Al Awda California Home
About   Factsheet   Donate   Contact



The following are the bios of some of the speakers and panelists in alphabetical order by first name. Other bios will be added as they become available:

Dr. Ahlam Muhtaseb

Dr. Ahlam Muhtaseb is a Palestinian assistant professor and researcher of public relations and media studies at California State University, San Bernardino. She is an active member of Al-Awda San Diego.

Alia Hasan

Alia Hasan is a Palestinian-American architect in Venice, California. She earned her B.A. in Architecture from UC Berkeley and her Master of Architecture from UCLA. While at UCLA she cofounded a student chapter of Al-Awda and helped organize the 2005 Al-Awda Convention. She is an active member of Al-Awda Los Angeles.

Bianca Shana'a

Bianca Shana'a holds a masters degree in political sociology and runs a business dealing with educational materials for children. Palestinian American, she's a longtime resident of France and is active within the Palestinian community there.

Charlotte Kates

Charlotte Kates is an attorney in New York and New Jersey. A 2006 graduate of Rutgers University School of Law, and a 2002 graduate of Rutgers University, she is an organizer with New Jersey Solidarity-Activists for the Liberation of Palestine , and with Al-Awda New York, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition. She has written widely about the Palestinian national liberation movement as well as other social justice issues, and is a member of the editorial collective of Al-Awda Newspaper: Voices of Resistance and Liberation, and was one of the coordinators of the Rutgers University Campaign for Divestment from "Israeli" Apartheid.

Edward Sweed

Edward Sweed earned his B. S. from Temple University in Philadelphia, and a Masters from San Diego State University. Now retired, Mr. Sweed was a high school teacher of filmmaking. His students won local and state awards. He also has taught film courses in the extension programs at three local universities. He uses his filmmaking skills to promote justice and peace. Congressman Filner in Washington used his video, "The Stones Will Cry Out," which depicted the effects of the harsh 1996 immigration law. More recently, he co-founded Alternate Focus which produces and broadcasts weekly Middle East related documentaries on public access stations in San Diego and New York.

Elias Rashmawi

Elias Rashmawi is national coordinator of the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) and member of the steering committee of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition. He is a member of the national steering committee of the Free Palestine Alliance (FPA). Elias is a longtime activist in the Palestinian and Arab community and active member of Al-Awda Sacramento. In 1997, he was issued a permanent deportation order by the Israeli High Court indefinitely barring his return to Palestine.

Dr. Jamal Zahalka

Dr. Jamal Zahalka is a 52 year-old Palestinian, who was born and lives in Kufur Qaraa' near Nazareth. He has a Ph.D. degree in pharmaceutical sciences in the subject "Medicinal Chemistry of Hashish". During his studies at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he was one of the leaders of the Palestinian student movement, and cofounder of several protest movements against occupation and for Palestinian rights. Zahalka was political prisoner for two years 1972-4.

Dr. Jamal Zahalka is a Member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) with the National Democratic Assembly (Tajjamu’ Party), headed by Dr. Azmi Bishara. He has been one of the advocates of Palestinian rights for freedom, independence and return.  He works in defending and promoting national, civic and social rights Palestinian citizens of Israel. Before becoming a Knesset member, Dr. Zahalka was the founder and President of the Centre for Community Development, which took on the task of strengthening grassroots activism among Palestinian citizens in Israel through community organizing, as a means to struggle for full citizenship and national rights, and to ensure the equal distribution of public resources.

Dr. Jess Ghannam

Dr. Jess Ghannam is Board Member of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Chief of Medical Psychology at the University of California San Francisco. He is a grassroots activist and member of Al-Awda San Francisco and Al-Awda's international executive committee. Dr. Ghannam travels every three months to Palestine where, over the past 12 years, he has established clinics in Gaza City, Jabaliyah, Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah under the auspices of the Gaza Community Mental Health program.

