Arab-American Activism: Arab Americans Condemn Hebron Massacre
Willford, Catherine M., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
ARAB-AMERICAN ACTIVISM: Arab Americans Condemn Hebron Massacre
Arab Americans reacted to the news of the Feb. 25 massacre of some 30 Palestinians during prayers at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron by an American- Israeli Jewish settler, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, with protests, demonstrations, and meetings with officials of the Clinton White House and the State Department. Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), characterized attempts by the Israeli government to portray Goldstein's crime as the act of a deranged individual as "untenable and false." Twenty-seven years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza have encouraged an atmosphere where Jewish extremists believe they can brutalize Palestinians with impunity, Jahshan said, since lenient sentences consistently have been given to settlers who commit acts of terror.
The Arab American Institute (AAI) called the massacre "reflective of a culture of violence among many Jewish settlers that has not been adequately addressed by the Israeli government."
Albert Mokhiber, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committe (ADC), called the tragedy "the ugliest of reminders yet that the true obstacle to peace in the West Bank and Gaza remains the Israeli occupation, and, particularly, its settler population." Mokhiber pointed out that those accused of the 1985 bomb assassination of ADC West Coast regional director Alex Odeh were associated with extremist settler factions, and were given sanctuary at Kiryat Arba, where Baruch Goldstein lived.
"Goldstein was an American-Israeli, the weapon most likely was purchased with American aid money, and the occupation itself violates American policy," Mokhiber declared. "Therefore, American must respond. As we acted to disarm the Serbian and Croat murderers of Bosnian Muslims, we must impose our will to disarm Israeli settlers who likewise are responsible for murdering Palestinians in their mosques."
The executive committee of the Council of Presidents of Arab-American Organizations met Feb. 25 with Undersecretary of State for Middle East Affairs Robert Pelletreau and White House Middle East adviser Martin Indyk. Organizations represented at the meeting included ADC; Arab-American University Graduates; the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine; NAAA; and the United Holy Land Fund. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Arab-American leaders repeated an earlier request to meet with President Bill Clinton, who, they felt sure, would have met with Jewish-American leaders if the facts of the attack were reversed.
On March 1, Secretary of State Warren Christopher met with Arab-American and Muslim-American leaders, including representatives of the American Muslim Council, ADC, NAAA, AAI, the El-Bireh Society and the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, who recommended a five-point plan for U.S. action following the Hebron massacre.
The plan called for the Clinton administration:
--To support measures to guarantee the safety and protection of the civilian Palestinian population in the occupied territories.
--To persuade the Israeli government to disarm all settlers.
--To call upon Israel to take immediate action to bring about an end to all of its settlement activities in the occupied territories.
--To become more actively engaged as a full partner on all four tracks in the peace process.
--To launch a comprehensive investigation by the relevant U.S. government organizations of the membership, fund-raising and training of the followers of Kahane Chai, the U.S-based terrorist group of which Goldstein was a member.
The secretary also was briefed on the danger Arab Americans have faced from radical Zionist terror groups in the U.S., with recent reports of increased acts of militancy by followers of the late Meir Kahane. (In a Feb. 27 interview with Mike Wallace on the CBS program "60 Minutes," investigative reporter Robert Friedman charged that the FBI focuses its terrorist investigations on Arabs, while regarding Kahane Chai and similar groups as "nice Jewish boys with guns.")
On March 7, Vice President Al Gore opened a meeting with Arab-American leaders by referring to Baruch Goldstein as a terrorist and the Hebron massacre as "horrific and evil." Gore announced that the Clinton administration has requested that the Justice Department open a domestic investigation into the killings in Hebron and "possible ties to U.S. sources." Organizations represented in the meeting with the vice president included NAAA, AAI, ADC, the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine and the American Muslim Council.
During the weeks of tension, individual Arab Americans throughout the country expressed their hope that violence in the Middle East would not spread to the United States. "In all our mosques, in our places of worship we advise all Muslims not to act crazy because of what happened in Palestine," Brooklyn grocery store owner Hamed Nabwy told The Washington Post. "This is not a place of war. This is our community here, in America, and we must protect it against the extremes of both sides."
