Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Activism

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Activism

Article excerpt


ADC: Israeli Death Squad Activity Cause for Halt in U.S. Aid

The Palestine Human Rights Information Center (PHRIC) in Jerusalem and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) held a joint press conference in Washington, DC on May 26 to release the PHRIC report "Targeting to Kill: Israel's Undercover Units." The report described operations by Israeli military and paramilitary death squads against the Palestinian population throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

To document the Israeli government's policy of summary executions of unarmed Palestinians, the report analyzed 29 such deaths in the past four years. The PHRIC, an independent, non-governmental organization which monitors human rights violations in the occupied territories and Israel, is frequently cited by international news media and Amnesty International.

Most of the Palestinians killed by Israel undercover units were unarmed. Some clearly were identified from photographs and others seemed to have been killed for engaging in nonviolent protest, such as writing graffiti. The report cited the broadness of Israeli open-fire regulations, the suppression of autopsy reports, the lack of investigation into or accountability of undercover units, the failure to prosecute cases of excessive force, and the anonymity of undercover soldiers as evidence of an official policy of summary executions. "These killings amount to de facto capital punishment without any formal charges, trial or judicial process," in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the PHRIC report stated.

Calling the report a chronicle of "the most outrageous behavior yet exhibited by the Israeli government in its covert action to assassinate unsuspecting and unarmed Palestinians, most of whom are teenagers or young men in their twenties," ADC President Albert Mokhiber said that his organization would be meeting with U.S. representatives and administration officials, including James Bishop, assistant secretary of state for human rights, to deliver copies of the report and "impress on them the need for urgent action, including the suspension of all aid to Israel."

Arab Americans Mobilize After L.A. Riots

Several Arab-American organizations in the metropolitan Los Angeles area have joined to aid the community in the aftermath of the riots that followed the controversial verdict in the Rodney King trial. Riot losses to Arab-American businesses and professionals have been estimated at about $15 million, including the destruction of shopping and medical centers, liquor stores, markets and gas stations.

The Arab-American Press Guild organized an emergency meeting May 11 at the Arab Community Center, attended by representatives of the Arab-American Lawyers Association, several medical organizations, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), and civic officials.

Members of the Arab-American Lawyers Association volunteered at legal aid centers throughout the city to assist the community at large with filing insurance claims. The riots affected Arab-American-owned businesses in Hollywood, northern San Fernando Valley and some neighborhoods in central Los Angeles. According to Joseph Haiek, Arab-American Press Guild president, Arab Americans "did not feel in any way singled out for destruction, no one felt there was anti-Arab sentiment involved."

AAI President Addresses DNC National Platform Committee

Arab American Institute (AAI) President James J. Zogby testified before Democratic Party leaders at the National Platform Committee meeting on May 18 in Cleveland. Stating that past party platforms had reduced the Arab world to "a stepchild of our politics," Zogby called on the Democratic leadership to "send a message to all Americans, and to Israelis and Palestinians alike, that Democrats are ready to lead, and to lead with fairness."

Noting that Arab Americans are "not a single-issue constituency," Zogby stressed that the community needs to be involved in discussions of urban challenges such as the deterioration of ethnic neighborhoods and risks to inner city small business owners. …

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