John Halaka

John Halaka considers himself an activist artist whose creative work serves as a vehicle for meditation on personal, cultural and political concerns. He creates metaphorical images that raise questions, for himself as well as for the viewer, about some of the pressing issues of our time. The primary focus of his work over the past two decades can be summarized as an ongoing reflection on the frailty and resilience of the human condition and the persistent search for self-realization in the face of personal and cultural self-delusion. His experiences as an artist of Palestinian descent shape his pictorial investigations of cycles of repression and displacement as well as the personal and political relationship between desire, denial and instability. His recent work investigates issues of identity construction from personal, familial and political perspectives.

John Halaka is of Palestinian descent and was born in El Mansoura, Egypt, in 1957.  He is a Professor of Painting and Drawing at the University of San Diego, where he has taught since 1991.  He received his MFA in the Visual Arts from the University of Houston in 1983. In 1979, Halaka received his B.A. in Fine Arts from the City University of New York Baccalaureate Program, with Brooklyn College as home school. John Halaka has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions both locally and nationally. His work was included in the exhibit Made In Palestine, organized by the Station Museum, in Houston Texas, as well as, IN-VISIBLE, the inaugural exhibition at the Arab American National Museum in Detroit, Michigan.  Halaka’s art can be viewed on his web site. He can be contacted at the following address: Professor John Halaka, Department of Art. University of San Diego, San Diego California, 5998 Alcala Park. San Diego, CA 92110.  619/260-4107.

John Parker

John Parker, West Coast coordinator of the International Action Center, was only 18 when he organized his first union election--at a small steel plant in New Jersey. He has worked at a variety of other jobs, including teaching at a public school in Newark, N.J. for 3 years. Parker
went to Sudan with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and visited that country's main pharmaceutical plant after it was demolished in 1998 by a U.S. missile strike. He has been to Iraq and seen the terrible effects of sanctions on the people there, especially children. Parker
appeared on television broadcasts from the former Soviet Union targeting a youth audience there. He has written many articles on a variety of international and domestic political developments and has been published in Covert Action Weekly Magazine. After moving to Los Angeles with his family several years ago, he became a leader in the anti-war movement there and was a founding member of ANSWER in Los Angeles. He helped organize and chair several large rallies against the U.S. war in Iraq and worked hard to mobilize anti-war forces to support the 80,000 grocery workers on a strike/lockout against three giant southern California food chains. For this effort he received an award from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770.

Laila Al-Arian

Laila Al-Arian, daughter of political prisoner Sami Al-Arian, is a freelance journalist living in New York. A graduate of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, she has interned for USA Today and The Nation magazine, and has written for United Press International, the Dupont Current newspaper and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Mahmoud Zubaidi

Mahmoud Zubaidi is an active member of Al-Awda San Diego. He is a coordinator of the West Coast Refugee Support Committee which was founded on December 2, 2006 at the West Coast Regional Conference and has since publicized the plight of Palestinians stranded in Iraq and fundraised to help alleviate their suffering as well to support the work of the Ibdaa Health Committee in Dheishe refugee camp.

Dr. Manal Swairjo

Dr. Manal Swairjo is an American-Arab of Palestinian origin. She was born in Gaza, Palestine and emigrated to the United States in 1989 where she studied and worked. She is currently an assistant professor of Biochemistry at Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA. Besides a career in science, Swairjo is active in various human and civil rights forums. She is a current member of the San Diego chapter of Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, member of the American-Arab Advisory Committee to the San Diego Chief of Police, and former board member of the San Diego chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (1999-2000). She is author of columns and essays on Arab culture and literature in US and other publications.

Mona Kadah

Mona Kadah is Syrian/Palestinian. She graduated from California State University San Marcos. She is an active member of Al-Awda San Diego and a member of Al-Awda Alternate Focus Film Contest Review Committee and Al-Awda's West Coast Regional Refugee Support Committee. She has also served as a judge at the San Diego Women Film Festival and is an International Marketing Coordinator.

Muna Coobtee

Muna Coobtee is a Palestinian activist from Los Angeles, CA. She is a member of the Free Palestine Alliance and serves as its representative on the Los Angeles steering committee of the International A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition organized the largest mass demonstrations against the war and occupation of Iraq. Muna frequently speaks and writes about the centrality of the Palestinian struggle for national liberation in the anti-war movement. She is also a founding member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and a contributor to "Socialism and Liberation" magazine.

