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Convention Speakers

Dr. Salman H. Abu Sitta is a Palestinian researcher and writes about Palestinian refugees and Palestinian right to return to Palestine. He is the author of over 300 articles and papers and several books on refugees, Nakba and Right of Return including “The Atlas of Palestine 1948”, 2005, “The Right of Return”, 2007 and “From Refugees to Citizens at Home”, 2001 and "The Atlas of Palestine 1917-1966", 2010. He is a member of Palestine National Council, founder and President of the Palestine Land Society (PLS) and General coordinator of Right of Return Congress. He has spent 40 years digging for any detail of information about, or related to, Palestine before, during and after the creation of Israel. His self-imposed mission has encompassed not only documenting al-Nakba, but also ensuring that "the memories and identity of the occupied homeland are never lost".

Hugh Lanning is Deputy General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, one of the 'big five' trade unions in Britain. Hugh was reelected to this position in 2009 for five more years. He has special responsibility for negotiations with the Cabinet Office on jobs, pensions and all personnel management issues, and represents the Public and Commercial Services Union in the Council of Civil Service Unions. Hugh also covers equality, international, disputes and line manages the majority of bargaining units. Hugh is Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and headed a PSC trade union delegation to Palestine in 2008. He was instrumental in the landmark decision taken by the British Trade Union Congress to support a boycott campaign of settlements goods.

Ahmed Shawki, internationally recognized activist, journalist and author, serves on the steering committee of the National Council of Arab-Americans and is a member of the National Writers Union and International Socialist Organization. He also serves as the editor of the International Socialist Review, a bi-monthly publication distributed by the Center for Economic Research and Social Change. He is a contributor to "The Struggle for Palestine" and author of "Black Liberation and Socialism," two books published by Haymarket in 2002 and 2005.

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".

Laila Al-Arian is a writer and producer for Al Jazeera English in Washington DC. She helped produce the network's Palestine Papers special in January 2011, a four-day program on the largest diplomatic leak in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She is the co-author, with Chris Hedges, of Collateral Damage: America's War Against Iraqi Civilians (Nation Books, 2008).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, The Australian, United Press International, and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She has also interned at USA Today.

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.

Rim Banna is a Palestinian singer, lyricist and composer, born in Nazareth in Galilee, Palestine. She has loved music and singing since her childhood. She has also participated in “Land Day Festivals” and other National and political celebrations. She started her artistic life since she was ten years old. Rim Banna studied music and singing in the High Institute for Music “GNESINS” in Moscow (USSR), and she specialized in modern singing and conducting singing ensembles, under the tutorship of the famous artist and composer Vladimer Karobka, where she graduated in 1991 with excellence after six years of academic studies. At that period she produced two albums of her live recorded concerts: “Jafra” in 1985. “Your Tears, Mother” in 1986. She has since produced many other albums, performed numerous concerts in many places and has received wide acclaim from her peers.

Najat El-Khairy is a porcelain artist of Palestinian origin born in 1948, the year that defined generations of Palestinians. She attended French private schools in Cairo and completed a BA in English Literature at King Saud University in Riyadh. Throughout her life, she studied music, ballet, painting, embroidery, stained glass, pottery, and silk painting.  Palestinian embroidery in particular caught her attention; she was captured, from early age, by this art form's tradition-bound and outstanding floral and geometric designs. After moving with her family to Montreal Canada in 1988, Najat enhanced her artistic skills by focusing & studying painting on porcelain. She now researches, lectures, exhibits and advocates Palestinian art heritage, and strongly believes in preserving and promoting Palestine’s various art forms. Moments of inspiration lead her to find innovative ways of protecting Palestinian embroidery while engaging the younger generation especially.  She applied her forty years of art experience to create a fresh medium by merging her two favorite art forms; Palestinian art painted and preserved on porcelain tiles.  Her unique creations are owing to a variety of proprietary painting techniques requiring precision work. This is why she paints: to safeguard Palestine’s exquisite artistic heritage. To see more, visit www.najat.ca

Remi Kenazi is a Palestinian American poet and writer living in New York City. Much of his writing and poetry focuses on Palestinian life and politics. Remi is the co-founder and primary writer for the political website www.PoeticInjustice.net and the editor of a highly acclaimed book of poetry, Poets for Palestine. Just recently, he released his second book, called Poetic Injustice. Remi has been on several nationwide tours, speaking at dozens of college campuses and engaging guests with poetry and humor.

Hala Gabriel attended the California Institute of Arts, majoring in Film and Television Production. She began her career in the entertainment industry as a freelancer serving in a variety of production capacities before joining the post-editorial department on the feature film "House" for New World Film Production, Inc. Later she signed on with Doug Trumble's company, Showscan, as a technical line-up technician on Michael Jackson's "Captian E.O." (a 3-D movie designed for the Disneyland Theme Parks) and the television remake of "The Man Who Fell to Earth." She then joined Paramount Pictures as a senior production accountant for the network television division, responsible for budgeting, managing and forecasting cost for television series such as "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and "Cheers." In 2004, Hala won a Silver Award at the International Houston Film Festival for her critically acclaimed short documentary entitled "The Love Project." Hala is currently completing her recent documentary, "The Road to Tantura." She also continues to work as a freelance producer, production supervisor and production accountant for the major studios in Los Angeles.

Dr. Paul Larudee is a San Francisco Bay Area human rights advocate for justice in Palestine. He works with the International Solidarity Movement and the Free Palestine Movement, and was cofounder of the Free Gaza Movement. He was onboard the Sfendoni, a ship of the Freedom flotilla attempting to bring humanitarian aid and contraband items to Gaza, when the ship was intercepted by Israeli forces. His ship was not the Mavi Marmara, of which 9 people were killed. Larudee enacted civil disobedience by jumping into the water, and was pulled back aboard after an hour and a half. Because of this non-violent resistance and for refusing to sign any papers without his lawyer, he claims he was hit and physically restrained by the Israelis. He was then kept in prison for two days at Givon Prison, Ramle, Israel..

Dr. Sunaina Maira is Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Davis and a founding member of USACBI. Her research and teaching interests focus on Asian and Arab American youth, citizenship, popular culture, and U.S. imperialism. Her most recent book is Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire After 9/11 (Duke University Press), is on South Asian Muslim immigrant youth in the U.S. after 9/11. Maira was one of the founding organizers of the South Asian Committee on Human Rights (SACH), that focused on post-9/11 civil and immigrant rights issues in the Boston area. She has also worked with various Palestinian rights campaigns and antiwar/immigrant rights groups in the Bay Area.

Michel Shehadeh is a Palestinian American writer and activist; former West Coast director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC); he’s a member of the famous LA8 Palestinian Deportation case, the longest deportation case in US history. He writes in both the Arabic and English languages and his articles appeared in many publications including the LA Times, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Orange County Register, AL Jazeera net, AL Adaab Journal, and the Washington Report on the Middle East Affairs. He holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and a Master's in Public Policy Administration. He currently works as the Executive Director of the Arab Film Festival headquartered in San Francisco: www.arabfilmfestival.org.

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.

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