Warren David was fired this week as president the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is one of the most influential grassroots Arab organizations in the country. David was one of ADC’s best qualified leaders, someone who better understood the role American Arabs need to play in this country.
I was proud to nominate Warren David to the position when I served on the ADC National Board in 2011.
ADC issued this brief statement:
Washington, DC | www.adc.org | November 26, 2013 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee announces that Mr. Warren David is no longer employed by ADC as of the 26th of November, 2013. ADC thanks Mr. David for assuming the position of president when he did, and wishes him well in his future endeavors.
Warren David declined to comment. But his wife, Amal David issued the following statement:
“Warren was fired last Monday by Safa Rifka, chairman of the board. He was delivered a letter by two board members Tawfiq Barkawi and Doa’a Taha and a lawyer representing ADC’s outside legal counsel. The reason given was due to persistent unsatisfactory performance,” Amal David said in an email.
“The real reason was Rifka’s retaliation against Warren because of the Board’s controversial decision regarding the sexual abuse case of Imad Hamad.”
The position was originally budgeted at $100,000 a year plus benefits.
David departs leaving ADC in political and community turmoil. The once prominent civil rights organization has been dragged into a series of controversies that have weakened its once proud role as the most influential organization in the American Arab community.
For the past decade, ADC has been under siege, but the most vicious attacks began after protestors challenged Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad on Jan. 26, 2011. Assad’s forces murdered a teenager and then began killing civilians.
When ADC appeared to censor Syrian pianist Malek Jandali in April 2011, reportedly asking him not to perform a song at the June 2011 Convention which some saw as a statement on the uprising in Syria against the Assad administration, it came under widespread attack. ADC denied the charge and later reached an undisclosed agreement with Jandali.
Several organizations including the Arab American Institute criticized ADC over the Jandali affair, even though AAI has also been the target of criticism for its “President-for-Life” practices and criticism of its leadership. I was not a part of the decision regarding Jandali when I was on the National ADC Board. But I also openly opposed the Syrian oppression by the Assad regime.
David was appointed President of ADC at the June 2011 convention and it was expected to help stabilize the group, which had been facing serious financial challenges and rivalries from other organizations including AAI.
But, that same year, the extremists began a campaign targeting me and others on the ADC board with personal attacks.
And more importantly this year, several women including State Rep. Rashida Tlaib revived allegations from 2007 that Imad Hamad, the director of the Michigan Chapter, ADC’s largest chapter, engaged in sexual harassment. Hamad has denied the allegations and a review by ADC national concluded there is not enough evidence to support the accusations. Tlaib said she had been sexually harassed 15 years earlier in 1999, but never said anything publicly until now.
Tlaib sent a letter to ADC detailing her accusations and David, probably under pressure from the board, declined to take a position on it at the time telling the Detroit Free Press he had not had time to digest Tlaib’s letter. (Click to read the letter.) Click to read ADC’s response to Tlaib.
Critics have accused the women, all former ADC interns, of being part of a political campaign to force a change in ADC’s leadership, singling out Chairman Safa Rifka and his board allies. Tlaib’s allies have said that sexual harassment has been ongoing at ADC and the review was a “whitewash.”
David was appointed president of ADC in early 2011 on the nomination made by me when I served as a member of the ADC National Board. I served one year on the ADC board but declined re-appointment explaining I did not have the time to attend national board meetings.
I have been the target of racists, haters and critics who have singled me out because of my criticism of Syria’s President, because I support peace with Israel, and because my wife is Jewish and some of the critics can’t stand that fact.
One of my critics is Warren David’s nephew, Will Youmans, who penned a venomous attack against ADC that was published by al-Jazeera. Ironically, some of Youmans’ criticism of ADC are legitimate, but I question some of his motives and his associations with other political fanatics including those who have attacked me. (Click to read the column by Youmans and others). The column may have had a role in the ADC National Board’s decision to fire Warren David.
Ironically, the reasons for the criticism sometimes contradict, suggesting that the extremists don’t really care about the issues they exploit in their assault against ADC. Jandali was described as a critic of the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown on the Syrian people. Many of the people backing the women who made the sexual harassment claims are also allied with activists who have spoken out in defense of Assad, Hezbollah and Iran.
The fanatics who defend Bashar al-Assad are doing so because Assad is a puppet of the Iranians and an uncompromising foe of Israel. They reject any peace or compromise with Israel, as do the Iranians and they have targeted anyone who has dared to promote compromise.
I have been a member of ADC since it’s founding in 1980 and I served in many community positions both with ADC in Chicago, ADC National and with the AAI. I received three awards from ADC National and the Chicago Chapter for my journalism and writings. In 1995, I was elected National President of the Palestinian American Congress. I have consistently advocated compromise on all issues to achieve a Palestine State side-by-side with Israel.
The fanatics hate Israel, hate Jews and oppose any compromise because they will lose their jobs if the Israel-Palestine conflict is resolved. The fanatics thrive on conflict and will even destroy their own community institutions to prevent peace or the loss of their allies like Assad or Iran.
You cannot look at the turmoil at ADC and the critics without considering these facts that have divided the Arab community nationally. ADC has become the focal point of these internal divisions.
David was apparently fired because he reportedly questioned ADC’s failure to act more forcefully on the sexual harassment charges. He declined to comment for this story.
Here is the release that was posted on Arab Detroit on June 2011 announcing his appointment. Arab Detroit was founded by Warren David. When David became ADC President, his wife Amal became the publisher of Arab Detroit:
Arab Detroit founder and publisher Warren David has been named the incoming national president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). David will succeed outgoing president Sara Najjar-Wilson on June 30, 2011. Dr. Amal David will assume operations at Arab Detroit, effective July 1, 2011.
In assuming leadership of ADC, David said, “It is an honor for me to accept the leadership of the only Arab American organization in the U.S. which defends civil rights and preserves the cultural heritage of Arab Americans.” David thanked outgoing president Sara Najjar-Wilson saying, “She has worked tirelessly for almost two years and we are grateful for her service and dedication to ADC.”
A third-generation Arab American, Warren David has been a life-long activist in Michigan’s Arab American community. He is the founder and publisher of Arab Detroit (www.arabdetroit.com). He is also an executive producer of the Detroit Public Television series, “Arab American Stories,” which will be dissemniated locally and nationally in January 2012.
David is a co-producer of the ” Images and Perceptions of Arab Americans Diversity Workshop,” which has trained more than 1,500 educators, corporate employees, government officials, and media personnel about the image of the Arab and Arab American. He was the executive producer of the award winning NPR radio series, “Arabesque: Insights into Arab Culture” and was the recipient of a Gold Medal from the International Radio Festival of New York.
He and his wife, Dr. Amal David, have two daughters, Zayna (Salloum) and Ameera.
ADC is a civil rights organization committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent and promoting their rich cultural heritage. ADC, which is non-profit, non-sectarian and non-partisan, is the largest Arab-American grassroots organization in the United States.
Arab Detroit was founded in May 2007 with the purpose of promoting an accurate image about the Arab American community and the Arab world. Arab Detroit is a leading provider of digital media featuring events, news, food, organizations, music, and arts in the Arab American community. David Communications is a multi-cultural public relations, marketing and advertising firm with specialization in the Arab American market.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and Managing Editor of The Arab Daily News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his website at www.TheMediaOasis.com.)
An analysis column by Al-Arabiya. Click to read