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Thursday, February 01, 2007

 

Guilford College: Humanising the Palestinians


"It was the ugliest thing I have ever seen," said Awartani, a freshman pursuing a double major in aerospace and mechanical engineering at NC State. "I've seen Israeli soldiers doing this to me in Palestine, but I've never seen this with citizens. It just came with punches, kicks and brass knuckles. There were witnesses that told me they were picking up rocks and bricks and hitting me." Omar Awartani
Before coming to Guilford, Omar participated as a youth forum leader in Ruwwad (children of Ruwwad pictured), which means "pioneers" in Arabic. Ruwwad is a USAID funded youth empowerment program. He was involved in its planning stages. However, when Hamas was elected, funds were cut off.
Reporter Alex Stonehill describes Omar and another youth leader's initial elation and subsequent disappointment:
"Their faces light up with excitement when they talk about the potential they saw for the project. 'At the first meetings we talked about our ideas for Ruwwad, and the [American officials from USAID] all started taking notes. We were so surprised, like you’re really taking us seriously!’ says Omar, who now seems almost embarrassed by the hopes he pinned to the project. 'We didn’t think the project was political before the election happened - we thought it was about us.'”
Osama Sabbah, along with Faris Khader, was also a victim on January 20. Last year, Osama Sabbah proposed to the Friends Boys' School Administation in Ramallah that
he attend the Model United Nations in Amman, Jordan. In a conference of 300 students, Osama and his classmate were the only Palestinians. Osama represented Australia; the school deemed their participation successful, and students from the Friends School in Ramallah will travel twice a year to Amman or Cairo for the Model United Nations, thanks to Osama's pioneering effort.
What happened to the three international students at Guilford College is not like any international exchange I've experienced. In high school foreign students with American Field Service were treated with hospitality and were considered special. My year as an international student in Germany was only marred when I took a vacation to Ramallah and had to suffer the indignity of stripping in the Lod airport and on the return trip the insolence of the Israeli at the check-in counter who got some thrill in breaking every one of the malmoul my Aunt had made for my dorm mates in Germany.
One Greensboro blogger, oblivious or with an agenda of her own, criticised Omar for mentioning Israeli soldiers in his comments (above), for bringing Israel into this. As if the Zionists' decades long vilification and dehumanisation of Palestinians has nothing to do with a worldview that tolerates ethnic slurs directed at Arabs.
Bryan resident Peter Deng, a sophomore, said that the aggressors called the Palestinian students "dirty terrorists" and "sand n***ers."
Omar's brother, Maher, a graduate of Hartwick College in New York, in an e-mail:
What is most ironic is that my brother was attacked on racial and ethnic motives, while I was in Indonesia participating in a conference held by UNESCO on the "significance of media and communication for cultural dialogue and peace," and while my father was in Paris working on how to foster a universal Holistic approach to education for the wellbeing of children.

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