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ALC Joins Calls for Ceasefire in Gaza and Commits to Protecting the Rights of Our Communities

October 31, 2023 Perspective

Asian Law Caucus Executive Director Aarti Kohli shares a statement on ALC's commitment to standing with our Palestinian, Jewish, Arab, and Muslim community partners.

On October 3, 2023, we unexpectedly lost our dear colleague Hammad Alam. Hammad led our work defending the rights of people who are unjustly surveilled and targeted by federal agencies and law enforcement because of their race, national origin and religion. I think of him often, especially at this fraught time. He was a man of faith and a proud father to his six-month-old daughter. Like so many of us, I imagine that he would have been distraught at the unspeakable death in Gaza and Israel and appalled by the domestic and global failure of leaders to work toward peace.

Hammad spent his formative years in the U.S. as a young Pakistani Muslim in the post 9/11 era, and he often reminded us of the lessons that we learned over and over again as marginalized people: the dehumanization of communities abroad results in violence to people here at home. We have already seen this with the brutal killing of six-year-old Palestinian American Wadea Al-Fayoume in Illinois. Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim community members are seeing a resurgence of hate and harassment in schools, at work and on the streets across the country, and many fear conditions will be worse than the aftermath of 9/11.

We are hearing more reports of FBI agents visiting Palestinian Americans and Muslim Americans at their homes, without probable cause. Students and workers of all backgrounds are being threatened or losing career opportunities because they are exercising their rights to free speech and protest. As hate has been unleashed in all directions, Jewish Americans are also facing direct threats and experiencing a rise in antisemitism as a result of the events in the Middle East.

On October 7, I woke up to join a world horrified and mourning the 1,400 Israelis who lost their lives so violently, and over 200 people taken hostage by Hamas. Over the next three weeks, as my colleagues and I continued to grieve Hammad’s passing, our hearts ached each day as we watched the violence and destruction unfolding against Palestinian civilians inside Gaza–more than 8,000 people have been killed by the Israeli military, including thousands of children. We hear from friends and community partners who lost 30, 40, or more family members in Gaza, with many more missing. Generations of families are being killed each day.

In the face of these horrors, hundreds of thousands of people are bravely defying attacks on their civil rights and joining ever-growing protests for humanity, peace and justice. We cannot stand in silence. We stand with our Palestinian, Arab, Jewish, and Muslim community partners and join the growing number of Asian American allies to call for an immediate ceasefire, the return home of people held captive, and a halt to any further atrocities and crimes against civilians.

For more than 50 years, the Asian Law Caucus has been fighting to protect the rights of marginalized Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Building on the lessons learned following the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the Caucus’ work supporting efforts to overturn the conviction of Fred Korematsu, since 9/11, we have worked closely with Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities who faced hate and systemic discrimination.

We remember that some of the first people killed after 9/11 were Sikh Americans who were perceived to be Muslim. More recently, we saw how the rhetoric around COVID and “Kung Flu” resulted in the verbal and physical targeting of people who were perceived to be Chinese. What we are witnessing right now is what happens when an entire community is scapegoated, in the Middle East, and in the diaspora communities including in our own backyard.

As we have so many times in our history, we need to stand up for vulnerable members of our diverse community. As a result of the conflict in the Middle East, the Asian Law Caucus will be as vigilant and responsive as ever to such threats against our people.

Each of us has a role to play at this consequential moment. Whether it is taking action, protecting our rights, caring for each other or educating ourselves. At ALC, we are committed to honoring Hammad’s legacy by following his example of courageous community lawyering and remember that building power begins when we come together.

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