MUSCATINE — Muscatine Sister Cities President John Dabeet returned from a monthlong trip to his home country of Palestine last week. He described his “vacation” as one that was both personal as well as focused on his work.
“I was there to visit family and friends in the country, and to get also our kids to enjoy Palestine and learn more about their heritage,” Dabeet explained. “That was part of the trip. The other part was the work-related part. Due to the different hats that I wear, I went there with some goals and missions to achieve.”
While there, Dabeet shared that he often had to attend multiple meetings each day, getting the opportunity to once again meet with Palestine’s president and its prime minister as well as many other ministers, mayors and other officials. Looking back and reflecting on his trip, Dabeet said he felt that he met all of his goals while there.
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“As the president of the US-Palestinian Council … part of my job was to have meetings with the officials, president and prime minister (of Palestine) in order to brief them about our work in the United States and how we are sharing the Palestinian narrative with the American public and its politicians,” Dabeet said.
Another one of Dabeet’s goals while on his trip was related to his Sister Cities work. While in Palestine, Dabeet engaged with Palestinian cities that already had US sister cities in-between meeting with other cities in the hopes of establishing new connections and relationships between the two countries. For his efforts, Dabeet said that he now has four new requests from four different Palestinian cities that want to start a sister cities relationship with an American city.
“Obviously we’re going to start that process soon, and it takes some time to achieve it, but at least we are starting with the process,” Dabeet continued. “It feels great (to see so many cities wanting to form connections), especially when the president and prime ministers of Palestine showed that they were concentrating on the importance what we call ‘public and citizen diplomacy’ in sharing the Palestinian narratives with the American public.”
Dabeet also said that, as an elected individual to the Iowa State Democratic Central Committee, he also wanted to speak to the officials he met with about how to engage with the US — both Democrats and Republicans — regarding issues such as where both parties stand on Palestinian issues and its independence.
When asked why it was so important for him to spend so much time on his vacation still pursuing the work he typically does as both an ambassador and as a representative of Sister Cities, Dabeet said he felt that it was his job as a Palestinian-American to share the Palestinian narrative everywhere he goes.
“Our work as Palestinian-Americans does not stop,” he said. “Even during our family time on vacation, we still talk about Palestine because when you live for more than 74 years under a brutal occupation, you’re trying to get rid of it so that you can live in peace and freedom and determine your future like in any other nations. We also want our kids knowing about Palestine, their heritage and the most important things that Palestine can offer the whole world — from its amazing places to its amazing history to the great religious meaning it has as the birth place of Jesus Christ.”
Now that he is back in the US, Dabeet shared that he is going to continue going through the process of connecting Palestinian and American cities that are looking for a sister cities relationship. He is also preparing for a September meeting with the United Nations, where he will attend alongside Palestine’s president. He, alongside other Muscatine Sister Cities members, are also making plans to help with the Ukrainian refugees who are going to be coming to Muscatine.
“We do have a team from Muscatine Sister Cities working hard in promoting and securing places, major assistance and so on to those who are joining Muscatine from Ukraine,” he said.