The Tabboun: Top American Arab newsmakers of 2013
By Ray Hanania
Americans Arabs who led the news this past year did so in many different circumstances including in achievement and in controversy.
Here’s a run-down of some of the top newsmakers for 2013.
The most influential American Arab in politics is, without a doubt, U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa. Issa is a master politician and public servant representing California’s 49th District since 2001. An Army veteran, Congressman Issa is Republican originally from Cleveland, Ohio. Last year, Issa sponsored 37 bills ranging from offering healthcare to Americans to amending the immigration act to bring the most qualified immigrants to America’s shores. His website is www.issa.house.gov.
Sam Rasoul in Virginia announced his bid for election to the Virginia House of delegates (state legislature). Rasoul previously ran unsuccessfully for Congress, but everyone remembers thatAbraham Lincoln lost his election bids before winning. Lincoln lost his first bid for the legislature only to win in a few years later. Then he ran for Congress and lost, and then came back to win. He lost his bid for the U.S. Senate twice before he was then elected President of the United States. But Sam Rasoul won, and declared victory on his Facebook page. It’s a big win for American Arabs. Rasoul’s win means the partisan breakdown of the Virginia House will remain 67 Republicans and 33 Democrats. Republicans control every other seat in Southwest Virginia.
In Oklahoma City, Council member Dr. Ed Shadid launched his election for the office of Mayor and has been embroiled in a tough political battle that has focused on his divorce from his wife. The Oklahoman Newspaper, which has been criticized for anti-Arab biases, drove a high profile election campaign to force Shadid’s divorce papers to be unsealed, hoping to disclose embarrassing information on Shadid that might help the two-term incumbent Oklahoma City Mayor Mike Cornett win a third term. The election is March 4.
In Detroit’s suburbs, State Rep. Rashida Tlaib is seeking to move to the Michigan State Senate in March, but her accusations of sexual harassment made against Imad Hamad, ADC Michigan’s former Midwest Executive Director, have divided the community. Although American Arabs only make up a small portion of the district’s population, Tlaib is relying on American Arab support for fundraising. Imad has denied the accusations, which Tlaib asserts occurred more than 15 years ago.
ADC (The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) continues to be the target of political opportunists and haters. A small group of extremists based in Detroit and Washington D.C. have stepped up their campaign to destroy ADC, which they have criticized for not doing enough in the area of international politics. ADC’s highly regarded Board Chairman Dr. Safa Rifka has refused to bend to the fanatics and has pushed to keep the organization focused on its real mandate, to fight legitimate discrimination against American Arabs. Part of the change involved the dismissal of Warren David, who is related to one of the ADC critics, as National President.
IN ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Hollywood actor Sayed Badreya is pushing new films after completing the award winning movie short in Chicago in 2012 called “Chicago Mirage,” and appearing in a cameo role in the hit comedy “The Three Stooges” in 2011. Badreya has appeared in several movie blockbusters including “The Insider,” “Three Kings,” “Independence Day,” and “Iron Man.” He also appeared in Sacha Baron Cohen’s controversial satire “The Dictator.”
One of the new faces in American Arab comedy include Ramzy Sweis, whose 39 comic Youtube videos have generated more than 1 million total views. The Jordanian American standup comedian has been on a roll since entering comedy in 2010 and is currently working on his first full length film. Break a leg. Kill the audience. Slay them. Don’t bomb on stage. (Comedy is so violent!)
Veteran American Arab journalist Helen Thomas died on July 20, 2013, ending a career of groundbreaking achievements in journalism and for women. Thomas was a member of the White House Press Corp covering every president from John F. Kennedy thru Barack Obama, until she was chased out of her career by pro-Israel extremists who twisted her criticism of Israel into false allegations of “anti-Semitism.” The prior year, Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Anthony Shadid had died in February 2012 while covering the Syria uprising against tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
Yahala Voice Radio launched their radio and national online presence on the Internet in 2012 at YahalaVoice.com.
