Nubar Hovsepian wrote this memorial for Sheila in the Middle East Report, which had published numerous articles by Sheila in the 1980s.
Nubar Hovsepian spoke about Sheila’s courageous political organizing work:
Here’s a letter to the editor of the New York Times that Sheila wrote in 2002:
To the Editor:
Jimmy Carter reminds us that American weapons supplied to the Israeli government are to be used for defensive purposes only, “a legal requirement,” he observes, “certainly being violated in the recent destruction in Jenin and other towns of the West Bank” (Op-Ed, April 21).
Media accounts abound of Israeli use of Cobra and Apache helicopters against Jenin: indeed, in an April 18 news article you reported finding debris with English stenciling near the body of an elderly woman apparently killed in an Apache missile attack on the refugee camp there. The United Nations is investigating the catastrophic events in Jenin. Congress will be shamefully shirking responsibility if it fails to inquire into the use of American weapons in Israel’s recent attacks on West Bank cities, villages and refugee camps.
New York, April 21, 2002
— From “Peace, Morality and the Mideast“, New York Times, April 23, 2002
In 1991, a book was published about the Gulf War that included a chapter by Sheila about US preparation for force projection in the middle east prior to the 1991 Gulf War.
Here’s the opening paragraph:
One of the aspects of the Gulf War of 1991 which seemed to amaze many Americans was the efficiency with which the U.S. military carried out the enterprise. Within six months of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the United States had deployed half a million military personnel to the region, and had all of their supplies and equipment on hand: television viewers in the United States watched the process transfixed, for many of them experienced great difficulty in being deployed about their daily routines over bridges rusting out for lack of maintenance, pothole scarred roads and public transportation systems characterized by delay and discomfort. People marveled as targets were sought out and destroyed by smart bombs produced by the very country whose declining educational system sees to be producing a dumb generation.
— From “Countdown for a Decade: The U.S. Build-Up for War in the Gulf”, by Sheila Ryan, in Beyond the Storm: A Gulf Crisis Reader, edited by Phyllis Bennis, Michel Moushabeck, Interlink Pub Group, 1991, pp 91 – 102.
In 1991, a book was published containing a chapter by Sheila:
“Power Projection in the Middle East”, by Sheila Ryan, in Greg Bates, ed., Mobilizing Democracy: Changing the U. S. Role in the Middle East (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1991).
According to Publishers Weekly,
Sheila Ryan concludes that after 45 years of a Middle East policy based on anti-Soviet “containment,” the U.S. is now guided by its determination to control Europe’s and Japan’s source of oil.
In 1990, Sheila co-authored a book about legal structures used in settler societies:
Israel and South Africa: Legal Systems of Settler Domination, by Sheila Ryan and Donald Will, Africa World Press (May 1990)
A number of people have commented on the importance of this book, despite the relative obscurity of the specialty press that distributed it:(Cited in Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma, by Kalí Tal.)
From some time in 1989 through about 1991, Sheila was a co-producer for a weekly radio program named “Medium Hot” on WBAI, along with Adele Oltman.
The show had an hour-long slot on Fridays at 3:30 pm and then moved to 1:30 pm in February 1990.
It was described in the WBAI “Folio” as:
3:30 MEDIUM HOT. International affairs with an emphasis on how the different media present the issues. Produced by Adele Oltman and Sheila Ryan.
Later in 1991 she worked on another international affairs program:
8:30 … the Morning Show continues with reports firom the Middle East and Africa; produced by Sheila Ryan and Zenzile Khoisan.
— From “WBAI Folio” for November 1991.
Sheila is listed as a “facilitator” in the report of the United Nations North American Regional NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine, held at the UN’s New York headquarters in June 1989.
