“War on Terrorism Hits LA,” the headline of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner screamed on January 27, 1987. The Los Angeles Eight, as the seven Palestinians and a Kenyan came to be known, are still fighting deportation today. Dangerous security risks? The Immigration and Naturalization Service said so. International terrorists? The INS still argues that the Eight were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). These charges were partly based on secret evidence, including photos showing the Eight distributing a “subversive” magazine published in Damascus entitled Democratic Palestine.
Ayatollah Khomeini’s death sentence of February 14, 1989 continues to affect the lives of people far removed from its original target — author Salman Rushdie. More than a year later, in Dearborn, Michigan, local sympathizers of the ayatollah within the Arab American community disrupted a talk on Rushdie’s Satanic Verses by Nabeel Abraham, an Arab American activist and member of the MERIP board of directors. Abraham talked about his experience with journalist Jonathan Scott.
Why were the protesters so fiercely opposed to your lecture?
Jim Zogby is the director of the Arab American Institute in Washington. He was a founder of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Joe Stork spoke with him on March 18, 1987.
How did you get engaged in Middle East organizing?
It was the West Coast, not the West Bank, but for many Palestinians, the unfolding dragnet scenario had an all-too-familiar ring.
Shortly after dawn on the morning of January 26, agents of the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and local police arrested eight Palestinians and the Kenyan-born wife of one of them.
Abdeen Jabara, a lawyer, is a long-time Arab-American activist from Detroit. He recently became president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and is now working at their national office in Washington DC. Joe Stork interviewed him in September 1986 in Washington.
Alixa Naff, Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience, (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985).
Alixa Naff gives us a rare and detailed look into the virtually unknown and now largely forgotten world of the early Arabic-speaking immigrants who made their way to America in the last decades of the 19th century. They hailed from the Ottoman provinces of Syria and Palestine, but mostly from Mount Lebanon and environs. The majority were Christians (Maronite, Melkite and Orthodox); a significant minority were Muslims and Druze. They called themselves “Syrians.”
Sameer Abraham and Nabil Abraham, eds., Arabs in the New World: Studies on Arab-American Communities (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1983).