The Makers of the Palestinian Nakba and their Influence on Israel

Undeniably, the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) that rendered 750,000 Palestinians homeless and scattered in countless refugee camps has profoundly influenced the Palestinian perspective on Zionism and Israel. Likewise, the Nakba and its architects have influenced the policies and actions of Israel’s military, political establishment, and Israel’s illegal settlement project.

mai abdul rahman        May 2016


While the Palestinian and Israeli perspective of the events that led to the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) are viewed from very disparate optics, the political and social-environment that are currently experienced and observed within Israel and Palestine are a direct result of the Zionist doctrine that created the Nakba.

Palestinians contend that their Nakba is the consequence of the Jewish Zionist terror scheme that unleashed a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing. The Palestinians’ Nakba narrative is substantiated and documented by Palestinian and Israeli historians. Ilan Pape’and Benny Morris meticulously  describe the Zionist campaign of expulsion, terror, rape, and intimidation of the Palestinian native population. Pape’ and Morris unequivocally conclude that the aim of the Zionist terror campaign was to dispossess the Palestinians from their homes and lands and repopulate it by Jews. In a nutshell, the Palestinian survivors of the Zionist terror campaign were made homeless to home the Jews. Similarly, the declared aim of Israel’s illegal settlement scheme is to displace and dispossess the Palestinian native population of their lands and properties to make room for Jewish settlers. The impact of the strategies and tactics that created the Nakba on present day Israel is irrefutable.

Israel’s dismissal of the Nakba, or mere reflection of the consequences of the Nakba has helped foster Israel’s militant culture. The historical relationship and collective narrative of the Israeli society and its institutions to the early Zionist groups that took part in the Nakba are directly linked to the militant climate of the current Israeli far right political establishment. Furthermore, the ideological strategies and rationale that created the Palestinian Nakba are used to justify and sanction Israel’s illegal settlers terror inducing strategies against the Palestinian population.

The chief architects of the Nakba were influenced by the militant views of the Jewish Russian born Zeev Jabotinsky. Jabotinsky’s “The Iron Wall” publication laid out the rationale for the Jewish colonization of Palestine. Jabotinsky did not refute Palestinians’ right to their ancestral lands, but suggested their rights and desire to remain on their lands can be altered or arrested through the use of force. He argued that the “Zionist colonization must be carried out to destroy the will of the native population.” Central to his strategy was the use of organized systematic attacks against Palestinian civilians by constructing an ‘iron wall’ made up of well-equipped and armed Jewish militants. He asserted that “under the protection of an iron wall of Jewish bayonets, which the native population cannot break through.”

When first proposed the ‘iron wall’ doctrine was rejected, but eventually it was adopted and implemented across Palestinian villages and towns with the intent of driving Palestinians out of their lands. The Zionist militants organized terrorist attacks on the native Palestinian population, their homes, lands, and properties. They planted bombs in buses, marketplaces, movie theaters, and public places, and some were ordered to commit “operational rape”. They were also responsible for executing wholesale massacres that targeted Palestinian villagers, their women and children.

After Israel’s independence, the militant Zionist groups that were involved in the Palestinian Nakba were granted considerable influence. Many became Israel’s political and military leaders. The Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Stern Gang formed the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Additionally, they fielded Israel’s political elites and military commanders including Levi Eshkol, Yigal Allon, Menacham Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Ariel Sharon, and Moshe Dayan. For example, Yitzhak Shamir who later became Israel’s prime minister defended his role in assassinating Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden and for taking part in the brutal massacre of Deir Yassin.

The Zionist’s embrace of Jabotinsky’s doctrine, especially among Israel’s political institutional leaders and military commanders was too difficult to subdue. His ideology shaped Israel’s political parties, and influenced its military and political leadership who helped build a culture of acceptance among Israelis for the perpetual occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, its Gaza wars and siege. It is the chief reason that young Israelis and their Palestinian captive victims are hostage to “never again” and “never forget” Jewish motto, that exacts high price for the smallest infraction including non- violent dissent against Israel’s military policies.

In fact, many credit Jabotinsky for the rise of Israel’s far right political parties and  Jewish extremism. For example, the Irgun Zionist militant group morphed into Herut (Freedom party), and since 1977 it is known as the Likud. Menachem Begin who was Likud’s first prime minister made the following statement soon after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948: “ Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (Greater Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel, All of it. And forever.” His views are articulated in the Likud charter. Since 1993, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been the leader of the Likud. Netanyahu’s father, Benzion Netanyahu, was Jabotinsky’s private secretary.

The  Palestinian Nakba, was instrumental in fashioning Israel’s agenda and mission that is articulated by its military and political establishment, its Zionist agencies, religious and community groups, affiliates and organizations. Their collective purpose and actions are meant to disconnect the Palestinians from their ancestral lands in order to expand Israel’s territory and reach. In fact, the entire Israeli establishment was once members and leaders or connected to members of Israel’s bloody terror campaigns that produced the Palestinian Nakba. The early Zionist terror campaign group leaders and members became Israel’s generals, prime ministers, party leaders, and Knesset members .

Why should this matter? The ideological perspective and strategies of the early Zionists became the fundamental framework that drove Israel to become an army nation, where boundaries between its militant ideology and society are blurred. It is the reason why Israel is more like ancient Sparta, where mandatory military service provides its impressionable young with one unifying national experience (the occupation) and one shared enemy (the Palestinians). It is the reason that has provoked Israel to build a warrior society that is unique among nations, where the measure of each young Israeli is defined by his or her role in executing Israel’s military policies and occupation.

Since 1967, Jabotinsky’s strategies and objectives have been visibly articulated within the folds of the Israeli settler’s extremist culture. Their violent activities against the Palestinians whether they may be citizens of Israel, Palestinian-Israeli Bedouins living in the Negev, or Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, is driven by one objective: to increase the number of Israeli Jews living within the Palestinian population.

While the US defines violence by Israel’s illegal settlers against the Palestinians as terrorism, Israel defines these same activities with the innocuous term: ‘price tag’. However, Israel’s’price tag’ term describes illegal settlers’ use of violence and intimidation against Palestinians including young children. Israel’s ‘price tag’ label relates to the destruction, burning, and desecration of Palestinian churches, mosques, olive trees, homes, and institutions.

