A Widening Circle: Arab American and Non-Arab-Identified Activist Groups, 1967-1980

By Salim Yaqub
Submitted to Session P4563 (50 YEARS AGO: THE 1967 WAR'S IMPACT ON ARAB AMERICANS AND ARABS IN AMERICA, 2016 Annual Meeting
Ethnic Groups;
This paper examines cooperation between Arab American organizations and non-Arab-identified groups from 1967 to 1980. It argues that such trans-ethnic cooperation was essential to the articulation and dissemination of critical perspectives on U.S. policy toward the Middle East and especially toward the Arab-Israeli conflict. The principal Arab American groups I examine are the Association of Arab American University Graduates (AAUG), the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), and the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC), an offshoot of the AAUG. The main non-Arab groups I study fall into four main categories: Americans then living in the Arab world or who had done so; various Christian denominations; progressive, radical, or anti-Zionist Jewish groups; civil rights and African American organizations.

The paper argues that the interaction of all of these groups helped to transform U.S. discourse on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In particular, this interaction contributed to the emergence of a compromise scenario involving Israel's withdrawal from all of the Arab territory occupied in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza strip--what later came to be called the two-state solution. Initially confined, more or less, to progressive circles, the two-state scenario later acquired greater credibility within the U.S. mainstream, though never enough strength to fundamentally alter U.S. policy toward the dispute.