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. The whole point of the post, which was posted with a time delay of a few days to give me some time to consider my statement as carefully as I can, was to generate some debate over the matter that I can take to the people at ADC, and all other organizations representing, or claming to represent Arab-Americans, and show them that we, the non-mainstream actors in the Arab-American community, are watching them, and we do have some constituency out there, and from now on, they need to take us into consideration and factor us into their calculations. Even a seemingly minor event like a breakfast with some unsavory official is going to be duly noted and protested as loudly as possible. It is about time for some dissent to take place within the ranks of the community, and it is about time that it got organized too, but that will admittedly take a while. The battle for reform and modernization is going to be waged here as well. So, beware and be ready. You are going to be challenged from within like never before. Heretically, and not so modestly, yours,Ammar, the roving dissident, Abdulhamid

  2. Ammar, Thank you so much for your bravery voice. I would like to add another point in this subject, and the words are directly to the Minister Shabaan and ambassador Imad:Dear Minister, ambassador, I’m an American from Syrian Origin, you are not welcome here when you criticize our government, The USA government, for any reason, as long as you and your government do not allow us to criticize your government in your country.Putting a writer in prison for an article or for his stand is not ridiculous but insulting to all of us. Mr. Buchanan should have heard that before standing for photo opportunity.Happy 4th of July everyone. Bye Bye

  3. Ammar & Abu-Kareem are almost always right. They keeps us “in check” and wake up our sleeping conscious.However, in a world that thrives in the color gray. Alex and George are also right…Dr. Mustapha is a perfect example; I think the positive impact of his work outweigh the negatives…I think, most of us, don’t want to see Dr. Mustapha replaced by a usual incompetent Syrian diplomat. However not many people fall in Dr. Mustapha’s category. Corruption, incompetence, and murder still run deep in some places. All said, thank you Dr. Mustapha. All of you guys re doing a great job. It all works perfectly well …something like “checks and balances”Special thanks to Alex; exceptional energy and effort indeed.Salam

  4. Hi Amr, I think you will make an even better diplomat than Imad one day. I look forward to that day.

  5. AmrThank you so much (…for thanking me!)I agree with Ammar .. you will probably be a better diplomat than Dr. Moustapha when you are his age.Did we manage to get you in trouble?(smile)I’ll send this link to him.

  6. I posted this comment on Via Recta but it applies to here as well, Ammar great job in bringing up the issue and showing us how far can people defend the regim stepping on every ounce of integrity and support for basic rights and supporting ugly regime faces. I’ll modify the comment a bit… Unfortunately from my past experience Alex and Norman come pretending that they are on your side and they want debate and civility but then little by little their obvious choices and views start becoming clear and end up being very similar to the government and the regime specially when it comes to foreign affairs, internal issues (saying the regime has no other choices), and unlimited support for regime figures (saying they are faking it to stay on, Buthaina Shaaban in here or whoever else), justifying corruption and all other regime deficiencies by attacking or comparing other countries in the middle east, they want (or just Alex) just Peace with Israel but support most of the regime actions in terms of inflating the region (saying they are innoncent) …Norman mentioned few days ago that he is so happy for his free education on Syria Comment which I am so happy to notice its negative outcome and his way of thinking, he must be still fresh from there, or an important baathist…as for his idea that women (siters and moms like he said) are very safe there…well I connected with some people and I am hearing very nasty stories about some girls being kidnapped by taxis, or a fresh case of some fundementalistic islamic gangsters (criminal band) succeeding of pursuing some weak christian women in Aleppo who are married and with kids, seducing them to fall in love with one of them, then the rest of the band would contact the husband for a while, threaten him and scare him to death so he stays confused and silent, while someone else succeed in getting loans in the woman’s name, then the woman would run away after getting caught by the husband and declares herself becoming muslim (converting and asking for the kids to be with her). What kind of safety is that??? and how many lives get destroyed that way! is that how proud you are from Bashar??? keep finding him excuses and soon you’ll be the first one to attack him.Fuck the ASSADS, tarnishing Syria’s image and lowering the people to new levels of dirtyness and shame, wassakhah. These kinds of acts are so easy to spread more sectarianism and divisions between the people. Don’t accuse me of being an Israeli agent or spreading lies, because it is so hard for me to write about this and not happy to do it, families that endure that would definitely want to keep it private and hush hush out of concerns for their honor or fear for their safety. But it does not mean it should be brushed under the carpet and saying Syria or the regime is perfect, violence is increasing and it is becoming the rule of the jungle…people with no conscience win.

