Seventh Annual International Al-Awda Convention
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Convention Speakers

Rt Honorable George Gallowy MP is a British politician, author, and broadcaster, who has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1987. He was a Labour Party MP for Glasgow Hillhead, and for Glasgow Kelvin, before becoming a founding member of Respect. He currently represents the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, having been most recently elected to that seat in 2005. Galloway is best known for his vigorous campaign to both overturn economic sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s and early 2000s, and to avert the 2003 invasion of that country. He is also the leader of the Viva Palestina Aid Convoy which broke the siege and entered the Gaza Strip on March 9, 2009.

Ramsey Clark is a former United States Attorney General. He worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, which included service as the 66th United States Attorney General under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Clark is known for his advocacy for civil and human rights causes and for his role as defense attorney in the trials of a number of well known international figures including former president of Iraq Saddam Hussein. Clark is a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award and the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award.

Ron Kovic (Ronald Lawrence Kovic, born July 4, 1946) is an anti-war activist, veteran and writer who was paralyzed in the Vietnam War. He is best known as the author of the memoir Born on the Fourth of July, which was made into an Academy Award–winning movie directed by Oliver Stone, with Tom Cruise playing Kovic. Kovic received the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay on January 20, 1990, exactly 22 years to the day that he was shot and paralyzed in the Vietnam War. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Kovic and Stone co-wrote the screenplay for Born on the Fourth of July). Bruce Springsteen wrote the song "Shut Out The Light" after reading Kovic's memoir and then meeting him. Tom Paxton, the folk singer/political activist, wrote the song "Born on the Fourth of July", which is on his "New Songs from the Briarpatch" album. Academy Award winning actress Jane Fonda has stated that Ron Kovic's story was the inspiration for her film Coming Home. Ron is the joint Leader of the Viva Palestina USA Aid Convoy to Gaza set for July 4, 2009.

Cindy Sheehan, is an American anti-war activist whose son Casey Sheehan (born in 1979) was killed during his service as part of the US occupation army in Iraq on April 4, 2004. Sheehan attracted national and international media attention in August 2005 for her extended anti-war protest at a makeshift camp outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch — a stand which drew both passionate support and angry criticism. She ran for Congress in 2008.

Fernando Suarez del Solar is a peace activist based in Escondido, California. He lost his son, Jesus Suarez del Solar, when he stepped on a US cluster bomb while fighting in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Since then, Fernando has been traveling around the country speaking out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He traveled to Iraq with Global Exchange and a group of military families to listen to the needs and desires of the Iraqi people, and returned home to meet with congress people, UN officials and the media to call for the withdrawal of US troops. Fernando is also an active member of Military Families Speak Out. Little known is Fernardo's passionate support for the Palestinian cause. Fernando is deeply troubled by the military's heavy recruitment of Hispanic youth in low-income communities. He has created and directs The Guerrero Azteca Peace Project to teach young people about the harsh reality of military service and to provide them with modest scholarships that will help them pursue alternative careers. He works closely with Project YANO, one of the oldest counter-recruitment organizations in the country.

Khaled Dawoud is a correspondent for Al-Jazeera Arabic in New York. From 2002 to 2006, Mr. Dawoud was the Bureau Chief of Egypt’s daily Al-Ahram’s office in Washington, DC. Besides traveling around the United States, he had also delivered lectures at universities and had taken part in discussions on Middle East-related issues. Mr. Dawoud was also an analyst and commentator for major Arabic satellite television channels and radio stations, including Al-Jazeera, Arabiya, LBC, Al-Hurra, and the BBC Arabic Service. He had appeared on local US networks such as CNN, PBS, FOX and NBC to comment on issues related to the Middle East. Mr. Dawoud’s extensive experience as a correspondent included stints at The Guardian, African Service, Annahar, Reuters, The Associated Press, the German News Agency (dpa), United Press International (UPI) and The Egyptian Gazette.

