The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), according to its website, is “a civil rights organization committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent and promoting their rich cultural heritage.” The mission statement continues by claiming that the organization is “non-profit, non-sectarian and nonpartisan.” In reality, the ADC is none of these things.
This self-proclaimed “civil rights organization” riled some of its members during the organization’s national convention held in June. The controversy started when the ADC disinvited Malek Jandali, a Syrian composer and pianist who intended to perform a song called “Watani Ana” (I Am My Homeland), presumably in support of pro-reform demonstrators in Syria. After boycott threats from various ADC members and conference participants, the ADC flip-flopped and opened their “gala” with the song.
ADC’s statement regarding the flap read “There has been an attempt to deflect from the focus of the ADC National Convention by various media, with accusations leveled against ADC as being against pro-democracy speech.” It is ironic the ADC ran afoul of the media; the organization might have thought it enjoyed immunity to such criticism. After all, lavishing award after award upon Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, whose firm is one of the biggest stakeholders in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (parent to FOX News) should have earned it some special status in western media. However, an organization that is “committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent…” should not be pandering to such a huge stakeholder in a virulently anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda network.
The sudden reversal of ADC’s decision regarding “Watani Ana” can be attributed not to the collective growth of a conscience among convention participants, but rather because the move had reportedly drawn negative attention from the media and reported grumblings from the White House. The layers of hypocrisy are multiplied when one takes into consideration that the convention was underwritten by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both repressive, U.S.-backed, regimes. The fact that a “non-sectarian” and “non-partisan” organization has relationships with dictatorships (whether backed by the U.S. or not) is deplorable.
Yet “non-partisan” is the one self-description of ADC that comes closest to the truth: the organization is not affiliated with either party, although perhaps “bipartisan” would be a more accurate description. ADC has been honored to have warmongers from Republican Colin Powell to Democrat Hillary Clinton address its national conventions. An Arab-American civil rights organization employing top-ranked attorneys should be devoted to protecting the rights of the community by, at the very least, shunning those who have committed illegal searches, seizures and detentions of Arabs in the U.S. while waging genocide on their families overseas.
I personally became aware that ADC is not interested in protecting the community in February 2007 when Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey held a real estate exhibition encouraging Jewish families to relocate to settlements in the West Bank. ADC-NJ issued the following action alert in response:
“If West Bank settlements are being sold in Teaneck, New Jersey exclusively to people of the Jewish faith, and not to members of other religious and ethnic groups, including Palestinians, or if the advertisement of such sale expresses, directly or indirectly any discrimination against other religious or ethnic groups, such sales or advertisements may violate state and federal discrimination laws, including New Jersey Civil Rights Law §10:5-12 (h) and the Federal Fair Housing Act.”
A list of state and local officials’ phone numbers followed, along with a set of talking points.
After calling many of the people on the list, most of whom advised me they had “no jurisdiction” over the matter, I finally received a gem of information: if a non-Jew were to inquire at the housing fair and then be turned away, a complaint could be filed under federal discrimination laws and the Fair Housing Act. I passed this information along to ADC, who had organized a demonstration across the street from the housing fair. I waited for a response but never heard one. After sending e-mails and leaving messages begging them to “just send someone over,” I realized the people at ADC—most holding advanced law degrees from prestigious universities—should have been the first to know this. Yet, they chose to put on a show feigning solidarity with Arab-Americans and Palestinians overseas instead of pursuing actual criminal and civil charges against the perpetrators of gross discrimination against the Arab community.
It is imperative that Arab-Americans see the ADC for what it is: a self-serving, hypocritical and utterly useless organization that will pander to any administration—foreign or domestic—regardless of the human rights abuses perpetrated by that government, in order to fund lavish “galas,” dinners and ceremonies, none of which promote Arab culture or the defense of Arab-American rights.
*Tammy Obeidallah was born and raised in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Eastern New Mexico University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She has traveled to 45 countries including Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Pakistan and lived for over a year in Amman, Jordan.