Libyan-American activist faces backlash for expressing solidarity with Palestine
Libyan-American activist Abrar Omeish has received backlash for speaking out on the latest developments in Palestine amid the recent escalation in Israeli violence in Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah, and Gaza.
On the occasion of Eid, Abrar, a member of the Fairfax County Public Schools Board of Directors in Virginia, congratulated her Twitter followers and said, "Hurts my heart to celebrate while Israel kills Palestinians & desecrates the Holy Land right now. Apartheid & colonization were wrong yesterday and will be today."
Talking to The Libya Observer, Abrar confirmed that she had received threats and was pressed to take down her tweet and "amend" her remarks, mainly from right-wing groups.
Over the past month of Ramadan, Israeli forces have repeatedly attacked Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and violently cracked down on protests against the imminent eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood before targeting the besieged Gaza Strip, where deadly airstrikes from Israel have killed at least 256 people including 66 children.
"While we were at prayer for Eid the disrespect for Al-Aqsa was happening... so this was all in every Muslim's mind on that morning. We felt we were hypocritical in a way because we were celebrating while others were morning and the Masjid was being desecrated." Abrar said.
But as a child raised in the US, Abrar believes that the American community is moving towards a fundamental change on the Palestinian issue, and this is specially empowered by the new generation.
"I got tremendous support from the students I work with, students from all backgrounds including Jews who reached out to me directly and expressed their support for what I did because it's a social justice issue."
Abrar believes that the latest events constitute a historic turning point in the US arena. "it was something entirely new to see the members of congress speak about this issue, black lives matter also shifted the conversation, and the human rights watch came out, using the word apartheid."
However, she did confirm that there is a price she had to pay for taking this path. For instance, a regional organization has offered her a reward for her efforts before resending it because of her stance.
Zionist activists have also led smear campaigns to intimidate her, and this included collecting signatures for a petition to remove her from her post. But it's "a fight that is worth continuing to go down, and there is no giving up or quitting," says Abrar.
But besides the outrage from critics, there came gratitude and appreciation too. Comments and messages have been flooding in, praising Abrar's courage for speaking up for "peace, justice, and human rights."
"Please continue to speak & work for peace & justice!" a tweeter said. Another responded, "Thank you for your courageous stance and important message."
The 26-year-old Abrar is the first Libyan ever elected in the US and one of the first Muslim women to be elected across Virginia, besides the youngest ever in her role.
Since she was elected Member-At-Large in Fairfax County in 2019, parents, staff, and senior figures have widely commended her work and achievements, describing her as a "trusted accessible, and open-minded advocate who takes her role seriously and strives to do what's best."