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west coast Regional Conference


The following provides brief intro to the facilitators, panelists and other organizers taking part in the West Coast Regional Palestine Right to Return Conference. Other bios will be added as they become available:

Afif Wensky, a UC Davis Senior, is a student leader in the Arab and Muslim community, involved with Students for Justice for Palestine and other community related student organizations. He is also a board member of ADC greater Sacramento area chapter.

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.

Alia Hasan is an organizer with Al-Awda Los Angeles and co-founder of the student chapter of Al-Awda at UCLA. She is currently in her third year of graduate school at UCLA.

Alison Weir is the founder of "If Americans Knew," an organization dedicated to providing Americans with information on topics of importance that are misreported or under-reported in the American media. She received the Truth and Justice Award in May 2002 from American Muslims for Jerusalem.

Ban Al-Wardi currently serves the ADC LA/OC Chapter as elected president and the ADC National Board as an elected Board Member. She is a member of the Free Palestine Alliance (FPA LA) and the National Lawyers Guild, LA Chapter. Ban currently works to serve the Los Angeles Immigrant community as an Immigration Attorney and Immigrant Rights Advocate.

Catherine Pfister has lived in San Diego for 5 years. She has become increasingly active in the Palestinian struggle over the last 6 or 7 years. As a member of Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East, she travelled to Palestine on a fact-finding mission in October, 2002. She is an active member of Al-Awda San Diego.

Edward Sweed earned his B.S. from Temple University in Philadelphia, and a Masters from San Diego State University. Now retired, Mr. Sweed was a high school teacher of filmmaking. His students won local and state awards. He also has taught film courses in the extension programs at three local universities. He uses his filmmaking skills to promote justice and peace. Congressman Filner in Washington used his video, "The Stones Will Cry Out," which depicted the effects of the harsh 1996 immigration law. More recently, he cofounded Alternate Focus which produces and broadcasts weekly Middle East related documentaries on public access stations in San Diego and New York.

Fawad Shaiq is a graduating senior at the University of California, San Diego where he has been active with the UCSD Students for Justice the past four years.

Jamal Kanj was born in a Palestinian refugee camp. He is active with the local community and a member of the Middle East Cultural and Information Center (MECIC).

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 Al-Awda's international executive committee. He currently serves as the president of the San Francisco American-Arab Anti-Discrimination 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.

Jody Bong is an attorney and member of the National Lawyer's Guild, the International Solidarity Movement and Al-Awda San Diego. She currently serves as co-chair of Al-Awda San Diego.

John Parker is the west coast regional coordinator of the International Action Center.

Justin Akers is an adjunct professor of history at Southwestern College. He is an
o rganizer with International Socialist Organization and San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice.

Justin Shahbaz has presented at the Friends of Reconciliation Conference in Pasadena this past summer while also working with the Los Angeles chapter of ANSWER in organizing protests, forums and meetings. He is currently a senior undergraduate student in International Relations at the University of Southern California and co-founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine organization at that school.

Lamis Deek is a Palestinian organizer born in Nablus, Palestine and raised in New York. She is a member and elected co-chair of Al-Awda New York and the National Council of Arab Americans, and founder of BLS Muslim Law Students Association. Lamis is a practicing attorney in the field of criminal defense and civil litigation, working towards her PhD in Political Science. With Al-Awda and other organizations, she is trying to establish an Arab immigrant & refugee center.

Mahmoud Zubaidi is a Palestinian refugee from Nazareth. He has lived in Kuwait, Syria and the US. He is a research associate at the University of California San Diego and an active member of Al-Awda San Diego.

Mahmud Ahmad immigrated to the US with his family at the age of 3. He is a member of the national steering committee of the Free Palestine Alliance, and a member of ANSWER, the National Council of Arab Americans, the Arab American Community Center in Chicago, as well as the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism. During his short stay in Louisville, Kentucky he was active with the Louisville Committee for Peace in the Middle East. He was a member of AL-Awda Chicago and since moving to Los Angeles has become an organizer with AL-Awda Los Angeles.

Manal Swairjo is an American-Arab of Palestinian origin. She was born in Gaza, Palestine and emigrated to the United States in 1989 where she studied and worked. She obtained her doctorate in Biophysics from Boston University in 1995 and is currently a research assistant professor at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla. Besides a career in science, Swairjo is active in various human and civil rights forums. She is a current member of the San Diego chapter of Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition. She is a former board member of the San Diego chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (1999-2000), a former member of the Arab-American Advisory Committee to the San Diego Chief of Police, and a former member of a San Diego Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue group. She is the author of columns and essays on Arab culture and literature in US and other publications.