Detroit Radio Hostess Laila alHusini celebrated 10 years as an accomplished journalist in Greater Detroit on Radio Baladi and US CHAAM Media. Her morning show on WNZK AM Radio Monday through Friday is a staple of the American Arab community in Michigan. www.uschaammedia.com
Political columnist and cable TV media advisor Ali Younesis someone you must keep up with. Younes’ Op-Ed insights are seen in major television and media. The award winning columnist and political media analyst is the Middle East Political Editor for the Arab Daily News online newspaper (www.TheArabDailyNews.com).
Farouk Shami, who ran unsuccessfully for Texas Governor in 2010, published his novel “American by Choice” and has hosted the annual Miss Universe Beauty Pageants. Shami has appeared on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice as a business owner of Farouk Systems which produces the popular hair care product CHI.
Authors Joseph Geha, Anthony Shadid, Hala Alyan and Karen Leggett Abouraya (with co-author Susan L. Roth) all received Book Awards from The Arab American National Museum.
Detroit Attorney Joumana Kayrouz continues to lead the field of personal injury and auto accident legal services, dominating the market with her high profile ubiquitous billboard and buses advertising campaign promoting her popular “1-800-YourRights” slogan and YourRights.com website. Kayrouz is a major philanthropist who has donated to charities including making major contributions to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. www.YoursRights.com.
The American Task Force on Palestine is one of the few American Arab organizations that plays a major role in influencing public perceptions and politics. The Not-for-Profit organization offers professional insight into the Middle East peace process. Two instrumental leaders at the ATFP who play a key role in the organizations success are its president Ziad Asali and Hussein Ibish, one of the community’s most brilliant writers and analysts. Ibish offers some of the most reasoned and accurate political perspectives on the fast-changing Middle East political and social landscape and is must read for anyone who has an interest in that region. Their website iswww.americantaskforce.org. The ATFP is the leading American Arab organization in the country.
Other influential and important American Arab organizations in the United States includeADC, The Ramallah Federation, NAAP the national Arab American Professionals, theArab American Association of Engineers & Architects, ALSAC Children’s Research Hospital Association, and The Midwest Federation of Syrian and Lebanese Clubs of American.
Leading the profession of sports is Brandon Saad, Left Wing player for the Chicago Black Hawks. Saad’s performance last year helped the Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup. Of Syrian-Lebanese American heritage, Saad is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began his career in 2010.
NUMBER ONE CHALLENGE
Forcing the U.S. Census to treat American Arabs as equals continues to be the number one challenge of the past 60 years. Although the U.S. Census is starting to respond to the needs of American Arabs, the community has been left out of the Census which identifies more than 25 different ethnic and national groups on its form by specific identity, while Arabs are not listed and must write themselves in on the “Other” category line.
Being listed and identified in the Census almost guarantees hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and grants to communities identified by the Census. Excluding American Arabs results in the loss of these funds. If the Census is going to continue to identify ethnic and national groups then they must include Arabs as an official category.
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The Tabboun: Personalities in the news, Top Stories of 2013
AMERICAN JAILED IN DUBAI OVER YOUTUBE VIDEO American Shezanne Cassim and four other men were sentenced to one year in prison in the United Arab Emirates for producing an online video on Youtube that satirized teenagers in Dubai. The youtube video is called “Satwa Comedy School.”Click here to view the online video. Cassim and the other defendants have been jailed since April awaiting trial which concluded this week with their conviction and fines of up to $3,000 or more. Comedians around the world have spoken out against the UAE Law. The 19-minute video parodiesDubai teens who embrace hip-hop culture. The term “Satwa G” was coined in the 1990s to describe teenagers and young people known to talk tougher than they really are. …
CALIFORNIA ARAB DEMOCRATS CELEBRATE LEADERSHIP The Arab American Democrats of California had its third annual holiday party December 3 to celebrate the group’s accomplishments in public office this year, and to review areas where members could improve their impact as the 2014 election season approaches. About 40 people attended.
