ADC – The Arab Discrimination Committee!

Hardly a day goes by in Syria these days without new arrests taking place or activists getting banned from traveling or sentenced to long prison terms on some idiotic trumped up charges that only diseased minds can conjure. This is what happened when the Assads regime is in a defiant mode, and this is what will keep on happening when the world remains silent.

But the problem is the world is not just being silent, the world is cooperating. By continuing to grant access and visas to Syrian officials to go to other countries and continue to intimidate the expatriate communities who live there, vilify the opposition, and criticize the unfair policies of the international community, as if policies of the Arab states vis-à-vis each other and their own people is fair, is nothing less than an act of duplicity in the ongoing suppression of liberty in the Arab World.

But recently, the Arab expatriate communities in the US demonstrated how duplicitous they, too, could be. I am referring here to the recent conference organized by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) which was attended by the Syrian Ambassador, Imad Moustapha, and the Syria Minister of Expatriate Affairs, Bouthaina Shaaban.

During her presentation, the Minister had the audacity to criticize the current US administration policies while simultaneously justifying the crackdown against all dissidents and activists in Syria. She even responded angrily to one local journalist of Syrian descentwho pointed out the contradictions in her stand, and went on to accuse Michel Kilo of all different sorts of crimes, including stamping on the Syrian flag!!

Now considering the fact that the basic mission of the ADC is to seek to protect the basic rights of Arab Americans by reporting instances of abuse and lobbying against the passing of any anti-Arab legislation or to work to revoke those that have already been passed, is it by any means reasonable and/or consistent of them to invite such characters to speak at their functions? Is it reasonable for a rights organization to commiserate and empower some of the worst abusers of human rights in the world?

Arab Americans are completely free to disagree with the policies of the Bush Administration in the region, but does rejecting Bush necessarily entail embracing Bashar? Is there something wrong with the Arab gene that makes our imagination so limited? Or is someone just being an idiot or, worse, a hypocrite?

Indeed, where does the ADC get its funding from? Is the Syrian government contributing anything to it? Is any Arab government contributing anything to it? Is that what’s it all about: money? Or is it just plain stupidity? Or, have the political calculations of the ADC got so intricate and complex that its administrators can no longer determine the proper balance that they need to strike between their focus on Arab American rights and the occasional need to maintain some form of contact with the states of origin?

Indeed, this is a bad time for the Arab activists wherever they happen to, I am definitely aware of that, and we all have to make some rather tough decisions and engage in the kind of politics that very few of us really like or appreciate. But, since the greatest abusers of Arab people’s rights are Arab governments, there should a limit on how “pragmatic” we can be vis-à-vis Arab regimes and officials, especially when we work in the field of human rights. Otherwise, we’ll end up discriminating against our own people by advocating the cause of their abusers. Arab national interests are not served in such a brazenly idiotic manner.

Inviting representatives of an Arab regime right at a time when it is actively cracking down on dissent in the country, and allowing its representatives to veto any active participation by opposition groups and independent dissidents, which they did, represent a very questionable call on part of ADC. Frankly, the people responsible for this decision should be ashamed of themselves, as I am indeed ashamed of them.

Someone could argue here that a guy like me who joins an institution like the NSF headed by someone like Khaddam should not be casting stones here. But, the two situations are not exactly alike: Khaddam has clearly broken with the regime and, this aside, the fate of an entire country is clearly at stake here. Can the ADC people make a similar argument to back their decision? Are Arab-Americans under such an existential threat, one that I am not aware of, that the ADC is forced into making such pragmatic alliances with Arab regimes, their human rights records notwithstanding?

The reality is Arab Americans have been quite lucky, relatively speaking. For despite all the stereotypes that exist about them in popular imagination and in the media and despite the acts of terror being perpetuated in their name, no matter how partially, they were never subjected to the kind of practical discrimination that other minority groups in this country have had to deal with, so far. We might indeed be able to make a good argument that this situation is rather tenuous, but that does not excuse or justify getting in bed with Arab regimes.

69 thoughts on “ADC – The Arab Discrimination Committee!

  1. This shameful act on the part of the ADC,is maybe due to the fact that former Congresswoman Mary Rose relation with Buthiena and the regime.She was invited to Syria for the flop,expatriot confrence in syria,and maybe even won by some financial rewards.Who knows? Judging from her past ,we know she likes money.

  2. Ammar, your indignance and anger are absolutely understandable. However, I would say that no one should be prevented from expressing their views. People make up their minds whether a speaker is lying, telling half-truths or defending a despotic regime. As you report in your post, someone asked Buthaina a question and her answer simply revealed nothing but hypocracy and spin. No one can fool all the people all of the time.There’s a new post on : “Gaza by candlelight”

  3. Again Ammar,What I “love” about the ADC, most of our intellectuals, and other Arab NGOs is that they are peddling the same snake-oil as the regimes they criticize.And they don’t even know it. This is how sick the culture is. We are very far from any improvement.

  4. Philip, your post is close to what I am talking about. Buthaina is free to say whatever she wants (in the US of course not in Syria).But the ADC does not have to sponsor her, or her venue, and look associated with her.

  5. Ms Shabaan is a naif, enough said.(Maybe she should have been reminded that she was justifying the imprisonment of those that disgree with the policy of the Syrian regime in a country where the driver of OBL brought a law suit against the President of the Republic and won!!!!