Dr. Jamal Nassar is Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at California State University, San Bernardino. He was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, received a B.A. from Jacksonville University in 1972, a M.A. from the University of South Florida in 1974 and a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati in 1978; immediately afterwards, he joined the faculty at Illinois State where he served as chair of the Department of Politics and Government until accepting the post at CSUSB in 2007. His specialty is Middle Eastern politics.

Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh completed his medical and public health degrees at Harvard in 1969. He then returned to Galilee where, in 1973, he became the Public Health Doctor of the sub-district of Acre. He is the founder of two non-governmental organizations, the Galilee Society (The Arab National Society for Health Research and Services) and ITTIJAH (The Union of Arab Community-based Organizations). His book of memoirs, A Doctor in Galilee, the Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel, was published by Pluto Press of London in 2008. He maintains an active blog:

Yacoub Odeh is a Palestinian refugee who lives only a few miles from his orginal home in the village of Lifta. He is a former political prisoner, and human rights worker. He works as an observer for the Center of land and housing research, an Arab Studies Association partner in Jerusalem. He is member of the executive committees of many popular associations that  specialize in refugee issues. He is national coordinator for the Palestinian Popular Committees against Zionist house demolitions.

Lubna Hammad is a Palestinian human rights lawyer and activist. She is a co-founder of Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, and NYCBI: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. Before moving to the US in 2004, Lubna was the legal consultant for UNICEF in Jerusalem on child protection. She currently focuses her work on transitional justice and peacemaking. She lives in New York and will join the LL.M. program at UPenn law school this fall.

Kevin Ovenden is National Coordinator for Viva Palestina USA which is organizing a convoy to Break the Siege of Gaza. The convoy is scheduled depart on the 4th of July 2009.

Marta Rodriguez, born in the 1950s, has been politically active since the early 1970's, when she was one of the first graduates of the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, or as it was known then, the Rafael Cancel Miranda Puerto Rican High School. As a young student leader there, she was active in the Campaign to Free the Five Puerto Rican Nationalists, Lolita Lebrón, Oscar Collazo, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores Rodriguez and Andrés Figueroa Cordero. The international campaign succeeded in freeing the Five when on September 6, 1979, in an acknowledgement of the mounting pressure by both the mass and armed movements, President Jimmy Carter signed an order of executive clemency freeing them. Marta also worked as a paralegal at the Peoples Law Office in the early 1970s, where she first met Michael Deutsch, who was the lead lawyer on the Nationalist legal team, and many years later, in post 9-11 climate, went on to defend Mohammed Salah successfully. Marta has also been active in the various cities she has lived across the years, including, Puerto Rico, Chicago, and Boston.

John Parker is West Coast coordinator of the International Action Center. He 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.

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.

Todd Chretien is an American activist. He was the Green Party candidate for United States Senate in California in 2006. He ran with a slate of Green candidates dubbed "A million votes for peace," expressing an anti-war view and the hope of receiving one million votes in the general election (Chretien received 139,425 votes, or 1.8 percent of the vote). Chretien is the West Coast Coordinator of the International Socialist Organization.

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 Secretary of Al-Awda's 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.

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.

Omar Offendum is a Syrian-American Hip-Hop Artist - born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Washington DC, and living in Los Angeles. He started his musical career off as 1/2 of The N.O.M.A.D.S., co-produced the critically-acclaimed "FREE-THE-P" Mixtape, participated in "The Arab Summit" project, co-authored the "Brooklyn Beats 2 Beirut Streets" performance-lecture, & was featured on several major news outlets (BBC/ Yahoo/ ABC News/ Aljazeera/ Reuters). He has helped raise thousands of dollars for various humanitarian relief organizations (PCRF/ Islamic Relief/ ANERA/ Kinder) & toured the world to perform his ground-breaking music. Offendum is currently hard at work on his upcoming solo release - affectionately dubbed "Syriana-americanA"

Alan Santistevan is the founder of the Muslim Student Association at Palomar Community College in San Marcos California. He is currently a student at Berkeley. He has been a member of Al-Awda since 2006 and worked as administrative assisstant at Al-Awda's National Center in 2008. Together with another Berkeley student, Alan will be travelling to Syria this summer to visit and document the conditions and stories of Palestinians currently stranded in the detention camps at Al-Tanaf, Al-Hol and Al-Waleed.