Recognizing the Palestinian Nakba is of critical importance to the Palestinians, and a necessary step to addressing Palestinian grievances. Also acknowledging the Unknown-1consequences of the Nakba in shaping Israel’s extremist militant ideology and its relationship with the Palestinians is of great relevance to Israelis and Jews as well. Furthermore, understanding the role of the Nakba and its influence on current day Israel is relevant to all those who are concerned about the direction of the Israeli society and its far right political establishment. Moreover, those befuddled by the rise and growth of Israel’s Jewish extremists can better understand the current Israeli state by considering the role of the Nakba in creating Israel’s tolerance for inflicting pain and loss on the Palestinian population.

Accepting to shoulder the militant strategies of Israel’s early Zionists is the reason why non-violence is a doctrine with few adherents in Israel, even among the few Israelis who are willing to make peace with the Palestinians. It also explains why the principles of non-violence are unappreciated. Understanding the influence of the makers of the Palestinian Nakba on Israel’s parties and political establishment is central to understanding Israel’s five decade long occupation and its settlement policies.

There is no denying that the Palestinian Nakba helped Israel establish its reign and control of Palestinian lands. From the Israeli perspective the terror campaigns unleashed on the defenseless Palestinians resulted in the creation of Israel, allowing the dominance of the Jewish people on the remaining Palestinians within Israel and subsequently on the vast majority of Palestinians under Israel’s occupation and siege. With little reflection, the Israelis have largely absorbed and internalized the dreadful strategies of the early Zionist terror campaigns.

Nonetheless, there was a time when Israelis were honest about the implications of their actions. Early Zionists including David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first president, acknowledged that violence against the native Palestinian population was used in all of its forms. Ben-Gurion also warned that promoting a culture of accepting violence could potentially undermine Israel’s moral compass. To contain it, he asked that no one within the ranks should sanction acts of violence against innocent people “with money or speech making to justify murder”. Refusing to face the consequences of the Nakba could become Israel’s destiny, unless Israelis and their supporters commit to end funding and justifying Israel’s illegal settlement project.

Unchallenged, the human and moral cost of the early Zionists’ terror campaigns have created the social acceptance for Israel’s citizens and settlers to utilize the same tools to expand Israel’s territory within Palestinian lands. Consequently, the ‘iron wall’ terror inducing strategies and their objectives remain the guiding principles behind Israel’s illegal settlers and their terror tactics. In short, the impact of the Nakba on the Israelis and their institutions is still unfolding.

All is not lost. Israel’s far right ideology can be adjusted by acknowledging the consequences of the Nakba on both Israelis and Palestinians. This simple humane gesture will help build genuine peace among Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s past history and fate are linked to the Palestinians. The Nakba is their shared tragedy that has affected the destiny of its victim and victor. While highly controversial, hope rests on the small but growing sentiment within Israel to begin a national conversation on the merits of the Palestinian Nakba account. Once Israelis embrace the Palestinian Nakba narrative they will help construct a new shared narrative that will heal the scars of its violent history that has been etched in the seminal consciousness of both people.






BDS’ Senate Debut Confirm its Viability

The Palestinian lead non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement can no longer be ignored or denied. On February 11th, the US Senate passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which includes several clauses that name BDS and a direct response to the US BDS campaign.

mai abdul rahman       February 2016


While the Senate’s veto proof vote displays Israel’s political weight, it also demonstrates BDS’s influence and viability in shaping a balanced political landscape in the US. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a non-violent peaceful movement. Moreover, with Israel’s help a whole lot of Americans were made aware of the breadth and strength of the global BDS campaign, its potential and promise.

For several years, Israel’s political establishment has recognized BDS’s wide international appeal, but its rapid spread in the US has caught them by surprise. Average Americans have quietly worked to implement some or all of the BDS call in their local communities. The US BDS movement has benefited by strategically focusing on building grass root support at the local level where its constituents play an important role in shaping their local BDS campaigns that fits the perspective and aspiration of their communities, and leveraging its broad network of supporters nationally. As a result, the US BDS campaign is built on a well-founded organic national grass root movement.


Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

While the BDS’s inherent promise and sensible approach has fueled its spread globally, the US BDS reliance on a slow and steady strategy, and focus on building strong grass root support for BDS has proved to be prudent and effective. Above all, the success of the US BDS campaign rests on the belief that a lasting just peace is achievable.

The US BDS movement is made up of Americans that represent America’s diverse political, ethnic, racial, faith and non faith communities. For example, in a span of two years, American Jewish groupschurchesinterfaith communities, unions, academic associations, Jewish and non Jewish student organizations, political and human rights activists have endorsed the BDS call. Distinctively, the US BDS movement has attracted a diverse community of supporters that include Jewish and non-Jewish Americans committed for the long haul to advance a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Alarmed of the spread of BDS in the US, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his US supporters have urged American legislators to slow its momentum. This month, the US Senate granted Israel’s prime minister far more than he had asked for, or probably dreamed. Seventy-five US senators voted in favor of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015. The sweeping legislation attempts to shield US companies profiting from Israel’s illegal settlements from being pressured by US BDS’ers to move their operations into Israel proper (pre-1967 borders). The 2015 Senate Act also nullifies the longstanding US policy of supporting the two states solution (along the Green Line), and requires US agencies to monitor the activities of the global BDS movement, report and identify foreign companies that participate in BDS.

According to AIPAC: “This measure builds on the important work of Congress … passing into law firm anti-BDS negotiating objectives for American trade negotiators.” The intent of the legislation is to expand commercial relations between American companies and Israeli companies operating in Israel’s illegal settlements. The measure also attempts to provide US companies profiting from Israel’s illegal settlements (Palestinian territories) some legal protection from liability under international law and the International Court of Justice. Nevertheless, within the folds of this legislation is a direct response to the US BDS campaign, which has focused its efforts on targeting US companies profiting form Israel’s illegal settlement enterprises.

The reluctance of US legislatures to exert the smallest political gesture to curtail Israel’s illegal settlements or ease its military policies has facilitated the adoption of BDS in the US. While Congress annually dedicates massive sums of US taxpayers’ precious resources to fund Israel’s military occupation and its illegal settlements, Americans are denied federal aid to support the homeless and poor, emotionally challenged students, or crumbling roads. As a result, US BDS’ers have waged public campaigns to educate Americans on the tremendous cost of funding Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. They argue that at the very least, the US could mandate guidelines for the $billions it grants to ensure these monies are spent on activities that exclude subsidizing Israel’s illegal settlements.

