[Marxism] Divided in Detroit
walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Jul 22 07:01:38 MDT 2006
(While this report certainly seems accurate, as far as it goes,
it omits the obvious fact that among the strongest voices who
are protesting Israel's actions in Lebanon are Jewish activists
in the United States from the political left. The WSJ reporting
thus give the impression of this being an ethinic split rather
than the political division which is obviously represented here.
(I'd like to hope that there are more Jewish voices calling for
peace in the Middle East, which would start with a ceasefire,
but I have to admit that's not the impression I've got so far.)
The Wall Street Journal
July 22, 2006
Divided in Detroit:
Arabs and Jews Clash
Over Mideast War
Rallies Heat Up the Rhetoric
And Fray Fragile Bonds;
'We Are the Underdogs'
By GINA CHON and JEFFREY ZASLOW
July 22, 2006; Page A1
DETROIT -- In recent days, thousands of Arab-Americans have rallied
here in response to the Middle East conflict. At one mosque, 200
people applauded a speaker who called Israelis "barbaric" and "not
human" and accused Israel of having secret chemical weapons that
destroy the internal soft tissues of Arabs. In nearby Dearborn,
adults and children jammed the streets to cheer for the Lebanese
militant group Hezbollah.
Separately, thousands of local Jews have rallied in support of
Israel. At a rally in a synagogue in suburban Southfield, they
applauded a speaker who said "twisted" leadership in Iran and a
"thugocracy" in Syria wants "to annihilate every Jew on the planet."
A rabbi exclaimed: "We did not seek this fight, but we will finish
A Jewish congregation held a rally this week in Detroit. Click the
image to see more photographs.
The Detroit area has 300,000 residents of Arab descent, the largest
such population in the U.S. More than 72,000 Jews also live here, and
they are among the nation's strongest fund-raisers for Israeli and
Jewish causes. For decades, the two groups coexisted peacefully,
though uneasily. Their leaders tried to build bridges, working
together, for example, to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. Now,
protests and inflammatory rhetoric over the Mideast conflict threaten
to sever those fragile bonds.
"There have been numerous uncomfortable moments through the years,
but nothing as unsettling" as the recent tensions, says Sharona
Shapiro, director of the American Jewish Committee's Michigan
chapter. In years past, American and Israeli flags have been burned
in Dearborn, she says, and speakers with alleged terrorist ties have
preached against Israel at local mosques. What worries her today, she
says, is that moderates in the Arab community may be afraid to speak
up, making it difficult for the two communities to have a
Hasan Newash, director of Palestine Office Michigan, an advocacy
group, says that dialogue with Detroit's Jewish community is futile.
He says that unlike Israeli citizens, who often question their
government, Detroit's Jews "are entrenched in carte blanche support
for Israel, no matter what." At a rally last Friday at the Islamic
Center of Detroit, Mr. Newash claimed that "families en masse" are
being killed by Israel in "barbaric assaults" backed by the Bush
The first large wave of Arab immigrants came to Detroit in the 1870s.
When Lebanese Christians fled the Ottomans in the 19th century, many
came here to sell goods door-to-door. Other Arabs came to work in the
auto industry, or more recently, to escape violence in the Middle
East and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Now, many of them own
businesses such as gasoline stations and convenience stores and are
Jews began coming to Detroit in the mid-1850s from Eastern Europe.
Over the years, many worked their way up to become upper-middle-class
The rallies in recent weeks have been nonviolent, but tensions have
ratcheted up. On Wednesday, about a dozen Arab protesters rallied in
front of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, a Southfield synagogue where
more than 3,000 Jews had gathered to show their support for Israel.
The Arabs called Israel a terrorist state and waved signs at Jews
stuck in parking-lot traffic. Profanities were exchanged.
Sam Abdallah was among the Arab protesters. He emigrated from Lebanon
in 1976, and his family opened a deli near the synagogue. Over the
years, Mr. Abdallah, who is Muslim, says he made many Jewish friends.