Sheila wrote numerous articles about the Middle East during the 1970s and 1980s, including these for MERIP:
- U. S. and Jordan: Thrice-Rescued Throne, by Sheila Ryan, Joe Stork, MERIP Reports, No. 7 (Feb., 1972), pp. 3-11
- Constructing a New Imperialism: Israel and the West Bank, by Sheila Ryan, MERIP Reports, No. 9 (May – Jun., 1972), pp. 3-11+17
- Israeli Economic Policy in the Occupied Areas: Foundations of a New Imperialism, by Sheila Ryan, MERIP Reports, No. 24 (Jan., 1974), pp. 3-24+28
- Palestinians and the Political Situation in Kuwait, by Sheila Ryan, Joe Stork, MERIP Reports, No. 54 (Feb., 1977), pp. 14-17
- The West Bank and Gaza: Political Consequences of Occupation, by Sheila Ryan, MERIP Reports, No. 74 (Jan., 1979), pp. 3-8
- Khalid al-Hassan: “Our Strategy is to Help Our People Stay on Their Land”, by Khalid al-Hassan, George Cavaletto, Sheila Ryan, Jim Paul, MERIP Reports, No. 83 (Dec., 1979), pp. 12-14
- Abu Leila: Confronting the Dilemmas of the PLO in Lebanon and Jordan, by Abu Leila, Sheila Ryan, George Cavaletto, Tim Roberts, MERIP Reports, No. 83 (Dec., 1979), pp. 15-17
- The Reagan Budget: Money is Policy, by Sheila Ryan, MERIP Reports, No. 105, Reagan Targets the Middle East (May, 1982), pp. 14-16
- Israel’s Future in Lebanon, by Elias Khoury, Nubar Hovsepian, Jim Paul, Joe Stork, Sheila Ryan, MERIP Reports, No. 108/109, The Lebanon War (Sep. – Oct., 1982), pp. 28-32
- Further Reading on the Occupied Territories, by Joel Beinin, Sheila Ryan, MERIP Reports, No. 116, Israel’s Strategy of Occupation (Jul. – Aug., 1983), p. 31
- U.S. Military Contractors in Israel, by Sheila Ryan, MERIP Reports, Jan/Feb 1987
- Economic Dimensions of the Uprising, by Sheila Ryan, Middle East Report, No. 155, The Middle East after Reagan (Nov. – Dec., 1988), pp. 38-41
- Middle East Peace Priorities in the US: Seven Perspectives, by Eqbal Ahmad, Jeanne Butterfield, Noam Chomsky, Denis F. Doyon, Deena Hurwitz, Sheila Ryan, James Zogby, Middle East Report, No. 158, Palestine and Israel in the US Arena (May – Jun., 1989), pp. 6-11
In 1987, the Reagan Administration charged seven Palestinian immigrants and one Kenyan with being associated with a group which published material that advocated international communism, using provisions of the McCarthy-era McCarran-Walter Act.
Sheila travelled to Los Angeles for a time to help with the case.
She wrote an article about the case for a journal published by the Association of Arab American University Graduates: “Palestinian Deportation Case Continues,” by Sheila Ryan, Mideast Monitor, IV, 2 (1987).
In 2007, after twenty years of legal battles, the McCarran-Walter Act was ruled unconstitutional and all of the charges were dropped.
You can read more about the “LA 8” case in a NY Times article during the case, one after the case was dismissed, and an editorial decrying the prosecution. Afterwards, defendant Michel Shehadeh talked about the case with Democracy Now and Alternate Focus.
Sheila on the roots of terrorism:
Were some diabolical social engineer to design an environment to provide the perfect growth conditions for terrorism, the result would be something very like Sabra and Shatila.
— From “No Place To Call Home“, by Sheila Ryan, New Internationalist, July 1986.
Amusingly, this report was quoted positively in a report sponsored by the Israel Resource News Agency which was critical of UNRWA:
With prescience, Sheila Ryan wrote, in 1986, “Is it any wonder…these dispossessed people listen to the shadowy figures who preach the efficacy of bloodshed…when all else seems to have failed?”
One of Sheila’s book titles prompted a airport-security profiling incident in 1986:
Rema Simon, a 23-year-old citizen of Massachusetts, is of French and Lebanese descent. She works in the Massachusetts State Legislature’s Social Law Library. But on the evening of May 1, she was in Ft. Lauderdale, about to end her vacation and take a Delta Airlines flight back to Boston.
Having passed the usual security check, Simon was on board, waiting for the plane to take off and reading a book, “Palestine Is, but Not in Jordan.” Looking up, she saw a man “carrying a walkie-talkie. He said, ‘Miss, could you please come with me? I have to talk to you.’ ” She followed him off the plane. “We stood outside the door of the aircraft,” she said. “Several flight attendants and airline or airport personnel stood around us.”
During the 1980s, Sheila also wrote for the Journal of Palestine Studies, published by Kuwait University:
- “Israel’s Invasion of Lebanon: Background to the Crisis“, by Sheila Ryan, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 11, no. 4 – Vol. 12, no. 1, Special Issue: The War in Lebanon (Summer – Autumn, 1982), pp. 23-37.
- “A Palestinian State for Israel’s Sake“, by Sheila Ryan, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 14, No. 2, Special Issue: The Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories (Winter, 1985), pp. 154-156.
This anti-communist screen from the 1990s perpetuates the inaccuracy that Sheila had been in the Weather Underground:
In 1983 the 60 minutes news program aired a segment by Morley Safer reporting on the support the NCC [National Council of Churches] has given to left-wing causes around the world… The Methodist Church was funding the Palestine Liberation Organization through its support groups in this country including the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Middle East Resource Center reportedly directed by Sheila Ryan, a former member of the Weather Underground.
