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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Tabboun: Israelis seeking to defend Netanyahu’s Mandela snub
Many Israelis are irked over the fact that so much attention has been put on rightwing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has been criticized roundly for deciding not to attend the memorial service in Soweto, South Africa for anti-Apartheid iconic leader Nelson Mandela. Israel sent a lower ranking delegation in the Prime Minister’s place, even though heads of states from 100 other countries including President Barack Obamaattended and spoke passionately about Mandela’s fight against racism.
The truth is Israel had been very close to the Apartheid Republic of South Africa which had imprisoned Mandela for 25 years for his armed struggle against the racist colony. And many compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa because of their discriminatory policies against non-Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims in the Occupied Territories.
But now to help the image struggling Netanyahu, many Israelis are asking why no one is criticizing Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, did not attend the memorial either. Of course, no one has ever compared Turkey to Apartheid South Africa the way they do with Israel.
Activists target products sold in US that are made in the Israeli occupied West Bank
The Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine is urging followers to boycott SodaStream. Here is the release they put out:
Looking for some occupation-free holiday cheer? We’ll be singing alternative carols and educating consumers outside Target on the corner of State and Madison in Chicago. Why? Because SodaStream is produced in an illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian land. We – and activists in 50 other cities -are raising our voices to ask Target and other retailers to take SodaStream off their shelves. We are also asking consumers not to buy SodaStream as a holiday gift – or any other time of the year.
SodaStream’s main production site is in Mishor Edomim, an Israeli settlement industrial park located in the West Bank. The land where the SodaStream factory is located was illegally confiscated by the Israeli military occupation authorities from Palestinian owners. SodaStream conceals that it is made in settlements by using the “Made in Israel” label.
Israeli settlements are an impediment to peace and violate international law. Since 1968, the US government has called on Israel to stop building and expanding settlements in the West Bank.
Hope to see you Saturday for an “occupation-free” holiday celebration.
You can support the effort by LIKING their Facebook Page. Click here to go there.
ADC is in shock over extremist assault
The biggest mistake ADC National has made is not standing up to the fanatics who have been bashing it now for more than three years. It was ADC National’s bad luck that during those three years, the sexual harassment charges surfaced in Michigan against Imad Hamad, who was the executive director of ADC’s largest and most effective and profitable chapter in the United States. Some believed ADC Michigan under Hamad was in fact more powerful than ADC National. But when Hamad came under attack from political foes, and was accused of sexually harassing women in the past (four years ago and 15 years ago — charges that raised questions about the motives behind the assaults), ADC National reacted with Arrogance.
The pummeling began in 2010 when Ray Hanania was named to the ADC National Board. Hanania, who had been active in Chicago since ADC’s founding in 1980, had declined national appointments in the past but was urged to help re-active Chicago’s sleepy chapter. That year, under Hanania’s leadership, ADC Chicago raised more than $25,000 at one fundraiser, more than the chapter had raised for the organizations in all of the past six years before. But Hanania became a target of the extremists because he has been a stalwart moderate voice urging reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis. Most annoying to the fanatics is the fact that Hanania’s wife and son are Jewish. (Hanania’s mentor was Professor Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, whose wife also was Jewish.)
It was Hanania who nominated Warren David to become ADC’s new President.
After Hanania declined re-appointment to a second term, Safa Rifka, ADC National Board Chairman became the target of the fanatics. One of the most vocal critics happened to be a relative of Warren David and clearly the relationship was never sealed. David was fired Dec. 1 on orders from Rifka, according to David’s wife, activist Amal David.
After David’s firing, a small handful of extremists threatened to protest at ADC Michigan’s annual dinner banquet which was to be held this Friday, Dec. 13. Rather than standup to the fanatics, ADC decided to cancel the dinner, another major misstep on ADC National’s part. The cancellation of the dinner will cost ADC’s fundraising efforts significantly.
ADC is the most important organization defending the rights of American Arabs. It is the ONLY organization that battles anti-Arab discrimination, although the activists wanted to drag the organization into political battles and to become more virulently anti-Israel.
Another major factor is the divisions that exist in the American Arab community over the civil war in Syria. The most anti-Israel activists who oppose peace based on compromise, are diehard supporters of Syria’s tyrant Bashar al-Assad, who is an ally of Iran and Hezbollah. They wanted to silence the critics of Syria and use ADC as a foundation to strengthen ties with Syria. (Ironically, the original criticism of Rifka from the activists was that he had allegedly tried to censor a musician who planned to play a song some saw as being anti-Assad at an ADC convention a few years back.