By far, the Israeli political establishment is most concerned about one specific BDS demand that reasserts the relevance of the Charter of Nuremberg. During the Hitler regime Germany’s legislators passed national laws and decrees that sanctioned the indiscriminate displacement of German Jews. These laws denied Jewish citizens their rights and legally authorized their transfer, where millions perished in concentration camps. Accordingly, the Charter of Nuremberg declared that forced deportation and uprooting of civilian populations to be both a war crime and a crime against humanity. This is an opinion adopted by the world community following World War II to protect future communities from displacement and to avert a recurrence of the German Jewish experience.

While these international covenants are universally agreed upon within the context of the displaced German and European Jewish communities, the Israeli political establishment considers these protected rights highly objectionable when applied to Palestinians. For more than six decades, Palestinian refugees have remained stateless and homeless living in clusters of overcrowded camps. Despite Israel’s diplomatic efforts to thwart any mention of the Palestinian refugees, countless of UN resolutions assert the rights of the displaced Palestinians. Regardless, BDS invokes the Charter of Nuremberg and calls on Israel to recognize the rights of the Palestinian refugees.

Generations of Palestinian refugees have lived in temporary makeshift shelters without political rights or protections. Palestinians contend that the stateless status and appalling conditions of the Palestinian refugees is the consequence of Israel’s 1948 deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The Syrian war demonstrates the critical importance of resolving the Palestinian refugee problem. Their hellish plight has again exposed the urgent need to meaningfully address and rectify the hardships they have endured. While Israel has so far refused to recognize their role in creating the Palestinian refugee crisis, their difficult and brutal conditions merit their serious attention.

Since 2011, Palestinians living in Syria’s refugee camps are again victimized by a ruthless Jaramana Photo 1-X2war. They are victims of a horrendous crime and a colossal human tragedy. While the plight of the Syrians has awakened the conscience of many and activated the world’s civil community, the Palestinians living in their midst have no one to call attention to their horrific circumstances. At minimum, Israel and its supporters should be willing to recognize the considerable hardships Syria’s Palestinian refugees are facing. Dismissing to acknowledge the perplexing nature of the Palestinian refugee crisis will not absolve Israel of its responsibilities to address this contentious problem, but compassionate understanding of their dire conditions will heal both societies.

BDS is guilty of gaining momentum in the US. It is challenging Israel’s continual military, economic, and political control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. BDS questions Israel’s perpetual need to dominate Palestinians’ daily life, their natural resources (air, water, land, and sea), and institutions (religious, health, education, cultural, and social). Fundamentally, the spread of the US BDS movement disputes the accepted Israeli narrative, which for so long has been unchallenged in the US.

Those who are waging the anti-BDS campaign in the US are blindly whitewashing Israel’s actions regardless of the merit. Their objective is to maintain the status quo and the continuation of Israel’s policies regardless of the human cost. They prefer to keep Israelis and Palestinians living in a permanent state of fear and anxiety, willing to indefinitely arrest the opportunity for a just peace in the region. While, their objectives and motives are clear, the outcome of their strategies is a quandary that defies logic.

For the time being, US legislators have surrendered the responsibility for fostering peace among Palestinians and Israelis to ordinary Americans. The Senate’s veto proof vote is an open admission that US politicians are unwilling to pay the political price for pressuring the Israeli political establishment and its US allies to choose peace. Thankfully, the US Constitution bars US politicians from banning Americans from adopting BDS. Americans who believe that peace is achievable will continue to exercise their right to observe BDS by refusing to reward companies that profit from the occupation, and support BDS in their churches, unions, and campuses. They choose BDS because it is effective.




The Palestinian Christians: Forsaken and Forgotten

mai abdul rahman                  Christmas 2015


On Christmas Day, Christians across this country will celebrate the birth of Jesus. Worshipers will hold bibles that bear the faithful diligence of the forefathers of present day Palestinian Christians. By and large, most are unaware that Procopius of Gaza, 500 years after the birth of Christ, was the first to develop biblical commentaries, which consisted of a series of extracts from the first disciples to elucidate specific portions of Scripture. His work was duplicated and incorporated by Greek, Latin, and Protestant Christian theologians.

Theologians portray the work of early Palestinian Christian scholars as “intimate” that kindle “ the personal relationship between Christ and the Christians that lies at the core of each believer’s life.” Palestinian Christians offered a personal religious experience, which they faithfully taught in their well-attended ethical schools. Their work and scholarship helped the spread of their faith to Asia Minor, North Africa, Greece, and Rome.

Palestinian philosophers defined civil society as one that is not chiefly concerned with wealth, power or possessions, but rather with the education of the human mind and the refinement of the human psyche. Their perspective on civil citizenry and society contributed to the establishment and spread of classical learning centers, where philosophy, history, the sciences, and theology were concurrently taught and studied. For example, 5th Century Christian converts Aeneas of Gaza and Zacharias Scholasticus interpreted the work of Plato and Aristotle, and taught theology at Gaza’s schools of rhetoric. Early Palestinian Christians employed their knowledge of Greek philosophy to engage with non-Christian philosophers on the merits and relevance of their Christian faith.

Furthermore, few will be cognizant to the fact that the ecclesiastical vestments their clergy wear invoke the Palestinian traditional dalmatic embroidery that dates back to 1200 B. C. For centuries, Palestinian Christians have preserved the use of distinct stitch patterns on their robes, stoles, belts, and headdress to communicate their religious sect, aspirations, and rank; or to highlight a particular season or special event.

Time and again, Americans ask the Palestinians they encounter: “You are a Christian?” In need of a direct confirmation follow up with “When did you convert?” Patiently, Palestinians explain that they trace their faith to the very first disciples. The Palestinian Christians whether they reside in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or Israel are Palestine’s living stones. They represent the uninterrupted presence of the very first church.

For more than two thousand years, the Christians of Palestine have faithfully maintained the oldest churches in Christendom. Invisible to the rest of the world, the Palestinian Christian community has preserved the ancient gardens where Jesus prayed, tended and harvested the olive trees that once shaded Jesus and his disciples. They have kept their churches open to pilgrims, and when necessary their sanctuaries accommodated the earnest prayer of Palestinian Muslims. Many a time, their ancient churches were used to shelter displaced Palestinians, or to baptize a young Muslim child.

So why do most Americans choose to ignore the contributions of Palestinian Christians? Predictably, Palestinians assume that their Arabic bible, liturgies, and sermons, and Arab Semitic ancestral heritage are the core reasons that their community is forsaken and forgotten. Out of sight, the faithful scholarship of their forefathers who clarified and contextualized the Old and New Testament, and their ancient traditions that are daily displayed by clerics and church are dismissed.