Nader Abuljebain

Nader Abuljebain is an Arab American activist of Palestinian origin, born as a refugee in Kuwait, and immigrated to the USA in 1990. He is past president of the Los Angeles Orange County chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He is a member of the national steering committee of the Free Palestine Alliance, a founding and a national board member of the National Council of Arab Americans and Al-Awda and its 2005 and 2007 convention host committees. He is a speaker about Arab and Palestinian issues in general, and Zionism and the Right to Return in particular. His highly acclaimed book entitled "Palestinian History in Postage Stamps" was published by the Institute of Palestine Studies and the Welfare Association. He is very involved in preserving Arab Palestinian cultural heritage. Nader is also a labor union officer.

Nadia Keilani

Nadia Keilani was born in Baghdad, Iraq. She immigrated to the United States at the age of nine. She is an anti-war activist, current member of Al-Awda San Diego, MECIC and the Arab-American Advisory Board to the Chief of Police. She is a former board member of ADC San Diego. She is a practicing attorney.

Dr. Naseer Aruri

Dr. Naseer Aruri is Chancellor Professor (Emeritus) of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Trans-Arab Research Institute (Boston), a Board member of the Jerusalem Fund/Palestine Center (Washington, D.C.), and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Institute for Criminal Investigations (The Hague). He is a member of the Independent Palestinian Commission for the Protection of Citizens Rights (Ramallah) since its inception in January l994, a Founding Member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, Cairo and Geneva in 1982, and a member of the editorial board of Third World Quarterly (London). He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the New York-based Human Rights Watch/Middle East, 1990-1992, and a three-term member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, USA(1984-1990).

Born in Jerusalem, Palestine, he holds a PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he served on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (1965-1998). He appeared on radio and television including PBS, U.N. Radio, Monitor Radio, National Public Radio, CNN (Crossfire), Lehrer News Hour, Pacifica, ABC News, the BBC World Service, al-Jazeera, Radio Cairo, Radio Algeria, Radio Monte Carlo, and is often interviewed on several news outlets (such as the BBC) dealing with the Middle East throughout the world. He writes frequently for Middle East International (London), al-Hayat (London), Al-Ahram Weekly, and other dailies and weeklies.

He lectured at more than 250 universities in North America and widely throughout the world on the Middle East and human rights, including the Keynote address on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights at the invitation of the United Nations Staff Union - U.N. Headquarters, New York, December 9, 1988, among others.

His many publications include The Palestinian Resistance to Israeli Occupation (1970), Enemy of the Sun : Poems of Palestinian Resistance, with Edmund Ghareeb (1970), Occupation : Israel Over Palestine (1983), The Obstruction of Peace : The U.S., Israel and the Palestinians (1995), and Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return ( Pluto, 2001). His book Dishonest Broker: the U.S. Role in Israel and Palestine, was published (March, 2003) by South End Press in Cambridge, MA. An Italian edition was published in Bologna in April 2006, and a Spanish edition was also published in Buenos Aires in June, 2006. He published numerous articles in scholarly journals and magazines, which appear in various languages.

He is the co-author (with Professor Samih Farsoun) of Palestine and the Palestinians: A Social and Political History. Second Edition, Westview Press (2006)

Nidal Rafeedie

Nidal Rafeedie was born in Youngstown, Ohio. He holds an Associate Degree in Science as a Respiratory Therapist. He practices at Arowhead Regional Medical Trauma Center in Colton, California. Nidal is currently a member of Birzeit Society and El-Bireh society. He is one of the co-founders of the Arab Community Center of the Inland Empire, and is a member of Al-Awda Riverside. Nidal has travelled to Palestine on several ocassions. He went on many humanitarian missons to the refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Rana Sharif

Rana Sharif is a first year PhD student at UCLA where she is studying Palestinian women’s sociopolitical movements and the geopolitics of the greater region. She is currently an Assistant Editor for the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies housed at UCLA. In addition, Rana is an active board member for the Palestinian American Women’s Association and has been a long-time volunteer and activist in Southern California. She has participated in organizing the 2005 and 2007 Al-Awda Conventions.