The fanatics don’t care about ethics or hypocrisy. They have one goal. They want to be the loudest voices of hatred against Israel and in support of Assad. And they are willing to tear down any organization that tries to get int heir way. ADC National and its chapters were an obstacle. The cancellation of the dinner banquet is a blow to moderation and a sign that the fanatics are gaining ground in America.
AND FINALLY …
At the biggest event of the decade, the memorial service honoring the late Nelson Mandela held at FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, featured hundreds of the world’s most influential leaders speaking to hundreds of millions of viewers on television and cable broadcasts and online around the world. And next to the speaker was a man who turns out was a fake sign language professional who was making up hand gestures as speakers spoke. The sign language interpreter at the Mandela Memorial in Soweto was a fake. Broadcast to millions. Click here to view story from ABC
Here is the CNN Video. Amazing and disgraceful. The faker should be arrested and jailed for 25 years!
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Longest US Arab Marriage; Images & Perceptions with Keegan-Michael Key
(News briefs, celebrity gossip, and quick reports)
Joe & Ann Betar named as longest married couple in America; Syrian Arabs from Connecticut
The mainstream American news media put the spotlight on an American Arab couple that was named named on Valentine’s Day by Worldwide Marriage Encounter as preparing to celebrate their 81st wedding anniversary on November 25. Worldwide Marriage Encounter named John Betar, 101, and his wife Ann Shawah Betar, 97 as their 2013′s “longest married couple” in America.
The couple from Fairfield, Connecticut eloped on Nov. 25, 1932 so that Ann Shawah could avoid being forced to marry a man who was 20 years her senior that her father had picked for her to marry. Shawah lived in Bridgevport, Connecticut which has a large Syrian American community. They fled to Harrison, New York, to avoid Ann’s father’s plans to marry her off to a man 20 years older.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter selects the longest married couple in the United States based on the nominations that are submitted. The honors came last year but the media spotlight showered the 80-year couple with national coverage. Elf Mabruk to John and Ann Betar on their 81st Wedding Anniversary.
(None of the newspapers would permit us to reprint their stories and we reached out to one of the Betar’s relatives.)
Images & Perception Conference hosts 2nd Annual Workshop in Chicago
Siham Awada Jaafar has been hosting the Images & Perception Conference for 10 years in Detroit and last year she brought the conference to Chicago where it was held at theAlhambra Palace restaurant in the West Loop in Chicago. But this year, at the last minute, Alhambra cancelled the booking and forced Siham to scramble to find a new location for the workshop which draws huge crowds. She settled on the luxury banquet facility The Carlisle in Lombard, which is just a few minutes from Chicago off the expressway and nearly 300 people attended to learn more about diversity and how American Arabs fit in with the rest of the world.
The keynote speaker was Keegan-Michael Key, who has produced and starred in so many Comedy Central programs and also in shows like the hilarious Reno 911 and starred on FOX TV’s hit series MADtv. The day-long program included many great speakers including Dr. John E. Woods, Professor of Iranian and Central Asian History in the Departments of History & of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, who discussed stereotypes and misconceptions about “Arabs.” Dionna Griffin-Irons, a Chicago based performer, writer, and speaker whose roots in improv and sketch comedy started with the legendary Second City theatre, led the audience of social workers and educators through exercises employed by Second City to help students be more aware of how they relate to others.
Maaria Mozaffar, the founder and CEO of the Skinless Project Company, discussed how “The SkinLess Project” fills a much needed void she saw in the diverse communities she worked in. Aymen Abdel Halim, communications director at the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago and DePaul professor, also spoke about challenges facing Muslims and Arabs. Journalist and communicator Ray Hanania provided standup comedy entertainment.
The event was covered by many mainstream media including NPR and the Daily Herald. Click here for the Daily Herald story, and Click here for the column by Daily Herald Columnist Burt Constable, who was the 2010 recipient of an ADC Excellence in Journalism Award. Also by American Arab media including Mansour Tadros and al Mustaqbal Newspaper and the popular Radio Islam and host Imran Husain who interviewed Key, Hanania and several of the workshop presenters. Click here to check for Radio Islam’s podcasts. Also,Yahala Voice Radio interviewed several of the presenters prior to the conference.
The event was recognized by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, and officials from the offices of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.
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