William Robinson is professor of Sociology, Global and International Studies, and Latin American studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His scholarly research focuses on: macro and comparative sociology, globalization and transnationalism, political economy, political sociology, development and social change, Latin America and the Third World, and Latina/o studies. As a scholar-activist, he attempts to link his academic work to struggles in the United States, in the Americas, and around the world for social justice, popular empowerment, participatory democracy, and people-centered development. For more information on Dr. Robinson's work, visit his website at

Professor Robinson is currently facing disciplinary action against him at the University of California in Santa Barbara due to his public condemnation in January of the Israeli invasion of Gaza. The campaign to sanction Professor Robinson, which may result in his dismissal from the University, has been orchestrated from the beginning by the Israel lobby and spearheaded by the Anti-Defamation League and other extremist Zionist organizations. It was been revealed publicly that the university has been in contact with these outside organization who have targeted professor Robinson as part of their campaign of intimidation and censorship aimed at harassing critics of Israeli policy on U.S. campuses and silencing discussion of the Palestinian struggle and US support for Israel.

Sami Wassef is an engineer by profession. Past president of the union of professional city (Los Angeles) employees, whose membership exceeded 12,000 employees. Mr.Wassef served on the board of many Arab American organizations and helped found the Association of Arab-American Engineers Association & Architects. Currently he is on the board of the Arab-American Press Guild which arranges monthly discussions with various speakers on such diverse subjects as Middle East and American politics, Arab poetry and literature, and of course ethnic media.

Ghassan Elias is a Lebanese-American activist for the just causes in his motherland. An avid secularist who believes in the total separation of State and Religion and the promotion of a civic, democratic, advanced, modern and a proactive socio-economic and political system of governance for Lebanon, Palestine and their natural environment. An engineer by profession, he works in the process instrumentation industry ensuring the safe design and installation of electro-mechanical devices in hazardous locations and potentially explosive atmospheres. He is a Professor of Engineering at California State University , Northridge (CSUN), In his spare time, Mr. Elias enjoys the outdoors, riding motorcycles, yard work, automotive repair, reading poetry, writing, and listening to classical music.

Dr. Masad Arbid is an Arab-Palestinian writer and physician residing in Los Angels, USA. He was born in Ramallah, Occupied West Bank in 1948. He received his medical education and MD degree in Yugoslavia and post-graduate medical specialty in Pediatrics in Los Angeles. He is a member of the editorial board of Kana'an, a cultural periodical published inOccupied Palestine, and Kana'an Online Bulletin (, both dedicated to the causes of Arab unity, development, and socialism. Kana'an's mission is to demonstrate the positive relationship between Arab nationalism (embodied in the popular masses in the Arab homeland) and Marxism (that takes into consideration the specific Arab reality, circumstances, and needs). He is the author of several essays and articles, both in Arabic and English, on the question of Palestine, Arab unity and socialism.

Muna Coobtee currently represents the Free Palestine Alliance on the Steering Committee of the ANSWER Coalition in Los Angeles. She is the Vice President of the Palestinian American Women's Association. She frequently speaks on the role of the Palestine Solidarity Movement within the broader Peace and Justice Movement. She is regular contributor to Liberation Newspaper, a publication of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Michael Prysner is an Iraq war veteran who ran for Congress (22nd District - Fla.) as a candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He joined the U.S. Army at age 17. Immediately after graduating high school in 2001, he shipped off to basic training in Fort Sill, Okla. He then attended a military academy at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Prysner was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, based in New York. In March 2003, Prysner was deployed to northern Iraq where he remained for 12 months. Over time, Prysner developed anti-war views, and in 2005 he began organizing against the war. He was a volunteer for the March 17, 2007, National March on the Pentagon that drew tens of thousand of protesters. At the Sept. 15 March on Washington, Prysner was arrested as part of the contingent of veterans that participated in the mass die-in at the head of the march. Prysner has become a powerful anti-war commentator, drawing on his experiences in Iraq to prove the criminality of the war.

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