Eighth Annual Al-Awda International Convention
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Convention Speakers

Archbishop Hilarion Capucci is the Syrian-born, retired titular archbishop of Caesarea for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Now at the age of 88 he has a long (and fascinating) history of support for the Palestinian cause. Since 1965, during his time in Jerusalem, he was a strong and outspoken critic of Israel. In 1974 he was arrested by Israel and accused of smuggling arms to the Palestinian resistance. Archbishop Capucci was sentenced to 12 years in prison, then released several years later and forced into exile. As recently as 2009, Capucci was on a Free Gaza ship which was seized by Israeli forces when the ship attempted to break the siege of Gaza.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is co-founder and General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. He is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and served as "Minister of Information" with the Palestinian Authority in 2007. He ran for President of the Authority in 2005. Dr. Barghouti is a physician and a social, political and human rights activist. He is a campaigner for the development of Palestinian civil society and grassroots democracy and is an outspoken advocate of internal reform. He has appeared on numerous news programs addressing occupation and Palestinian rights. He recently appeared on The Daily Show with John Stewart.

Dr. Norman Finkelstein received his doctorate in 1988 from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. For many years he taught political theory and the Israel-Palestine conflict. He is currently an independent scholar. Finkelstein is the author of five books which have been translated into more than 40 foreign editions including Beyond Chutzpah: On the misuse of anti- Semitism and the abuse of history (University of California Press, 2005; expanded paperback edition, 2008), The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering (Verso, 2000; expanded paperback edition, 2003), and Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (Verso, 1995; expanded paperback edition, 2003). His latest book is "This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion". It will be available for a book signing during the convention.

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian human rights lawyer, former Bir Zeit University professor and former legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiation team. Buttu received her law degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario in Canada, and a Masters of Law from Stanford University. She is currently working as a lawyer on land confiscation, home demolitions and revocation of residency. She has appeared on numerous news and analysis programs speaking on Palestinian rights. Recently when asked on Al Jazeera about "institution building", her response was "In the history of mankind I have never heard of the liberation of a people through the construction of office space".

Ali Abunimah is a Palestinian author and co-founder of the Electronic Intifada. He is a frequent speaker and commentator on the Middle East, contributing regularly to the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times among other publications. His recent book is titled "One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict".

Deema K. Shehabi is a Palestinian-American poet whose work has appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. She has been nominated for the Pushcart prize three times and is currently the Vice-President for RAWI, the Radius of Arab-American Writers.

Jamal Dajani is an award winning producer and Vice President of International News at Link TV. He is the co-creator and series producer of Mosaic: World News from the Middle East, winner of the prestigious Peabody Award. He has published several articles on the Middle East in many print and electronic media outlets and blogs regularly on The Huffington Post. Dajani holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Columbia University.

Laila Al-Arian is a writer and producer for Al Jazeera English in Washington DC. She received an M.S. degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism in 2006. Her work has appeared in The Nation, Alternet, The Independent, The Guardian, as well as several other media publications. Laila Al-Arian is also the daughter of Palestinian professor and political prisoner Sami Al-Arian who was unjustly imprisoned for several years in the US as a result of the Patriot Act and post-9/11 scapegoating.

Dr. Nabil Azzam is the conductor and founder of the Multi-Ethnic Star Orchestra (MESTO). He is accomplished in both classical European and Middle Eastern musical styles. He graduated with a B.A. and B.Mus. from the Rubin Academy of Music in Tel Aviv, an M.A. in Musicology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and earned his doctorate in music from the University of California in Los Angeles. In 1977, Azzam established and chaired the first conservatory of music in his birthplace, Nazareth. He has been acknowledged by several heads of state for his peace efforts and has taught at UCLA, the University of Redlands and UCSB. He founded MESTO in 2001 because of his firm commitment to building bridges of cultural tolerance and understanding between East and West through music. Maestro Nabil Azzam is a seasoned conductor, talented composer and arranger as well as a versatile violinist and virtuoso Arabic 'Ud instrumentalist. He is currently writing two books: The Composer of Egypt: M. Abd al-Wahhab, and The Complete Collection of Songs: A tribute to Abd al-Wahhab, with an introductory analysis and commentary.

James Lafferty is currently the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles and host of "The Lawyers Guild Show," a weekly public affairs program on public radio station KPFK, 90.7 FM. He has served as a national leader of various anti-war coalitions, including the "National Peace Action Coalition," the anti-Vietnam War coalition that organized the largest protests during that war; the "National Coalition for Peace in the Middle East;" and, the "National Campaign to End U.S. Intervention in the Philippines." In the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, his law firm, "Lafferty, Reosti, Jabara, Papakian & Smith," represented virtually all of the left political movements in and around Detroit, Michigan. In New York City, in the late 80's and early ‘90s, as Associate Director for the "Center for Seafarer’s Rights," he traveled the world organizing on behalf of the rights of merchant seafarers. During this time he also taught a course at the New School for Social Research, entitled, "Vietnam: The War at Home and Abroad." He currently serves on the Steering Committee of the anti-war coalition, "International ANSWER/L.A.," and on the Board of the "Office of the Americas." He was recently elected a Fellow, of the University of Southern California’s "Institute for the Humanities."

