, activist groups in New York, Palestine and Dubai have been bringing attention to an Israeli diamond magnate’s efforts to expand his businesses to Dubai. Lev Leviev, a backer of Israel’s colonies in the West Bank, has both benefited and profited from Israeli settlements surrounding Jerusalem.
Under growing international scrutiny generated by this activism, an official with Dubai’s Department of Economic Development denied that a trade license was issued to Leviev despite press reports indicating the company’s plans to open stores there.
The Gulf News quoted a high-level government official saying Leviev has not been approved to operate stores in Dubai. “We are aware of these reports and have not granted a trade license to any business of this name. If such an application does come to us we will deal with it accordingly,” said Ali Ebrahim, deputy director general for executive affairs in Dubai.
One store was planned for the Atlantis hotel lobby. Another was to be in the underground mall in the Burj Dubai tower, which will be the tallest building in the world.
The shops were to be opened in partnership with Moroccan-Palestinian businessman Arif Bin Khadra, probably to circumvent laws against Israeli citizens operating businesses in Dubai without a peaceful resolution of Israel’s military occupation. Bin Khadra argued that politics has no role in business and that there was no evidence that Leviev supported the settlements.
Dubai claimed it had checks against arrangements allowing Israeli businesses to work through agents. “There are no loopholes,” Ebrahim declared. “We check backgrounds of businesses that apply.” Elsewhere, Leviev claimed he has done business in Dubai in the past.
Several Palestine solidarity organizations have been targeting Leviev’s store in New York because of his pro-settlement activities. For them, the statement by an official from Dubai represents an acknowledgement of their work.
Dr. Al-Arian moved to more humane prison unit
After weeks of a hunger strike and a dangerous decline in his health, Dr. Sami Al-Arian was moved from the “segregation unit” of the Hampton Roads Regional Jail to the general detainee population. Supporters of Dr. Al-Arian demanded he be moved to a section where he can enjoy access to mail, visitors and phone calls. Though this plea was effective, his family and key supporters are still calling for public pressure to demand his release and deportation.
The besieged Palestinian professor and activist has been in American prisons and detention centers for more than five years. The government failed to convict him for any wrongdoing. They have held him under material witness provisions — which allow the government to hold those they consider witnesses in other cases — despite an agreement he made to accept lower charges in exchange for deportation.
His sentence ended on April 11th, according to the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace, making his imprisonment illegal. The group is calling on the public to contact immigration officials and others.
On the 57th day of his hunger strike, Dr. Sami Al-Arian ended his protest fast. Family, friends and supporters were alarmed after he lost more than 40 pounds. He took these life threatening measures to call attention to the “continued harassment and abuse of power by the Justice Department.”
According to Dr. Agha Saeed, chair of the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, “Dr. Al-Arian is an internationally recognized political prisoner in America [who] has come to symbolize the current struggle for human rights.”
Though both Dr. Al-Arian’s supporters and Palestine solidarity activists continue to work against overwhelming odds, this week they can count on two small victories. This does not mean the end of their causes by any means, but rather evidence that their efforts do matter. They just need more support from those who sympathize.
For more information visit www.freesamialarian.com/help.html.
Will Youmans is a writer for The Arab-American News.