A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
April/May 1994, Page 60
United Muslims of America Honors Three Veteran Activists
By Hasan Zillur Rahim
United Muslims of America (UMA) is a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to establishing an effective voice for Muslims in U.S. politics. It was formed in 1982 in spontaneous reaction to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when Bay Area Muslims recognized that, despite their personal professional and social standing, they lacked the ability to influence U.S. policies in the absence of a cohesive American Muslim political vision and platform.
Since then, UMA has organized Muslims for political action, participated vigorously in local, state and national elections, promoted harmony between different ethnic and religious groups, and campaigned for a just and consistent American foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe.
At its 12th annual dinner in San Jose, CA, on Jan. 16, UMA honored three former U.S. government officials for their exemplary activism and their passion for truth and justice. They were retired Ambassador Andrew I. Killgore, a founder of the American Educational Trust and publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs; Richard Curtiss, also a former diplomat and founder of the American Educational Trust, and the executive editor of the Washington Report; and former Republican Congressman Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey.
In welcoming the honorees, Ziad Ziadeh, president of UMA, spoke eloquently of the contributions each is making, at considerable personal risk and sacrifice, to chart a new course in U.S. foreign policy based on morality and justice.
Congressman McCloskey, a hero of the Korean War, is an inspiration to Americans of all creeds and colors for his bold stand on issues ranging from civil rights to the right of Palestinians to a homeland of their own, the UMA president said. Shunning political expediency, the former Northern California representative repeatedly has taken on powerful adversaries without compromising his convictions. History, asserted Mr. Ziadeh, will remember Congressman McCloskey kindly.
Ambassador Killgore and Mr. Curtiss have come to exemplify "the goodness of America, for tens of thousands of their readers," Ziadeh said. They have restored common sense to the intellectual debate on Islam in general and the Middle East in particular. The Washington Report, Ziadeh reminded the audience of about 200, is the only mass-circulation publication in the United States that challenges Americans to forge an unbiased foreign policy toward Arabs and the Muslim world.
In accepting his award, Ambassador Killgore compared Muslims in America to an awakening young giant. "You are capable of great accomplishments, if you unite, " he said.
Discussing the recently signed Principles of Peace, he told the audience he believes a Palestinian state is inevitable. The powerful Israel lobby in the U.S. has suffered major recent setbacks, he said, such as the public reluctance of former President George Bush to grant Israel the $10 billion in loan guarantees voted by Congress. There also is a split between the lobby and Israel's current Labor government over the "land-for-peace" principles Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat negotiated in Oslo without U.S. help. American Zionists feel the Israeli government deliberately kept them in the dark.
"The Israel lobby," Killgore said, "is terribly afraid of peace and what it will do to them. It will deprive them of work and money.
The former U.S. ambassador to Qatar said that Jonathan Pollard was the worst kind of traitor, because the U.S. secrets he stole and passed on to the Israelis had undoubtedly resulted in the deaths of valuable U.S. informants in foreign countries. He expressed confidence that President Bill Clinton would not pardon Pollard, despite lobby pressure on him to do so.
Richard Curtiss, author of two books on U.S. involvement in the Israel-Palestine dispute, began by quoting the Prophet Muhammad: "If one sees something reprehensible, he should try to stop it. " There are three things AET's founders considered reprehensible, he said, which they seek to counter with the help of supporters of the Washington Report: the continuing injustices suffered by Palestinians; gross misrepresentation of the Arabs and Islam in the U.S. media; and manipulation of the Congress by lobbyists, especially the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel's principal lobby in Washington, DC.
Members of Congress frequently succumb to the AIPAC proposition that "No matter how corrupt you may be, we will support you so long as you support Israel. " Curtiss cited the case of Sen. Bob Packwood as a classic example. Despite well documented charges of sexual harassment and blatant misuse of power over a period of many years, the Oregon Republican has chosen not to resign because wealthy supporters of Israel have pledged to stand by him. As a result, he is being defended by high-priced lawyers and his accusers are being intimidated by high-priced investigators in return for his long record of statements and votes placing the interests of Israel above those of the United States.
Curtiss advised Muslims to unite on urgent issues like Bosnia and Palestine and not fritter away their energies over minor disagreements. "Everything you advocate should be for the good of America, and not just for the good of its Muslim citizens," he said, to prolonged applause from his Muslim audience.