Rhoda Shapiro

Rhoda Shapiro is a long-time political activist in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her concerns with the Zionist occupation of Palestine began in the 1950's when news of the Palestinian refugee camps that were a direct consequence of the imposition of the European settler state in 1948 began to reach the US. Since the 1970's she has been active in Palestine solidarity work. From 1982-89 she was one of the founders of the Central America Information Project which focused on media reporting of the struggles being waged in Central America and the Caribbean. She was the West Coast Coordinator of the Let Nicaragua Live! campaign that raised humanitarian aid money for the Sandinista government. She has been a fund raiser for
non-profit organizations devoted to social justice. She is one of the co-founders of Al-Awda San Diego, serves as a representative of Al-Awda Press, and is now active in Halifax Nova Scotia where she currently lives.

Richard Becker

Richard Becker is a founder and member of the National Steering Committee of the International ANSWER-Act Now to Stop War and End Racism-Coalition. He has traveled extensively to Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere on fact finding missions. He co-produced the videos "Blockade: The Silent War Against Iraq," "Genocide by Sanctions" and helped produce the video "Palestine Fights for Freedom." He co-authored "The Children Are Dying", and was a contributing author to the book "Challenge To Genocide: Let Iraq Live." Becker was a member of the Bay Area Anti-Apartheid Network Steering Committee for several years. He has written many articles and commentaries on Middle East and other affairs, and has been interviewed by numerous national and international media, including ABC World News, McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, CNN, BBC, Asahi Shimbun, Pacifica National News, AFP-French Press Agency, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribune, Los Angeles Times and others. He has been a speaker at hundreds of campus and community forums in the United States, Canada, England, Japan, Greece, Yugoslavia, Jordan and other countries.

Ruba Malley

Ruba Malley is an active member of Al-Awda San Diego. She is one of the coordinators of the West Coast Refugee Support Committee which was founded on December 2, 2006 at the West Coast Regional Conference and has since publicized the plight of Palestinians stranded in Iraq and fundraised to help alleviate their suffering as well to support the work of the Ibdaa Health Committee in Dheishe refugee camp. Ruba is a student at Palomar College. She is a Palestinian American originally from the town of Beitunia.

Samera Sood

Samera Sooda has been a member of many progressive humanitarian organizations such as Palestinian American Women's Association for twenty years and running. She is also a member of the Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab Americans and Al-Awda.

Dr. Yael Korin

Dr. Yael Korin is an Israeli-born activist, living in Los Angeles, CA. She is an Immunologist in the department of Pathology, UCLA school of Medicine. She has been working closely with the anti-war movement in Los Angeles as a member of several humanitarian and activists groups. She was a co-founder of Women in Black Los Angeles and is currently a founding member of the Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, Southern California ( Yael has actively participated in organizing numerous events, mostly in support of the Palestinian cause.

Yousef Abudayyeh

Yousef Abudayyeh is a long time activist who lives in San Diego. He is National Coordinator of the Free Palestine Alliance - USA, board member of the National Council of Arab Americans, member of Midle East Cultural Information Center and San Diego Chapter of Al-Awda.

Dr. Zahi Damuni

Dr. Zahi Damuni is a co-founder of Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition. He currently serves on Al-Awda's coordinating committee as an elected representative of the organization's chapter in San Diego. He also serves on Al-Awda's executive committee as the organization's national treasurer. Before relocating to San Diego in 2002, Dr. Damuni was a tenured professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Penn State College of Medicine. He currently manages a biotech research company which he established in San Diego.

Additional information

Travel Directions
For Media
Convention Flyer
Palestine Cultural Event Flyer
Exhibitor Tables
Host Committee
Points of Unity

For further information, please contact



2000 - 2007 Copyright Al-Awda/PRRC. All Rights Reserved. Legal Information.