Arab Americans still evolving into an effective political force, says leading US intellectual

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Updated 25 August 2022

Arab Americans still evolving into an effective political force, says leading US intellectual

Arab Americans still evolving into an effective political force, says leading US intellectual
  • More advocacy like Jewish community, urges Khalil Jahshan, executive director of thinktank Arab Center Washington DC
  • ‘Bright future ahead with young generation’s public service, media roles’

CHICAGO: The Arab American community has seen many successes, mainly on the economic and education fronts, but continues its advance to achieve the desired level of political influence, says Arab Center Washington D.C. Executive Director Khalil Jahshan.

Jahshan, who has been working with Arab Americans since his college days in the 1970s, called their current involvement in politics an “evolving process,” adding that “nobody makes it in this country except on a gradual basis, step-by-step.”

During an appearance on The Ray Hanania Radio Show, Jahshan said it is a natural progression, although they are nowhere near the level of activism achieved by, for example, the Jewish American community which creates the imbalance in US policies toward the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“We haven’t done bad as a community over the past 120 years of immigration. We have done best economically and educationally in this country. But politically it has been slow. Again, we have some impressive gains and they need to be built on,” Jahshan told Arab News Wednesday.

Jahshan said Arab Americans need to expand their political activism and engagement, noting that activists are a small minority in the community while the majority tends to remain inactive in advocacy work in the pursuit of political empowerment.

Part of the reason is the fact that Arab Americans, in general, immigrated to America over the past century, beginning in the late 19th century, from colonized countries where political participation was virtually non-existent. These early immigrants tended to have a limited sense of political efficacy, the sense of having the power and opportunity to change politics, said Jahshan.

“Frankly what delayed us and slowed down our progress in this country is our low propensity to be (politically) active, to be visible, to be involved in issues that are relevant to us as a community,” Jahshan said.

“Those who were born here didn’t know the issues, so they waited and waited … for the ‘Holy Spirit’ to strike. And those who came as new immigrants didn’t know the system. So they waited … until a (new) generation emerged that knew how to plug into the (social and political) system. When you look at us today as a community of some 3.7 million Americans of Arab origin, we are still not as involved as we should be.

“When you compare us, let’s say, to the Jewish community which is about twice our size and with at least 3 million American Jews involved in political organizations that represent their interests, we have to ask why we don’t have half of their organized membership. We don’t have that. We don’t even have 300,000 Arab Americans involved.”

Jahshan said the reasons for Arab immigration has varied widely over the past 120 years, which also sees a diversity in the community in terms of educational background and country of origin.

“The early phases of our immigration as Arab Americans tended to seek acceptance through quick assimilation. It was as you said wisely and correctly that their immigration was related to conflict in their homelands. It was related to famine before. It was related to economic crises in the region. So, it took several immigration waves to simply adjust, survive and make it and become part of this American melting pot, this mixed society, this fattoush,” he said.

Early priorities included the preservation of cultural identity, the Arabic language, and connections with the old country.

“First, they attempted to make sure that Arabic survived (here in America) as their preferred mode of communication. They felt that language survival is crucial to culture survival and the continuation of our Arab identity. So, the early phases of Arab American journalism was in Arabic. It was uniquely American journalism, yet it was Arab at the same time.”

Besides lagging behind other communities in activism, Jahshan said Arab Americans must do more in philanthropy to help those in need, but also to support communal causes. Securing one’s rights and role in American politics is a very expensive enterprise and the community needs to do more in this regard, he added.

Jahshan said another major factor impacting the slow evolution of engagement and influence is Arab confessionalism and ethnic fragmentation. The lack of secular identification within the community did not help either.

Explaining that he was not criticizing the importance of faith and religion in the Arab American community, but religious affiliation has tended to overshadow the common cultural identity, especially in the mainstream US news media.

“As a person of faith, I have no problem with people having their own faith be they Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever they are. But at the same time, our identity shouldn’t be colored by our confession. Our religion shouldn’t trump our politics so to speak.”

Jahshan said the mainstream news media exploits these issues and “tends to oversimplify” the community in terms of its diversity, and avoids “in-depth” coverage.

