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October 17, 1986 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-10-17
This is a tabloid page

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-w V V V

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Recent turmoil in the Middle East has renewed
'Arab-bashing,' a problem students say won't go away
until the Arab-Israeli conflict is settled.

'I do eellike a minority.
There's no slot on an
application form for
Arabs-Iget to say
'Caucasian or other.' I
feel like an 'other.'
-Lebanese graduate student
Hilary Shadroui

of any other student group. But the
University's approximately 300 Arab and

By Rob Earle

Recent turmoil in the Middle East has only made the
"terrorist" label more appealing to Arab-bashers. Events like
this year's hijacking of a TWA jetliner in Beirut and
bombings at the Rome and Vienna airports have been blamed
on an extremist group reportedly led by Abu-Nidal and backed
by Libya's Colonel Muammar Ghadhafi. Sensational media
and government treatment of the events aggravates negative
perceptions of Arabs and put American-Arabs in increasing
jeopardy, according to Terry Ahwal, Regional Coordinator of
the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Ahwal said allegations made earlier this month that the
Reagan administration tried to deceive Ghadhafi into thinking
he was in danger from both the American military and his
own ranks reinforced stereotypes of Arabs as fanatics.
"I can't say if Ghadhafi was hurt by that kind of
popaganda, but I can tell you Arabs in this country were
hurt by it," she said.
Ahwal said American-Arabs frequently come into the
ADC's Detroit office complaining of harassing phone calls,
public verbal abuse and even assaults.
"It seems like every time there is a problem in the Middle
East-like a hijacking- we have people in here," Ahwal
said. "Innocent people who happen to be of Arab descent are
being harassed or attacked just for being Arabs."
Ahwal said that while some attacks are racially motivated
or come from fear of terrorism, othersaare "political." She
called the Jewish Defense League, a New York-based
extremist group, one of the main perpetrators and said they
were suspected in the slaying of Alex Odeh.
"This is terrorism right here in the United States," she
Odeh, the ADC's executive director, was killed by a bomb
at his Los Angeles office after the killing of American Leon
Klinghoffer on the Greek cruise ship Achille Lauro, hijacked
by Palestinians last summer.
Irv Rubin, leader of the JDL, has denied responsibility for
the Odeh killing, but added that he had "no tears for Mr.
Lane Bonner, a spokesman for the FBI, said that of seven
terrorist acts committed in the United States last year, Jewish
extremist groups are suspected in four. But he added that
other groups will often claim responsibility in the name of
the JDL. All of the incidents remain under investigation;
Arabs were not implicated in any of them.
Students say "Arab-bashing" occurs at the University as
"I know there are Palestinians who won't admit to being
Palestinian," Shadroui said.
After The Daily printed a letter she wrote equating
Zionism with racism, Shadroui said she had to stay with a
friend to escape harassing phone calls.
"After I had the article in the paper, people would call me
at two in the morning. They called me a Nazi," she said.
There are also less subtle forms of attack, American-Arabs
say. Ghannam said posters for Arab activities are frequently
ripped down, like those advertising last week's "Policy of
Oppression" conference, endorsed by the AAUG, the New
Jewish Agenda and other groups.
"There are people who don't want to see this conference
go on," Ghannam said.
Despite the problems of campus American-Arabs, they are
still living near the largest concentration of Arabs in the
United States. As many as 200,000 Arabs live in the greater
Detroit area, with18,000 of those in Dearborn, the city with
the highest Arab population in the country. Federal officials
estimate that between 1.5 and three million Arabs and
American-Arabs liveinsthe United States. Each year, about
10,000 more arrive, mostly from Lebanon.
LSA senior Ibrahim Dawud came to the U.S. from the
disputed West Bank region in 1967. Though he is now an
American citizen, Ibrahim still has strong feelings about the
plight of Palestinians living in the Middle East.
"Palestinians need visas to get into every single country
in the world," he said. "They're often stopped to be
interrogated and searched." And that anti-Arab feeling
followed him to the United States.
"My friends couldn't get over the fact I was an Arab," he
said. "My friends would always throw in an ethnic joke about
me, but not about anyone else."
Charges of discrimination against American-Arabs

recently reached the U.S
agreed to determine whe
primarily at blacks shou
Majid Ghaidan Al-Kh
Francis college in Loi
discrimination after beir
citizen born in Iraq, A-K
considered his ethnic bac
A federal judge threv
appeals court reinstated 1
considered a protected mi
even though it was enact
of blacks.
"When Congress refer
did not intend thereby
scientific conception of t
The decision acknow
Arabs is Caucasian.
But Shadroui believes
of race.
"I do feel like a minori
on an application form fo
other' right now. I feel lik
a Caucasian."
Whatever the law, Ar
look at me or they look
are you from?' "Shadrot
someone with lighter skin
Ahwal said Arabs' Cat
student financial aid and
"An Arab can't get aid if
Though the 1980s h
against American-Arabs
made toward a better und
She said some media, lil
Detroit News, are doing
concerns of Arabs.
The ADC is one al
munication, Ahwal says
public can be overcome
She also said groups 1
for Palestine and the A
American-Arabs and g
University community.
Shadroui is hopeful bu
"There is progress, bu
she said. "It will take us 1
Arab-Americans on the na
As for the Univ
as opposed to rallies, are 1
"We have people comi
about this perspective,"
present our position as rai
possible. When we get
Zionists, I don't think th
She noted endorseme
Jewish Agenda as one p
think American-Arabs ca
Ghannam said one st
progressive groups on c
"(The Free South
supports the anti-aparth
Israel many of the memb
Ghannam and othei
American-Arabs and oth
University of Michiga
Palestinian issue in the I
Jews cannot be happy i
state in Palestine is the c
"When Israel falls...
secular state," he said. "
oppress the Jews, I woul4

