By: Dr. Aref Assaf
How ironic if not oxymoronic that an organization whose middle name is anti discrimination is silencing a song about freedom.
I am not surprised that ADC, the self described “largest Arab American civil rights organization” is acting in a manner contrary to the aspirations of its members. In an article in Politico, ADC, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, decided abruptly to disinvite a Syrian artist, Malek Jandali, who was set to perform a pro democracy song at its annual convention taking place this weekend in Washington, DC.
In a shameful press release issued following the Politico article, ADC danced around the hollow argument that their “resolution not to promote any particular side of a dispute is misunderstood”. And that they do not wish to engage in ‘domestic’ issues affecting the Arab world.” I wonder who wrote the statement for it reminds me of the liar who actually believes his lies. In the face of clear injustice, ADC cannot remain salient and preferring to remain ‘ numeral’. By so doing, ADC has irreversibly disconnected itself from the Arab Spring sweeping the Arab World. It has in effect sided with the enemy of the people, with those despots who have robbed our land of its wealth and the people of their dignity and honor.
ADC, founded in 1980 by Senator James Abourezk, has shown its true colors. While some will argue the charges of conspiracy are too harsh, it is undoubtedly clear that ADC has not fully comprehended the implications of its actions. Except for its national officies in Washington, DC, and a chapter with paid staff in Dearborn, Michigan, ADC’s chapters in many other states are dormant or exibiting little tangible evidence of achievements.
Unable to gain ‘grassroots’ acceptance and funding, ADC has over the last several years turned its hands to Arab billionaire and dictators. It started with the several million ADC got in return for honoring the flamboyant playboy Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal founder and CEO of kingdom Holding Properties.
Understandably, not taking sides with Arab issues was another excuse ADC in 1991 when its leadership refused to oppose the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent US led war to liberate Kuwait. That decision all but dried up critical financial support from the Gulf States.
ADC has become the sick man of the Arab American community due largely to the rise of other ethnic and religious organizations. It began with the spilt led by James Zogby who in 1985 founded the American Arab Institute. AAI has by and large done a commendable job at gauging the Arab street and conveying its message. The derailment of ADC, however, would continue unabated in the 1990’s when CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations came into being flowed by several other issue specific groups such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council, The American Task Force on Palestine and the American Task Force on Lebanon. Even with the unprecedented post 9/11 onslaught on American Arabs and Muslims civil and religious rights, ADC was slowly losing its monopoly on being the spokesman for and the defender of the besieged community.
I have served under ADC’s banner for many years and have devoted precious hours to promote its core mission: to serve the interests of the American Arab community. It was not a perfect relationship but here in New Jersey we were able to accomplish unprecedented and unrepeated strides in fulfilling its declared mission. It, however, would have to await another occasion to uncover my personal encounters.
The decision to remove a pro democracy performer from their convention’s program was a great miscalculation. Unless immediately reversed, it shall remain a sham on ADC’s long and proud history of serving the interests of the community. ADC will forever be associated with the enemy of people in the Middle East. ADC cannot have it both ways. Either you are with the people’s calls for freedom or you are with the dictators, the oppressors, the enemies of our people.
I call upon all members to make their positions knows by contacting ADC national office at: 1732 Wisconsin Ave, NW Washington, D.C. 20007, Phone: (202) 244-2990, Fax: (202) 333-3980, firstname.lastname@example.org . Please send your comments to ADC president, Sara Najjar Wilson at email@example.com
I further call upon those members who were planning to attend this weekend’s convention to cancel their attendance. And this call applies specially to the speakers who have accepted to participate in the convention.
Finally, I think it is appropriate that ADC Board Chairman, Dr. Safa Rifka must step down. The salvation of ADC may then begin.