Dr. Jess Ghannam is the current elected chair of Al-Awda's National Coordinating Committee. He is also a 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.

Osama Abu-Irshaid is completing his Ph.D. at Loughborough University, U.K., and is the founder and editor in chief of Al-Meezan newspaper, published in Arabic in the United States. He is a regular commentator on Palestinian and Middle Eastern affairs as well as on the American domestic and foreign policy on various Arabic satellite T.V. channels such as Aljazeera, Syrian T.V., Al-Alam, Abu-Dhabi, Alhiwar T.V, and Iran T. V. Also, he lecturers on Middle Eastern and American Politics. He authored or coauthored several books in Arabic and he published dozens of studies and articles mostly in Arabic and some in English. He is the coauthor of the study: Hamas: Ideological Rigidity and Political Flexibility. A study published in English (June, 2009) by The United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Osama Abu-Irshaid is known activist in our community.

Abdel Jabbar Hamdan was born in 1959 in Alfara Refugee comp in Palestine. He grew up in Zerqa Jordan. He obtained a degree in Civil/Environmental engineering in 1986 at The University Of Southern California. He has worked as Environmental Consultant for major US industries. He then gave up Engineering to work as a religious and charitable work consultant for various non profit charitable organizations in the US for more than 10 years.

Sherna Berger Gluck is a retired CSULB faculty member and one of the founders in January 2009 of the US Committee for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel campaign. She is the author of An American Feminist in Palestine: The [First} Intifada Years, former co-editor with Michel Shehadeh of Al Miraat, an Arabic/English newspaper; and for the past eight years has been one of the producers of Radio Intifada on KPFk/Pacifica in Los Angeles.

Mark Gonzalez, poet, educator and founder of the Human Writes Project, is one of the most engaging voices of ageneration. He has appeared widely on radio and tv; has received acclaims from lyricists, educators, senators and members of the UN, among others; and has cultivated projects across the globe, including Palestine. He is one of the founding Advisory Board members of the US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel campaign.

Amanda Nasser is a nursing student, active on the SDSU campus with the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). She is also very active with many community groups in San Diego, such as serving as Delegate and Secretary for the House of Palestine in Balboa Park. As a volunteer in a Palestinian folkloric "dabkeh" dance group called Zaytouna, she performs at many public events and venues. She is an officer of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), San Diego chapter and is a Student Outreach Coordinator for Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, San Diego chapter. Amanda works within the refugee support committee to help local Palestinian refugees from Iraq settle in the U.S.

Leena Barakat is a graduating senior at The University of California in San Diego majoring in International Studies with an emphasis on political science and middle eastern studies. She is currently serving on the board of UCSD's SJP, the west coast regional coordinator for the International Al-Fakhoora Campaign, and a board member of the Al- Awda San Diego Chapter. She is working with others on a UCSD Divestment bill.

Marwan Ahmad is the chairperson of Al-Awda's Phoenix chapter and has served in this role for the past three years. He is president of Breek Publishing & Marketing in Arizona. He is also chief editor and publisher of The Muslim Voice and Arab Voice newspapers. Marwan has in the past served on The City of Phoenix Human Relations Commission for five years. He has also served on The City of Phoenix Police Advisory Board for 2 years, and as Chairman of CAIR-AZ’s chapter for five years.”

Mazen Almoukdad is a longtime anti war and anti occupation activist. He has attended and organized hundreds of anti war and anti occupation activities and actions for the last 18 years. Mazen has a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering, a minor in Political Science, Certificates in African American Studies and Environmental Engineering. He has done post Graduate Studies in Applied Mathematics Mechanical Engineering and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Engineering Management. He has been an active member of Al-Awda for the last 6 years and recently worked intensively with Viva Palestina and with helping Palestinian refugees arriving in the U.S. from Iraq.

Ibrahim Shikaki, currently a visiting student at The University of California Berkeley, has been active with Students for Justice in Palestine, and is part of the divestment working group. Raised in Tulkarem, the West Bank, he received his BA from Birzeit University and is finishing his MA in Comparative Law, Economics and Finance from the International University College, Turin, Italy. He works as an economic researcher at the “Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute” in Ramallah.

Chris Yatooma founded the organization that is qualifing a statewide divestment ballot initiative. An Iraqi-American and former lobbyist for the National Association of Arab Americans, he spent eight years in Washington, DC working as a congressional aid and lobbyist. He now resides in Sacramento, where he works as the Director of Fiscal Policy for the Chancellor's Office California Community Colleges.

Ziad Abbas is a former Palestinian political prisoner and a refugee from Dheisha camp near Bethlehem. He is the cofounder of the Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheisheh where he served as Co-Director from 1994 to 2008. Ziad is also a journalist who has worked with Palestinian and international media and has participated in the production of several documentary films. For the past year, Abbas has been MECA’s Associate Director.

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 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. Dr. Damuni has been active with Al-Awda since its founding.



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