Category Archives: UAW

UAW Labor for Palestine Rank and File Welcomes Our Leadership’s Pro-Ceasefire Announcement, Demands that the International UAW Endorse Palestinian Trade Union Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

For Immediate Release: December 6, 2023

UAW Labor for Palestine Rank and File Welcomes Our Leadership’s Pro-Ceasefire Announcement, Demands that the International UAW Endorse Palestinian Trade Union Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

Palestinian trade unions have urged immediate action to stop the flow of weapons to Israel

Detroit, Michigan—UAW Labor for Palestine, a working group composed of rank-and-file members formed in opposition to Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza and throughout Palestine, welcomes the International UAW’s call for a ceasefire, announced by Region 9A director Brandon Mancilla on December 1.

Now, we reaffirm the October 27 rank-and-file UAW Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) sign-on letter endorsed by hundreds of union members, which calls on UAW leadership to honor the urgent appeal from Palestinian trade unions by taking “immediate action—wherever you are in the world—to prevent the arming of the Israeli state and the companies involved in the infrastructure of the blockade.”  

In the last month, rank-and-file UAW members across the country have sent hundreds of letters urging the International Executive Board to call for a ceasefire, to stand in “solidarity with Palestine,” and to endorse the BDS call. We are encouraged to learn the UAW will be forming a working group to investigate economic ties to Israel and to militarism more broadly, which was formed as the result of our rank-and-file organizing. We plan on participating actively in that group—and continuing to pressure our union leadership to stand in solidarity for a free Palestine.

Specifically, in this moment we call on the International UAW to endorse and implement BDS against all institutions complicit in Israeli settler colonialism by taking the following concrete steps:

  • Terminate UAW’s ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s racist labor federation
  • Divest our unions and employers from Israel Bonds and from the military, extractive, and technological industries connected with the Israeli occupation and U.S. imperialism 
  • Demand that the United States government immediately halt all aid and military support to Israel
  • Protect UAW members who engage in pro-Palestine speech and advocacy—particularly Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab workers—from doxxing, surveillance, and repression within and beyond the workplace, including the blatantly unconstitutional and union-busting Temporary Restraining Order that blocks UAW 2325 membership from democratically voting on a proposed Palestine solidarity resolution 
  • Vacate the UAW’s anti-democratic nullification of previous Palestinian solidarity resolutions adopted by UAW 2865, UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110
  • Involve rank-and-file members, including those building solidarity with Palestinian workers, in the newly announced UAW Divestment and Just Transition Working Group

We call on fellow UAW members to bring our BDS sign-on letter to their local unions, to pass BDS resolutions, and to educate coworkers on the links between Palestinian liberation and our own workplaces and futures. We urge our fellow trade unionists across the labor movement to adopt our statement and pressure their union leadership to support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Israel, and to finally end the labor movement’s complicity with the ongoing genocide in Palestine. Union members who want to connect with us can reach us at

About UAW Labor for Palestine: UAW Labor for Palestine–formally a working group created through the UAW Region 9A Rank-and-File Assembly–is a collective of rank-and-file members organizing across the UAW to demand an immediate end to Israel’s apartheid regime, occupation, and ongoing genocide in Palestine, to embrace the recent urgent call from Palestinian trade unions to stop arming Israel, and to act upon the UAW Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) sign-on letter by advancing Palestine solidarity priorities. We organize at the individual, shop, local, and regional levels, and we work towards ending the International UAW’s complicity in Israeli apartheid and oppression of the Palestinian people.

About the UAW Region 9A Rank-and-File Assembly: The Region 9A Rank-and-File Assembly (RFA) is the only regional organizing space of its kind in the UAW. In it, rank-and-file members across all industries develop cross-sector strategies to strengthen our solidarity within our union and to build a stronger UAW. In addition to UAW Labor for Palestine, RFA working groups currently exist for reproductive justice, higher education, union recognition and inclusive units, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), and organizing in the social services sector. All regional initiatives launched by the RFA—from working group creation to campaigns and direct action—are developed and led by our union’s rank and file.

