Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Activism

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Activism

Article excerpt


Speakers at NAAA Convention Duel Over Statehood, Autonomy, Boycott

Senator Patrick Leahy and State Department consultant Dennis Ross called for an end to the Arab boycott of Israel in their talks to the 21st anniversary convention of the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) Oct 29-30 in Arlington, VA. In keynote addresses at the convention's two banquets, former Secretary of State James Baker III and Palestinian Delegation spokeswoman Dr. Hanan Ashrawi analyzed the accord on principles of peace recently agreed to by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

State Department Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross led the charge on the boycott issue. Commenting that a key U.S. role in implementation of the Sept. 13 accord is creating an environment receptive to peace in the region, Ross said "the Arab states must not be lacking or lagging in this regard; the Arab boycott must be dismantled since this is an impediment to implementation, a relic of a different era, and inconsistent with the progress of peace." Ross added that the administration of President Bill Clinton expects the PLO to campaign among moderate Arab states for an end to the boycott, as "it is in their interest to do so."

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Foreign Operations subcommittee, called the Arab boycott of Israel "anachronistic, self-defeating and senseless," and warned that "as long as the Arab states persist they cannot expect attitudes in Congress to change significantly."

In his remarks upon the peace process after accepting NAAA's Peace Award at the Friday banquet, former Secretary of State Baker stated that "Palestinian leaders will have to use their influence in the larger diplomatic arena and they will have to press moderate Arab states to extend full recognition to Israel and lift the embargo." Baker referred several times in his speech to the relationship between "Palestinian autonomy" and Israeli security.

"Let me remind Baker that it's statehood, not autonomy," Dr. Hanan Ashrawi shot back during her keynote address at the Saturday banquet, "I do not intend to run for office here or anyplace, but I think you heard a campaign speech last night," she said, referring to the Baker speech.

"Very frankly, this agreement could take us to disaster or to statehood, it's up to us," Ashrawi said. She said Palestinians face the hard work of "rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation" following the signing of the Declaration of Principles, "but we must not be afraid to hope." She acknowledged that "a state cannot be built with part of the Palestinian people, we must involve our opposition." Rather than sitting back and criticizing from a distance, "we need accountability and responsibility from everyone." She challenged, "If you want reform, roll up your sleeves and get to work."

ADC Troubled by Settlement of ADL Criminal Case

Following the Nov. 15 settlement of the criminal investigation of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) by the San Francisco District Attorney's office, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) stated, "We are troubled greatly by a number of features of the agreement, and by what the agreement does not cover."

While pleased that the district attorney has issued an injunction that should prevent ADL and its agents from obtaining further information from public officials, ADC expressed concern over the possibility that the case may have been settled "as a result of political pressure brought to bear by a well- orchestrated campaign."

Noting that outrage over the illegal ADL surveillance continues in the civil rights community at large, ADC found it "shocking" that the settlement agreement "does not include an admission of wrongdoing by ADL and Roy Bullock," a long-time undercover employee of ADL who was accused of buying and selling information illegally obtained from San Francisco police files. …

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