We are Middle
By Pierre A.
so often, certain partisan groups who claim to be grassroots and
non-profit organizations use the freedom of expression in the
United States to attack the conduct of the other active groups. In
particular, The Arab American Institution (AAI), headed by Mr. James
Zogby, has repeatedly alleged that measures taken by the Bush
Administration to combat terrorism have infringed on the rights of the
Arab and Muslim communities in the USA. While it is the right of every
American citizen to speak his/her mind, it is our responsibility
to correct the blatant misrepresentation of our communities. We believe
that the AAI’s statements and actions have dual fallacies. The
first is the AAI’s portrayal of being the representatives of the whole
Middle Eastern community in America. Secondly, its allegations of
US abuse of Arabs and Muslims, which are false, unethical, and politically
motivated. Thus far, Mr. Zogby has failed to provide any
tangible evidence of its claims and allegations. Therefore, it is only
fair to conclude that his objections to the US Administration’s war
on terrorism and to the Patriot Act are not due to his concern about
Arab-American rights and civil liberties, but rather for his political
ideology and financial means.
Zogby adamantly opposed the Patriot Act and its associated necessary
security measures, which the US Congress
overwhelmingly passed to prevent another attack on our soil similar to
September 11, on the grounds that such laws discriminate
against Arab-Americans and Muslims and harm their civil liberties. For
example, on January 6, 2006, Mr. Zogby asked the U.S.
government to end its Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS)
claiming that Arabs and Muslims paid dearly for such
measures." While these allegations are very serious ones, he failed to
have the courtesy to provide a single proof.
Furthermore, Mr. Zogby blindly opposed the US war on terrorism and the
invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan claiming that these wars
cannot be justified, despite the fact that 25 million, Iraqis and 18
million, Afghanis have been freed from the tyrant regimes of Saddam
Hussein and the Mullahs of the Taliban’s. It seems that, as a committed
democrat and as a member of the American Civil Liberty
Union (ALCU), Mr. Zogby is obliged to fight the Republican Bush
Administration regardless of what’s at stake if the Administration
lost its war on terrorism. His objection is ridiculously vicious
stretching from election campaigning to spreading anti Bush propaganda.
For example, in his article: Why Arab-Americans should vote for John
Kerry, published in the Daily Star on October 27, 2004, Mr.
Zogby said: I'm a Democrat” and “[t]his November, I will vote for John
Kerry for President of the United States. I will do so, confident
that it is the right thing to do for my country and my community.”
While Mr. Zogby claims that the Democratic Party’s policies better
serves the interest and the vision of the Arab-American community at home
and in the ME, he, however, fails to mention what
President Bill Clinton said before a Jewish audience when he was
reaffirming his willingness to defend Israel by asserting: "The
Israelis know that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan
River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight
and die." Second, Mr. Zogby fails to acknowledge that President Bush is
the first and only sitting President to affirm the right of the
Palestinian people to govern themselves in an independent state.
March 14, 2005, Mr. Zogby sent a
to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In it, he complained about the
State recognizing the Middle Easter-American communities as such instead
of Arabs, for there are some organizations which do not
support his political and ideological views. He referred to these
organizations as “exiled groups.” While he did not elaborate on their
status, we find it necessary to explain that these groups are exiled
simply because they want freedom and are civil right activists who
refuse to live under the oppressive and tyrant regimes in the Middle East.
These are the same undemocratic regimes, which back and
finance the AAI. Mr. Zogby went even further to complain about the
Director of Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern and MEPI Affairs
at USAID the Honorable Walid Maalouf asking him “not to label the Arab
Community” each according to his/her ethnicity. What Mr.
Zogby is seeking here is nothing but a continuation of the annihilation of
these Middle Eastern minority groups who suffered death and
destructions at the hand of the tyrant leaders of the Arab community which
Mr. Zogby claims to represent.
Mr. Zogby’s own poll contradicts his own allegations and proves that Mr.