  6. I have few things to say about dr. Shabaan.1) True, her articles on Asharq alawsat are frustrating in their repeating the same message week after week … Palestine and iraq are being raped byt he Israelis and the Americans, and the Arab press is not concentrating enough on these stories.Actually those articles are more than frustrating, they are also dangerous. She get too close to making the younger readers hate Americans, and maybe even christians and Jews in the process. Not something you can later undo easily.2) We met her in Canada last year. Almost everyone liked her. She was really good. Our MP met with her and told us that teh Canadian officials who met her in Ottawa all liked her as well. Our MP actually told us: “Buthaina should be the prime minister of Syria, she is THAT good”3) I heard from one my friends (a journalist) that the BBC’s Tim sebastian really wants to have Buthaina as a guest on his Doha debates. He said that she was brilliant after her appearance on the BBC’s Hard Talk.Now my input:While I agree that Buthaina’s inflamatory articles are dangerous, I have to say that overall, her performance in that post has been very good. Good enough for the ADC to be as happy as the BBC’s Tim Sebastian or Canadian Officials in Ottawa to see her.And a more general question for Ammar:Why do you get very upset at the part of Bashar or Buthaina’s interviews which are abviously political spin? Bush does it , his spokesman does it all the time, Mubarak does it, Tony Blair does it … politicians are not supposed to be 100% “honest”. If Ghassan cherbel from Alhayat asked Bahsar 100 questions, he is not obliged to show his cards by allways giving the real honest answer … why not put him publicly under a lie detector instead?It is understandable if you analyze the parts where you feel he did not want to answer the question directly, but I don’t understand it when you find his lack of total honesty to be so uniquely objectionable.

  7. one clarification, I make an exception to that part about detaining the secular intellectuals. All their answers where not acceptable because this whole thing is not acceptable because it is not about foreign policy but instead it is totally under their control.

  8. The ADC is a mainstream Arab-American organization. I attend their events on a regular basis. Many Americans of Syrian descent are members and participants in ADC. I have seem them publicly honored for making large contributions to the ADC.As a mainstream organization, the ADC broadly respresents the consensus of Arab-Americans on both foreign policy and domestic policy. I understand where Ammar is coming from, but any realistic observer would conclude that his views fall outside the mainstream Arab-American or Syrian-American view, both with respect to civil rights for Arab-Americans, and the desire for regime change in Syria.

  9. George,And I stand too oustide the Arab and expat mainstream, though perphaps in a different way from Ammar.The Arab mainstream, and the expat mainsteam are going NOWHERE fast. When something fails you try something else.If I have not convinced you, have fun at your next useless ADC cocktail, and enjoy it while they milk your checkbook.

  10. Alex, you’re doing the usual Arab “yes but” routine (at best).Buthaina is defending a criminal loathesome regime to many, at least in the US.If you want associate with her, directly or indirectly, don’t be expecting respect from those you are trying to sway.

  11. JWIndeed I am for the “yes but” approach to most issues. Not all, as you can see I am totally against statements that lead to hate, even for the Americans or the jews.But If Tim Sebastian respects Buthaina, I hope you can excuse my “yes but” approach.The Middle East can not afford anymore the absolute stands of “she is defending a criminal regime” type. The regime is not more criminal than other regimes … do you want to boycott all “regimes”?

  12. Mr. Wales,Speaking of “expecting respect from those you are trying to sway”, this was my point to Ammar. If he is seeking support from Arab-Americans or Americans of Syrian descent to accomplish his objectives, which it seems that he is, then it’s probably unwise to broadside a mainstream organziation respected as one of the 2 major advocates of their interests in the American political landscape (the AAI being the other).

  13. advocates of their interests Mr. Ajjan, “their” interests do not include “mine”. As a matter of fact I view ADC and similar groups actions as harmful to me, the community, and the US at large.If ADC are going to put people like Buthaina Shaaban forth, then I don’t respect them. And I would urge anyone listening not to respect them either.Why the hell did these people come over here, if not to ESCAPE the likes of Buthaina Chaaban and her ugly ideology? She’s OK because she knows 2 words of English and wears a skirt???I view the ADC as peddling the ideas that wrecked the ME and made many of us leave to come here. The last thing I want is for those failed ideas to follow me over here. I am sorry you don’t see that and keep giving them support.

  14. It seems to me that nothing would be accomplished by simply convincing big organizations like the ADC to shun such Syrian officials from visiting or speaking. This would only prevent any engagement at all and the potential opportunity to engage these influencial people would be lost entirely. Philip I is correct that exposure is still productive no matter what because there is at least the possibility for hypocricy or their bias to be revealed and critiqued.The central point seems to be how the ADC should be behaving and engaging with these officials. I agree with George (and of course Alex) that to make a wholesale attack on ADC’s attitude doesn’t take into account their mainstream position or the “broad consensus” they represent. However,this doesn’t mean that this mainstream stance couldn’t be challenged, of course. It seems reasonable to suggest that the ADC could act less like they are pandering to their guest and more like they are impartial. The venue could actively support contrasting views or speakers. It doesn’t seem like the conference in question was devoid of this character completely, as you say that a journalist was present who was able to confront Shabaan with her contradictions. Maybe in the end, SHE was the one who looked hypocritical and defensive, after all. If you think that what the ADC should be doing is challenging more, questioning more, and taking a part in a controversial debate, then, by all means, YOU should put the challenge to them first……….why don’t you send them your complaint………