— From “Anti-Americanism: Irrational and Rational“, by Paul Hollander, Transaction Publishers (1995)
Sheila wrote the April 1983 book review column for the journal “Race and Class”:
Race and Class (SAGE Publications): Ryan, S., (1983 April) Book reviews : The Battle of Beirut: why Israel invaded Lebanon. By MARTIN JANSEN (London, Zed Press, 1982). 142 pages. £4.50. ‘Lebanon Eyewitness’, By MARTIN PERETZ in The New Republic (2 August 1982). ‘J’Accuse’ By NORMAN PODHORETZ in Commentary (September 1982). ‘Lebanon: the case for the war’ By ROBERT W. TUCKER in Commentary (October 1982). 24 (4), 485-493
In 1983 and 1984, the police department of the city of Portland, OR opened a file on Sheila and the Palestine Solidarity Committee.
— From the City of Portland’s e-files web service.
Sheila appeared on a number of radio programs in the early eighties, including these:
THURSDAY / 16 … 9:00 THE MIDDLE EAST REPORT. An update of regional events. With Sheila Ryan.
— From the “WBAI Folio” for December 1982.
Middle East Report / A. Walker | RECORDED: September 15, 1983. – CONTENT: INTERVIEWER: Sheila Ryan| INTERVIEWEE: Israel Shahak, Chairperson of the Israeli League for Civil and Human Rights. Talks about the implications of transition from the governments of Menachem Begin to that of Yitzak Shamir, Foreign Minister and Israel Cabinet.
— From a 1/4″ tape reel catalog entry at the Pacifica Radio Archives.
TUES 20 … 7:30 PRAXIS. An examination of changing social, political and economic institutions in the Middle East and Asia. Presented by Stuart Schaar and Sheila Ryan.
— From the “WBAI Folio” for March 1984.
RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Wednesday, November 27 at 9 PM
Religious fundamentali.sm — Islamic, Jewish, and Christian — has become a significant taaor in Mideast politics. This program explores what tensions in the various scxieties have given rise to this phenomenon, and what effect fundamentalist movements are having on that volatile region. Produced by Sheila Ryan, Nubar Housepian, and Stuart Scharr.
— From the “WBAI Folio” for November 1985.
In 1982, Sheila helped to organize the National Emergency Committee on Lebanon in response to the Israeli invasion.
The Emergency Committee had an office in midtown and three staff people: Sheila, Nubar Hovsepian (then the Political Affairs Officer for the UN Conference on the Question of Palestine) and Stuart Schaar (a history professor at Brooklyn College).
The Emergency Committee was a broad coalition established on June 24 in opposition to the Israeli invasion, whose first action was organizing a demonstration against the invasion in New York on July 10.
The coalition included diverse voices in an effort to shift the debate:
A rabbi and two Christian clergymen from the New York area yesterday jointly denounced Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli military forces. … The forum was a news conference held by the newly formed National Emergency Committee on Lebanon. The conference was held at the United Nations Church Center at 777 First Avenue.
— From “Rabbi and 2 Christian Clerics Denounce Invasion“, by William G. Blair, New York Times, July 1, 1982.
… a July 1982 leaflet prepared for a rally, sponsored by the National Emergency Committee on Lebanon, to demand that Israel get out of Lebanon and for an end to American arms sales to Israel…
The National Emergency Committee on Lebanon, formed in June 1982 to call for withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, no American arms to Israel and no US troops in the Mideast, also called for US talks with the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and American pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land. The executive committee included Larry Ekin of the United Methodist Church office at the UN, Sara Flounders of the People’s Anti-War Mobilization, Jawad George of the Palestine Congress of North America, Sandy Pollack of the USPC, Gail Pressberg of AFSC, Stuart Schaar of Jews Against the Israeli Massacre, Mountir Zahr, a supporter of the Lebanese Movement, and Jacki Gelb of MFS.
— From Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today, by Harvey Klehr, Transaction Publishers, 1988, pp. 155-156.
The committee helped report on the scale of the invasion by summarizing the available body-count figures in “The 1982 Israeli Invasion of Lebanon: the Casualties”, by National Emergency Committee on Lebanon, Race & Class, Vol. 24, No. 4. (Spring 1983): pp 340-342. (SAGE)
It also assembled background information, like “Lebanon, the Palestinians and the PLO: a profile”, by National Emergency Committee on Lebanon, Race and Class, Vol. 24 No. 4, (1983 April) pp 327-334.