Regardless, without the scholarship, faithful work, and witness of the early Palestinian Christians, the spread of Christianity to Europe and the New World would have been difficult. Moreover, without the stewardship of  the Christians of Palestine Christendom’s first churches would have been long gone- and that is an irrefutable fact.

The Christians of Palestine embody the resilience and spirited hopeful faith of the Palestinian people. Their resolve to continue worshiping in their ancient churches, is an act of Somoud, a distinctly organic form of Palestinian non-violent resistance. Despite their daily hardships and confounding circumstances their steadfast commitment to stay in the holy land is a credit to their ancestors and faith.




America’s Syrian Refugees: Hardship, Hope and Challenges

mai abdul rahman             December 18, 2015


The plight of the Syrian refugees has moved some Americans, but is most acutely felt by Arab and Muslim Americans. While Syrians comprise many faiths, the vast majority of Americans assume that all are “Muslim” fanatical radicals. So far, 32 states have rejected the admission and relocation of the Syrian refugees into their states for fear that members of terrorist groups may use the refugee resettlement program to enter the country and harm innocent Americans.

Those who oppose the entry of immigrants whether from Syria or South America have forgotten that the United States, as we know it today, is the product of immigrants and refugees. After WWI, the US Refugee Resettlement program supported hundreds of thousands of German citizens, Russians, Italians, and Holocaust survivors. In recent history, the US welcomed more than 1.6 million refugees from Cuba, the Balkans, and Vietnam. The presence of these immigrants in local communities reduced American hostilities towards Catholics, Jews, Confucians, and Buddhists, paving the way for the full acceptance and inclusion of these minority groups into the social fabric of our country.

Never mind our core valuesnoble ideals, or the accurecy of commonly held assumptions, the US is directly responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Syria. While the US is not the only nation contributing to the global Syrian refugee crisis, we bear much of the responsibility for fueling the flight of Syrian refugees throughout Europe and the Middle East, far more than most are willing to recognize.

According to a report published by the Congressional Research Service, since 2011, the US has committed more than $7.7 billion to the war in Syria. The US daily spends at least $3 Million to conduct air strikes in the Syrian territory. Whether we wish to acknowledge our role in the Syrian civil war or not, our daily air strikes are partly responsible for driving more than 4 million Syrians and Palestinian Syrian refugees into Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. We are equally responsible for the 232,000 desperate Syrians who made it to Europe on foot or by boat. Meanwhile, the US has only accepted 1,434 Syrian refugees. This accounts for less than 0.042 percent of the 4 million people who have fled the country to settle in the tent cities that spread across the Middle East, for the very conflict that the US is partly responsible for. IMG_5785

President Barack Obama intends to admit 10,000 Syrians by September 2016. While it is common sense to call on federal agencies to put the appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that immigration officials vet the Syrian refugees who enter this country, it is also important to remember that those who flee the war in Syria are by and large families, who desire a better future for their children.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of accepting more Syrian refugees requires federal agencies responsible for resettling the new arrivals to put in place the necessary support systems to ensure the families’ full integration, economic inclusion, and socialization in the US.

Nine U.S. Refugee Resettlement Agencies will be responsible for settling the 10,000 new Syrian refugees into local communities across the US. Except, for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), all are faith-based groups (8 Christian, 1 Jewish), and none are Arab or Muslim American. The vast majority of the resettlement agencies elicit the support of local church groups to help settle the new Syrian refugees regardless of their faith. The faith community involves thousands of private American citizens, who volunteer their time to help refugees resettle in the United States. By and large, their efforts are successful.

Not all refugee settlement programs are equal. Arab and Muslim Americans are concerned that many of the newly arrived Syrian refugees are being settled at Parkview Garden Apartments, an IRC refugee camp where hundreds of resettled refugee families from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia reside. Some live in rat infested homes, and all are without access to public transportation, or nearby job opportunities.

Before arriving to the US, the Syrian families were told they would settle in close proximity of Washington, DC, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Instead they were placed in Riverdale, Maryland. They are tucked away from the local community in a confined area that is inaccessible. They live in a community that is without the minimum infrastructure to support those willing to venture outside their closed compound by walking or biking to seek jobs in neighboring towns. According to a recent report, resettled refugees residing in Parkview Garden Apartments struggle to find permanent employment or pay for basic needs. Larry Bartlett, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the State Department, is quoted as saying that he is aware that many of the newly settled Iraqi and Afghani refugees have returned back to their war torn countries.

In fact, within a month of the arrival of a Syrian family of five, IRC informed them that if they are unable to secure rent by the end of December they will be evicted and risk becoming homeless. Apparently, becoming homeless is highly probable among newly resettled refugees. In 2009, a study concluded that a considerable number of recent refugees end up homeless.

IMG_5805According to IRC, the federal funds extended to the Syrian family were spent by program caseworkers on the purchases of two broken and used sofas, three beds, four chairs, three of which are broken, a small dining table, and few kitchen supplies. Meanwhile, the remaining $150 was given to the family of five courtesy of the US resettlement program.

IMG_5752There is no question that IRC has played an important role in advocating for the Syrian refugees and facilitating  their resettlement in the US. So, is it possible that IRC is underfunded and is unable to cover the full costs of resettling the Syrian refugees in the US as mandated by the standard cooperative agreement between the Department of State and IRC?

You, be the judge. According to IRC’s 2013 financial statement and 990 IRS tax form; IRC’s total revenues are $567,870,359, which is a considerable sum for a non-profit organization. More than 70% of IRC’s operating costs are derived from federal funds to cover the cost of settling 800 refugees in the US. Meanwhile, IRC’s CEO has a reported income of $332,778, IRC’s senior vice president’s reported income is $305,064, and IRC’s former CEO still receives $338,855. These salaries are slightly less than the salary of the president of the United States. In fact, IRC funds are huge by any measure. IRC’s total salaries account for $200 Million. If these salaries are solely used for covering the cost of settling the 800 refugees, each will receive a handsome sum of $250,000. Clearly funding is not an issue for IRC.