He pointed out the urgent need for a major Muslim daily newspaper in America to help Muslims in all walks of U.S. life to define the issues of importance to them in ways that cannot be distorted by the mainstream U.S. media. He cited the Christian Science Monitor published in Boston, and the Washington Times, published by the World Unification Church in the national capital. Both challenge the pack journalism of the mainstream media on key issues.
Discussing U.S. passivity in the face of genocide in Bosnia, he asked, "What happened to 'Never Again 'T' Muslims, he said, must call on their representatives in Congress and the president to lift the arms embargo on Bosnian Muslims. Decisive U.S. leadership in such matters as authorizing NATO air strikes can enable the legitimate government of Bosnia to defend itself.
Turning to the Mideast, Curtiss said Palestinians must have real sovereignty and economic independence if the peace is to last. Jerusalem residents of all religious faiths must have equal civil rights and adherents of all faiths must enjoy unhindered access to their respective holy places.
Curtiss also warned that the Kashmir problem, if allowed to drift, could become a catalyst for nuclear war. The Kashmiris themselves, he said, have theright to decide their own fate.
Muslims should feel at home in America, Curtiss concluded, because Americans not only are used to diversity but welcome it. For those who question whether Muslims should dirty their hands in U.S. politics, he quoted the Prophet Muhammad: "As you are, so you shall have people to govern you. " This means, said Curtiss, that good leaders only result from the hard work of good citizens.
McCloskey Describes True Bravery
The bravest people in the world are those who dare to speak out against the prevailing majority for what is right, declared former Congressman Pete McCloskey, who represented the Bay Area in Congress for 16 years and who now practices law there. He recounted the prejudice his forebears faced when they first landed on the shores of the New World from Ireland. It took four generations of struggle before Irish Americans broke through the barriers of inequality and injustice. Muslims face a similar predicament, he said, and they, too, must never give up. "There are at least 60,000 U.S. Muslim citizens just in the Bay Area," he said. "Just think what you can do with such numbers."
McCloskey suggested that Muslims: "Visit your senators, congressmen and other elected officials. Ask them for a simple 'yes' or 'no' on issues that concern you. Don't be fooled by ambiguous or pleasant responses. If they don't support your cause, such as lifting the arms embargo in Bosnia or a homeland for Palestinians, tell them you will campaign against them, that you will distribute newsletters and flyers and contact every single Muslim to vote against them. You will be surprised at how quickly they come around once they sense you mean business."
McCloskey's advice was consistent with that of former Congressman Paul Findley, ,,author of They Dare to Speak Out and Deliberate Deceptions: The Inside Story of the U.S. -Israeli Covert Relationship. The Illinois Republican, who served in Congress for 20 years, was the guest of honor and keynote speaker at UMA's annual event last year. Supporters of Israel, Representative Findley said, never take "no" for an answer. They are tenacious and determined, something Muslims must learn and practice.
Regarding revelations of spying by B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Arab Americans, anti-apartheid groups and other human rights activists, McCloskey said that although San Francisco's district attorney has caved in to Zionist pressure and decided not to press criminal charges against ADL, he will press on with his own civil suit on behalf of ADL victims. He was hopeful that justice would prevail and ADL's illegal activities would be exposed.
The most important Muslims in America, according to McCloskey, are the young Muslims. They know how the system works. They have the energy and the education to make a difference. McCloskey reminded the audience of the power of the printed word.
"One good journalist among you is worth more for Islam in America than 100 doctors and 400 engineers," he told the appreciative audience. "Translate the idealism and beauty of the Qur'an into political activism: that's your obligation."
The three activists were honored with plaques of recognition "for their distinguished work and dedicated service to their country" by Omar Ahmad, president of the Islamic Association for Palestine, and Ziad Ziadeh, president of UMA.
The event concluded with a recitation by Abu Qadir Al-Amin, imam of the San Francisco Muslim Community Center, of a supplication the Prophet Muhammad invoked in times of difficulty: "O Allah, I seek refuge from anxiety and grief; I seek refuge from lack of strength and laziness; I seek refuge from cowardice and miserliness; I seek refuge from being overpowered by debt and the oppression of man."
Hasan Zillur Rahim is the editor of IQRA, the bimonthly newsletter of the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose, CA.