It published a booklet “The Human Tragedy in Lebanon”, based on an address delivered at the Riverside Church by Christopher Giannou on August 11, 1982.
It organized teach-ins about the invasion:
THE CONTINUING CRISIS IN LEBANON.
TEACH-IN, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 21, noon-9.
Hunter College Theater, 69th & Park.
SPEAKERS INCLUDE EQBAL AHMAD, ALEXANDER COCKBURN, DR. CHRIS GIANNOU, YAACOV PIPMAN, EDWARD SAID, ELLEN SIEGEL, ZVI ZORES.
Adm. $5, $4.
For more info, contact National Emergency Committee on Lebanon. Phone: 382-1597.
— Advertised in the Columbia Spectator, November 19, 1982.
AIPAC was dismissive:
Some of these groups were merely new guises for longtime pro-PLO activists. For example, the coordinator of the National Emergency Committee on Lebanon, Sheila Ryan, also heads the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a New York-based group long supportive of the PLO.
— From The Campaign to Discredit Israel, by Amy Kaufman Goott and Steven Rosen, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, 1983
This was apparently enough for the city of Portland, OR to open a police file on the committee, although nothing substantive ever came of it.
Conservatives kept a close eye on the PSC, whose support for South African revolutionaries cemented their sense that it was part of a far-flung network of Weather Underground front groups:
In 1981, Sheila returned to the Middle East again for more research and reporting.
She entered Lebanon via a ferry from Cypress to the Phalange-controlled area, and then taking a series of taxi rides to reach the Palestinian areas near Beirut.
During this time she was pregnant, and she would made the local women laugh by replying to their customary saying of “Inshallah walid” (God willing, it’ll be a boy) by saying “Inshallah bent” (God willing, a girl) and explaining that she already had four sons. Her wishes were granted when Caitlin was born that November.
In 1981, the New York Times covered a PSC protest held adjacent to the annual New York City parade for the foundation of the state of Israel:
In a message from Israel, Prime Minister Menachem Begin appealed to Israel’s supporters not to allow any retaliatory actions against his country for destroying the Iraqi reactor. …
The crowd, which included marchers from 100 groups and thousands who lined the avenue to cheer them, applauded the Prime Minister’s statement.
The appeal was mocked at a counterdemonstration sponsored by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee attended by some 100 people nearby in Central Park . ”The Salute to Israel parade is a salute to racism, colonialism and repression,” said one banner held aloft there. ”Stop U.S. Aid to Israel,” said another. …
The Palestinian rally in Central Park off Fifth Avenue and 97th Street was called ”A Teach-In on Avoiding War in the Middle East.” Sheila Ryan, an organizer of the teach-in, said that her group’s aim was to ”stop the continuing flow of weapons to the Middle East.” She said this included Israel and Arab nations.
— From “Parade For Israel Reflects Fears Over Reactor Raid“, by Ari Goldman, New York Times, June 15, 1981.
Sheila contributed on-the-ground reporting from Palestine as Israeli settlements were expanded:
To the east of Jerusalem a much more serious venture has been taking shape in the form of the Ma’ale Adumim Block which is “targeted to become a major residential and industrial complex which will complete the encirclement of Jerusalem”, and which, when completed, “will extend the municipality eastward more than eight miles towards the floor of the Jordanian Valley” (see eye-witness account of Sheila Ryan and George Cavalletto, “Israeli Settlements in West Bank and Gaza”, as reproduced in a supplement to Palestine:, dated September, 1980, pp. 9-17; quotation from p. 10).
— From the Report of The Fourth United Nations Seminar on the Question of Palestine, “The inalienable rights of the Palestinian people“, 31 August – 4 September 1981, Havana
Sheila led these protests every summer for several years:
Sunday, June 3, 1979
By Ruth Landa, Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: NEW YORK
Celebration of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was an underlying theme of the 15th annual Salute to Israel parade Sunday in which some 75,000 persons sang and danced up Fifth Avenue.
Mayor Edward I. Koch, City Council President Carol Bellamy and other city officials led the costumed paraders up the avenue, marching to the theme song from “Exodus” and waving to observers who lined the street despite intermittent rain.
But several blocks downtown, the peace treaty signed on March 26 was denounced by the Palestine Solidarity Committee which staged its own rally and marched uptown on other avenues in protest.
Sheila wrote a book chapter on the economics of the Israeli occupation:
“The Colonial Exploitation of Occupied Palestine : a study of the transformation of the economies of the West Bank and Gaza”, by Sheila Ryan, in Zionism, Imperialism, and Racism, ed. A.W. Kayyali, Croom Helm (London), 1979.
This research was cited in a Village Voice front-page article:
Middle Eastern Bantustan