American-Arab students

also carry the

burden of belonging to one of the most
unpopular minorities in the country.
Discrimination, cultural friction with mainstream America
and stereotyping as terrorists are all problems facing the Arab
community, both here and around the country. American-
Arab University students say the negative image of Arabs is
rooted in public ignorance.
"I think as students we don't have a problem with that,
but when we try to identify as Arabs is when we run into
problems," said Hilary Shadroui, a history graduate student of
Lebanese descent.
Steve Ghannam, a Palestinian graduate student studying
architecture, said maintaining an Arab identity is important,
though it is also the source of many of the Arabs'
"Once (Arabs) identify themselves, they're different,"
Ghannam said. "Then people start stereotyping and treating
you differently. Otherwise, I could walk down the street and
nobody would know I was an Arab-I could be Greek,
Italian, even a Jew."
Ghannam said "Arab-bashing" is typical of attacks against
other ethnic minority groups.
"I suppose every culture goes through that," he said.
"With Arabs it's happening more so now. The society here
forces people to conform-it treats people who are different
very badly."
Because Palestinian Arabs don't have a national homeland,
like Jordanians, Syrians or Saudis, Ghannam said they face
special problems.
Earle is a Daily staff reporter.

"There's not as strong a threat to the other Arab
nationalities like there is to the Palestinians," he said. "If I
lose my identity, my people will slowly die out. I'll be
damned if we're going to be like the American Indians. What
happened to them could happen to us."
In order to maintain their cultural and political identity,
University American-Arabs have established several
organizations on campus.
The November 29th Committee for Palestine, a national
organization with about 30 chapters nationwide, including
one here, was formed to "educate Americans about the Middle
East, and about the Palestinian issue in particular... to put
pressure on the American government to change its policies
and work for some kind of just resolution to the problems of
the Palestinian-Zionist conflict," Shadroui said.
The Association of Arab-American University Graduates
(AAUG), which includes non-Arabs, is primarily a cultural
and educational group, though they often work with the
November 29th Committee for Palestine.
The University also has a chapter of the Islamic Student
Association, a chiefly religious group for Arab and non-Arab
students. (Most Iranians, for example, are Islamic. But
they're not Arabs.)
Close ties to the Middle East are the source of much of
the tension between American-Arabs and American Zionists,
Jews who believe in a national Jewish homeland in Israel.
The establishment of the state of Israel and the massive
immigration of Jews there has led to the displacement of
many Palestinian Arabs since the 1940s. The ensuing
conflict has been the crux of the wars between Israel and the
Arab states, as well as Palestinian political organizations.
"Especially on the Palestinian issue, we come under a lot
of attack," Shadroui said. "Not only from Zionists but maybe
from people who don't really know, who just believe what
they read in the American press or whatever and so they're
'intuitively' pro-Zionist.
"People who are American supporters of Israel or Zionists
tend to be very hard to deal with," she said.
Miriam Schler of the Progressive Zionist Caucus agreed

that Arabs' complaints about harassment and discrimination
"have some validity."
She said some people believe that "whatever Israel does is
100 percent right," but most members in her group do not.
"Even people in PZC who consider themselves Zionists
are critical of Israel.
"You're talking about Arab nationalism and Jewish
Zionism," she added. "They're two conflicting ideologies.
That doesn't mean there can't be a solution."
Second-year pharamcy student Suha Hamid, an Iraqi, said
the influence of Zionists at the University makes it difficult
for Arabs to reach the community at large. She says Arabs
frequently have trouble getting their letters or editorials
published in The Daily and getting money or sponsorship for
events from the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA) and
other campus groups.
Last spring's address by Palestinian scholar Edward Said,
for instance, was sponsored by the Rackham Student
Government (RSG) and two Arab groups. Other
organizations, including MSA and the Department of Near
Eastern Studies, refused to sponsor the event.
MSA also refused to endorse a conference sponsored by
the November 29th Committee for Palestine and the African
National Congress called "Israel and South Africa-the
Apartheid Connection?"
"I asked them to endorse it in the name of freedom of
speech," said Ghannam. "People voted against it. They voted
against freedom of speech."
Ghannam said some of the assembly members who voted
against sponsorship were Zionists.
MSA representative Bruce -Belcher said the rejection of
sponsorship probably had more to do with conflicts between
the assembly's Budget Priorities Committee and members of
RSG than any anti-Arab feeling on the assembly.
But students at a recent Diag commemoration of a 1982
Palestinian refugee massacre discovered there are openly anti-
Arab sentiments at the University. One student was spit on.
A woman yelled, "Fuck off!" at participants, and others called
them "terrorists."



'I f I lose my identity, mny
people will slowly die out.
I'll be damned if we're going
to be like the American
Indians. What happened to
them could happen to us.'
-Palestinian graduate student
Steve Ghannam



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