Jahshan noted the Arab American immigrant communities did have their own Arabic language media outlets, but it was only recently that significant numbers of individuals have turned to journalism as a profession, to enter an industry that has so much influence in terms of creating group definitions and stereotypes.

“I am very encouraged by the new generation in terms of their increased activism, particularly those who are going into journalism and public service,” he said.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


Man detained on French high-speed TGV after attack threat

Man detained on French high-speed TGV after attack threat
Updated 56 min 21 sec ago

Man detained on French high-speed TGV after attack threat

Man detained on French high-speed TGV after attack threat
  • The individual’s mental health was being investigated

BRUSSELS: A man was arrested after threatening to commit an attack while traveling on a high-speed TGV train in eastern France on Friday.
Police sources said the individual threatened to blow up himself or the train. There was no immediate suspicion that terrorism was a motive and the individual’s mental health was being investigated, they added.
“This morning, a police officer ... arrested a threatening individual on board a TGV in Moselle. Kudos to him!” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter.
The officer was off duty at the time, the police sources said. Off-duty policeman are allowed in France to carry a firearm on trains as part of a “traveling to protect” government scheme.


21 dead in attack in South Sudan on eve of Pope’s visit

21 dead in attack in South Sudan on eve of Pope’s visit
Updated 03 February 2023

21 dead in attack in South Sudan on eve of Pope’s visit

21 dead in attack in South Sudan on eve of Pope’s visit
JUBA: At least 21 people have been killed in a cattle raid in South Sudan on the eve of a visit by Pope Francis to encourage peace in the conflict-ridden country, local authorities said.
Francis is scheduled to arrive on Friday for a three-day “pilgrimage of peace” with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The church leaders are seeking to promote reconciliation and forgiveness in a predominantly Christian country still burdened by chronic armed violence in the aftermath of a civil war.
On Thursday, armed herders killed 21 civilians in a reprisal attack on a rival cattle camp in Kajo-Keji County of Central Equatoria, the county commissioner’s office said.
“The commissioner of Kajo-Keji County condemns in the strongest terms possible the attack on the cattle camp and the massacre of the innocent civilians in the barbaric act of revenge,” its statement issued on Thursday said.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said he was “horrified” by the attack on the eve of his visit.
“It is a story too often heard across South Sudan. I again appeal for a different way: for South Sudan to come together for a just peace,” he posted on Twitter on Thursday.
South Sudan achieved independence from Muslim-majority Sudan in 2011 but soon after plunged into civil war that left 380,000 people dead.
The war formally ended in 2018 but the nation remains plagued by violence waged by well-armed local militias and rival ethnic groups.
This week, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the United States and other foreign missions raised concerns over signs that armed factions were preparing to fight again in Upper Nile.
The state in the country’s north has witnessed some of the most ferocious armed violence in South Sudan in recent months, with thousands of civilians seeking protection on UN bases.
“With the historic visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland to South Sudan expected to take place this week, UNMISS appeals to national and community leaders to exercise restraint and commit to peace and dialogue,” it said in a statement.

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’
Updated 03 February 2023

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’

After Netanyahu talks, Macron warns of Iran nuclear ‘consequences’
  • Macron warned that Tehran continuing with the atomic project “would inevitably have consequences”