  15. George, by criticizing the ADC, I mean exactly to criticize the Arab-American consensus. Alex, I don’t give a damn about foreign officials liking or not liking Bouthaina. Bouthaina represents the Syrian regime and has been defending its policies as loudly and vociferously and energetically as she can. Anyone who endorses her endorses the Syrian regime. So, if Tim Sebastian or Canadian Officials in Ottawa want to endorse the Syrian regime, they are free to do so, but we are also free to remind people about the realities involved in their endorsement. Also, Alex, you misunderstand my point, my main anger is not aimed against Bouthaina, but against ADC as a rights organization. I started out by saying: “the Arab expatriate communities in the US demonstrated how duplicitous they, too, could be,” then I proceeded to explain the situation with ADC as an example of this duplicity. So, yes, I am quite aware that the problem is the problem with mainstream Arab-American and mainstream Arab culture in general, and I am quite aware that I stand outside of it, and I am very happy about that. I have never been comfortable with hypocrisy, a quality lies at the heart of contemporary mainstream Arab culture. For a rights organization to invite someone like Bouthaina Shaaban at the height of a regime crackdown against all activists and dissidents is very questionable to say the least, I would say even duplicitous. By doing so, the ADC has justified and defended the crackdown against Michel Kilo and Radwan Ziyadeh and all the others. I said that I can understand that an organization like ADC must have to deal with regimes at many occasions, but, there are right and wrong times for that, and right and wrong regimes even. And a rights organization like the ADC has to go sometimes against the mainstream consensus in order to show some moral backbone and justify its presence, rights organization should stand by certain principles not what the mainstream wants and desires. If they wanted to, they could have invited someone from the very stream of thought that the Syrian regime is currently busy cracking down against to create some balance on that podium. But no, Shaaban had already cancelled an appearance at the Syrian American Congress because of a move like that, and the ADC would prefer someone like Bouthaina Shaabna to show up, someone with a greater name-recognition, who gives a damn about rights and principles? Well, they got what they wanted. Hope they enjoy the donations. Zenobia, the journalist was not on the podium, but among the paid guests. As for sending them my complaints, well, I am told that a few people at ADC do read my blog, so, they are getting the message. As for the idea of exposing the hypocrisy of our officials, I don’t think it really works. Most people have relatives and family members and business interests in the original homeland and that prevents them from challenging the officials, be they an ambassador or a visiting minister. These officials actually end playing up an intimidating role. They come here and they speak defiantly to spread mainly more fear among the expatriates not understanding of their policies. So, those who invite them here, help them achieve ther goals. And you wonder why the majority of Arab expatriates are apolitical? As for George trying to say that it is wrong strategy to criticize the mainstream Arab organizations, I kindly disagree, my aim is to tap into the other side of the equation. It is about time we had some dissent here as well. I am here now, and I want an institution that represents me and my interest, ADC and AAI don’t cut it for me.

  16. Alex, Zenobia, Slice any way you want. Alex maybe you want to compromise on politics over in there in the ME.But if you call yourself ADC in the US, anti-discrimination, and then invite/sponsor/whatever a full-fledged member of a regime DISCRIMINATING against Kurds, JAILING people like Kilo, and BLOWING up Lebanese politicians, DON’T come lecturing me (worse have Buthaina lecture) on Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, or discrimination in the US. They look like the hypocrites that they are.PS What fucking discrimination? OBL’s driver won his court case vs Bush. Bad, bad, fascist Amrika!! Hearty, har, har har and then some.

  17. Ammar, Why wait for some suppose persons to look at your blog, why not just send your argument and complaint directly to the source – right into the eye of the storm, if you will.. What prevents you from doing that?On top of that, AAI is busy priding themselves all the time on trying to point out hypocricy going on here, so why don’t you send THEM your critique directly. I don’t think George said you shouldn’t criticize the mainstream arab organizations…… I think he said you shouldn’t “broadside” them, meaning alienate. I assume he meant that instead of just bitching and writing them off as horrible, you should be more diplomatic.I actually, don’t think you need to be more diplomatic in your thinking. I understand what you are saying (especially after your clarifications in your rebutal about how difficult it is to sit back and hope that the disingenuousness will be readily clear or that anyone will be able to challenge in these forums). Ok, but still, you could be more effective in your intervention, don’t you think. So that perhaps someone might actually listen to you. Make your appeal directly. Or in addition, ADC or AAI, should allow comment…somewhere in there news… shouldn’t they?? At minimum, you should be able to comment somewhere on there sites or news outlets that ADC didn’t allow any opposition persons or alternative speakers to attend such events.

  18. Ok, another comment, not relevant to your main point really, but still…bothering to me….. is your insertion of this:For despite all the stereotypes that exist about them in popular imagination and in the media and despite the acts of terror being perpetuated in their name, no matter how partially, they were never subjected to the kind of practical discrimination that other minority groups in this country have had to deal with, so far. What basis do you have to say this? I am not sure what you exactly meant by “practical discrimination”, but assuming I understand you, I think you are way off….my uncles who were of another generation – totally- from you- experienced plenty of vicious types of descrimination. I don’t think you have a concept of the experience of what the period prior to 1960’s would have been like. And today, I think you might have a different picture if you talked to the guy running the gas station in North Carolina.Of course there are some differences I think due to sheer numbers. Mexican immigrants have a very public experience of descrimination in the US, for example, and more of a collective identity in say, California and South West. Josey Wales, What the hell does the court case of Hamdan have to do with showing that there is no descrimination in America!…. total logical fallacy.The Supreme Court decision reveals the beauty of our legal system (at times). However, (not only was this not a descrimination case) just because a single case can makes its way all the way to the Supreme Court and reaffirm certain key foundations and principles of our aspirations for life here, does not negate the fact that hundered and hundreds of little people get screwed everyday, treated like shit, and generally have NO access to the legal system in a meaningful way. Most descrimination is de facto, not de jure, and nobody ever rectifies the wrongs legally speaking.

