Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Unfulfilled Expectations the Genesis and Demise of the AAUG

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

Unfulfilled Expectations the Genesis and Demise of the AAUG

Article excerpt

THE CONTEXT

THE GENESIS OF ANY SOCIAL MOVEMENT is rarely the product of a single event or incident, and social movements always occur in a meaningful context that explains the reasons for their establishment and their goals. However, major incidents often serve as the final catalyst or inducement for action at the culmination of a long standing social process.

The genesis of AAUG is no exception. The context for its establishment is an ongoing hostile environment in which Arab Americans find themselves through no fault of their own, a condition that calls for intelligent collective action for maintaining their sanity and their dignity. This was brought in bold relief in the aftermath of the 1967 war between Israel and its neighboring Arab states, when three Arab armies suffered massive defeats at the hands of the Israeli army, almost at lightning speed. We began discussions among ourselves, a small group of academicians of Arab origin, regarding our status as Arab Americans, the one-sided policy of the United States toward our countries of origin, and what we could do to present a balanced perspective on these issues.

The U.S. provided material and political support for Israel in unprecedented form, and the U.S. media gloated in the reporting of the Israeli successes and the unfolding tragedy of the Arab armies. The information available to the American public was grossly inaccurate, slanted and one-sided. Arabs were portrayed as the instigators of the war, and as the aggressors and villains despite their massive losses, the destruction of their forces, and the occupation of their lands. The Israelis were portrayed as the aggrieved party that got its just reward despite their flagrant aggression. The concept of preemptive wars was entered into the American vernacular as justified self-defense, contrary to international treaties and precedent.

To us as Arab Americans who sought refuge in this country seeking liberty and opportunity, there was something terribly wrong with this scenario, and we, as Arab Americans, are in the middle of it. There was no real escape. Many of us shared a sense of shame and hurt which was aggravated by daily assaults on our culture, our people, and our countries of origin in the mass media and in the public discourse.

The American public was presented with one-sided view, totally lacking fairness and balance. Many of us thought that, as academicians and scholars, we had a special obligation to provide accurate, reliable and truthful information. We believed that such information should be offered to the American public in order that it might reach its own conclusions, especially in that this country was an active participant in supporting the Israeli side militarily, financially and politically. We believed in the inherent goodness of the American psyche and culture. Hence, we reasoned, the road to justice is accurate information.

OUR RESPONSE

The '67 war left the vast majority among us with a deep sense of deep frustration with the lame Arab response intellectually, militarily and politically as well as the lack of fairness in the U.S. media, the double standard of American policy, and the slanted public opinion. Added to all this aggravation, our rightful case was not well articulated by representatives from our countries, our armies and our leaders were incapable of defending our basic rights. At the same time, we were Arab Americans mostly by choice. Our country of adoption had opened its arms to us, and had given us opportunities that we had not had in our countries of origin. But our countries of origin had been treated unfairly and unjustly. We had a special debt to proclaim what we knew as true and valid, and we had the facts and history on our side. We assumed that American policy in our part of the world could be reformed through education and enlightenment.

We had no effective voice in this country. There must be a role for us as academicians and intellectuals. …

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