Upcoming Conventions, Conferences, Books, Current Events, Backgrounders and Oral Histories

Upcoming Conventions, Conferences, Books, Current Events, Backgrounders and Oral Histories

The 16th National Convention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), entitled “Arab Americans: A Pro-Active Agenda,” will be held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia June 10-13. Speakers at the luncheon on Friday June 11 are Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Rep. David Bonior (D-MI), and Kweisi Mfume, CEO and president of the NAACP and a former Maryland congressman. Speakers at the Celebrities Dinner on Friday night are Casey Kasem, host of the show “American Top 40,” Jamie Farr, TV actor famous for his participation in “M*A*S*H,” Tom Shadyac, movie director, and Peter McGregor-Scott, producer. Jack Shaheen, author of The TV Arab, will be the master of ceremonies for the evening.

The speaker at the luncheon on Saturday, June 12, is Dr. Eric Holder, Deputy U.S. Attorney General, while speakers at the banquet Saturday night are Jamile Mahuad, president of Ecuador, Pat Buchanan, candidate for president, and Lakhdar Brahimi, the special envoy for Afghanistan of the secretary-general of the U.N. The speaker at the brunch on Sunday, June 13 will be Dr. Edward Said, University Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

The Friday morning panel will focus on “Arabs in the Media,” with Mike Wallace, CBS Anchor of “60 Minutes,” Christiane Amanpour, CNN correspondent, and Hisham Melhem, As-Safir bureau chief. The afternoon panels will include “Building Pan-American Coalitions,” “Model Social Service Organizations” (with Ish Ahmed, executive director of ACCESS in Dearborn and Dr. Haifa Fakhouri, president of the American Chaldean Council), and “An Agenda to Lift the Sanctions on Iraq” with Denis Halliday, former U.N. assistant secretary-general, Kathy Kelly, coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness, and Ayad Al-Qazzaz, professor at California State University.

The Saturday morning panels will address civil rights (9 a.m.) and Arab-American and multicultural education (l0:30 a.m.). At 2:15 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, three concurrent panels will focus on Arab-American Business Challenges, Organizing, and Cyberactivism.

At 3:45 p.m., concurrent panels will examine fund-raising, the media, and “Electoral Politics and U.S. Foreign Aid” with Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA), Dr. Agha Saeed, national coordinator of the American Muslim Political Coordination Council, and Richard Curtiss, executive editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, on Middle East Affairs.

At 5 p.m., just before the banquet on Saturday, Bisan Salhi and Amer Ardati, two activists in the ADC chapter at the University of Michigan, will lead an Arab-American Youth Forum.

At 9 a.m. on Sunday, June 13, ADC members will participate in a General Assembly for questions, comments, and suggestions. At l0:30 a.m. a panel follows on “Lebanon: Prospects for the Future.” Chapter presidents meet after the brunch at noon.

On June 10, before the conference starts, members are invited to participate in a day of congressional visits. At a 10 a.m. briefing, participants will hear from Prof. Mohammad Hallaj, a member of the Palestinian National Council, Phyllis Bennis, fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, Randa Fahmy, counselor in the office of Sen. Spencer Abraham, Gordon Clark, editor of Teaching Tolerance, and Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, executive editor Richard Curtiss. Visits to members of Congress will take place from l to 5 p.m., and will be followed by a dinner at 6:30 p.m. on Capitol Hill.

To register, contact ADC, 4201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20008, phone (202) 244-2990, fax (202) 244-3196. ADC has arranged for a special convention rate of $102 per night for single or double rooms at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel, 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA 22202, phone l (800) 228-9290 or (703) 920-3230. This rate is in effect until May 27. Call the hotel directly for hotel reservations.

Cultural Programs

The William G. Abdalah Memorial Library invites the public, as part of its immigration history program, to attend on Sunday, May 16, at 3 p.m. a coffeehouse wayn ma kan program encouraging people to record oral histories, share photos and other types of information to build up the archives of the Arab community’s history in the Boston area. The event, to be held at the St. George Orthodox Community Center, 55 Emmonsdale Rd, West Roxbury, MA, phone (617) 323-2226, will be co-sponsored by the “Arabic Hour” television program.

RAWI, the New York-based Radius of Arab American Writers, announces a series of monthly events to promote the creative literature of Arab-American writers. RAWI is a national organization of professional writers committed to excellence in literature and to the creative efforts and accomplishments of the Arab-American community. The most recent event was a reading by filmmaker and fiction writer Anissa M. Bouziane, who read from her work in progress, Fragments from a Transparent Page. For information about future events, which will be held at Kush, 183 Orchard St., between Houston and Stanton in New York City’s East Village, contact RAWI at e-mail: <aziz@escape.com>.

The Arab American Institute Foundation on April 22 launched its Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards at a special dinner at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. Awardees included Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, Director General of UNESCO H. E. Federico Mayor, the Ford Motor Company, the YWCA of the USA, and the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

The Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards recognize individuals, corporations, organizations and communities whose work, commitment and support make a difference in promoting tolerance and inclusion in all walks of life. The awards aim to promote the positive forces of diversity and cultural interaction, and to showcase programs that foster democratic and humanitarian values across racial, ethnic and religious lines.

The awards are named for the author of The Prophet, whose message of universal brotherhood was so evident in his life and work. The awards further symbolize Gibran’s pride in his Arab heritage, respect for the freedom he found in the United States, and his universal love of humanity.

On May 16 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan the American Arab and Jewish Friends group will host its 13th annual Awards and Scholarship Dinner honoring 14 young Arab Americans and Jewish Americans to whom the group has awarded scholarships on the basis of essays submitted. In addition, 15 young people were awarded honorable mentions for their submissions. For further information, phone (313) 567-6225.