Maalouf’s conduct is proper and true. In his article, Good
news in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, published January 3, 2006, he affirms
that in the second half of 2005, Zogby International poll,
which covered six Arab countries, found that “[s]ignificant changes are
taking place in public opinion
Lebanon, which warrant special attention.” Mr. Zogby wrote:
"One final area where a dramatic change occurred in Saudi opinion was in
how Saudis identified themselves. In 2002, they
indicated a preference to self-identify as "being Arab". Today, they
prefer describing themselves as "Saudi". All this points to a
growing sense of self-confidence, satisfaction and commitment to their
country.” He added: “The best news for Lebanon,
however, is the degree to which the Lebanese, from all groups, identify
with the country — higher than in any other Arab country
When asked to describe their principal identifier, more than 70 per cent
say "being Lebanese" — double the number in 2002.”
We should have the courtesy to respect the wish of the people to label
themselves as they desire and not as he deems fit.
Furthermore, we urge him to take an advice of his own polls. In addition,
the AAI mission statement claims that “AAI is a membership
organization based in Washington, DC that represents the policy and
community interests of Arab Americans throughout the United
States…” It will be of great help for the State Department to make a
decision regarding his claim had Mr. Zogby defined Arabism.
However, a link on his website does the work for him, which also
contradicts Mr. Zogby’s claims. In his article, Arab Identity: E
Pluribus Unum, scholar Halim Barakat explains:
The prevailing view is that only a small minority of the citizens of Arab
countries does not speak Arabic as their mother
tongue and lack a sense of being Arab; this minority category includes the
Kurds, Berbers, Armenians, and the ethnolinguistic
groups of southern Sudan. Fewer still are those who speak Arabic as their
mother tongue without sharing with the majority a
sense of nationhood, a trend that may exist among the Maronites of Lebanon
in times of conflict. Most other minority groups,
such as the Orthodox Christians, Shi'ites, Alawites, and Druze, consider
themselves Arabs with some qualifications and
reservations….Yet, most Arabists, especially today in response to the
emergence of Islamic fundamentalism, continue to assert
the complementarity, if not the synonymity, of Islam and Arabism [sic].
Accordingly, we believe that Mr. Zogby et. al. should respect the rich
diversity of Middle Eastern-American communities by referring to
them as such, unless he is referring specifically to the Arab-American
small community, which represent only 22% of the Middle
Eastern-American communities. In such case, he should be specific and
The AAI claims to be a “non-profit organization committed to the civic and
political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent.”
Such claim is unfounded. The AAI is not a grassroots organization fighting
for the public interest as Mr. Zogby claims, but rather a
lobbying group fighting for interest groups, i.e. Arab regimes, which fund
Mr. Zogby’s activities, in coordination with the Democratic
Party and the ACLU. Thus, Zogby is misleading the US and the Middle
Eastern communities by feeding the public false information
and biased studies.
As for blaming the American media and Hollywood for the “misfortune” of
Arabs and Muslims, we believe that the American people
did their part by accepting the Arab and all other communities in their
homeland. Now it is up to these communities to adapt and to
adopt the American way of life and its great values.
Regarding President George W. Bush’s policies, the American-Lebanese
community stands behind you and supports your war on
terrorism, as well as your doctrine to spread freedom and democracy in the
greater Middle East region for this is the best gift anyone
may offer to our American and Middle Eastern people.
We are Lebanese-Americans, Assyrian-Americans, Kurds-Americans,
Aramaic-Americans, and some are Arab-Americans.
Therefore, the inclusive, sensitive, and politically correct term to use
when referring to all these groups is the Middle Eastern-
Americans. Thus, we ask Mr. Zogby not to label us according to what suits
his interest, for we have already labeled ourselves each
according to his/her ethnic background.
Pierre A. Maroun
American Lebanese Coordination Council
February 10, 2006
 United Press International, January 6, 2006.