Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Blog
Last week, together with the Coalition of Palestinian American Organizations and several other community organizations, AAI convened an emergency summit that brought together 60 leaders from 13 states.
The summit was a direct response to the ongoing humanitarian and political crises across the Middle East. As these crises continue to deepen, AAI acted swiftly to open an direct line of engagement with the policymakers to challenge the prevailing policy and narratives about the Middle East that reflect willful ignorance and an unwillingness to act--even when it is counter to our own national security interest. AAI's reasons for quickly convening this emergency summit are simple: The situation was dire and the US government’s response was shameful.
The summit started with empassioned remarks from PLO Ambassador Maen Areikat who touched on much of the content that was to follow. An incredible panel of Arab American experts shared their insights on the most urgent crises in the Middle East. Paul Salem (Middle East Institute), Khaled Elgindy (Brookings Institute), Michael Hanna (Century Foundation), joined Jim Zogby (AAI) to discuss the turbulence and atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Gaza, and Libya. Both Ambassador Areikat and the panel underscored the importance and urgency of engaging the White House and Members of Congress on better path forward.
Following Ambassador Rice's brief remarks on the Obama administration's approach to Gaza and Iraq in particular, participants expressed outrage over the Obama administration’s handling of the humanitarian and political crisis in Gaza. Through an extended question and answer time, summit guests pressed for a lasting ceasefire, and called on the Administration to demand an end to the siege on Gaza and the occupation of Palestine. Comments ennumerated the necessity of a UN investigation and accountability mechanisms to address the atrocities. The Administration was urged to respect the territorial and political unity of Palestinians as a necessary component to creating a viable and prosperous future state of Palestine that includes the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
Iraq and Syria were not forgotten. Leaders voiced our urgent concern with the unraveling of Iraq, where stopping the Islamic State’s slaughter and abuse of specific communities, including Chaldeans, Yazidis and Shia, should be a top priority. The Islamic State’s gains must be stopped and vulnerable Iraqis and Syrians must be protected. The summit ended with a serious discussion about the continuing bloody conflict in Syria and the danger that it might spill over into Lebanon, as appears to be the case in Irsal.
Arab Americans must demand to be heard and heeded, especially by elected representatives and the media. AAI has repeatedly challenged unhelpful narratives, like offensive Washington Post headlines, and AAI President Jim Zogby has appeared on many network news stations pushing back on pro-Israeli bias and the misrepresentation of Arab peoples and their sufferings.
AAI recently read every name of the people killed in Gaza in front of the White House, and we will continue to engage and demand more in honor of every victim of senseless violence in Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Libya.
There are three important actions we urge everyone to take:
- Request meetings with your own Members of Congress while they are in their home districts for the August recess. Find you representatives online here.
- Help us monitor and challenge the media coverage of the Middle East by sharing with us particularly egregious examples of bias.
- Keep checking our website for information about our next national convening in November.