Conference in November in Gaza

The Gaza Community Mental Health Program announces its fourth international conference, entitled “Women in Palestine,” which will be held Nov. 21-23 in Gaza. Researchers, academics, and professionals are invited to submit no later than July 1 abstracts of papers for presentation at the conference. Themes will include: (1) Gender and Development; (2) Women and Health, Education, Environment and Culture; (3) Palestinian Law and Women; (4) Women and Labor; (5) The Role of Women in the Developing Community; (6) Women in the Political Struggle; (7) Women and Human Rights; (8) Women in Islam. The official languages of the conference are English and Arabic with simultaneous translation. Conference fees for international participants are $150. To register, or for questions, please contact the organizers by fax (011-972-7-282-4072) or e-mail <pr@gcmhp.net>

Resources

MERIP (the Middle East Report and Information Project) has launched a new program to provide media persons and others some context on current issues in the Middle East. The first Press Information Note (PIN) concerned the death of King Hussein and its probable effect on relations in the Middle East. The second briefing paper reported on the inter-party rivalry in the approaching Israeli elections. Future topics will include Iran, the expected impact of the Israeli elections, the Palestinian scene after May 4, Algeria, and the U.S. erosion of U.N. positions on Iraq, the Balkans, and other places. The PINs are sent out via e-mail and are also available on the MERIP Web site (www.MERIP.com). To arrange to receive the PINs free of charge on an ongoing basis, contact MERIP by phone, (202) 223-3677, or e-mail <merip@igc.org>. These short briefing pieces are also suitable for use in high school or college classes.

Sabeel, an ecumencial center in Jerusalem for Palestinian Liberation Theology, has published a book, Holy Land, Hollow Jubilee: God, Justice and the Palestinians, edited by the Rev. Naim Ateek, president of Sabeel, and Michael Prior, St. Mary’s College, University of Surrey, England (see article by Sr. Elaine Kelley on p. 35). The book contains papers that were delivered at a conference in 1998 in Bethlehem, and is extraordinarily useful at this moment when more attention is being paid in classes on religion and in North American seminaries to the use, or rather abuse, of theology for Israeli nationalistic purposes. The authors focus on the events of the past 50 years, all too often totally ignored in the West, the present realities of occupation, how theology is related to the current oppression, and how theology could and should be related to a resolute stand for justice, the only basis for a lasting peace. Edward Said’s keynote address touches on all these themes.

Rashid Khalidi, director of the Center for International Studies at the University of Chicago, and Uri Davis of Central Galilee Academic College in Sakhnin, spoke on the 50-year history of occupation and oppression. May Seikaly of Wayne State University, the Rev. Elias Chacour, president and founder of Mar Elias College in Ibillin and vice president of Sabeel, and Rosemary Radford Ruether of the Garrett Evangelical Seminary all spoke about the importance of justice in effecting reconciliation. Several papers describe the present realities “on the ground”: Jad Isaac, head of the Applied Research Center in Jerusalem, and two of his colleagues described the ongoing colonization of Palestine; Youssef Nasser of Bir Zeit University explained the bleak economic prospects, and Jonathan Kuttab, Palestinian human rights attorney and a co-founder of Al-Haq and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners, explored the ongoing human rights issues. Jewish fundamentalism and Christian Zionism in Britain, Scandinavia, and the U.S. are addressed. Don Wagner of North Park University analyzes the connection between the Likud Party and the American Christian “right.” Marc Ellis of Baylor University presented a strong statement that the meaning of Jewish history calls for solidarity with the suffering Palestinians.

The book explores International models of peacemaking—including the South African and the Northern Ireland examples. Both Hanan Ashrawi and Azmi Bishara presented visions for peace. Michel Sabbah, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, and Edmond Browning, former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA, discussed spiritual resources for peace.

One of the most valuable parts of the book for this writer was the piece by Michael Prior on “Zionism and the Bible.” One of the difficulties in getting religious groups educated about the conflict seems to be a misreading of the Bible. Michael Prior, who brings an Irishman’s understanding of colonialism to the topic, tries to examine topics that have frequently been misunderstood. He states (p. 69), “What is particularly striking from a moral perspective is the widespread support in the Western world which the Zionist enterprise enjoys. Whereas elsewhere the perpetrators of colonial plunder would be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Zionist conquest is widely judged to be a just and appropriate political accomplishment and, in some quarters, is accorded unique religious significance. Much of the rationale for such benevolent appraisal of the Zionist colonial plunder derives from engagement with particular traditions of the Bible, and with a literalist interpretation of the biblical traditions of land and of some of its messianic texts.”

This book is available in the U.S. from Friends of Sabeel”“North America, 11355 Chardon Rd., Chardon, OH 44024. Individual copies are $25 each, with a 10 percent discount for five or more sent to the same address.

Mizna, a journal for Arab-American writers, has been launched in the Twin Cities. After the first issue was published, a reception was held on Friday, Feb. 26 for artists, writers and editors. A discussion of contemporary Arab-American writing was part of the reception. The editors report they have been swamped with poetic entries. They wonder if there are Arab Americans who also write prose—creative non-fiction, essays, performance pieces, or scripts. They tell us they are still willing to receive poetry, but are hoping for some variety in the publication and would welcome entries in a variety of formats. For further information, or to learn about submission to this new journal, contact Mizna at phone (612) 377-5366 or e-mail: <MiznaInc@hotmail.com>. Kathryn Haddad, a former chair of the Minnesota ADC chapter, and Saleh Abudayyeh are co-editors.

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