Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

AFSC Iowa Hosts AMPAL President John Dabeet

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

AFSC Iowa Hosts AMPAL President John Dabeet

Article excerpt

John Dabeet, president of Americans and Palestinians for Peace (AMPAL), spoke to an appreciative audience at the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting House in Des Moines, Iowa on May 31. The tireless proponent of peace in and justice for his native land, Palestine, took his audience on a journey, telling the story of his life as a child and a young man in Palestine and, later, as a Palestinian-American leader with a mission.

"I was three years old at the time of the 1967 war, and I remember seeing the Israeli tanks coming into Ramallah, my hometown," Dabeet recalled.

He later learned that his father's family had been forced out of their home in Jaffa by Israeli militants in 1948 and had sought safety in Ramallah. Dabeet's mother, a child of 13 in 1948, was at a boarding school when Israeli paramilitary and military troops forced about 700,000 Palestinians from their homes.

"My mom, 13 years old and in school in Jerusalem, couldn't go back and join her family. Can you imagine that feeling?" asked Dabeet.

Dabeet became a leader in high school when he helped establish a Palestinian student movement. "We felt like, 'We have to organize and we have to do something so we can get back our lives...We have to achieve justice and peace,'" explained Dabeet, who continued his education at Bethlehem University, where he was active in student political organizations.

"Parents want their kids to grow up in a peaceful environment," he pointed out, dismissing as "unbelievable" Israeli propaganda about Palestinians who supposedly send their children out to fight the Israeli military.

Dabeet described his and other Palestinians' elation when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat shook hands on the lawn of the White House during the Clinton administration, only to have their hopes for peace dashed when Rabin was assassinated by a far-right Jewish Israeli extremist.

In 1989, Dabeet came to the U.S. to study for his master's degree in economics at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. From 1991 to 1995, he taught at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, PA, where he became involved with human rights organizations. Today, Dabeet is chair of Iowa's Muscatine Community College Department of Business and professor of economics. …

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