While most of us are pleased to hear of President Obama’s intent to bring larger numbers of Syrian refugees to the US, we are also concerned about the effectiveness of the US resettlement program. Simply stated: Are the structural supports, management oversight, and the necessary commitment in place to ensure that the Syrian refugees will not end up homeless soon after they arrive?IMG_5777-2

It cannot be understated that the Syrian families are grateful for the generosity of US agencies who made it possible for them to immigrate to the US. They are happy to be living in peace without fear of being deported, or harassed. They are thrilled for the opportunity to build a new life and realize their dreams. Nonetheless, they are also worried. Their concerns range from acquiring meaningful employment, securing rent, covering the cost of transportation to seek employment, and having adequate cash to meet their daily needs. They also worry that their children are wasting time while waiting to be enrolled in their neighborhood elementary school. For any family these are serious concerns. Especially for recent refugees who are struggling to understand their new landscape; are learning a new language, customs, and social norms, while navigating their surroundings in a hostile environment that does not approve of them or their status. The additional burden of calling attention to their needs, and the needs of their children has become overwhelming.

Many of the these concerns can be resolved, when these families are offered the right conduit to express their frustrations without being afraid that they may be offending their hosts. The Arab and Muslim American community are committed to the success of the new Syrian refugees, and their full social and economic inclusion. Nonetheless, this will depend on whether or not the US government is willing to meaningfully engage Arab and Muslim Americans in the US resettlement program and process.

Involving Arab and Muslim American organizations can help safeguard the emotional and financial stability of these families. For example, the Arab and Muslim American community can augment services not covered by organizations such as IRC. They can make available the services of local Arab speaking cross cultural therapists and trauma specialists to help support the Syrian children. When disputes arise members of the Arab and Muslim American community can help resolve disagreements in an amicable and orderly manner, and ascertain any issues of importance are addressed in an environment where the new Syrian families are comfortable to discuss their apprehensions without fear of being misunderstood, or ignored.

The inclusion of Arab and Muslim American organizations in the US resettlement program will speed the acculturation process of the newly settled Syrian families. Arab and Muslim Americans can play an important role in smoothing the transitions of these families. They can help guide the new Syrian immigrants to make sense of their new American experience, and buffer them from the poisonous US discourse on Islam and the Syrian conflict that has affected the best of us. They can bridge  the cultural competencies of the new refugees, help them better understand the US democratic process, and help their young assimilate in a manner that does not contradict with the organic traditions of their families. Above all they are mindful of the importance of leveraging the innate strengths and resiliency of the Syrian immigrants to help them overcome past hardships and realize their full potential.

Involving members of the American Arab and Muslim community and their organizations in the Refugee resettlement program will strengthen the overall objective of the program. It will also create the necessary structural support networks that will contribute to the success of the new Syrian immigrants and their full integration in their new communities.

Jews Must Accept and Recognize the Palestinian Nakba

mai abdul rahman               May 2015


Although the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) has been substantiated and carefully documented by Israeli and Palestinian historians, to date most Israelis and Jews either deny it ever took place, or dismiss and ignore its relevance. Regardless, the Palestinian Nakba is directly connected to Israel’s history. The creation of Israel was made possible through the joint efforts of European colonial Jewish militants, Jewish agencies, and international Zionist organizations that planned, funded, and unleashed a deliberate campaign of terror on defenseless Palestinians. The Jewish funded campaign aimed to disconnect and displace Palestinians from their ancestral lands, homes, businesses, churches, mosques, and institutions. Dismissing the Nakba will not erase the mountain of evidence proving the nature and scale of this tragic Palestinian national calamity.

Jews world-wide have understood the necessity of correcting wrongs of the past whether by individuals, institutions, nations or others who may have committed them against innocent Jews. Diligently, Jews have called friend and foe to accept the Jewish history of suffering, loss, and pain committed against Jews. Since 1948, Jews have used every available means and venue to relentlessly press for the right of the Jewish Holocaust victims to be heard, their suffering acknowledged, and losses compensated. Jews have also asked the world to come to terms with the hardships endured by the European Jews who were forced out of their homes into the Jewish ghettos of Germany, Poland, Hungry, and Italy. Meanwhile, Palestinians were forced poor and homeless refugees to house European Jewish immigrants who have enjoyed and savored the fruit of Palestinian labor, groves, and trees.

In 1948, the Jewish Zionists were a small minority of European immigrants who settled in Palestine to escape the wrath of Europe’s anti Semitism and the horrors of the German Holocaust. Israel’s independence was established on 95% of the lands that the Palestinians owned. In a nutshell, Israel’s independence disenfranchised and displaced the Palestinians who were the majority owners of the lands, homes, and institutions that Jews acquired and claimed their own.

For sixty-seven Mays, Palestinians have commemorated their Nakba, and Israelis and Jews have celebrated the creation of the state of Israel. The end of the 1948 British Mandate of Palestine was supposed to fulfill two irreconcilable promises. The termination of the 1948 British Mandate of Palestine was meant to liberate and free the Palestinians. In fact, thousands of Palestinians fought alongside the British Allies in return for Britain’s promise to help usher Palestinian independence. Instead, the end of the British Mandate of Palestine was the impetus for Israel’s Declaration of Independence that promised equality and rights for all inhabitants regardless of faith or ethnicity-a pledge that remains unfulfilled.

Israelis and Jews who continue to deny the Palestinian Nakba are distorting historical evidence, which has far nakba1reaching implications for both Israelis and Palestinians. Today, Israel’s extreme right wing government may be assumed to be an isolated case and an aberration, but the evolution of Israel’s political landscape may be better understood when considering its early history. For example, Israel’s Declaration of Independence vowed that the state of Israel “will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens; without distinction of race, creed, or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the shrines of Holy Places of all religions, and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” Sixty- seven years and counting, Israel’s Declaration of Independence remains an abstract ideal and a suspended promise. In fact, Israel’s Declaration of Independence first signer and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asserted a unique concept that has allowed Israel to suspend the civil rights of citizens and non-citizens. So, for those who are concerned about Israel’s fraying democracy, the genuine appraisal of historical facts rather than mythical assumptions could offer the opportunity to mend and correct Israel’s political far right bent.

Today, Palestinian refugees are dispersed in refugee camps (58) across the Middle East- including Israel. Many have endured the ravages of conflict and wars in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Meanwhile. most Israeli and Jews continue to deny the harm inflicted on millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. The vast majority of Jews continue to claim that the Arab countries should shoulder the hardships experienced by generations of Palestinian refugees. They conveniently disregard the millions of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes and villages to nearby towns in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza that Israel continues to occupy, militarily control, and besiege. They also ignore addressing the significant number of Palestinians and their descendant who live in refugee camps and villages stone’s throw away from their ancestral homes and lands that are occupied and relished by Jews from far away lands. Avoiding responsibility and shifting blame will not refute historical evidence.