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday denounced the “headlong rush” of Iran’s nuclear program after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in Paris to seek a stronger European stance against Tehran.
In a statement released after a dinner meeting in the Elysee Palace, Macron warned that Tehran continuing with the atomic project “would inevitably have consequences.”
Both leaders discussed ways to counter “the Iranian nuclear threat” and Netanyahu stressed the need for more “deterrence against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” the Israeli embassy said.
Israel has long accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon but Tehran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at generating energy.
Netanyahu hopes Iran’s role in supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine, as well as its crackdown on protests at home, will prompt Western allies to drop any bid to revive a 2015 atomic program deal.
The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its more neutral stance over the conflict in the hope of securing a more confrontational Western position toward Tehran.
By “playing the Ukraine card,” Netanyahu hopes to “consolidate an anti-Iranian front” with the West, said David Khalfa at the Fondation Jean Jaures, a Paris-based think tank.
He hopes for “increased sanctions against Iran and the full addition of the Revolutionary Guards to the list” of sanctioned entities, a step France and Germany have so far resisted, Khalfa added.
During his meeting with Macron, Netanyahu urged “substantial sanctions to be imposed on the Iran regime and called for the Revolutionary Guards to be added to the European Union’s terror list,” the Israeli embassy said.
France agrees that “firmness” is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP earlier, saying the nuclear program had reached “a dangerous point” and highlighting Tehran’s role in the Ukraine war.
Siding with Ukraine is not without risk for Netanyahu, as Russian air defenses in neighboring Syria could be turned against Israeli aircraft during their occasional raids on Iranian interests there.
Iran also holds several foreign citizens who are considered political hostages by Western governments.
Netanyahu’s visit came after a weekend drone attack on a defense ministry facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, have said the attack was carried out by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, though this has not been confirmed by Israel.
Netanyahu’s visit came as violence intensified between Israelis and Palestinians with Israeli war planes striking the Gaza Strip early Thursday, drawing Palestinian rocket fire in retaliation.
Last Friday, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people outside a synagogue in an Israeli settler neighborhood of annexed east Jerusalem.
It was the deadliest attack targeting Israeli civilians in more than a decade, and came one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
Macron on Thursday reiterated “the importance of avoiding any measure that could feed the cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians, while offering “France’s complete solidarity with Israel in its fight against terrorism, the French presidency said.
Staying in France until Saturday, Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country’s Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.
Judicial reforms planned by the prime minister’s latest coalition of right-wing, far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties have raised the hackles of some business executives, notably in the financial sector, who have threatened to quit Israel.


EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
Updated 03 February 2023

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine

EU officials hold Kyiv talks in show of support for Ukraine
  • U assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros since the fighting started, according to EU officials
  • Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years

KYIV: Top European Union officials were due to meet Friday in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a show of support for the country as it battles to counter Russia’s invasion and strives to join the EU as well as NATO.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, as well as 15 European commissioners, traveled to the Ukrainian capital for what they described as a summit meeting.
The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 — a few months before the war started.
EU assistance for Ukraine has reached almost 50 billion euros ($55 billion) since the fighting started, according to EU officials.
The EU is providing Ukraine with financial and humanitarian aid, among other things. It also plans to adopt a 10th package of sanctions again Russia in the coming weeks.
Ukraine wants to join the 27-nation bloc, though that could take years and require the adoption of far-reaching reforms. In the meantime, von der Leyen said Thursday that the European Commission is willing to let Kyiv join what she called some “key European programs” that will bring benefits similar to membership.
Those programs were due to be discussed in Friday’s meeting, which will also address one of the main obstacles to Ukraine’s EU membership: endemic corruption.
Von der Leyen, on her fourth visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, said Thursday she was “comforted” by Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive.
The previous day, Zelensky had taken aim at corrupt officials for the second time in the space of a week. Several high-ranking officials were dismissed.
Zelensky was elected in 2019 on an anti-establishment and anti-corruption platform in a country long gripped by graft.
The latest corruption allegations came as Western allies channel billions of dollars to help Kyiv fight Moscow’s forces.
Ukraine’s government is keen to get more Western military aid, on top of the tanks pledged last week, as the warring sides are expected to launch new offensives once winter ends. Kyiv is now asking for fighter jets.
The USis expected to announce Friday it will send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as part of a new $2.17 billion aid package.


8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media
Updated 03 February 2023

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media

8 migrants found dead on ship off Lampedusa coast — Italian media
  • Italian authorities escorted another three stricken vessels carrying 156 people to Lampedusa
  • Italy is facing a surge in arrivals from North Africa

ROME: At least eight migrants were found dead and around 40 were rescued by the Italian coast guard overnight on a ship off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, Italian media reported on Friday.
The rescuers took the survivors to the main port on Lampedusa, which lies to the south of Sicily, news agency ANSA said.
Italian authorities escorted another three stricken vessels carrying 156 people to Lampedusa, one of the main entry points for people trying to reach Europe.
Italy is facing a surge in arrivals from North Africa.
Some 105,140 migrants reached Italy by sea in 2022, interior ministry data showed, compared with 67,477 in 2021 and 34,154 in 2020.
The United Nations estimates that almost 1,400 migrants died while trying to cross the central Mediterranean in 2022.