UAW Rank and File BDS Sign-On Letter

Sign-onto this open letter:

UAW Members         Unions and Community Organizations          Community Members

Dear UAW International and Fellow Unionists,

We, rank-and-file members of the UAW and allied community members/organizations, stand unequivocally in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Following the call by Palestinian Trade Unionists to end complicity in their oppression, we call upon workers everywhere, our union leadership, and the UAW International to demand an immediate end to Israel’s brutal siege and bombardment of Gaza and all military funding going toward Israel.

We watch with horror as the U.S. sends American troops to assist in an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. We mourn the loss of civilian life. We categorically reject U.S. support of the murderous Israeli regime in its ongoing genocide of Palestinians, which has killed over 7,000 people and injured 16,000 more in airstrikes since October 7, and has cut off water, food, and power to Gaza’s population. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers who have renewed their call for academic institutions and unions worldwide to stand with the Palestinian people.

We call on the UAW to endorse and implement the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) call from Palestinian civil society, which urges nonviolent pressure on Israel until it “meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

Historically, the U.S. labor movement has failed the Palestinian people. For instance, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) advocated for and helped finance the construction of Zionist settlements, directly contributing to the displacement of Palestinians. It is a moral imperative for us to acknowledge this history and push the labor movement to act on the side of Palestinian liberation. Advocating for a BDS resolution is also directly tied to our material interests; workers in the U.S. are struggling against many of the same capitalist forces that maintain and bolster the Israeli occupation of Palestine. These forces rely on racialized exploitation, dispossession, and policing in the United States and around the world. As argued by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and Arab Workers Caucus of the UAW, a global class of workers will not achieve liberation if fragmented by colonization, apartheid, and borders. These are the structures on which an ascendant global fascist movement is shoring up white supremacy, nativism, militarism, heteropatriarchy, and other tools of oppression to further divide us. No longer will we stand for investments that aid in the genocide of Palestinians.

As members of the labor movement, we call on U.S. labor unions to cut all ties with Israeli unions. We call on the AFL-CIO to terminate its relationship with the Israeli Histadrut. We additionally call on U.S. unions and our employers to divest from Israeli bonds and from the military, extractive, and technological industries connected with the Israeli occupation and U.S. imperialism. Furthermore, we demand that the UAW International and AFL-CIO immediately convey to the United States government a demand to halt all aid and military support to Israel. Failure to do so amounts to organized labor’s complicity with, and support for, the ongoing genocide.

We further demand that the UAW and our locals protect workers who engage in pro-Palestine speech and advocacy—particularly Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab workers—from doxxing, surveillance, and repression within the workplace. Additionally, the UAW must not overturn democratic decisions made by the rank-and-file, as it did when UAW 2865, UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 voted to support BDS in solidarity with the Palestinian people in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

As unionists, we must always stand on the side of justice, both in word and in deed. In light of Israel’s recent intensification of attacks on Palestine as well as the past 75 years of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people, we stand firmly in solidarity with the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Already, UAW members have spoken out, joined marches, and walked out in support of Palestinian liberation. We will continue fighting for the liberation of the Palestinian people and we commit to taking direct action against the occupation in the coming weeks, including educating our colleagues on the occupation, disrupting the military industrial complex, standing with anyone in our workplaces facing retaliation for their activism around Palestinian liberation, and, if necessary, striking in our workplaces.