Israelis and Jews must face their history with genuine honesty, just as they have rightfully demanded others in every corner of the world to recognize and atone for their ill deeds towards innocent Jews. Many among Israel’s early Zionist leaders were directly responsible for the planning and execution of a brutal campaign that expelled Palestinian from their ancestral lands and properties to make room for the eventual influx of Jewish immigrants. The opposition of Israel’s leaders and government of any mention of the Palestinian Nakba or discussion of its historical significance to Israelis and Palestinians is understandable. Also understandable, is the general resistance to admit the large role that Israel’s past IDF soldiers, politicians, and generals who are honored as its protective leaders have played in this unfolding tragedy. While these truths are difficult and hard to come to terms with, nonetheless, many people have acknowledged the actions of their leaders who were once assumed to be beyond reproach- because it was morally correct and historically accurate.

Palestinians’ straightforward call for Jews to step up to the plate and acknowledge their role in this tragic and painful Palestinian history is not unique or novel. Countless of people and nations  have recognized their historical role in the painful experiences of a host of ethnic groups, faith communities, and populations. There is no escaping the truth, Jews and Israelis will have to reckon with their entire past- the good and the bad. So why not sooner than later- such a simple dignified act of humane recognition of the immense suffering that the Palestinians have endured will help change the social attitudes held by the Israeli society at large and affect the attitudes of the Palestinians that Israel has displaced. Embracing the Nakba will also help spur the good work of Palestinians and Israelis who aim to liberate both people from their hurtful past.

Without embracing Israel’s entire history supporters of Israel will continue to fail to understand the cause and consequences of Israel’s past actions that have influenced Israel’s national character and the Palestinian perspective. In short, as long as Jews, Israelis, and their supporters deny the Nakba, they will continue to deny the core reasons that shaped Israel’s right wing extremists.

Recognizing  the Nakba will also help shed light on the Palestinian perspective, which once fully understood could help encourage sincere dialogue based on truth and humility. More importantly, accepting the Palestinian Nakba will generate the necessary trust among Israelis and Palestinians, which is necessary to bring about the peace that both people desire and long for.

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Cautions US Companies Operating in Israel’s Illegal Settlements

mai abdul rahman         April 11, 2015

On March 22nd, Saeb Erakat the chief Palestinian negotiator joined a large group of American Palestinian to commemorate the traditional forty days “Arba’een” communal mourning that marked the passing of three young Arab Americans who were senselessly killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At the end of the memorial service, Saeb Erakat addressed the group. The informal discussion inevitably focused on the Palestinian decision to join the International Criminal Court, and the legal liability of international and US companies operating in Israel’s illegal settlements, and profiting from Israel’s occupation policies.


Erakat explained the pretext for joining the ICC. He said that for several decades the international community has failed to act, and most were unwilling to exert the necessary diplomatic pressure to stop or curb Israel’s counter productive policies and human rights abuses. Meanwhile, Palestinian have witnessed and suffered the unabated growth of Israel’s illegal settlements across the West Bank and, in particular, in and around East Jerusalem. He said the ICC is the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, and is the court of “last resort for Palestinians.” According to Erakat the ICC membership would offer Palestinians protections that were not available to them in the past.

He also cited the decades long and repeated condemnations of Israel’s ongoing violations of international law in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza that were dismissed and ignored by the Israeli government. In short, the ICC would help shield Palestinians from future harm, and offers the prospect of holding Israel accountable for its international law violations and military actions.

Erakat said that for the time being Palestine is asking the ICC to investigate two specific cases. He also discussed the rationale for choosing this specific strategy. According the Erakat, the first case, which was lodged ad hoc, and formally commenced as of January 2015,  involves an ICC investigation of Israel’s recent war on Gaza, during the summer of 2014. In a span of 7 weeks, Israel’s military killed 2,100 Palestinians among them 504 children under the age of 16, orphaned countless of young Palestinian children, and rendered many more in an extended state of homelessness.

Palestinian children terrorized by Israeli missile attacks on their neighborhoods, in Gaza Strip, July 11, 2014 imemc

Erakat also explained the reasons behind the Palestinian decision to limit the timeline of the ICC Gaza inquiry, which focuses on 50 specific days during the summer of 2014. He said the decision was based on reviews of the customary legal practices and process that the ICC follows, which are “laborious and time consuming”. To avoid an open-ended time frame that could take the ICC several years to complete, the Palestinian legal team decided to limit the investigation to a narrow and specific period.

In regard to the second case, Erakat said the Palestinians are asking the ICC to investigate Israel’s settlement constructions, which are illegal under international law. Moreover, the illegality of Israel’s settlements has well-established legal precedence. It is substantiated by the Geneva Convention, documented in countless of UN resolutions and reports, and codified in international human rights law. In addition, the vast majority of the world nations including the European Union, China, Russia, and the US consider the continued growth of Israel’s settlements an intentional Israeli policy to “annex” Palestinian lands, and 135 countries (82% of the world nations) recognize the Palestinian state.

More significantly, Erakat said that ICC jurisdiction covers individuals that commit their alleged crimes on the territory of an ICC state party member- in this case Palestinian territory. Also, ICC’s legal authority is applicable to cases referred to it by member states that signed the Rome Statute.  So, while Israel has unsigned the Rome Statute, and withdrew its ICC membership, its citizens, and some of its officials could be indicted and tried for crimes committed on Palestinian lands. Accordingly, Israeli citizens are accountable for their actions within the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Erakat was asked several questions regarding the scope of the ICC inquiry. More specifically, whether or not the ICC can address the complicity of international businesses and institutions in facilitating and supporting Israel’s illegal settlement enterprises. To put this in context, for decades Palestinians have witnessed countless of international corporations, and high earning pension funds profit from their painful displacement from their historical lands and homes- without the legal means to stop it. Understandably, Palestinians are anxious to know whether or not these international companies and organizations are accountable under international law for operating and supporting Israel’s illegal settlements, and for profiting from Israel’s occupation policies and wars.

Erakat’s answer was revealing. He said that his office has been initiating informational sessions with friendly countries that have publicly declared their support for an independent Palestinian state to warn them that their private and public institutions that “facilitate and support Israeli violations of international law and illegal Israeli settlements” could be open to ICC litigation. This was well noted by the European Union. In 2012, the EU urged its member states to “prevent, discourage and raise awareness about problematic implications of financial transactions, including foreign direct investments, from within the EU in support of settlement activities, infrastructure, and services.”

