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)
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1995, Pages 61-63
Arab American Activism
By Richard H. Curtiss
Dr. Haidar Abdul Shafi Is PAS Speaker in Washington, DC
A large crowd from the national capital area turned out Oct. 8 to hear Dr. Haidar Abdul Shafi, former head of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks. At the program, sponsored by the Palestine Aid Society's Washington, DC Area Chapter, Dr. Abdul Shafi, a Gaza physician and leading independent Palestinian spokesman, was critical both of Israel and of the Declaration of Principles signed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. The agreement, he said, was presented with fanfare to give the impression "that everything is finished and that people should relax."
Unfortunately, he said, "there is nothing in this Oslo agreement that prevents Israel from continuing the settlement process." Therefore the agreement does not address the main source of the current impasse, which is continuing activity on the ground that prejudices the outcome of the negotiations. He noted also that in the agreement the Palestinians recognized Israel as a legitimate state, but the Israelis recognized the PLO only as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Nothing was said about a Palestinian state.
The Palestinians, Dr. Abdul Shafi said, are facing a militarily strong Israel that is ignoring U.N. resolutions, violating international law and human rights, and defying world opinion and getting away with it. Nevertheless, he said, the Palestinian commitment to peace is solid and unswerving, and there is no going back.
"One of the terrible failures of the agreement," Dr. Abdul Shafi said, pertains to Palestinian elections. "Why should Israel have a say in this? We want legislative elections and free elections. It is the Palestinian people who should decide what takes place, not anybody else, and this can only take place through elections."
For information about other PAS activities in the capital area, call (202) 728-9425.
ADC Honors Outgoing President
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee formally marked the transition from the presidency of Albert Mokhiber to that of Candace Lightner with a Dec. 3 reception and dinner at Washington, DC's Grand Hotel. Mokhiber, who has worked with ADC for 10 years, six as director of its legal department and four as president, will practice law in the national capital. Lightner, a founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1980, has been the recipient of two ADC awards. She is moving from California to Washington, DC to assume her new duties.
Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine Hosts Shahak
Speaking on Nov. 7 to the Washington, DC-based Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, veteran Israeli peace activist Dr. Israel Shahak predicted that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin will not permit elections in Gaza and the West Bank. Nor will Israel allow any symbolism suggesting Palestinian sovereignty in those areas. Even PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's helicopter, Shahak said, is grounded in Egypt because Arafat refuses Israel's demand that it be registered in some independent country.
With Israel's full knowledge, guns can be bought easily by Palestinians in major West Bank towns, Shahak told the Washington, DC audience. Israel's apparent hope is that factional Palestinian fighting will lead to chaos. The retired Hebrew University professor of chemistry remarked that Israel was similarly motivated when it supported Hamas for 10 years, only to discover that the guns of Hamas eventually were turned against Jews.
Yasser Arafat has been marked for elimination, according to Dr. Shahak, because he has reneged on his promise to crush Palestinian terrorists. Up to now the Palestinian leader has refused, honorably in Shahak's view, to rein in fellow Palestinians. Shahak gives Arafat not more thansix months before he is killed.
For two reasons, however, Dr. Shahak said hope should prevail over pessimism. The first reason is that wealthy American sympathizers of Likud were withholding money from AIPAC, revealing a serious rift in American Zionist ranks. The second reason is that leaders of the Palestinian intifada, now in their 30s and early 40s, are organizing to renew the uprising if Israel betrays Palestinian hopes.
NAAA Briefs Press on U.S. Election Results
National Association of Arab Americans executive director Khalil Jahshan and political analyst Neil Lendenman met Nov. 15 with members of the Washington, DC press corps to discuss the significance to Arab Americans of 1994 congressional elections results. Jahshan noted that NAAA had always had good relations with retiring Democratic Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, an Arab American, but said his organization also has had cooperative relations with the incoming Republican majority leader, Kansas Sen. Bob Dole.
Jahshan indicated that Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman-designate of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, may set out to "create problems" with the peace process, particularly regarding Jerusalem and aid to Jordan and, if Israel and Syria reach an agreement, aid to Syria. (The Arab-American uncertainty over Helms coincided with uncertainty expressed by spokesmen for pro-Israel Jewish groups who noted that Helms, who once received the lowest American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC] rating of any senator, now professes to be a particular friend of Israel.)
The Republican landslide swept out a number of prominent supporters of Israel, the NAAA analysts said. It also brought into the Senate a conservative Lebanese American, Spence Abraham (R-MI), a former co-chair of the Republican national committee and former deputy chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle. A new Arab-American House member is Republican Ray Lahood, who won the Illinois seat vacated by retiring House Minority Leader Bob Michel.
The two new Arab-American legislators, with Representatives Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV) and Pat Danner (D-MO), bring the total of Arab Americans in Congress to four. Abraham is the fourth U.S. senator of Arab descent, after former Senators James Abourezk (D-SD), James Abdnor (R-SD), and the retiring George Mitchell (D-ME).
Jahshan noted that the switch from Democratic to Republican control of the house puts Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) in line for chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, replacing Lee Hamilton (D-IN). Gilman, Jewish Republican, has been a vocal defender of Israel, even during the period when Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was pursuing hard-line policies diametrically opposed to the peace process being initiated by Republican President George Bush.
"Our feeling is a mixed one," Jahshan said in summary. "We are satisfied with some results, but apprehensive of others. We had three Arab Americans in Congress, now there are four. But gridlock between a Democratic president and a Republican Congress could affect Middle East policy and the peace process."