Until Liberation and Return,

UAW Members

Anila Gill, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Peter Gaughan, UAW 2320 — NOLSW – Staff Association
Benjamin Kersten, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Rachel Hoerger, UAW 2320 — NOLSW-BALAW
Raj Chaklashiya, UAW 2865 — Santa Barbara
Daniel Kim , UAW 2325 — Bronx defenders
Martha Grevatt, UAW 869
Asil Yassine , UAW 2865 — UCLA
Ary Smith, UAW 2320 — NULAW
Pooja Patel, UAW 2335 — CAMBA Legal Services Workers United
Austin D Bowes, UAW 2110 — New Museum of Contemporary Art
Hazem Jamjoum, UAW 2010 — NYU-GSOC
Michael Letwin, Former President, UAW Local 2325; Labor for Palestine
Christopher Viola, UAW 22
Isaac Stokka, UAW 2320 — NOLSW
Jasmin Tabatabaee, UAW 2110 — New Museum of Contemporary Art
Miriam Schachter , UAW 2325 — ALAA
Jessica Coffrin-St. Julien, UAW 2325 — Bronx Defenders Union
Muhammad Yousuf, UAW 2865 — San Diego
Ron Lare, UAW 600
Aparna Gopalan, UAW 5118
Dylan Kupsh, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Michael Gradess, UAW 2325 — The Bronx Defenders Union
Daria Reaven , UAW 2110 — NYU GSOC
Lavanya Nott, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Matthew Ehrlich, UAW 2865 — UC San Diego
Ruiyang Zhang, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Ricky Sanchez, UAW 5118 — HGSU-UAW
Madeline Weisburg, UAW 2110 — New Museum
Bailey Thomas, UAW 2325 — CAMBA legal Service workers united
Jessica Jiang, UAW 2865 — Berkeley
Patricia Manos, UAW 5118 — HGSU-UAW
Jeppe Ugelvig, UAW 2865 — UCSC
Jared Sacks, UAW 2710 — Student Workers of Columbia
Cristian Avila, UAW 2320 — NOLSW
Benjamin Gaillard-Garrido, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Nirvana Shahriar, UAW 2865 — Santa Barbara
Hazem Fahmy, UAW 2710
Nico Grace, UAW 7902 — New School Student Workers Union (NewSWU)
Amber Kela Chong, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Ioanna Kourkoulou, UAW 2710
Caitlin Blanchfield , UAW 2110 — student workers of columbia
Zachary Hicks , UAW 2865
Matt Hing, UAW 2865
Rebecca Morgan , UAW 2320 — NOLSW, Legal Aid Services of Oregon Workers Union
Ryan H, UAW 2865
Zachary Clarence, UAW 2179
Emilie S. Tumale, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Tommy George, UAW 5118 — HGSU-UAW
Megan Riley, UAW 2865
Spencer Tilger, UAW 2320 — NOLSW
Nicolette D’Angelo, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Zho Ragen, UAW 4121
Michael Mirer, UAW 2865
Harrison S, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Lily Jue Sheng, UAW 2010
José G. Miranda, UAW 2320 — IRAP Workers United
Aida M., UAW 2865
Brianna Lavelle , UAW 2865
Gray Golding, UAW 2865
Kendrick Manymules, UAW 2865
Barrett Cortellesi, UAW 259
Nils J, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Samyu Comandur, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Jessica Brown , UAW 2110
Rachel Fox, UAW 2865
Arundhati Velamur , UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Lara Russo, UAW 2325 — Association of Legal said Attorneys
Matt Daunt, UAW — NYURU
Johanna Rothe , UAW 2865
Frank Hammer, UAW 909 — GM Warren MI
Bri Reddick, UAW 2865
Sarah Dinkelacker , UAW 2110
Marini Thorne, UAW 2710 — Student Workers of Columbia
Pamela Perrimon, GSWOC-UAW — USC
Marlaina S, UAW 5810
Hamsini Sridharan , GSWOC-UAW
Yi Lin Zhou, UAW 5118 — HGSU-UAW
Tarang Saluja, UAW Local 2322 — GEO at UMass Amherst
Charli Muller, UAW 2110 & 7902 — NYU GSOC & New School PTF union ACT-UAW
Grant Stover, UAW 509
Elizabeth Sawyer, UAW 2110 — ACLU
Or Pansky, UAW 2110 — NYU GSOC
Robert Carey, UAW 4100
Sonia Roubini, UAW 2325
Yassaman Rahimi, UAW 2865
Sophia Gurulé, UAW 2325
Erik Hazard, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Maya Alper, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Daad S., UAW 2325