So how does the Palestinian ICC membership impact US companies and organizations operating in Israel’s illegal settlements? His answer was unambiguous. US companies, organizations, and institutions that are importing and selling goods produced by companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements are violating international law. Also companies that are investing in Israel’s illegal settlements are “legally responsible for breaching international law.”

So, while some US institutions and their executives are falsely assuming that since the US is not a member of the ICC, or because the US government has not officially endorsed an independent Palestinian state they are absolved from legal liability for human rights violations- think again. Now that the Palestinians have joined the ICC and signed the Rome Stature, American institutions that are funding or profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine are obligated to abide by international and human rights laws. In fact, US institutions, corporations, and their executives could be implicated for a number of international law violations and are criminally liable for their complicit role in supporting Israel’s occupation policies and illegal settlements.

Under the Rome Statute “direct participation in the crime is not necessary to establish the criminal liability of corporate officers and managers”, rather “intermediary culpability” is sufficient to hold an institution for actions committed by others on its behalf. Both the ICC and international law hold corporations liable for “aiding and abetting” human-rights violations. Additionally, the ICC can impose individual criminal liability on a person who “aid[s] or abet[s] in the planning, preparation or execution” of crimes against humanity, or war crimes.” Likewise, criminal universal jurisdiction is applied to individuals, non- government agencies, and business enterprises. Furthermore, the development of international law since 1949, and the principles of Universal Jurisdiction “allows and requires” an ICC state member to “bring criminal proceedings in respect of certain crimes irrespective of the location of the crime and the nationality of the perpetrator.”

Meanwhile, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), established in 1948, obligates every social, faith, civil and business entity to respect and “observe human rights”. Based on the UDHR provisions, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1976, established a set of Guidelines on responsible business conduct. These guidelines were specifically tailored for Multinational Corporations, and include a list of protected human rights that corporations are legally required to respect and honor when operating in a conflict zone.

Corporate and individual complicity is generally established when a business enterprise, business partner, and non-state entities benefit from human right abuses committed by others directly or indirectly. Within the Palestinian territories actions that are considered human rights violations include extraction of Palestinian natural resources, destruction of Palestinian agricultural lands, and polluting their native environment and landscape. Also, institutions conducting business in Israel’s illegal settlements are also liable for their business driven actions that result in reducing Palestinian access to food and water, and for fostering tension and hostility among the Palestinians and the Israeli illegal settlers that lead to increased violence in the area they are operating from within. Again, in a nutshell, corporations and organizations that are profiting from Israel’s illegal settlements are liable for human rights violations and fall within ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, Israel’s human rights violations are broad and comprehensive in scope. They include economic, social and cultural rights abuses. Also, Israel’s systematic employment of discriminatory policies that exclusively target one particular population for their ethnicity (Palestinians) and faith (Christians and Muslims), are considered to be “gross human rights violations”. Therefore, international organizations profiting from Israel’s occupation policies are legally accountable for obstructing the human rights of the native inhabitants- the Palestinians.

For decades, international and US organizations and corporations have profited from the systematic abuse and suffering of Palestinians. It is time to end these egregious business practices, if not for the obvious ethical and moral reasons, than for the legal implications of a costly litigation that could tarnish the reputation and standing of these institutions and organizations. More specifically, American companies should re-consider their investments in Israel’s illegal settlements, and re-assess their legal responsibility and role in Israel’s occupation scheme.

Meanwhile, Saeb Erakat, suggests that as of April 1st, US institution that are operating within Israel’s illegal settlements, or are directly and indirectly profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine are endangering their organizations and exposing their executives for possible ICC prosecution. However, without clear guidelines American institutions and their executives would remain unsure of the extent of their individual and collective liability under international law for operating, profiting, and supporting Israel’s illegal settlements and its occupation policies. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights urge states to provide information to help businesses avoid contributing to human rights abuses arising from conflict and to provide “adequate assistance to business enterprises to assess and address the heightened risks of abuses” in conflict areas.

So, how much longer should US companies and institutions wait before their government issues clear guidelines to alert them of the risks involved in investing in Israel’s illegal settlements? The US issuance of these case specific guidelines should not be viewed from the political prism that we have become accustomed to in the US- meaning whether or not they will ire Israel and its US supporters. Rather these guidelines should be developed for one simple reason- to protect American citizens and institutions.

Arab American Women and the US Gender Discourse

mai abdul Rahman                             March 2015

Arab American women and their daughters celebrate Women’s International Day (courtesy of the Anti Discrimination Committee-ADC).

Arab American women and their daughters celebrate Women’s International Day (courtesy of the Anti Discrimination Committee-ADC).

During the entire month of March, Americans celebrated the remarkable achievements of American women, and the important role the US feminist movement has played in shaping gender discourse in the US. No one can deny the relevance of the US feminist movement in advancing American women’s rights. Likewise, none can dispute that since the 1800′s Arab American women have continued to push the glass ceiling, yet few are aware of their significant contributions in the US. While the dominant Eurocentric influence on gender discourse in the US, heavily contributes to this glaring omission, however it is not the sole factor.

Arab American women joined the US labor force several decades before the emancipation of women in the US. In the late 18th and early 19th Century, Arab American women were business owners responsible for seeding numerous profitable business enterprises across the US. They were America’s first wholesale women entrepreneurs whose successful business ventures enriched their communities and their states’ tax coffers. And while their American experience was considerably more difficult than most American women, a considerable number of Arab American women were first to break the gender barrier. As a group they are highly educated, have higher labor force participation rates than most Americans, and earn higher incomes than average Americans. So what are the reasons that make it possible to ignore the contributions of Arab American women? And what are the specific factors that contribute to their omission from the US gender discourse? The answer is complex and multi fold.

Historically, the US feminist movement was largely shaped by the US colonial paradigm. From inception American feminists were dismissive of the role and contributions of other American women. Nonetheless, in recent years the US feminist movement embraced the gender narrative of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinas, and Native Americans. The inclusion of these four distinct ethnic classifications are certainly a positive step. Notwithstanding, by design it excludes Arab American women.

The US feminist scheme, which adheres to four distinct racial identities (African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinas, and Native Americans), by design is narrow and limiting. Intentionally or unintentionally the US feminist movement overlooks Arab American women’s diverse racial identity and broad cultural affinity. Arab American women ancestral roots stretch from the Atlas Mountains of North Africa to the oldest inhabited cities along the Mediterranean Sea. Arab American women are White, Brown, Black and every shade and color in between. They are atheists, agnostics, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.

