CRYSTAL CITY, Va. – Delegates at the 20th convention of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) here June 12-15 called for ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq, creation of a Palestinian state, and termination of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s mass detention of Arabs and Muslims.

The convention opened with lobbying on Capitol Hill to demand that Congress reject Ashcroft’s demands for “Patriot Act II” granting the federal government even more sweeping police state powers. Stopping Patriot Act II “is one of our three or four biggest issues,” said ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish. “We also asked Congress to enact Rep. John Conyers’ anti-hate-crime bill and urged Congress to play a constructive role in creating a just peace in the Middle East.”

Maha Munayyer of Morristown, N.J., noting a recent Justice Department report on the abuses of 762 detainees after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, told the World that members of her ADC chapter have visited detainees at the New Jersey federal detention center. “I can’t believe the level of abuse of their constitutional rights,” she said. “It’s like the Japanese internment all over again.”

In a workshop, “Ecumenical Voices for Peace,” led by a panel of Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders, ADC leader Talat Othman, a Chicago investment banker, read aloud a “Manifesto for Peace: An Urgent Appeal Concerning Peace Between Palestinians and Israelis.” Drafted by a committee of lay Christians, Muslims and Jews under the auspices of the Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Center in Chicago, it endorses an independent Palestinian state living at peace with Israel (www.manifestoforpeace.org).

Panelist Cherie Brown, vice president of the Chicago-based Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, told the crowd, “We love Israel. We completely oppose the occupation and we want it to end.”

She cited a poll showing that 80 percent of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza “could be convinced to leave. We are calling on the U.S. government to use all its aid to resettle the settlers within Israel’s 1967 borders,” she said, adding, “It is absolutely essential that we speak out against the violence both of the military occupation and the suicide bombers. It is not anti-Semitic to be against the Israeli government and the occupation.”

She noted the peace initiative by the Jewish peace group Tikkun, which has drafted a resolution to make the so-called “road map” a highway to a real peace. The resolution was introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) two weeks ago. The mostly Arab-American audience gave her a warm ovation.

But the crowd booed at another workshop, “Life in America Today: Security, Liberty, or Neither,” when neo-conservative lawyer Bruce Fein of the Heritage Foundation defended Ashcroft’s racial profiling and mass detentions of Arabs and Muslims as “civilization’s finest hour.”

Outrage ran high because airline pilot Aziz Baroody had just recounted his post-9/11 ordeal. He was interrogated by security agents of his employer, Columbia, S.C.-based, BankAir. Despite his flawless record and pleas of innocence, the company fired him summarily. When he sued to get his job back, BankAir filed a countersuit. “I know from the bottom of my heart the only reason this is happening is because I am an Arab,” Baroody said.

Jonathan Turley, a constitutional scholar, called Ashcroft a “menace to liberty,” warning that Ashcroft is using a new category, “enemy combatant,” to strip U.S. citizens of their Constitutional rights.

Fein claimed the government “can’t wait around to find out if there is ‘probable cause’” in carrying out warrantless searches and arrests. Besides, he said, the detainees “are not citizens.”

A young woman at a floor microphone retorted, “Mr. Fein, what country do you live in that you would say ‘we can’t wait around’ for probable cause? Immigrants are being held for the equivalent of jaywalking, often in solitary confinement, in shackles, for months. This is unacceptable whether they are citizens or not.”

John Russell, representing the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said his office has investigated many hate crimes since 9/11, citing the May 19 conviction of Robert Goldstein of Seminole, Fla., for violating civil rights.

But a Florida delegate pointed out that when police arrested Goldstein they found in his basement 50-caliber machine guns, anti-tank missiles, landmines, and high explosives, together with detailed plans to blow up mosques. “Why wasn’t this hate criminal charged as a terrorist?” the delegate demanded.

The ADC approved resolutions supporting an end to the occupation of Iraq, restoration of Iraqi independence and free election of a democratic Iraqi government.

Another resolution called for a “just and lasting peace between Arabs and Israelis” including a “fully independent sovereign Palestinian state” and “upholding the principle of the right of return” for Palestinian refugees.

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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