  19. Ammar,I understand better your point. I agree that at this time, after they arrested the dissidents it is not totally suitable for the ADC, given the nature of that organization, to be too nice to a representative of the Syrian regime.JW, please remember that as an admirer of the American judicial system, I do not jump to my own emotional conclusions just because I want them to be true… remember “innocent until proven guilty?” remember how everyone is always sure the Syrian regime did it? If you like democracy, please accept that most Syrians are in the center. Just like you are convinced that you know everything, I am convinced that given today’s chaos in the Middle East, there is no way to claim we know anything (well, almost) … and we are convinced the Syrian regime is “bad” … just like most of the names we hear in the opposition and just like most of the politicians around them… most Lebanese politicians, most Iraqi politicians, Egyptians, Saudis … Israelis.Going back to what you told me earlier: If you want associate with her, directly or indirectly, don’t be expecting respect from those you are trying to sway.Believe me, I got more more positive feedback and new friends than I could handle … from Ivy League universities, from American think tanks, from top western journalists, from many wonderful Israeli and Turkish scholars … the only doubt I am getting is from those who hate the Syrian regime day and night… only in Syria and Lebanon.The world is bigger than your favorite few news and analysis sources you might have picked to trust.And by the way, Ammar (and Rime)are not in the group I am disappointed with … he has been abviously a big help in our Think Tank.

  20. Zenobia, Discrimination in all its forms is an ugly despicable pracice that must never be condoned. Yet it is vitally important to make a distinction between individual acts of discrimination and societal collective ones. I have no doubt that some individuals of an Arab origin have been subjected to some special discriminatory treatment at one time or another by certain individuals.But I am equally certain that members of all groups are discriminated against at one time or another by some members of a different group that either feels threatened or just does not like a certain socisl, economic or political ideology.( One can find cases of discrimination against blacks, Japanese, Latinos, women, gays, jews, blondes, tall people, short people, old people…)My point is that in a society of laws statutes can and do offer protection against misconduct and abuse. One will never be able to eliminate unacceptable kinds of personal behaviour but we can offer the potential victim legal protection. I have never seen any and I am not aware of any cases where the US law has failed to offer protection for people of Arab descent. Actually whenevr I have asked for any specific examples of said discrimination the best that I got in response were the Hollywood stereotypes in movies. Even then I sort of shrug these unpleasant stereotypes because it was real action in the Middle East that gave rise to them and they were not created in a vacuum. I have no doubt that once peace reigns in the Arab world and violence stops then Hollywood would cease to depict Arabs as terrorists and violence loving people. Ms Shabaan is to be judged by the principles that she espouces and is willing to devote her energies to promote. These ideas, Baath regime, represenr nothing less than the most vile example of disrespect for human rightsand for the democratic process. As a result I believe that it is the duty of all decent freedom loving individuals to boycott her appearances and show the courage to speak truth to power. Yes, the emperor has no cloths and Ms shabaan supports willingly dictatorship , violenceand discrimination. For what does it mean to deny the right to think but the vilest form of discrimination. Believ it or not the example regarding the driver of OBL and the US adminstration is relevant. A society of law and order will offer equal rights and protections to all even its most vicious perceived enemies that are in jail. These jailed individuals had the right and the opportunity to file a law suit and win aginst the government of the United States. This is civil society and equal protection at its finest. Contrast this with Ms Shabaan who justifies holding people in jail for nothing more than having signed a petition or written an article. It is a disgrace when thepromoters of tyranny and abuse are to be accepted and even promoted just because they happen to be intelligent or witty. That is not any different that justifying fascism because they made the trains run on time.

  21. Ammar,I am unclear as to what your final objective is.Is it to influence behind-the-scenes decision makers in the American politcal landscape through direct engagement?If so, there are many influential people in Washington whom would love your views. However, associating yourself with them would encumber you with crippling political baggage in the minds of Syrians. On that basis, it would also make you a liability to your NSF colleagues.Or is it to influence elected decision makers in the American politcal landscape indirectly by raising the profile of the Syrian regime’s flaws so that American public embraces your cause?If so, then you will be in direct competition with the Arab-American mainstream groups like AAI/ADC who “don’t cut it”. I humbly suggest that they have activist numbers, personal relationships, and organizational infrastructure supporting them that will make their agendas difficult to defeat.

