Arab Daily News launches Arab Community Network to fight racism
Arab Americans need to come together and act as one unified voice to demand the rights we are being denied in America. We need to call out activists who exploit these differences or fuel the divisions in order to give themselves power. We need to challenge activists who embrace and work with elected officials like Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot who have taken discriminatory racist actions against Arab Americans. If Arab Americans can’t come together, we will never get our rights and we will be ineffective in helping our people back home in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq to name just a few countries.
By Ray Hanania
The Arab Daily News online newspaper is launching the Arab American Network page in order to help bring together all of the many and important Arab American community organizations.
Arab Americans are divided on issues of internal politics driven by the fact that Arabs come from 22 countries and are further divided by more than 100 ethnic subgroups and even religious and cultural distinctions. But those internal political divisions prevent Arab Americans from succeeding in achieving their full civil and human rights in America.
As a consequence, Arab American become easier targets of discrimination because of that weakness.
Too often Arabs will fight among themselves more energetically than they do when they fight for their rights in the larger society, including fighting to champion the rights of Arabs in their home countries including in Palestine, Syria and Iraq. A weak Arab American community means that Arab Americans are pushed aside by American officials on the local domestic front but also internationally.
It’s a key reason why America is so pro-Israel and hesitant to criticize Israel’s government, for example, when it commits acts of violence against Palestinian civilians. Those divisions weaken the voice of Arab Americans when they fight for the rights of Syrians, for example, and are unable to persuade American officials to implement just policies to prevent further violence there.
What needs to happen is for Arab Americans to recognize that their inability to unify is undermining the struggle for justice in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and other countries. More importantly, those divisions are the leading factors that have allowed anti-Arab policies in America to continue.
Chicago, for example, has a long history of anti-Arab discrimination. Under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, one of the most anti-Arab racist mayor’s Chicago has ever had, Arab Americans were the target of his hate-driven wrath. Despite repeated efforts to work with Mayor Emanuel and change his discriminatory policies, during his eight years and two terms in office, Emanuel undermined nearly all involvement of Arab American participation in Chicago government.
When Emanuel was first elected, he ordered the city of Chicago to terminate the Arabesque Festival that had been established under his predecessor Mayor Richard M. Daley four years earlier. Emanuel also gutted the Chicago Human Relations Council and closed the Arab Advisory Commission, and he refused to acknowledge the annual Arab American Heritage Month celebrations which originally were held in November but in 2018 were changed to coordinate a national Arab American Heritage Month in April.
The State of Illinois, for example, passed a law that made April officially Arab American Heritage month and yet many of the state’s key political leaders including former Gov. Bruce Rauner, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, former Mayor Emanuel and Mayor Lori Lightfoot have never organized celebrations of Arab American Heritage month the way they have for the Irish, Gays, Poles, Blacks or Hispanics.
Mayor Lightfoot, who was elected to succeed the racist former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, boasted about her personal identity asn African American, woman and Lesbian to tout the rights of those communities. But she wen teven further than Emanuel in anti-Arab discrimination when she ordered a crackdown on mostly Arab owned and some other minority owned grocery stores in Chicago claiming that street gang members were using the all-night, 24 hour retail stores as cover following violent incidents. Under Lightfoot, Chicago has seen the highest level of gang related homicides in the city’s history. That’s ironic because Arab Americans supported her election.
Despite these glaring acts of racism by Pritzker, Emanuel and Lightfoot, several Arab American activists who chosen to partner with them to undermine Arab community demands for equality, giving them cover from criticism. That division paid off for those activists who have had their pictures taken with Pritzker, Emanuel and most recently Lightfoot in an effort convey their own personal self-benefit.
But these unchallenged acts of racism in cities like Chicago, for example, have weakened the national effort to secure stronger rights for Arab Americans.
Lightfoot created a Middle East and North Africa and Asian Committee that has so far done nothing to challenge rising anti-Arab racism. The group was deafly silent in confronting Lightfoot’s racist closure of Arab American stores. The appointment to the committee did not even go to an Arab American.
Worse, Illinois is one of 32 States that has adopted a law that punishes citizens and businesses that boycott and criticize Israel’s racist policies in the creation of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The law denies Americans who criticize Israel from qualifying for business loans through the state’s $180 billion dollars in Pension Fund investments. Those loans are given only to businesses that sign an affidavit that they do not support a boycott of Israel.
Nationally, this weakness has resulted in Arabs being excluded from the U.S. Census which is the foundation of ethnic power in America. Ethnic and national groups that are specifically named in the Census receive hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal Grants, money taken from taxpayers, which includes more than 4 million Arab Americans.
The Census data is also used to mandate the creation of Congressional Districts that unify ethnic voices. But when Arabs are not included, Congress ignores them and does not consolidate their voting power into one district thereby weakening their ability to elected members of Congress from their community who are Arab American.
What we need os for the Arab American community to wake up. To come out of their slumber and recognize the need to unify. They need to challenge leaders who fail to stand by strong unification and who continue to fuel divisions and embrace tolerance for differing political and social views and opinions.
In American politics, there is no such thing as 100 percent. When Americans elected people to office, they select the candidate with the closest reflection of their views and do not demand 100 percent agreement. They support candidates who build consensus and who embrace compromise to pass laws that strengthen individual rights.
It’s time this internal division ends.
It’s time that the community stand up to activists who place their own personal self-interest above the interests of the larger community.
It’s time that the Arab community punish leaders who embrace anti-Arab racists like Pritzker, Emanuel and Lightfoot.
It’s time they demand these leaders join in pressuring these elected officials to change their policies and recognize Arab Americans as equal citizens in this country, in the 50 states, in the county’s and in the state legislatures.
Until we do that, we will always be marginalized and excluded.
The Arab American Community Network page ont his website will help bring honest and moral groups together to fight as one voice to defend Arab Americans from racist discrimination and bigotry and to ensure that Arab American receive their fair share of the services this country owes to them.