At the protest, he wore sunglasses so his Jewish friends wouldn't
recognize him. "If this [protest] is what it's going to take to help
my family back at home and show that what Israel is doing is not
right, then this is what I'm going to do," said Mr. Abdallah, who has
family in Lebanon.
Kenwah Dabaja, who sits on a policy council of the Arab American
Institute, an advocacy group in Washington, attended the synagogue
rally to hear the speeches. She says Jewish leaders at the rally
"spoke with such confidence, and they can do that because they have
the support of our government, and we are the underdogs."
When the synagogue rally ended, most of those emerging from the
building ignored the Arab protesters. One of the protesters held an
Israeli flag with a swastika instead of a Star of David in the
middle. "That flag really got to me," said Sara Raick, a Jewish woman
who said she hadn't realized that local Arab-Americans "had such
hatred." She said she did not confront the protesters because she
didn't want to start trouble.
Further stirring emotions: Several Arabs from the area say they've
lost loved ones during the fighting in Lebanon, and many others have
relatives trying to leave the country. And earlier this week, 214
Jewish teens from suburban Detroit came home weeks early from a
community-organized trip to Israel. They said they had been close
enough to the action to hear the rumbling of rockets.
Only a few years ago, Jewish-Arab relations in Detroit were moving in
a different direction. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Jewish
leaders publicly supported efforts to fight stereotyping of Arabs and
discrimination against them. Local Arab leaders expressed gratitude.
Jews and Muslims raised money together for the American Red Cross.
For the most part, though, Jews and Arabs live separate lives in
different parts of the metropolitan area. Many Iraqis, Lebanese and
Palestinians live in Dearborn, west of the city. Many Jews live in
the northern suburbs, which are also home to a large population of
Chaldeans, who are Iraqi Christians.
In past years, local Jewish leaders weren't eager to widely
disseminate incendiary comments from local Arab leaders, says Don
Cohen, former Michigan director of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.
Mr. Cohen, who monitored Arab-American speeches for years, says he
found this frustrating.
Now, Detroit's Jewish News is publishing Mr. Cohen's dispatches from
Arab rallies, and his reports are being emailed throughout the Jewish
community. Some Jews say they are realizing, for the first time, the
depths of their differences with Arab neighbors.
Osama Siblani, publisher of Detroit's Arab-American News, says that
"our Jewish cousins" in Detroit should try to understand why Detroit
Arab-Americans cheer for Hezbollah and rail against Israeli bombings
that have killed Lebanese civilians. Because of the Holocaust, he
says, Jews know what it's like to have their homes destroyed and
their children killed. "Arabs are expressing their frustration, not
their hatred," he says. "We are angry and wounded. The Jewish
community should be the first ones to rally with us."
Arthur Horwitz, publisher of the Jewish News, says that he has met
with Mr. Siblani in the past, but that it "would no longer be
constructive" for the two publishers to have a relationship.
Abed Hammoud, president of the Congress of Arab American
Organizations, an umbrella group, works as an assistant prosecutor
for Wayne County, where Detroit is located. At a recent rally, he
referred to President Bush as a "criminal" for backing the "crimes"
Mr. Hammoud says his strong comments are necessary because "in the
battle for the hearts and minds of Americans, the Jewish community
has won." He says he can't have a dialogue with Jews in Detroit
because "I don't want a lecture about how bad my people are, and how
anyone who throws a rock at a tank is a terrorist." Among Detroit
Arabs, he says, cheering for Hezbollah is "almost like cheering the
underdog...Hezbollah is the people of Lebanon."
Leaders from Detroit's Arab and Jewish communities say they have no
immediate plans to meet. "Right now, everything is too raw," says
Wendy Wagenheim, president of Detroit's Jewish Community Council.
Write to Gina Chon at gina.chon at wsj.com2 and Jeffrey Zaslow at
jeffrey.zaslow at wsj
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