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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/28/16

Two Human Rights Defenders From Occupied Palestine Navigate the Politics of Capitol Hill

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Reprinted from Alternet

What can happen when you try to educate Congress about Israel's escalating human rights abuses.

Washington Capitol Hill
Washington Capitol Hill
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This month, two front line human rights defenders in occupied Palestine, Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR) founder Raji Sourani and Al Haq founder Shawan Jabarin, embarked on a speaking tour in New York City and Washington DC. Following their appearance at Columbia University, where they spoke at an event organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights, I met Sourani and Jabarin at a private event in Washington DC. The two had come to town for a series of meetings in Congress, including with one of the most knowledgable foreign policy staffers.

Sourani and Jabarin's first meeting took place at the Senate Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations in the office of Tim Rieser, a longtime aide to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. Considered a champion of human rights inside Congress, Rieser is the brains behind the so-called Leahy Law which restricts US arms sales to serial human rights-abusing nations. In March, Leahy joined 10 members of Congress in signing a letter demanding the Obama administration investigate Israel and the Egyptian military junta for "gross violations of human rights." According to a DC based human rights activist who escorted Sourani and Jabarin to Rieser's office, the two had hoped to gain a sense of whether the Leahy Law would be enforced, but received only informal recommendations.

A meeting with Democratic Rep. John Lewis followed the gathering with Reiser. The DC-based activist told me that Lewis held court with Sourani and Jabarin for over an hour, far longer than expected and posed for photos with the men, lending the presence of a living symbol of the civil rights movement to their cause. He left the two with copies of his 2013 graphic novel, March, on the famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. "They came out of Lewis's office feeling great," the activist said.

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