Arabs prepare to celebrate Heritage in Illinois

Arabs prepare to celebrate Heritage in Illinois
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Arabs prepare to celebrate Heritage in Illinois

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley declared November Arab American Heritage Month in 1991, kicking off an annual commemoration of the contributions made by American Arabs to this country, the state of Illinois and to the City of Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel killed the event but American Arab leaders are hopeful he may correct his actions and recognize the rights of American Arabs

By Ray Hanania

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley launched Arab American Heritage Month for Chicagoland’s Arabs in 1991, declaring the month of November as a period to recognize the contributions that American Arabs have made to this country, the State of Illinois and to the City of Chicago.

Daley set an example that was quickly copied in states and cities around the nation, although there is no national heritage month celebration.

Former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar extended the commemorations throughout the State of Illinois in 1998.

The month usually involves American Arabs showcasing their contributions through historical and cultural events, photo displays, musical performances, lectures and speeches, and through coordination with mayors in cities throughout the State of Illinois.

Officials of politically motivated American Jewish organizations including the Jewish Federation of Chicago and the Jewish United Fund have constantly opposed many of the events, especially those which highlighted the achievements and contributions of Palestinian Americans, who are the majority of Arabs in the Chicagoland area. In 2007, they vigorously protested Palestinian heritage images at the first annual Arabesque Festival.

Mayor Daley welcomes Etihad Airways to Chicago O'Hare in 2009

Mayor Daley welcomes Etihad Airways to Chicago O’Hare in 2009

The next largest Arab population in Illinois is in Peoria, which is predominantly Lebanese.

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Officials of the Jewish Federation and Jewish United Fund have lobbied to prevent displays that showcased Palestinian American heritage in part mainly because the State of Israel has refused to recognize Palestinian rights or the right of a Palestinian State to exist. Many Israelis deny that Palestinians even exist till this day because of anti-Arab racism and anti-Palestinian hate. The leadership lobbied Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has refused to speak about the efforts, and even intimidated the mainstream news media and its reporters into not covering Arab Heritage events. In 2011, the Arabesque Festival was terminated.

In 1999, two Federation officials protested a photographic display that I created called “Faces of Chicagoland’s Arab Community” demanding that two of 36 enlarged photos showing Arab Americans in everyday life, which portrayed Palestinians celebrating their heritage waving the Palestinian flag and protesting against bigotry at the Chicago Sun-Times, be removed.

Arab students protest Israeli brutality at the University of Illinois at Chicago (Circle Campus) in 1976

Arab students protest Israeli brutality at the University of Illinois at Chicago (Circle Campus) in 1976

The photos were removed without allowing me to challenge the lies asserted by the Jewish Federation.

Federation officials also lobbied Mayor Daley and Mayor Emanuel and within days of Emanuel’s election, he gutted the Arab Advisory Commission in 2011 and contacts with American Arabs was cut-off.

Click here to listen to a podcast on the anti-Arab efforts or pro-Israel organizations in Chicago to block Arab heritage celebrations.

Click here to view the Jewish Star Newspaper archives story in July 2007 on protests by Jewish organizations against the Arabesque Festival which was the cornerstone of that year’s Arab Heritage celebrations.

Click here to view the Jewish Star Newspaper archives story in August 2007 on protests by Jewish organizations against the Arabesque Festival which was the cornerstone of that year’s Arab Heritage celebrations.

Jewish activists were enraged that attendees distributed flyers criticizng the racist bias of the Chicago Sun-Times, which was owned by vicious anti-Arab racist Conrad Black. The newspaper also had no Arab or Arab Muslim reporters or columnists and refused to cover the Arab community,e xcept when the stories portrayed American Arabs in a negative light.

Many American Arabs have urged that Mayor Emanuel meet to discuss this history of problems, but so far there ha sbeen no response from Mayor Emanuel.

WIndows at many American Arab owned stores were broken the day after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 14 Americans who "looked' Middle Eastern were murdered in the six months after the terrorism by Americans, most of whom were never prosecuted

WIndows at many American Arab owned stores were broken the day after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 14 Americans who “looked’ Middle Eastern were murdered in the six months after the terrorism by Americans, most of whom were never prosecuted

During a brief meeting I had with Mayor Rahm Emanuel at an Iftar hosted by his office for Muslims, he was very respectful and gracious, but he didn’t address the problems. The majority of the 300 Muslims at the Iftar were non-Arab. Only about eight were of Arab heritage and had been invited by Muslim Activist Salman Aftab who said he hoped that the Arab community could come together and support Mayor Emanuel.

Hopefully, that can still happen.

The Ambassador of Morocco (2nd from left) greets Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (2nd from right) at his City Hall office to receive a commemoration honoring the special relationship between America and Morocco. Picture center is Baker Lemseffer who was the director of the CHicago office of the Morocco Cultural Center. On the right is Col. Jack Reilly and on the left is a Moroccan aid who accompanied the Ambassador. The story was the main story in a 1976 issue of The Middle Eastern Voice Newspaper published by Ray Hanania in Chicagoland. Photo (C) Copyright 1976-2017 Ray Hanania. All Rights Reserved

The Ambassador of Morocco (2nd from left) greets Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (2nd from right) at his City Hall office to receive a commemoration honoring the special relationship between America and Morocco. Picture center is Baker Lemseffer who was the director of the Chicago office of the Morocco Cultural Center. On the right is Col. Jack Reilly and on the left is a Moroccan aid who accompanied the Ambassador. The story was the main story in a 1976 issue of The Middle Eastern Voice Newspaper published by Ray Hanania in Chicagoland. Photo (C) Copyright 1976-2017 Ray Hanania. All Rights Reserved

In 2005, I authored the only book that address the history of Arabs in America called “Arabs of Chicagoland.” The book was published by Arcadia Publishing. Click here to order a copy.

arabsofchicagolandcvr

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rayhanania

Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. He began writing in 1975 publishing The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues as Special US Correspondent for the Arab News ArabNews.com, at TheArabDailyNews.com, and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday, the Orlando Sentinel, Houston Chronical, and Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

Click here to send Ray Hanania email.
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