Mark Gonzalez - Hip Hop Theatre playwright, HBO Def Poet, performance lecturer: Mark Gonzales has been commissioned to perform his productions for Cornell University, the Cali (IE) Hip Hop Theatre Festival, members of the United Nation, Congress, and conferences across the United States. Throughout the year Mark teaches critical social reflection and literacy through spoken word at various universities, high schools, and youth prisons. In 2003, Mark traveled to Palestine to document firsthand the struggle of the Palestinians for social justice. From these writings and dialogues, he has compiled several performance pieces and a Hip-Hop Theatre play; the result is a daring and innovative way of promoting social justice through Hip-Hop culture. Comments can be directed to [email protected]

Marwan Abderrazzaq is a Palestinian from El-Bireh in the West Bank. He is an active member of Al-Awda Los Angeles. He is also a member of the Free Palestine Alliance. Before moving to Los Angeles, Marwan was active with Al-Awda San Francisco.

Michael Shahin graduated from Loyola Law School-Los Angeles in 2004. While attending law school, Michael was a Staff Member of the Loyola Law Review and a Board Member of Loyola's Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Michael also studied at Birzeit in Occupied Palestine in 1999 and at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing China in 2002. Michael received a Haywood Burns Fellowship in 2003 and spent the summer working in Ramallah at
Addameer Prisoners Support Association and the Mandela Institute. Michael is currently a member of the Free Palestine Alliance and a collective which produces "Radio Intifada: Voices from Kolkota to Casablanca" on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles. He also was an extern for Hon. Judge Dickran Teverizian, Federal District Court, and Hon. Samuel L. Bufford, Federal Bankruptcy Court. Michael Shahin authored the 2003 Right to Return and the 2004 Divestment resolutions which the National Lawyers Guild passed.

Mona Kadah is a Syrian/Palestinian, born and raised in Syria. She graduated from California State University San Marcos, and is an active member of Al-Awda San Diego.

Muna Coobtee is a Palestinian activist from Los Angeles, CA. She is a member of the Free Palestine Alliance and serves as its representative on the Los Angeles steering committee of the International A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition organized the largest mass demonstrations against the war and occupation of Iraq. Muna frequently speaks and writes about the centrality of the Palestinian struggle for national liberation in the anti-war movement. She is also a founding member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and a contributor to "Socialism and Liberation" magazine.

Musa Al-Hindi is an Arab from Akka (Acre), Palestine. Born and raised in Lebanon, he has been active on issues related to Palestine and social justice since 1977. Musa is a member of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and the Palestinian Right of Return Congress.

Nadia Keilani was born in Baghdad, Iraq. She immigrated to the United States at the age of nine. She is an anti-war activist, former board member of the San Diego County Chapter of the ADC, and current member of Al-Awda San Diego. She is a practicing attorney.

Peggy Sanders has been concerned with peace and justice since 1968. Since 2003 she has been an active member of the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice. She has been actively working with Al-Awda San Deigo since the Spring of 2004. Peggy is a retired cosmetic chemist, now operating a small skin care company.

Rhoda Shapiro is a long-time political activist in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her concerns with the Zionist occupation of Palestine began in the 1950's when news of the Palestinian refugee camps that were a direct consequence of the imposition of the European settler state in 1948 began to reach the US. Since the 1970's she has been active in Palestine solidarity work. From 1982-89 she was one of the founders of the Central America Information Project which focused on media reporting of the struggles being waged in Central America and the Carribean. She was the West Coast Coordinator of the Let Nicaragua Live! campaign that raised humanitarian aid money for the Sandinista government. She has been a fund raiser for non-profit organizations devoted to social justice. She is a co-founder of Al-Awda San Diego and serves on the steering committee of Al-Awda-Media.

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 travelled 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.

Samera Sood has been a member of many progressive humanitarian organizations such as Palestinian American Women's Association for twenty years and running, vice-chair Palestine Solidarity Committee, and a board member of the Los Angeles/Orange County chapter of The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Tara Bosi has been involved in the Palestinian cause for the last 3 years, in Atlanta and now in San Diego. She worked as an independent journalist and volunteered with Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza in spring of 2003, and also volunteers for Alternate Focus. Tara is an active member of Al-Awda San Diego.

Tasha Kadah is an American Palestinian who has inherited the status of refugee from her father who became a refugee in 1948. She currently is a student in North County San Diego Moralist College and is an active member of Al-Awda San Diego.

Zachary Wales is an active member with the New York chapter of Al-Awda, where he organizes the Labor for Palestine campaign. He also writes for a private investigation firm in Manhattan, and contributes a regular column to the Electronic Intifada. Prior to moving to New York in late 2003, Zachary was a foreign news correspondent and media research consultant in Southern Africa.

Zahi Damuni is co-founder of Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and currently serves as elected member on Al-Awda's coordinating and executive committees. He also leads Al-Awda's chapter in San Diego. Before relocating to the west coast, where he is currently involved in biotech research, Zahi was a tenured professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Penn State College of Medicine.

Organizations wishing to table should contact us at [email protected]

Additional information:

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