  22. Frankly, I am not going to argue about how good or bad the record of the US is regarding descrimination. I think that if it was important or relevant to the debate, I could easily make a counter argument that the fact that America has a superior legal system that attempt to provide equal protection under the law for all citizen (and that this is sometime dramatically exemplified by such achievements as the Hamdan case) does not in any way accurately mirror the REAL LIVED experience of most immigrants to this country. yes, it is true, AS I already ACKNOWLEGED, that descrimination at this point, is not DE JURE, not written into the law, IT IS PRACTICED by yes, INDIVIDUALS. SO,……… but all of this is irrelavent to the main point. as i see it …you want to argue this:America is superior in its laws and practices regarding descrimination, minority experience, freedom of speech, and the legal protections of its citizens……. THEREFORE, the INFERIOR and bad syrian officials….who have none of this orientation or respect for these principles and who represent a leadership who violates the rights of its citizens……should NOT BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK AT OR VISIT… american institutions … (especially ones whose purpose for existence has to do with preserving civil rights). OK i get your point. I may even agree with it, in the sense that there is a big problem with this happening without comment or confrontation. However, it seems that this is the REALITY of what IS happening, and to my mind the question is HOW should one address it. AND I DISAGREE THAT BANNING THEM IS A PRODUCTIVE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM.For one thing, that doesn’t actually solve the problem of the substantives concerns being talked about or confronted. Just to be hyperbolic about it. If Hitler HAD been invited to come and speak in America…. maybe he should have been allowed to come. It seems to me… people would have been a lot more informed about what he stood for than otherwise.Just because you agree to hear what a fascist says…..doesn’t mean you agree with him/her!and finally, Please don’t make those bullshit arguments about stereotypes being based in REALITY, SO THEREFORE THEY ARE JUSTIFIED. argggg!!!!!!!! I HATE THAT.We HAD that argument on this blog already… (maybe you missed it). In sum: there is no such thing as a stereotype =reality… by DEFINITION…. it is a DISTORTION.. of reality. LISTEN: if someone said the stereotype of black people that they are LAZY AND OVERSEXED is ok to promulgate or should not be protested because after all there is some EVIDENCE… AFTER ALL … percentage wise they dominate the welfare roles….and they have too many babies…. would you allow this BULLSHIT ????? NO, YOU WOULDN’T.Accordingly, the fact that the middle east produces….”terrorists” does not make it ok….that hollywood or anyone else in america….reduces… the imagery of arab … 95% of the time…to some violent characters… IT IS A DISTORTION OF REALITY… that is a hundred times more complex….. about WHO AND WHAT…the middle east is comprised of. ENOUGH.

  23. First, as a centrist who usually enjoy the attack and counter attach on this blog, this time some speakers here forgot that there are thousands of people who will die outside their country for being dissidents, it is outrageous to hear people defending the Immigration Minister in the country where these people came running from her, because either here of death there. If a western country wants to punish someone they will send there, under the watch of ADC and when ADC talk they criticize this country not his birthplace, funny isn’t. Putting Mr. Kilo in prison in Syria it is like putting one thousand columnists in USA prison, for just writing one article. Second, ADC is great organization sure, but they should think different in this age not like 40 years ago, the political geographic has changed. Human rights should be on their agenda not only here but everywhere especially in their homelands.Third, Zenobia, I used to wait for your comment because used to be the right one, however, this time it wan not what I wished to hear. Those dissidents inside Syrian and outside Syria wants only to speak and write as you have done on this comment without being taking to prison. If the American walked 10 miles in the road to human rights, in Syria they are preventing any from thinking about that.Thanks Ammar, you are on the right track.

  24. Zenobia, you say: “Most discrimination is de facto, not de jure.” Good point. Ghassan Karam, you say: “Ms Shabaan is to be judged by the principles that she espouses and is willing to devote her energies to promote.” Another good point. George, you say: “I am unclear as to what your final objective is.” Actually, my final objective at this stage, is the downfall of the Syria regime before it brings about the disintegration of the state. To achieve this, I need to work on all levels, knowing that a lot of Syrians won’t like it, and finding ways to deal with the dislike. I have very strong view about certain issues and I cannot be “diplomatic” about that, even as I dabble in politics. There is more than one way of making myself and my cause continually relevant than by appealing to popular tastes. Alex, I am quite aware of Bouthaina’s “popularity” in diplomatic circles, but I am also quite aware of her hypocrisy and her duplicity in some of the regime’s heinous and idiotic policies, and I cannot excuse that just because some in the diplomatic circles are taken by her strong female presence, which tends to take a lot of people by surprise considering what the stereotypes they have about Arab women, and her reiteration of leftist ideas and condemnations of US policies. Bouthaina’s is smart personal diplomacy deployed in the service of a corrupt and authoritarian regime. As a Syrian citizen, I simply cannot afford to ignore that. PS. Thanks Anonymous, and thanks Zenobia, too, for keeping me on toes.

  25. Dear Anonymous,sorry to disappoint. I have unqualified support for dissidents, and anyone who is a writer, speaker, activist, whatever role they play in trying to bring about justice.I am happy to go stand in front of the Syrian Embassy with a sign if you think this will make a difference!please note what i first resonded to Ammar’s piece. I don’t really argue that Shaaban or any of the other officials should be allowed to be….WORSHIPED and rewarded with a free american esteem.YES, THEY SHOULD BE PUBLICALLY CRITICIZED. and hopefully … people here could get that opportunity. You are not going to get it in Syria, so maybe it is better that they come to america and have the condition that they must have to face opposition as well…in these public forums…this way, THEY can decide if they want to be heard at all or not.As Ammar stated, Shaaban turned down an event where she couldn’t control who was there that might ‘balance out the podium’.Ok. I can agree with challenging their appearance with a free ride…where they are treated as respected dignitaries…no qualifiers or conflict.But frankly, my main point initially was simply that Ammar should take his words directly to ADC and even AAI and get in their face if he is this outraged.You too for that matter, why don’t you write a letter…right now……

  26. What the hell does the court case of Hamdan have to do…Zenobia,I put that part in my PS, as an aside. I did not claim direct anything.However, you know damn well what the relation is.The ADC, Zogby et al, are constanly telling us about Bush excesses, trampling of civil rights, and how the poor average Arab-American is discriminated against.How bad can it be for the CITIZEN of Arab descent when you OBL chauffeur , who DOES NOT HAVE any rights here, gets his day in court.Too symbolic and indirect for your literal mind?You mention Hollywood stereotyping, did you check the 4 or 5 Oscar movies having ME connections this year?Syriana, Munich, etc… Who were the bad guys? What the hell are you talking about? Are you just repeating blindly ADC talking points?