Anthony Stoner, UAW 2865 — Riverside
Gordon Beeferman, UAW 7902 — NYU
Anthony M Triola , UAW 2865 — Irvine
Tausif Noor, UAW 2865 — UAW UC Berkeley
Brenden Ross, UAW 2320 — LSSA 2320
Christopher Geary, UAW 2865 — Berkeley
Vincent Doehr, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Alexis Aceves Garcia, UAW 2865
Mirella Deniz-Zaragoza, UAW 2865
Raghvi Bhatia, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Liam Moore, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Meesh Fradkin, UAW 9A — NYU
Swarnabh Ghosh, UAW 5118 — HGSU-UAW
Erika Barbosa, UAW 2865 — UCSD
Alex Jackman, UAW 2325 — ALAA Legal Aid
Thomas Connell, UAW 2865 — UC San Diego
Leila M. , UAW 2010
Fred DeVeaux, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Melinda Butterfield , UAW 2320 — National Organization of Legal Services Workers
Rachel Lindy, UAW 2325 — OAD
Rocio Rivera , UAW 2865
Lauren Textor, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Samia Saliba, UAW — GSWOC-USC
Nadeem Mansour, UAW 2710
Ross Hernández , UAW 2865
Hannah Kagan-Moore, UAW 2865 — SB
Marlene G Marte , UAW 2325
Jackson Kuklin, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Leonard Butingan, UAW 2865
Yair Agmon, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Yulia Gilich, UAW 2865 — UAW 2865 Santa Cruz
Gabriela Flores, UAW 2865
Reema Saad, UAW 2865 — UC Davis
Alice M., UAW 2320
Sabrina Habchi, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Samantha Abbott, UAW 2865 — Davis
LN, UAW 2865
Claire Gavin, UAW 2325
Adam Moore, UAW 2865
Melina R. , UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Drew Westaway, UAW 182
Nathanael Joseph, UAW 2865 — UC Irvine
Kaylee-Allyssa Roberts Larson, UAW 2865 — UCSC
Ryan McMillan, UAW 5118
Rebecca Waxman, UAW 2865
Kathleen Cash , UAW 2320
Erin Miller, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Rammy Salem, UAW 2865 — UC Santa Barbara
Deren Ertas, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Christopher Fasano, UAW 2320
Destina Bermejo, UAW 2865 — Merced
Charles Gelman, UAW 7902 — NYU Adjuncts
Jessica Peña , UAW 2865 — UCLA
Sabrina Habchj, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Aaron Benedetti, UAW 2865
Caleb Schimke, GSWOC-UAW — USC
Gabriel Woolls, UAW 2865
Tascha Shahriari-Parsa, UAW 5118
Alexi Shalom, UAW 2325
Jocelyn Yang, UAW 2110
Jessie Rubin , UAW Local 2710 — SWC
Rebecca Wong, UAW 2865
Corina Copp, GSWOC-UAW
Anthony Kim, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Emma Roth, UAW 2324
Stewart Stout, UAW 2110
Anthony Stoner, UAW 2865 — Riverside
Willa Smart, UAW 2865
Katrina T. , UAW 2110
Kerry Keith, UAW 2865 — San Diego
Evan Lemire, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Tyler P., UAW 2865
Khirad Siddiqui, UAW 2865 — Irvine
Joanna Lee-Brown, UAW 2710 — Student Workers of Columbia
Ali Blake, UAW — Boston College Graduate Employees Union
Maya Misra, UAW 2865
Marcus Knoke, UAW 5118 — HUWU-UAW
Natalie Goncharov, UAW 2320 — NOLSW-LSSA
Lindsey Ortega, UAW 2865
Arlo Fosburg, UAW 2865
Jenny Lee, UAW 1069 — GETUP-UAW
Vish Soroushian, UAW 2320
Aisha Zaman, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Koby L., UAW 5118 — HGSU
Sammy Feldblum, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Hannah Walsh , UAW 2325
Anna Derby, UAW 2322 — UMass-GEO
Rui Liu , UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Julian de Gortari, UAW 2865
Liana Goff, UAW 2320 — LSSA-Mobilization for Justice shop
Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot, UAW 4100 — CPU-UAW
Sachinthya Wagaarachchi, UAW 2865
Chandler Hart-McGonigle, UAW 2325
Katsyris Rivera Kientz, UAW 1596 — Region 9A
Dinah Luck, Local 2320 — LSSA (MFJ shop)
Hanbyul Jenny Kang, UAW 2110 — NYU GSOC
