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ADC in Detroit News, Aid to Palestinians

February 3, 2006
Washington, DC — The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians played out in Metro Detroit on Thursday, as it often does, this time over the issue of continued aid to the Palestinians in the wake of the victory last week by Hamas in parliamentary elections in the occupied territories.
U.S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Hills, announced locally that he is circulating a letter to President Bush urging him to halt assistance to the Palestinian Authority. The letter also asks Bush to review any indirect American assistance to make sure that any money sent to help Palestinians is not aiding Hamas.
At the same time, local Palestinians and Arab-Americans organized a telephone and mail campaign to persuade members of Congress and the Bush Administration to keep finances flowing to the Palestinian people, among whom levels of poverty and unemployment have been high for decades under the Israeli occupation.
Hamas, which has declared its participation in many attacks on Israeli citizens, is identified as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, two of the key donors to the Palestinian Authority.
The United States gave the Palestinian Authority $200 million last year, according to the State Department. The European Union donated $606 million.
“The people of Palestine should be congratulated for holding a peaceful election,” Knollenberg said. “However, Hamas has proven through its ties with Islamic fundamentalists and its support for terrorist organization that it cannot be trusted with the funds meant for international aid.”
At the same time, led by the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, local Palestinians and other Arab-Americans organized phone and letter-writing campaigns to local members of Congress and the Bush Administration to urge them not to end the assistance.
“The bottom line here is that this aid is for the Palestinians, period, and the Palestinians are in much need of aid,” said Imad Hamad, the Michigan regional director of the ADC. “It is totally unfair and it comes off as punishment when on the one hand you are empowering people for democracy and reforms and then, when they make their choice, you are punishing them.”
The ADC is a 25-year-old civil rights organization, led in its history by two former members of Congress, the late James Abourezk, of South Dakota, the first Arab-American to serve in the U.S. Senate. It is now led by Mary Rose Oakar, a former congresswoman from Ohio.
You can reach Gregg Krupa at (313) 222-2359 or gkrupa@detnews.com.