  27. Ammar,You are conscious of the potential shortcomings of your approach, which is a beneficial quality for any political activist to have.My advice to you is just to be careful how you define “continually relevant” and to cast an ever-cautious eye on those who purport to evaluate your relevancy.Best,George

  28. Josey,what the ‘HELL’ I am talking about was historically speaking in the last 30 years….i agree with you that this year has been an amazing turn….primarily because of the political upheaval… going on in light of the Iraq War…but I wouldnt’ say that Munich or Syriana were mainstream box office hits in America!… Munich was barely shown …. and did you notice the thrashing that Spielberg received…. for promoting “moral equivalency” between Palestinians and Israeli….killers.YOU are the one with the “literal mind” i would suggest, since you think this one concrete case means so much in the scope of things for actual people. Frankly, I was the one applauding it 48 hours ago….!…. as a huge triumph for american law… but what this has to do with the original argument being made …nothing… I called Ammar on his comment on discrimination….and you countered…that’s it. Please see above my response to Gassan about why I dont’ accept the conclusion that you and then he were drawing from applauding American law in this regard. Ok, and after that.. leave me alone… i am worn out now.

  29. Ammar,my last comment today before I go to the Montreal Jazz festivalMy impression is that Buthaina beives in what she says … most of it. I would not punish her for having to defend the regime on this occasion … what do you want her to do after they arrested Kilo?1) resign2) continue in her job and tolerate having to answer the questions about the arrests in a pathetic way … you think she likes her own answer?If they all resigned the first time they did not like an action by their leader … there will be daily resignations all over the place… there would have been daily resignations in Israel’s coalition governments everytime Sharon killed a Palestinian child … The lebanese government would have resigned every week … one of the Egyptian government’s top figures would have resigned long time ago. He admitted (to a friend of mine)he hates half of what he is asked to do, but he prefers to do his job which he knows he can do it better thatn anoone else.And for those who want to remind me how unforgivable the areest of Kilo was, I want you to know that I have spent 5 hours last month working on things that could help his defense… that’s probably more than al of you combined (with the exception of Ammar) so please hold your lecture.And finally, JW … the discussion between you and Zenobia is also relative … you are right that Syriana and Munich were an improvement, but CNN and Fox are still mostly garbage.

  30. Ammar,I agree with you 100%. I encounter this type of behavior all the time even in circles of student activism.

  31. Alex,the coverage is garbage but in my opinion for another reason than yours: if anything it is too PC, and lets the Arabs and the ADC types off too easy. (see comments to Zenobia above)As to your “innocent until proven guilty” about Syria’s regime.Give me break. Forget Hariri, I’ve seen enough in Lebanon and Syria with my own eyes, and have thought enough about totalitarian regimes to, yes, KNOW.If you don’t know there’s no redemption for those regimes, that’s your problem.In 2006, if after the whole 20th century, and 60 years of Baathism you still don’t know, it means you don’t want to know.

  32. vlFrankly, I am enjoying this heated discussion, and I am learning a lot from all of you. Thank for the advice George. Alex, you said: “If they all resigned the first time they did not like an action by their leader: first of all, there is no hint at all that Bouthaina disagrees with the arrest of Kilo et al. Second, this is definitely not the first questionable action taken by Syria’s leaders, so, indeed, it’s about time that those who brand themselves as “reformers from within” to protest their leaders gaffs a bit more loudly and forcefully. Indeed, a few resignations won’t hurt at all, since these people are having absolutely no effect on their leaders, while their leaders seem to be having a lot of effect on them. But what am I saying? I long stopped branding Bouthaina and Imad as reformers from within. They have long crossed over and gone beyond the point of no-return, they are now part of the criminal gang that rules the country. That is the risk that reformers from within run when they work for a regime like the Assads. These “reformers” say a lot of things in private and I tend to sympathize with them and their logic for a certain period, but after a while, it becomes quite apparent that personal interest plays a far stronger motivation than any ideals or reformatory impulse. I have warned such figures about these kinds of danger repeatedly in the past, and I know others have, for this reason, I have no compunction saying what I am saying here: there is no longer a grey area when it comes to the Syrian regime, you are either in or out. Yaman, indeed, I knew you’d feel this way.

  33. One last note on this matter for those who speak Arabic, the recent entry (and the couple of comments on it) in our new Tharwa blog Quotes & Thoughts makes an interesting and, I believe, relevant point. You commenting English if you feel like it.

  34. Zenobia, I think that you have distorted the essence of my previous post. My intention is not to suggest that since the US has a far more developed legal system then it should ban the representatives of the less developed ones. I am suggesting that there is no proof that I know of that there is discrimination that is practiced in the US on a consistent and wide scale against people of Middle Eastern origin. I would argue that quite to the contrary the US legal system offers enough protection to such individuals that makes the claim that discrimination against Arabs is widely spread a spurious allegation. Furthermore I am suggesting that the representatives of any regime, the Syrian Baath in this case, should not be offered any podiums to promote their reprehensible thinking simply because it does not promote hunam dignity and freedom and liberty.There is a big difference , as well as you know, between not being a party to the promotion of hatred and tyranny, and outright banning of such speech. I will always fight fo the Assads of the world to have the right to express themselves but I will object if my contributions , taxes or associations will be employed as to promote programs that I consider to be undemocratic and even abusive of human rights. As to the argument that stereotypes are to some extent based in reality your only response is that it is an argument that you just do not like. That is not considered to be acceptable rebautal of the proposition that stereotypes are malicious and they do have the tendency to paint with a very broad brush; that is why they are called stereotypes; yet the question is why has Hollywood in this case chosen the Arab to be the terrorist and not the citizen of Tibet? Does that have anything to do with the relative behaviour of each group of people? Back to the main point, can you please enlighten me, I am serious, by giving me the specifics of a case of discrimination against Arabs that was not an abberation?

