Recap: Panel Discussion on Arab Uprisings and Our Community's Role

Washington, DC | | October 12, 2011 -- Last week, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcomed guests to the ADC Heritage Center for the first event of the 2011-2012 Arabesque Lecture Series, a panel discussion entitled, “Arab Uprisings: Our Community’s Role.” Moderated by ADC Legal Director Abed Ayoub, the panel included Ambassador Clovis Maksoud, Dr. Bassam Haddad, and Dr. Adel Iskandar. Addressing a packed room of students and community professionals, the speakers each reflected on the nature and meaning of the uprisings in the various Arab countries and on the involvement of Arab Americans.

In his remarks on the uprisings, Dr. Maksoud began by saying, “self-empowerment on the part of the Arab masses has become self-evident.” He described the movements as “vitality in search of a direction.” Referencing the spark that lit the Arab World, he said, “when an educated worker was slapped because he sought redemption of his rights, it encapsulated a collective humiliation of Arabs.”  Therefore, he argued, while there is division among Arab governments, there is far more unity among Arabs themselves.  Dr. Maksoud focused on this theme of unity, emphasizing the need to establish a sense of common citizenship among Arabs. Dismissing what he termed as the “neo-conservative form of democracy” imposed in Iraq, which highlights sectarian and ethnic differences between groups, he called for unity of people as citizens with equal rights in all aspects of life. He suggested that Yemen’s transformation through achieving a social revolution in which Yemenis of feuding tribes transcended their boundaries and came together exemplified this notion of unity of equals. Touching on Libya and the NATO intervention, Syria and the “bloodbath that takes place every day,” the plight of the Palestinians under the brutal occupation of Israel, Maksoud exhibited how when divides are drawn and the rights of some are greater than the rights of others in their midst, the imbalance inevitably leads to injustice and instability. “Be proud of your diversity,” he said, “but never allow diversity to collapse into pluralism.”

Dr. Haddad invited the audience to step back and consider how we ought to view the uprisings before exploring the role of the community. In reference to the uprisings, he made two key points: (1) they do not represent real revolutions, nor even regime change, but merely a change of the top political figures without true shifts in policy, and (2) that they demonstrate the “start of the unraveling of the consequences of post-colonial development.” In response, Haddad suggested, the role of the Arab American community involves influencing U.S. foreign policy