Protesters in Dearborn push back at Mideast peace plan

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Dearborn — The week after President Donald Trump announced a plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more than 100 area residents and activists filled a rally to protest the measure.

The audience, coupled with outcry across the United States and abroad, underscored the importance of keeping the issue in the public eye and mobilizing to push back, organizers said.

"This is going to unify all of us around the idea that Palestine must and will be liberated," Khalid Turaani, an American-Palestinian activist, told the participants at Greenfield Manor.

Khalid Turaani at the podium during a rally by the Michigan Task Force for Palestine at Greenfield Manor in Dearborn.

The event led by the Michigan Task Force for Palestine came a day after the European Union rejected Trump's proposal for securing peace in the Middle East and expressed concern about Israel's plans to annex more Palestinian land.

The plan, which was unveiled last week, would foresee the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, but falls far short of minimal Palestinian demands and would leave sizable chunks of the occupied West Bank in Israeli hands.

Many in the audience and speakers decried the move as unfair.

"I'm a negotiator and I know that when you negotiate a deal, you are negotiating with a party," said Frank Hammer, a retired UAW international representative who has served on the board of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. "Palestinians are not afforded that opportunity. … What kind of negotiation is that?"

Mohamed Almasmari and Imad Hamad of AHRC, American Human Rights Council talk before a rally by the Michigan Task Force for Palestine at Greenfield Manor in Dearborn.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — for an independent state and the removal of more than 700,000 Israeli settlers from these areas.

The plan was welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed it as "nonsense." 

Abbas last week threatened to cut security ties with Israel and the U.S. in a speech at an Arab League meeting in response to the U.S. plan. Arab foreign ministers there joined in criticizing the plan and calling it a setback to Mideast peace efforts.

Gulf Arab states have also rejected the White House plan as biased. While Israeli officials were present for its unveiling, no Palestinian representatives attended.

Palestinians have held demonstrations across the region, and protests also were held Sunday near the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.

Last week, a town hall was held at Dearborn’s Arab American National Museum in response to the plans, which Trump has called a “Deal of the Century."

At Wednesday's rally, more than one speaker described the proposal as theft.

"This deal was simply cooked in a way that serves only one side, and it’s completely unjust," said Kayed Masarweh of Sterling Heights, who is active with a Jordanian American group.

Attendees called for boycotting, divesting from and imposing sanctions on Israel as well as other initiatives.

"This is the seed for further work to come," said Imad Hamad, executive director at the American Human Rights Council, which has offices in Dearborn. "The Palestinians are not going to give up."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.