Transnational Alliances: The AAUG’s Advocacy for Palestine and the Third World

By Suraya Khan
Submitted to Session P4563 (50 YEARS AGO: THE 1967 WAR'S IMPACT ON ARAB AMERICANS AND ARABS IN AMERICA, 2016 Annual Meeting
Hist
All Middle East; India; North America; Pakistan; Palestine;
Arab-Israeli Conflict; Diaspora/Refugee Studies; Ethnic American Studies; Identity/Representation; Nationalism; Transnationalism;
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This paper examines the AAUG’s articulation of the Palestine question as both an Arab-American and Third World issue. As the first major Arab-American organization to form after the 1967 War, the AAUG faced two challenges. First, the 1967 War exposed the incapacity of the Arab states and dispossessed a new generation of Palestinians, which had far-reaching ramifications for Arabs in the Middle East and the diaspora. Second, Arab-Americans faced growing anti-Arab sentiments in the United States as support for Israel became a cornerstone of American politics and culture. In response, the AAUG engaged in unprecedented educational and activist endeavors to promote the Palestinian case in the U.S. and foster ties among Arab-Americans.

In analyses of the post-1967 era, several scholars have discussed the role that the AAUG played in the creation of Arab-American identity and the field of Arab-American ethnic studies. Yet, only more recently have scholars begun to analyze the transnational character of both the AAUG and Arab-American identity more broadly. From its inception, the AAUG refused to limit its concerns to issues only affecting Arab-Americans, although Palestine was its first and dearest cause. On the contrary, AAUG members constructed a transnational collective identity by standing in solidarity with Black Americans, Africans, South Asians, and Latin Americans. Thus, Palestine was an issue that brought Arab-Americans into conversation with other groups that grappled with racism, settler-colonialism, and decolonization.

Using the archival papers of the AAUG and its members, official organization publications, and personal interviews, I investigate how the AAUG engaged with the PLO and Palestinians during its first decade. I also explore the alliances that the AAUG made with leftists around the world, particularly under the leadership of Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Abdeen Jabara, Elaine Hagopian, Edward Said, Naseer Aruri, and others. By examining the AAUG’s advocacy for Palestine alongside its commitments to anti-colonial (and anti-neocolonial) movements in the Third World, this paper demonstrates that 1967 and subsequent moments in the Arab-Israeli conflict fostered the creation of a transnational intellectual generation that aligned itself with both the Palestinian revolutionary movement and the global postcolonial community.