  35. The ADC is an Arab organisation to deffend Arab rights in the US and as you know there is opposition in all Arab countries as there is no real democracy in any of these countries and fo the ADC to start chosing who represent the people of these countries will mount to interfering in these countries internal affair and will alienate their goverments and part of their people so they chose to support the Arab position of peace built on international law ,by the way Amar we are the ADC and we have been supporting the ADC for more than twenty years as we put our money were our mouth is ,and the ADC does not take money from any Arab country but supported totaly by it,s Arab members as Aburisk set it up ,we are lucky to have the ADC but do not expect them to fight your fantacy wars.

  36. Zenobial, I would say that your paraphrasing what you said is most welcome and it could be argued, but not to stand beside the dissidents, or against human right abuses and listing to a minister mouthing a guy for writing an article and attacking others for just wants to speak their minds is not acceptable. ADC should know what is going on and they do, and they should stand behind free speech, free press and human rights, this is what America is suppose to be all about. This is also where they stand on these matters towards all administrations and on these bases they stand behind their communities. They should advocate equal representation and not to blind themselves of the abuses going on there recently and continually. I might not agree with Ammar on down falling the regime, but I will be 100% behind him in exposing the regime and his abuse of human rights. Only tow years ago we started hearing of civil societies and human rights organization, our freedom defenders still crawling and this new born baby need to be protected from the dictator and his machine.Alex, I know that we never have a real people in any position, all what you see is people like human. No one there speaks his mind and those figures like Bothaina and Imad Moustapha are just opportunists. Ammar, it seems you have close encounter with them and you know their crooked minds. Actually they are just a kind of people they lost the hope and accepted to loose their personality. Immad Moustapha was glad just to be beside Pat Buchanno, but is seemed that he missed a lot of episodes of Issue one with McLaughlin group, about what pat actually thinks of him, his boss and his country.Ghassan, you have painted the right picture about most of us in USA and our relation with ADC, our main human right abuses is still coming from our homeland, and I wish the ADC would look into that. Whenever, we put a foot their till we leave it is a nightmare and it is a guilty verdict till you leave the county. Also your other points are well valid and thanks for clearing this up.

  37. Ghassan, We are obviously talking about different things. You are talking about legal cases and systematic descrimination practiced by say organizations or companies or the like. All I am refering to is the very personal attitudes, feelings, perceptions, types of treatment delivered, or relationships between non-arabs and arabs in the United States. These are not the things that legal cases are made (that is a very high standard, and in that case I would agree with you). I am really talking about PREJUDICE, if this helps. the same type that is afforded many other minority immigrant groups in the United States. Second, on the subject of stereotypes: I DID offer you an explanation of what i rejected about what you said (even if I seemed to be tempermental about it). I said that stereotypes are distortions of reality. Yes, the original impetus for creating a stereotypes BARES SOME RELATION TO A REALITY but it does not equate to the reality, and in this respect it distorts. As well this distortion is INTENTIALLY UTILIZED FOR A DESTRUCTIVE PURPOSE.Why are the Tibetan not depicted as Terrorists? common on! Could it be…. that the middle east and the arabs have a long and tangled history with the West…..most obviously involving the creation of Israel…such that within this history there was the NEED and desire to depict the ME and its people as UNREASONABLE, IRRATIONAL, VIOLENT, UNTRUSTWORTHY, UNMANAGEABLE, BACKWARDS, AND SAVAGE……such that…..there could not possibly be any argument to be made that the West should take these gov’ts and their people seriously or that their demands should be respected…..hmmm. Just a theory…For decades, as a result, these images to my mind, have been promulgated by MEDIA (forget hollywood, look at a few newspapers from the early seventies).And Americans were fed those images relentlessly. So, it is not a wonder to me….why there is prejudice. Obviously, for those of you who emigrate as soon to be doctors, engineers, scientists, or upper middle class professionals….the experience of prejudice in your face will be less. Class has a lot to do with whether you perceive prejudice or not. We had this debate already…. back in May. Check Ammars post “Capital Heresies” from 14th of May. Here is a quote from myself, so I don’t have to REPEAT THIS ANYMORE.“Of course, stereotypes are created out of grains of cultural ‘truth’, but so what. They are also massive distortions of complex realities reduced to vulgar representations of identity. The harm they do is sometimes negligle (eg the italian stereotypes we all love of mafia movies),, but more often, they are severely damaging – especially when these are the ONLY images of a certain ethnic or cultural group that are out there. Nobody would dare create such offensive hollywood imagery of older immigrant groups (irish, german, jews, italians).”“For clarification – I think I was trying to say something about representations (stereotypes) not realities necessarily. Representations ARE interpretated ‘inventions’ even if realities are not. I believe Yaman is saying that there are REAL factual behaviors and events that need introspection and to be changed. Of course this is true. And I agree that the images don’t CAUSE the realities. But they can exacerbate racism and increase ignorance. My initial comment was in response to the issue of imagery and movies as depictions which hold damaging stereotypes, representations that distort and are inherently reductionistic and thereby misleading about cultural and religious complexity .Introspection both about realities and cultural perceptions seem both relevant to the issue of integration and assimilation, the subject of the original post.”

