Bill Clinton, ADC's most zionist invitee with the most Arab blood on his hands, attracts the highest number of attendees at its convention. The NAACP invites the Ku Klux Klan's president to its convention.
The former sentence is true, the latter might as well be. I've seen "my people" celebrate the occupation of Baghdad. So by now I should be used to seeing perfectly intelligent Arabs prostrating themselves to those who annihilate their brethren. But I wish it were easy to just write them off and desensitize one's outrage towards their self-defeating betrayals of their homelands.
If this represents what it means to be an Arab-American, I declare my independence of Arab-America. If these people embody today's Arabhood, I'd gladly choose the companionship of ghosts floating in the cemeteries of Jenin, Gaza and Falluja over that of my fellow Arab-Americans here in the US.
Even if I detested his policies towards Arabs, I can understand the need for political engagement by our institutions. [this is the formula for Arab self-humiliation in America. Engage the establishment and sell your cause. We're more powerful if we work outside the establishment. That's why I don't vote. Our dignity and our cause remain intact if we follow in the footsteps of radical Black and Native people like Malcolm and the Panthers and American Indian Movement. Please read Black Power by Carmichael and Hamilton and tell every Arab you know to read it. It's a handbook for advocating your cause as an oppressed group in America while maintaining your dignity: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Power-Liberation-Charles-Hamilton/dp/0679743138/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245353878&sr=8-1]
I was too curious to see what he would speak about, especially in the hope he would deliver some message from the administration or suggest something that offers substantive support for our foreign policy positions. But now, we are not THAT strong, yet. [we'll have a valid cause and our dignity will be restored after we become as powerful as our role model, the Zionists!]
He arrived with a grotesque fanfare, with Arab-Americans jumping from their seats to grab pictures of him and to shake his hands like we are trained Pavlovian fans. Instead of giving him the cool reception [see the spectrum of possible treatments: warm reception --> cool reception --> cruel reception (also known as a Zaidi welcome) --> no reception.]
Most refused to read between the lines of his speech. Many were compelled by the soft ambiguity of his talk to take away some positive message. I could not help but read the speech at a deeper level. So what I saw was an implicitly insulting lecture [on top of the explicitly insulting presence? How dare he?!], one that boosted a dangerous misperception of Arab-American political issues.
His talk focused on the reality of global interdependence. The world is so connected that what happens in one part, impacts the other. Swine flu outbreak and the financial crisis are two examples; and the environment is the most urgent issue perhaps [I'm sure this resonated deeply with the Arab-American audience considering that melting icebergs have killed far more Arabs than US empire and Zionism combined], with a disaster possible resulting in a breakdown in social order such as the world depicted by a Mad Max Road Warrior film (his example, not mine).
The speech contained some insights, and was mostly full of textbook liberal politics and current world events. Who would disagree with his emphasis on AIDs and the lack of health care systems in the underdeveloped world, the demonstrated shortcomings of unimpeded free market capitalism (despite the Washington Consensus under his administration), the urgency of the environment, that Muslims and Arabs were among the victims on September 11, 2001, and the dangers of hate?
Sounds reasonable and bland enough, right? If taken out of context, the insult is missed. [actually, his presence per se is insulting. Even if Clinton had read Gamal Abdulnaser speeches, his presence at an Arab event would still be unjustified]
First, the focus on identity trivializes the material bases of our positions and politics. We are not angry at U.S. foreign policy and Israel because of identity differences, but because of invasions, occupations and displacements. While he acknowledges the inequality of the world system, he does not consider that our resentment may come from being on the receiving end of oppression. [of course he doesn't consider that; he's the oppressor!] Talking about identity while ignoring this crucial context is in line with analysis that considers Arab resistance to American and Israeli agenda as `civilizational' or `cultural,' or based on ancient hatreds.
Second, I felt he belittled our concerns with the fate of the Palestinians when he mildly encouraged the Arab-American community's efforts on it after talking about the big issues such as the prospects of environmental apocalypse. So silly was his analysis, he compared the outcome to a mad max road warrior movie – then he excoriated the crowd for laughing? "It's not funny." I think his juxtaposition was intended to suggest we are over-concerned with this problem. He was trying to shift our agenda to care about nebulous problems, while discrediting our issues — all implicitly, meaning without direct intents. [He was addressing exactly the kind of audience that is happy to shift its agenda on demand.]
Third, he tried to disclaim his failure to say anything substantive, of interest to us, by suggesting he is limited since whatever he says reflects on Hillary, and he will not say anything not within her talking points. That is understandable, but he could have won important points by tying in the administration's opposition to the settlements to his rudimentary analysis of identity. [Had he only stated opposition to the very settlements he'd facilitated as president, I would've found it in my heart to forgive Clinton for sanctioning the life out of half a million Iraqi children] Does anyone deny interdependence and exhibit negative identity more than the Israeli settler movement?
Like I said, he was not interested in giving the community ANYTHING. [except humiliation, which mainstream Arab America invited on itself] And why should he, we're not powerful enough to get more than a visit. [the problem isn't lack of power. It's lack of self-respect. African-Americans in this country didn't secure "power" before they decided to assert themselves and show a backbone via the civil rights movement. If sucking up to Clinton is what's necessary to become "powerful" in this country, I'd rather remain un-powerful and dignified. You do not defeat empire by joining the empire. You empower yourself with solid, self-respecting politics, not by drooling over your butchers] Sadly, that was a major development in and of itself.
Fourth, I read his remarks on identity, especially the last one as suggesting that Arab-Americans should be proud of who they are, without hating others, i.e. Jews. Who else could that refer to?
He may have softened that insinuation with an anecdote about a tall Egyptian-American who he saw after September 11, 2001. He had tears in his eyes in fear of the backlash. He told Clinton he was afraid his country would never accept him. It was a compelling story until he said he thought about that story every two or three weeks, which seemed too much like a politician's feigned nostalgia.
He also sounded silly when he defended the Lebanese elections — which "no one thinks was rigged" — based on his conversations with his "Lebanese friends." It almost sounded like the classic racists' defense.
It seems that by not reading between the lines, we miss the richness of a saavy politician's work. In terms of politicians, he is great. There he was as a president who authored the Oslo illusion, led a sanctions regime that left one million dead in Iraq, bombed Sudan and Afghanistan unilaterally, sponsored anti-terror legislation and, in sum, paved the way for Bush in many respects [nobody disputes those historical facts. The dispute lies in how we Arabs in America react to it. Arabs in Arab countries throw stones and shoes at their oppressors. Arabs in the US throw flowers and speaking invitations]. After giving a 35 minute low-energy speech, he wandered out to hordes of conference attendees and fanfare that only comes from his former position, rather than what he did with us. [that, combined with our pathologically low collective self-esteem. This piece's direction sheds light on the parameters of mainstream Arab-American assimilationist politics. There are two options. Invite a mass murderer and take pictures with him, or invite a mass murderer and read between the lines of his speech. By the author's logic, if Clinton had said the "right things" and sounded less condescending and more pro-Arab, inviting him would've been viewed as a positive step towards much yearned-for power, and there would've been no dissent from the official ADC position whatsoever. By this same thinking, if George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld learn how to say "assalamu alaikum" and show passion for hummus, they'll be receiving invitations from the Arab-American establishment in 10 years. That's not speculative; the ADC invited Colin Powell to its 2003 convention, months into the occupation of Iraq.]
(in the picture, ADC Legislative Director Christine Gleichert with Bill Clinton and her former boss, Arab-American Congressman Nick J. Rahall, II)