Arab American women represent a rich ethnic mosaic, and a complex cultural and faith diversity. Accordingly, as a group Arab American women don’t neatly fit within the US feminists’ scheme. Furthermore, Arab American women’s fluid and unique ability to adopt overlapping ethnicities allows them to identify with a host of social and political struggles that are often neglected in the US.

Consequently, Arab American women are more aligned with the global feminist perspective that is committed to social justice as a means to advance women’s social, cultural, and political rights. Their view of gender equality encompasses the domestic and local domain, and includes the universal struggle for social justice, and equality- nationally and internationally.

So why are a swath of American women whose presence in the US predates the 19th Century remain an enigma? Some assume that the horrific 9/11 attack that violently killed thousands of Americans including Arab Americans is the reason for the recent rise in discriminatory attitudes towards Arab American women, but history shows these biases existed prior to 9/11.

Syrian Immigrants at Ellis Island, ca. 1906 .Courtesy of Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

Syrian Immigrants at Ellis Island, ca. 1906 (courtesy of Ellis Island Immigration Museum).

In fact, American negative attitudes towards Arab American women are rooted in common racial biases that our country has suffered since its inception. In July 16, 1901 Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette carried an article entitled  “Don’t Like Arabs,” where Arab Americans were collectively smeared and openly attacked. While it is true that during that period America’s middle class overall projected a patronizing attitudes towards most immigrants, nonetheless Arab American women suffered more disdain than most. Interestingly, the earliest Arab American women were Christian, but their Christian faith did not spare them. As a matter of fact, racial biases towards Arab American women were as common then as they are today of all Arab Americans whether Christian or Muslim.

Early Arab American women were viewed as part of the Eastern Christian culture of Bethlehem, imagesJerusalem, Damascus, and Beirut- their ancestral claim to these Biblical cities was of no help to them or their community. These first Arab American women were faced with two irreconcilable contradictory pressures. While they made every effort to live and raise their families within the folds of their new county, they lived in communities that stereotyped and shunned them, and ostracized their families. At the same time they were confronted with Americans of ‘good faith’ who wanted to ‘Americanize’ them and ‘free’ them from their cultural and ethnic bondage.

Afifa Karam (1883-1924) an Arab American feminist devoted many of her articles shedding light on the unique challenges that shaped Arab American women’s early experience in the US. Karam advocated for gender equity, defended the rights of women, and addressed the social and economic factors that delayed woman’s progress. Her writings were serialized and published in Al-Hoda magazine, an Arab American women’s magazine that was established in 1903. Her work sheds light on the evolution and structural prejudice practices that still influence a wide range of US social and political institutions that continue to vilify Arab American women, their families and community. In fact, a considerable number of Arab American women writers substantiate the structural biases that Arab American women and their community have endured since the early 1800′s.

Deeply rooted cultural stereotypical inferences of Arab American women are factors that also contribute to the historical failure of the US feminist movement from including Arab American women’s experiential narrative in the US gender discourse.  Intriguingly, while Arab American women are well represented in every professional sector, their collective contribution to community and country are glossed over and unappreciated. This collective failure is attributed to conscious and more often subconscious perception of archaic views of Arab American women, that falsely assume that women of Arab decent are docile and housebound.

Moreover, Arab American women’s decade long principled opposition to the Iraq war and Israel’s occupation policies were not aligned with the mainstream views of US feminists. As a matter of fact, Arab American women’s consistent objection to US policies in the Middle East was in contradiction with the publicly accepted position that characterized most Americans. Today, most Americans view the US occupation of Iraq as an unnecessary costly fete, and are well aware of Israel’s atrocities in Palestine. For decades Arab American women stood apart from the vast majority of Americans by calling attention to the human and financial cost of US policies in the Middle- East. Arab American women’s unique and long standing position on the US- Iraq invasion and war, and Israel’s military occupation of Palestine help explain their conspicuous absence from past and current US gender discourse.

Young Arab American women protesting Israel's war on Gaza, Washington DC, 2014.

Young Arab American women protesting Israel’s war on Gaza, Washington DC, 2014.

More specifically, the role of Arab American women organizations in speaking out against the US invasion of Iraq, consistent opposition to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, Israel’s decade long siege of Gaza, the use of US taxes to build and sustain Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, and Israel’s wars and incursions in Lebanon and Gaza were often misconstrued as illegitimate and erroneous, and in opposition to America’s Eurocentric values. Most troubling, some Americans still continue to malign Arab American women and label them anti Semitic despite their Semitic roots and justifiable reasons for calling on the US government to genuinely support policies that will bring an end to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, and Gaza siege.

In addition, Arab American women’s unanimous opposition to US surveillance tactics, the militarization of US police, and torture practices, contrasted with the vast majority of Americans who were more inclined to accept the use of these extreme measures. Understandably, the US feminist movement is influenced by the prevailing social and political structural confines held by most Americans. These inherent blind spots allow the continued disregard of Arab American women, and their important political and social contributions in the US. More significantly, while, Arab American women continue to play a crucial role in raising awareness of the most relevant issues that face our nation, their voice is muffled, and their historical role as social and political activists is misunderstood.

Furthermore, the dynamic inter-lapping nature of US mediums and institutions continue to reinforce disparaging views of Arab American women and their community across every sector including the media, arts, academia, civil society, political organizations, public policy, and American popular culture. Whether, consciously or unconsciously these negative attitudes have infiltrated and influenced US feminists’ views of Arab American women and their community.

While many still refuse to recognize Arab American women’s considerable accomplishments, no one can dispute that since the 1800′s, they have managed to ensure the educational and financial success of generations of well-adjusted Americans.

Young Arab American immigrants on Washington Street, New York City, 1916.

Young Arab American immigrants on Washington Street, New York City, 1916.

Undaunted, Arab American women continue to enrich America’s cultural tapestry and social perspective. They remain faithful to their role, rights and obligations as American citizens and members of the global community. Meanwhile, they struggle along side every American woman, and raise their voices in unison to call attention to the multitude of challenges that women face at home and abroad. After all, here at home American women have yet to be adequately represented, where the number of American women in government still lags behind many nations-including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So what next? Arab American women will continue to advance the rights of women in the US and globally, and remain committed to social justice and equality. Unperturbed, they will carry on defying commonly held stereotypes- just like their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts before them- well aware of their important role as transformative social agents capable of transcending the confines and limits of their parochial community here at home. Meanwhile, the global feminist movement will continue to appeal to Arab American women’s sensibilities for its interest and focus on promoting social justice and equality for all women.