  38. I wonder how many of you witty people, while storming you brains trying to prove your points to one another,actually did write to your representative in congress asking them to help with the human wrights issues in syria? Please do and ask friends and family to do the ame .I think you would get better results that way.Thanks.

  39. Zenobia, Why are the Tibetan not depicted as Terrorists? common on!Could it be…. that the middle east and the arabs have a long and tangled history with the West…Could it be that the ADC and you are always looking for convoluted, irrational explanations?Or could it be because the Tibetans never blew up anyone (friend or foe)? Nah! too easy for the conspiratotial mind.Could it be that Indians, Vietnamese, Afghanis all had their problems with the West and (SUCCESSFUL) wars of liberation without killing people outside their lands and highjacking planes, while Arab diplomats and journalists justify that behavior and at the same time pretend to condemn it?

  40. Ammar,ADC stands for Arab-AMERICAN anti discrimination committee. They should stick to that narrow objective or stay out of ME politics. That may be a practical impossibility, so their interactions with Arab governments should be strictly neutral. What that would have meant for this particular ADC meeting is inviting representatives of both the Syrian government and someone from independent civil society organizations, not TWO regime apologists.Alex, Bouthaina may be charming, smart, well spoken, and you believe that her heart and mind are in the right place. However, her outrageous statements condoning the actions of the regime are hard to swallow. Yes, resigning would have been one option after the recent waves of arrests. At the very least she should shut up instead of enthusiatically defending the regime’s actions. Even if we accept your assumption that she means well, how effective can she be if she is reduced to being the regime’s charming, but dishonest spin doctor?Joseywales, of course there is a huge difference between civil rights in the ME and what we enjoy here in the US as Arab-Americans. That does not mean we should accept less than equal protection and having an advocacy group like the ADC -with all its shortcomings- is important. This debate has been instructive for me. I have in the past looked at the ADC’s interactions with ME embassies in Washington as necessary and pragmatic. And perhaps that needs to continue as long as their is no financial support that is associated with that. However, the natural allies of the ADC should be the various national and pan-Arab civil society and civil rights NGOs.

  41. There is an old saying in Damascus that goes something like ‘Those who eat the Sultan’s bread must fight with the Sultan’s sword’.Butheina Sha3ban is no exception.. Charming or not, eloquent or not, she has sold her soul to the devil..The ADC have given her (and, by extention, the Syrian Regime) a platform to promote her (and the Regime’s) brand of ‘reforms’..This is a betrayal by the ADC for what it proclaims to stand for.

  42. Zenobia, let me conclude this dialogue by saying I am so glad that you stated in your last post that what you are objecting to or describing is “prejudice” and ; as you had stated in the earlier posts: “discrimination”. Yes the two concepts are related but they are also vastly different.I doubt whether there is an individual anywhere in the world that does not have prejudices. I might not think very highly of obese people and others might dislike thin individuals while some might have no respect for those with tattos or a certain shade of skin … That as any lawyer will tell you is not discrimination. To discriminate you have to act upon your prejudices and apply different standards to different individuals. Again I am sure that discrimination does occur by individuals who act upon their prejudices all over the world. What differentiates societies is the level of legal protection that they offer if and when a citizen decides to break the law and commit a discriminatory act. Ideally law will be blind and will adminster the same level of justice to all. It is my clear understanding that based on the above that the ADC has consistently and bltantly acted not as an objective organization whose sole interest is to make sure that the rights of Arab Americans are not violated but has chosen instead to be an instrument of Arab foreign policy in the US. The ADC must realise that to carry on its basic charge of acting as a watch dog for the civil rights of Arab Americans is completely separate from taking purely political positions in support of Arab regimes or even Arab causes.If they wish to act as a lobby on behalf of their understanding of what is good for the Arab world then they should change their charter and adopt a different name. I and most of the people that Arab origin that I know ( they number in the hundreds) have no respect or need for the ADC in its present form. No self respecting human rights organization will ever offer its good offices to the enemies of the dignity of the person. I am afraid that this means that very few, if any, Arab officials should be entitled to speak for or at the ADC.

  43. George, thank you for posting the conference program of the ADC. The program is the best illustration that the ADC does not act as a civil rights watchdog but instead is an organization that is interested in acting as a lobby to influence US policy towards the Arab countries. That in itself is fine but then why call yourself a civil rights watch dog when that is neither a main focus or even a subsidiary one. A more honest decription would be Arab American Lobby, AAL.

  44. George:YES, thanx ten times over for linking the conference overview. So, interesting. YOU KNOW, it is not like the woman was a key speaker…..I dont’ even see her on the panel!….she was like the breakfast guest!….amidst ALL those other things….OK people….the KEY thing…is that OMAR SHARIF was there…. and I could put up with about ten hours of Shaaban saying whatever the hell she wants…..if ONLY I could get a moment in the same room with OMAR SHARIF……..! apparently this is how easy and spinless I am…..

  45. That’s right people .. you are over complicating things.Just sleep late the day Dr. Shaaban spoke at breakfast, and the rest of the conference would have been to your liking.And JW … the Middle East is full of dramatic developments that don’t seem to get a fraction of the attention that some of you give to “the Syrian regime” … does not sound like a healthy state of mind to me.Besides, … apply the same rules you apply to Buthaina, to all other Middle Eastern politicians, and I will stop complaining.

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