ANN ARBOR STUDENTS SHOCKED WITH EVICTION NOTICE members of the BDS Movement in Ann Arbor stirred shock when they distributed 1,500 mock eviction notices to students on campus, saying their homes would be demolished without delay. The mock eviction notice warned: ”If you do not vacate the premises by 13 DECEMBER 6 PM, we reserve the right to demolish your premises without delay. We cannot be held responsible for property or persons remaining inside. Charges for demolition will be applied to your student account.” The stunt was sponsored by the members of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) whose members support the BDS campaign (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) which targets Israel’s occupation and oppression against Palestinians. Israel frequently expels Palestinian homeowners and destroys their homes as a part of their campaign to reduce the non-Jewish population in the occupied territories in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
TOP ARAB AMERICAN EVENTS OF 2013 In the category of Top Stories of 2013, several captured the attention of Americans Arabs. The death of award winning White House Journalist Helen Thomas is seen as one of the top events of 2013 impacting the American Arab community. Thomas covered every American President from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama. She was viciously slandered in 2010 after a video blogger ambushed her and twisted her words critical of Israel to make them appear anti-Semitic. The anti-Arab mainstream American newspaper, and the viciously anti-Arab Society of Professional Journalists, attacked Thomas and other American Arabs who defended her, shutting down the Arab American Journalism Section of the SPJ. Thomas was 92 when she passed away on July 20, 2013. … The second of the top stories of 2013 is the assault against ADC by a cabal of extremist activists who have falsely charged that the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is insensitive to the rights of women. Michigan DirectorImad Hamad was forced out of his job, and ADC President Warren David was forced to resign after some board members alleged he failed to properly represent ADC’s interests in the Hamad controversy. David was replaced by attorney Samer Khalaf. Hamad was replaced by Attorney Fatina Abdrabboh. Hamad had been re-accused of having sexually harassed women interns at ADC Michigan more than four years ago. The chief protagonist, State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, asserted she had been sexually harassed 15 years before. Many accused the critics of engaging in a political campaign to undermine ADC because of the groups more liberal policies on Syria and Israel. The Annual ADC Michigan Banquet Dec. 13, was also cancelled at the last minute in the face of protests from a handful of extremists, ADC officials said.
ANOTHER OF THE TOP STORIES FOR 2013 involved American Jennifer Grout, 23, of Massachusetts, grabbed worldwide attention when she became a finalist in the popular Middle East reality competition “Arabs Got Talent.” Grout couldn’t converse in Arabic but was able to perform several popular and traditional Arabic songs with near perfection, including by singer Umm Kulthoum. … Farouk Shami, a Palestinian-American businessman and founder of the hair-care and spa products company, Farouk Systems, published his book “American by Choice.” He currently resides in Houston, Texas, where his company is based. … Greater Detroit region Attorney Susan Dabaja became the first Arab and Muslim American to be elected Dearborn City Council president. A total of four Arab Americans were elected to serve as Council members, giving American Arabs their first ever control of a municipality. … The Annual Arab International Festival was cancelled this year, held every summer.
ANOTHER OF THE TOP STORIES FOR 2013 involved the launch of AlJazeera America (AJAM) on American Cable TV. Aljazeera, the Qatar-based Arab Satellite News Channel has been fighting for more than decade to be allowed to broadcast to Americans, but only began broadcasting 24 hours day on August 20, 2013 after purchasing Currents TV from former Vice President Al Gore. The majority of its news reports are hosted by veteran American journalists.
AMERICAN ARABS DENOUNCED A SuperBowl Advertisement from Coca Cola entitled “Mirage.” American viewers on Youtube were asked to vote for the “winner” in a race through the desert. The Ad shows an Arab walking through a desert and he soon sees Cowboys, Las Vegas showgirls and a Motley Crew of people based on the apocalyptic “Mad Max” film who all race past him to reach a gigantic bottle of Coke. In the ad, Coke asks viewers to vote online on which characters should win the race to the refreshing Coca Cola bottle. The online site did not allow a vote for the Arab character. More than 100 million Americans viewed the commercial during the Super Bowl football Game on Feb. 3, 2013. Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the commercial could harm Coke’s business with the Arab community. ”Coke should understand and respect their consumers and have a better understanding of the market they are sharing,” he said.
Send us your top 2013 American Arab stories to The Arab Daily News Editor.