Wednesday, April 13, 2016


      Do you know the names of any famous Arab Americans?  Tony Shalhoub comes to mind right away for me. Casey Kasem, my favorite DJ for many years.  Paula Abdul, Shakira, Salma Hayek, Shannon Elizabeth, Vince Vaughn are also of Arab descent. Other very famous folks for my generation are Danny Thomas, Ralph Nader, Khalil Gibran, and George Mitchell, Frank Zappa, F. Murray Abraham, James Abourezk, Edward Said, Sam Maloof, Naomi Shihab Nye, Christa MacAuliffe, Michael DeBakey, and many more were all influential in their fields of endeavor.
   Did you know:  "Detroit is home to the greatest number of Arab-Americans. There are approximately 403, 445 Arab-Americans living in Detroit."    

   In 1987 I was dating a man I had met at the preschool my daughter attended and where I was a teacher. He had been a tenant lawyer but was unable to make much money defending them, even though he won his cases.  So he became the after school teacher for our elementary school students whose parents couldn't pick them up until six o'clock or so.  In reality, he was an activist in the movements of the time brewing in Los Angeles - in particular Latin American and Palestinian issues, but including Puerto Rican Liberation and Leonard Peltier.  He had bright red hair, like my father's and he was irreverent, undisciplined (I thought - he wouldn't follow rules made by adults) and completely playful with the students in his charge.
   In January of 1987 my boyfriend, who borrowed my car, (remember, he had very little money) told me he was being followed. Shortly thereafter he received a phone call from Terminal Island jail from his friends Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, two Palestinians with whom he had intensely been working to spread the truth of the Palestinian cause.  They and four other Palestinian men, plus Khader's Kenyan wife had all been rounded up and taken to the island to be charged with what? terrorism?  illegal alienism?  [they were all legal except maybe one], what?  Remember, this was 1987, and who was President?  There is so much about this case that was blatantly illegal and false. In fact it was a preparation for the government's plan to round up Arab Americans and put them into internment (concentration) camps, as they had done the Japanese in WWII.

LA 8

   "In 1987, Hamide, Shehadeh, and six others were arrested by immigration authorities on charges that they were affiliated with the PFLP. The government claimed that they were deportable for being affiliated with a group that “advocated the doctrines of world communism,” which was a deportable offense under the McCarthy-era McCarran-Walter Act. Significantly, FBI Director William Webster testified before Congress that the eight “had not been found to have engaged themselves in terrorist activity.” After the McCarran-Walter Act was declared unconstitutional, the government continued to pursue deportation under other charges, including charges of providing material support to so-called terrorists." 
   Interestingly, my father had a very good friend who spent the majority of his legal lawyerly life trying to defeat the McCarran-Walter Act because it was easily the worst legislation to come out of the Cold War and affect all real liberties of American people. [Interesting aside, this friend had as his classmates the infamous Leopold and Loeb boys. His mother had urged him to be friends with them but he paid her no attention, finding them weak and uninteresting. Fortunately for him he showed a great deal of good sense.]    As I said, my husband was a tenant lawyer and didn't have the expertise required to defend the LA 8 as they came to be known. So he called all his activist friends, and formed The Committee for Justice for the LA8.  He worked day and night trying to find the best defense.  What was so horrendous were the tales of how these people were taken -- in front of their children and neighbors.  One man's child was in fact left alone in his house and he was only three years old.  Fortunately a neighbor took the child until the mother could be contacted. The stories of the government's misconduct are endless regarding this case.  My husband at the time was living in a court house of about six small houses, in a Latino neighborhood. Oddly enough he noticed that he had a neighbor who was white, who drove a car with Maryland license plates.  Sure enough, it was revealed the the LA8 and my husband as well were being spied on through the walls.  One LA8 member had the agent living right next door so they could listen in through the walls.
   A notable even that I'm not sure was publicized during the 20 years of this particular case was the fact that someone leaked a document to the committee that showed the government's plans to re-open the concentration and internments camps used in World War II in order to round up Arab Americans and people of Arab descent.  I wish that Democracy Now would add this to their current interest in the possibility of camps being reopened as I feel this part of the McCarran-Walter Act was never really struck down.
   My husband had to apologize to me later, because my family had been followed by the FBI from the time I was born in 1947 until about 1960 or so, and then again at various other occasions when my sister was in Cuba, or I went to live in Tanzania.  But I hadn't been bothered for about 15 years, especially since I had a child and was a single working mother. No time for misbehavior until this happened.
   The LA 8 case dragged on for twenty years, and my husband had dropped out once he had helped with fundraising, and hiring some of the best lawyers in the country. Notably the best was Leonard Weinglass - you can read about him here.   A true lawyer of the people, he was never arrogant or put himself above those that he knew cared as much as he did. He always treated my husband with the utmost respect.

Leonard Weinglass

   "Hamide and Shehadeh said they were relieved that the government's long pursuit of them was over.

   "My family and I feel a tremendous amount of relief," said Hamide, 52, after learning of the appeal board's decision. "After 20 years, the nightmare is finally over. I feel vindicated at long last," said the Chino Hills resident, who is in the coffee distribution business. "This is a victory not only for the L.A. 8 but for the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and for the rights of all immigrants."

   "Shehadeh, who is 50 and now lives in Oregon, said that although he was "extremely happy" to put the battle behind him, he had mixed emotions. "The government robbed us, and our families, of the best and most productive years of our lives. But we will continue . . . acting on our beliefs, loving our country and defending the Constitution," he said.

   "The government's decision to drop charges against Hamide and Shehadeh was "a victory for the 1st Amendment rights of all immigrants and a vindication of their clients' actions," the attorneys for the L.A. 8 said in a formal statement.

"This is a monumental victory . . . for all immigrants who want to be able to express their political views and support the lawful activities of organizations in their home countries fighting for social or political change," said San Francisco attorney Marc Van Der Hout of the National Lawyers Guild, who has worked on the case since its inception. The government's attempt to deport Hamide and Shehadeh "all these years marks another shameful period in our government's history of targeting certain groups of immigrants for their political beliefs and activities."

   "Georgetown University law professor David Cole, who also represented the two men for 20 years on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, "We are overjoyed for our clients, who have spent 20 years fighting for the right to stay in this country and associate freely."

Khader and one of his children

Celebrating Arab American History Month:
A school resource - 
Arab American National Museum --
A quiz from The Progressive --
Center for Arab American Philanthropy -
Arab American History Month Facebook page - 
Department of Corrections -
Famous Arab Americans -
Documenting Arab American Achievements - 
Arab American Institute -
Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee   --
James Zogby - Arab American Institute - 
LA 8 Case - 
LA 8 on Democracy Now -
Electronic Intifada - 
David Cole on the LA 8 Case - 
Victory for LA 8 - 
Nicaraguan Contra testifies in Case against LA 8 - for the LA 8 - Leonard Weinglass' brilliance
Leonard Weinglass' Obituary -
Center for Constitutional Rights -
Final Two LA 8 Defendants Cleared -
Obituary of John Abt -

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