Reflections on a Town Hall Meeting

When I entered the packed room with my husband I knew that it would be more of the same;

a neatly wrapped package of sympathy and compassionate outpouring for the state of Israel. I was not disappointed—the congresswoman’s slideshow of her recent trip to Israel delivered just that. She chose her words and slides carefully, never once offending the overwhelming pro-Israeli audience – not an easy task for someone who has decided to support President Obama with his two state solution and end to settlements plan. I give her credit for that.

But what started out as a love-fest for the state of Israel turned into something surprisingly different when the questioning began. Eager questioners raced to get in line.

My dear husband was near the front of the line. I smiled to myself because I knew that his passion for the plight of the Palestinians would shake things up a bit—and it did.

“Honorable Congresswoman, did you know that the Holocaust Museum that you visited in Israel sits upon the village of Deir Yasin, where over 200 Palestinians were massacred? … And my question: American Muslims are penalized if they give money to Hamas to build hospitals. Will you also stand firm and penalize American Jews who donate money for settlements?”

The audience woke up and the tone of the gathering began to change.

An Arab woman: “Congresswomen, you showed a slide of the Hamas homemade rockets fired into Israel, but you didn’t mention the white phosphorus bombs used against the Palestinians.” The congresswoman confirmed that she recently heard court evidence that yes, indeed, white phosphorous was found.

“Congresswoman, you always say ‘in the best interest of Israel’ ‘in the best interest of Israel.’ We would like to hear you say also to say ‘in the best interest of the Palestinians.’

The audience was sitting on the edge of their seats.

“Congresswoman, the International Aid package will soon be before Congress. Will you vote ‘yes’ for aid to Israel?”

“I don’t know.”

A stunned silence followed. A shocked, rude voice from the audience called out, “What did you say?”

The congresswomen replied, “I said I don’t know. I haven’t seen it.”

My eyes opened as I sensed a bit of spunk from the congresswoman. She was standing her ground.

The questions went on… a few extreme opinions of “no end to settlements” to “the Palestinians already have their state- it’s called Jordan,” but even under the heavy barrage of tough questions she remained steadfast in supporting a two-state solution and an end to settlements.

The meeting ended with applause. I too was clapping, not for the congresswoman, but for the three people who spoke up and gave the Palestinians a voice. Alhamdulillah.

I reflected on what this meeting would have been like if those few people hadn’t stood up to raise the tough questions. Unfortunately, we have too few people in our community willing to take the time to attend a meeting, write a letter, join a group, or even hold up a sign. We have only ourselves to blame if the cries, sufferings and injustices against the Palestinians are not heard in the US. We need to go back and reflect on the Quran and take action. The time for passivity is gone.

“O you who believe, Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor; For God can best protect both.” (The Quran 4:135)

Sumayah Guilford

Sumayah Guilford lives in Maryland and is the mother of three now grown, home-schooled children and three grandchildren. She enjoys reading and inspiring others in the areas of self-development, parenting, and creative activities for kids.

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