Women in Black Join Massacre Protests
Among peace activists joining in protest following the Hebron massacres were members of American sister organizations to Israel's Women in Black, who hold weekly Friday vigils protesting the Israeli occupation in major Israeli cities. Washington Area Women in Black held a one-hour vigil in front of the White House Feb. 28. The Los Angeles chapter held a vigil protesting the massacres on March 11.
World Day of Prayer Observance Proves Timely
World Day of Prayer (WDP) is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions founded in 1887 to link prayer and action. The order of worship for the March 4 event is prepared by a World Day of Prayer committee in a different country chosen every year from among the 170 nations represented in the organization.
By coincidence, this year's World Day of Prayer order of worship was prepared by Palestinian Christian women on the theme, "Go, See and Act." Tens of thousands of groups of women around the world study the WDP service and materials prepared for local use in more than 100 languages.
While this year's program had been in preparation for the past four years, nothing could have been more timely than the coordinated prayers for the lifting of the "concerns and sufferings of the people of Palestine . . . by their sisters and brothers everywhere," according to Eileen King, executive director of the International Committee for World Day of Prayer (ICWDP).
The Palestinian women's order of worship begins, "With the Arabic greeting `Salaam,' which means peace, we, the Christian women of Palestine, invite you to join us in prayer with the hope that together we can `Go, See and Act' in order to attain love and justice for all." The opening prayer says, "O Christ, as we follow you down the road to Calvary, guide us to become active participants, not curious bystanders."
Executive Director King noted that the service has been of particular interest for WDP Committees in Europe and North America concerned about their own role, or lack of it to date, in the conflict in the Middle East.
"When millions of Jews were exterminated in the concentration camps, one excuse that has been offered is, `I was not there, did not see, and therefore could not act,'" said King. "The same excuse was applied when national interests were being served at the expense of Palestinians who lost their homes and homeland. The 1994 WDP theme calls us to re-examine that excuse and see what was false, and reminds us that our faith calls us to be vigilant and willing to work on behalf of those who are suffering."
The 1994 WDP service was not developed without controversy. Some local groups in North America and Europe relayed complaints that Jewish/Christian relations might be harmed by the choice of scriptural texts, and that the service did not adequately address the suffering of Jewish women. The August 1993 meeting of the ICWDP Executive Committee in Brussels examined objections and endorsed the service as prepared by the Palestinian Christian women, without any changes or additions.
In a letter to Ms. King commending the service, Larry Ekin, chair of the North American Coordinating Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations on the Question of Palestine (NACC), noted that "we were particularly impressed by the integrity of the preparatory process and distressed to learn attempts had been made to pressure the committee to alter the materials . . . which consistently called attention to the fact that the women responsible all endorsed the right of Israel to exist."
The WDP service closes with a prayer for new life in the Middle East and for "a healed society--Jewish, Muslim and Christian."
Arab-American Reaction to the Jounieh Bombing
Arab-American organizations, including ADC and Save Lebanon, condemned the Feb. 27 bombing at the Notre Dame de la Deliverance church in Jounieh, Lebanon, in which nine civilians were killed and 60 wounded. Just a few days prior to the incident, the U.S. State Department had reissued the ban on travel to Lebanon by Americans for a period of six months.
Save Lebanon found it "particularly disheartening that such an atrocity would occur at this time when the people of Lebanon have begun to feel safe and secure." Save Lebanon has continued its Emergency Relief Campaign to help the victims of last year's Israeli attacks on south Lebanon with shipments of medical and pharmaceutical supplies and equipment.
ADC President Albert Mokhiber noted that Lebanese government officials had "voiced concerns that the bombing might be an act supported by pro-Israeli operatives intent on diverting attention from the Hebron massacre and reigniting the Lebanese crisis."
ADC scheduled a March 10 interfaith memorial ceremony for the victims of both Hebron and Jounieh at the Senate Capitol Meeting Room. Members of Congress, officials from the diplomatic community and representatives of the Clinton administration attended.
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Publication information: Article title: Arab-American Activism: Arab Americans Condemn Hebron Massacre. Contributors: Willford, Catherine M. - Author. Magazine title: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Volume: XII. Issue: 7 Publication date: May 31, 1994. Page number: 65. © Not available. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.