Builders for Peace Host Palestinians
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown, President Ruth Harkin of the U.S. government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), representatives of the Agency for International Development (USAID) and Builders for Peace hosted a U.S.-Palestinian Business Roundtable Oct. 11 at the Department of Commerce. The half-day program involved a "matchmaking session" at which Palestinian businessmen from the West Bank and Gaza brought to the U.S. with USAID funding had an opportunity to discuss joint enterprises with potential U.S. investors.
The Washington program was part of a two-week schedule that included meetings in Chicago, a breakfast meeting in Los Angeles with the Builders for Peace Advisory Board, a Detroit press conference, and meetings in New York with the U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Following the Washington leg of the program, Palestinian businessmen participating in the roundtable told the Washington Times that major hurdles to development and investment remain, including trade barriers in Israel and the U.S. and reluctance by U.S. franchisers to anger Israeli partners by doing business in Gaza and the West Bank.
Builders for Peace is an organization founded by Arab American Institute president James Zogby and former California Democratic Congressman Mel Levine to involve Arab Americans and Jewish Americans in business and investment activities in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Arab Americans Attend Israel-Jordan Treaty-Signing Ceremony
A number of Arab Americans traveled to Jordan in President Bill Clinton's party for the Oct. 26 signing of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty. Guests, who included an equal number of prominent Jewish Americans, paid approximately $3,650 each for air and ground transportation plus Amman hotel room and meal charges for their three-day, two-night journey for peace, according to the Jordan Times. Among the Arab Americans were Elie Fayez Aboud, president of the National Arab American Business Association in New Bedford Heights, OH; Issa B. Cook, a Houston, TX developer who is on the executive committee of the American Ramallah Federation Educational Fund and a board member of Builders for Peace (see above); Abul Huda Farouki, chairman of International Services in Reston, VA; Mayor Joseph P. Ganim of Bridgeport, CT; Antoine Hadad, president of the Lebanese American Political Action Committee; Dr. Ibrahim Hawatmeh, St. Louis, MO urologist and NAAA chapter president; Omar Kader, Washington, DC-based consultant and former Palestine Aid Society and ADC executive director; Hani Masri, former Jordanian diplomat and president of Capital Corporation; former Ohio Democratic Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar, now a public relations consultant; Michael Saah, a founder of the National Association of Arab Americans; Richard Shadyac, attorney and a founder and past president of the National Association of Arab Americans; Saba Shami, Northern Virginia political consultant and activist; and James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and co-founder of Save Lebanon, Inc.
On the Jewish-American side were such long-time supporters of Israel as former California Democratic Congressman Mel Levine; former executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Lester Pollack, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and founding chairman of the Center for Middle East Research; Seymour D. Reich, chairman of the American Zionist Movement and former president of B'nai B'rith International; CBS Chairman Laurence Tisch; and Chief Editor Mortimer Zuckerman of U.S. News and World Report.
El-Bireh Society Plans 1995 Convention in Palestine
The executive committee of the El-Bireh Palestine Society, USA has returned to the United States after holding a series of meetings with residents of the West Bank town of El-Bireh to plan the group's first national convention in Palestine. It will be held in mid-July.
A preparatory committee in El-Bireh was proposed, to include Nouman Abdel Dayim, Munif Traish, Saber Tawil, Mohammad Sarsour, Abdel Jawad Saleh, Dr. Hazim Arafat and Sheikh Jamal. Several suggestions also were made to provide information and encouragement to El-Bireh residents abroad to return home and take up permanent residence in Palestine.
Contact persons for the convention are Nouman Abdel Dayim, at P.O. Box 3662, El Bireh, tel. 02951778, fax 02952892, and Sam Bahour, 2986 Roosevelt Dr., Youngstown, OH 44504, tel. (216) 759-2738, fax (216) 759-2738. The El-Bireh Palestine Society, USA address is P.O. Box 957, Youngstown, OH 44501-0957.
ATFL Honors Senator George J. Mitchell
The American Task Force for Lebanon honored outgoing Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell at an Oct. 26 tribute dinner at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Maine Democrat, who did not run for re-election in 1994, traces some of his ancestry to Lebanon. The American Task Force for Lebanon is headquartered at 2213 M Street, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20037, tel. (202) 223-9333, fax (202) 223-1399.
Save Lebanon Presents Simon Shaheen Concert
Save Lebanon, Inc. a non-profit humanitarian organization dedicated to helping the children of Lebanon, celebrated its 12th anniversary with an Oct.15 concert by Dr. Simon Shaheen and New York's Near Eastern Music Ensemble. The benefit concert, entitled "A Gift From the Heart to the Children of Lebanon," was held under the patronage of Ambassador of Lebanon Dr. Riad Tabbara, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, Senators George Mitchell and Claiborne Pell, and former Federal Aviation Agency and Pan American Airways President Najib Halaby.
Founded in 1982, Save Lebanon has brought injured children to the U.S. for treatment and has provided funding and equipment to clinics, hospitals and other non-profit organizations in Lebanon. For further information on its activities call Save Lebanon at (202) 466-3464.
Arab-American Resource Guide
The Arab-American Media and Political Resource Guide for Chicago and Illinois is available from Urban Strategies Group, a Chicago-based media and political consulting firm, which also publishes community newspapers in Chicago's southwest suburbs.
"The purpose of the guide is to help reporters identify resources and contacts in the Arab-American community, and to make it easier for government agencies and officials to seek out Arab-American participation, according to its author, Ray Hanania. Hanania is a board member of the Arab-American Leadership Council of Washington, DC. Copies of the 44-page booklet are available for $25 from Urban Strategies Group, 33 N. Dearborn St., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60602, tel. (312) 629-9099.