  7. Anonymous, thank you for your brilliant analysis … you got everything right. You really know how to read people’s minds and you scored very highly here today.Alex

  8. It seems that Ms. Shaaban has been pondering these same issues recently. See her op-ed in al-Sharq al-Awsat from July 1.

  9. This woman’s level of hypocrisy is amazing, so willing to cry for Palestinians and Iraqis but not a single tear for Syrian prisoners of conscience. Yes, it is the West that created the divisions between Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Africans, this is not something that we invented 1400 years ago, and Alawites do not control the Army, the security apparatuses and the decision-making process in Syria. Indeed, this woman is a closet reformer.

  10. This woman’s level of hypocrisy is amazing, so willing to cry for Palestinians and Iraqis but not a single tear for Syrian prisoners of conscience. Yes, it is the West that created the divisions between Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Africans, this is not something that we invented 1400 years ago, and Alawites do not control the Army, the security apparatuses and the decision-making process in Syria. Indeed, this woman is a closet reformer.

  11. Ammar & Alex,Although I am flattered by your comments, I hop it will not get me in trouble (smile)I still have family and friends in Syria and very much interested in being able to visit.Dr, Mustapha, has an extremely challenging job, for now I will stick to engineering and.. and maybe dancing that night away at “Pink” (a famous house music club in San Francisco) (smile)Growing up in Syria they used to say (Syrian wisdom) hang out with the low-lives and crooks…it is politically “safer” that way (smile) P.S. I hope that by this statement I did not commit a crime ( Nashr Akhbar Kazebah Tohen Nafseyet el Umma) heheheHope to meet you all one day..

  12. Alex,I have a suggested topic for your “Creative Syria”Why Syria continues to fail in attracting and even to help alienating well educated and patriotic (relative), Syrian professional who worked or studied abroad to help out in the “reform”.Lat time I checked “Syrian officials” complain that Syria’s main obstacle facing “Reform” is the lack of qualified expertise!!I would love to hear Dr. Sha’ban’s take on this subject.Now, it is time for me to go dance…. (smile)

  13. Amr, I replied to your question with an email.Ammar, you are not the only one, but many people got frustrated with Dr. Shabaan’s monotone topic for the past two years … Palestine and Iraq, and her obvious lack of ability to comment on some of the similar human right sabuses that take place in Syria.However (of course there is a however) I equally do not understand why everyone seems to have one issue that they stick to forever … for many of you it is anything where “the Syrian regime” can be criticized. some of you spend 95% of their energy on this topic. And Buthaina can theoretically also accuse you of not caring for the tens of thousands killed in Iraq, and instead only focusing on the tens of intellectuals arrested by the Syrian regime.She is right in being sad at the savage killing in Palestine and Iraq, and you are right in being frustrated at the corruption and arrests of intellectuals in Syria … but there is much more to the Middle East than this one and only favorite issue of the writer type of exclusive focus.

  14. Alex,I equally do not understand why everyone seems to have one issue that they stick to forever1) Buthaina (and Bashar) too appears stuck on 2 issues Palestine and Bush. What was her portfolio again?2)Worried about dead Palestinians and Iraqis? Think YOUR regime cares?You don’t think the 30-year old rejectionist front in Syria has anything to do with the current state of things? Supporting Arafat foes in the past, and now Fatah foes?3) Finally, maybe the idiot Lebanese are stuck on Syria cuz they get can’t get anything done past Syria, from fixing electrity, to hiring new security chiefs, to figuring what nationality are Shebaa Farms(Leb before liberation./Syrian after).The Lebanese political class is made up of are morons, but don’r tell me Syria did not inject itself, and still, in all these issues.To put it mildly, maybe you should change your name to “however”.

  15. : )JWI am proud of my “however” … I can see the good and bad in each one (I hope) … you are all shades of Gray my friend. Plus, this is not a morality contest … Even our morality winner, Ammar, decided to take a practical approach …do business with Khaddam if that is what it takes. You think he respects Khaddam that much?Eventually, you all have to do businss with each other … but for now we have to hear you all telling us day after day how Black is the other side.My point was not that “the Syrians” are any better than “the Lebanese”Why don’t you (whoever is reading this) be the one to take the lead in getting over this mentality? …

  16. ACtually, I alwayshad a multiplicty ofissues toc are about, hence the Tharwa Project and the Tharwa Community Websites. Through the project we look at development in Darfur, Somalia, Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, the Western Sahara, Chechnia, etc., as our new website, Tharwa News indicates.

  17. Ammar why don’t you add links to the other sites, like virtual Syria, to your links section here?

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