Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

AAUG: A Personal Introspection

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)

AAUG: A Personal Introspection

Article excerpt


MY REFLECTIONS AND INTROSPECTION about AAUG, the role it played, and the role it did not, or could not play during its active life in the USA, are based on my direct involvement in the Association for six intensive years (1978-1984). During this period and since leaving the U.S.A., I had a number of opportunities to reflect on AAUG and our activism--Palestinian and Arab--on the American scene, and why it appears to have fizzled out! This is "reflection removed;" it is done in a context where the U.S. is overtly and freely dictating what future Palestinians are allowed to have--the very same issue we struggled against, and hoped (naively) to circumvent in the context of AAUG some twenty five years ago!


I joined AAUG in 1978 somewhat by accident through an emerging personal contact, camaraderie and friendship with my late friend, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod. I knew nothing about AAUG before that even though I was starting my graduate studies in anthropology at Indiana University when the Association was established, and later, during its infancy, when I had started teaching at

It was not until I returned from the year I spent teaching at the University of Haifa in Israel--during which, incidentally, I experienced firsthand racism practiced against me as a Palestinian visiting lecturer--I met Ibrahim while attending a lecture he gave at the University of Minnesota. In that lecture, he summarized and analyzed the deliberations and emerging positions that came out of one of the Palestine National Council (PNC) meetings. He told me then about AAUG, and urged me to be involved.

In 1979 I was elected to the Board of Directors of AAUG and also served as president of the Minnesota Chapter. During 1980, I was urged by Ibrahim to run in the elections for AAUG national president. I did, and was elected to the AAUG presidency for the year 1981. Simultaneously, I also served as Director of the Institute of Arab Studies, an offshoot of the AAUG. I left the U.S.A. for Geneva in 1984 and then returned to Palestine in 1993. Basically, my direct involvement in AAUG affairs ended in 1984, or six years after I had joined it.


Like any other organization, AAUG had a number of discernable strengths and weaknesses. What follows is what I perceive to have been the most notable among them. I'll start with the strengths:


1. It presented, through a series of professional and scientific publications, lectures, seminars, annual conferences and newsletters, pointed analyses of Palestinian and Arab struggles for freedom and independence. The Association sought to make bare the racist and colonial nature of Zionism and Israel. It succeeded, early on, in offering reliable interpretation of Palestinian aspirations in line with the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) national goals.

2. It initiated and organized a number of fact finding delegations of labor unions, academics, mayors, youth and church leaders to get first-hand information about the situation in Palestine and Lebanon, and to transmit what they learned to their particular constituencies in the U.S.

3. Its members in Los Angeles succeeded, through purposeful struggle, to produce an "Appendix on Palestine" and to extract a decision to add it to the course outline on the Middle East, which was given to every history and social studies teacher in the L.A. Unified School District.

4. AAUG chapters were more tuned to local issues and solidarity alliances, and adopted more radical positions than those reflecting national (central) AAUG policy.


1. No clear strategy for mobilizing membership.

2. The focus of membership was "Palestinian," but the issues addressed were Palestinian, Arab in general, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. domestic policy, etc.

3. No uniformity or clarity in the overall objectives of the organization; not clear why Arab university graduates joined AAUG. …

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