Yasmine Benabdallah, UAW 2865 — Santa Cruz
Yosmin Badie, UAW 2325
Claire Stottlemyer, UAW 2325 — ALAA Legal Aid NYC
Roxanne Houman, UAW 2710
Nena Hedrick , UAW 2865 — UCSC
Dana Kopel, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Tatum H. , UAW 2865
Denish Jaswal, UAW 5118
Kevin schwenkler, UAW 2865 — ucsd graduate student workers
Jack Davies, UAW 2865 — Santa Cruz
Rosa Navarro, UAW 2865 — UC Santa Cruz
Navruz Baum, UAW 2325 — NYLAG
Fletcher Nickerson, UAW 2865
Ben Bieser, UAW 2865 — Irvine
Leemah Nasrati, UAW 2320 — NOLSW
Clare Canavan, UAW 5118
David Soper, UAW 2865
Ali M. Ugurlu, UAW 2710 — SWC
Maxwell Hellmann , UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Cherí Kruse , UAW 2865 — Berkeley
Max Greenberg, UAW 2322 — UMass GEO
Mithra Lehn, UAW 7902 — SENS
Amelia Spooner, UAW 2710 — Student Workers of Columbia
K Jacobson, UAW 2865 — UCSD
Megan Spencer, UAW 2865
Natalie May, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Eesha K, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Jackson Tham, UAW 2325
Elisabeth Koch, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Sophie Wilkowske , UAW 5118 — Harvard-HGSU
Rosie Stockton, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Ignacia Lolas Ojeda, UAW 2325 — The Bronx Defenders Union – UAW Local 2325
Nastaran Far, UAW 2320 — NOLSW
Ignacia Lolas Ojeda, UAW 2325
Adithya Gungi , UAW 2710 — SWC
Annie Powers, UAW 2865 — Los Angelea
Carson Greene, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Sierra E., UAW 2865
Shanaz Chowdhury , UAW — LAS
Joe Riley, UAW 2865
Ella Nalepka, UAW 2325 — The Bronx Defenders Union
Christy A., UAW 2865
Jonathan Ben-Menachem, UAW 2710
Magally Miranda, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Abby Richburg, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Aaron Katzeman, UAW 2865
Claire Valdez, UAW 2110 — Columbia University
Emily Ortiz , UAW 2865
Kyle Galindez, UAW 2865 — Santa Cruz
Anna Robinson-Sweet, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Sam Heller, UAW 4123 — CSU Academic Student Workers
Elizabeth Ross, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Sarah Mason, UAW 2865
Daniel Owen, UAW 2865
Whitney Braunstein, UAW 2325 — The Bronx Defenders Union
Emily Janakiram, UAW 2110
Cameron Foltz, UAW 2710
Helen Bolton, UAW 2110 — Center for Reproductive Rights Union
Kevin Cruz, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Kristy Palomares, UAW 5810 — UC Irvine
Camila Valdivieso, UAW 2320 — BALAW
David Klassen, UAW Local 7902 — NYU adjuntcs
Tony C., UAW 2865
Zachory Nowosadzki, UAW 2325 — ALAA
AP Pierce, UAW 2865 — UC Santa Barbara
Oliver Lazarus, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Alex Garnick, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Marisa Borreggine, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Heather R., UAW 2865
Michael Malloy , UAW 2350
Brandon Cunningham , UAW 2320
Toby Smith, UAW 2865/5810 — Davis
Andreas P., UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Jake Orbison, UAW 2865 — Berkeley
Kelsey Weymouth-Little, UAW 2865
Marie Buck, UAW 7902 — NYU—adjuncts
Kai Nham, UAW 2865
Stephanie Martinez, UAW 2865 — San Diego
Antony Wood, UAW 2865
Salima Koshy, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Maritza Geronimo, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Kendall Rallins, UAW 2865
Ngozi Harrison, UAW 2865
Rachel Himes, UAW 2710 — SWC – Students Workers of Columbia
Jonah Inserra, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Siddharth J, UAW 2865
Fabiola Carranza, UAW 2865 — UC San Diego
Bailey Plaman, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Olu D. , UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Ja Bulsombut, UAW 2865
Jenn DiSanto, UAW 2865 — UCSF GSR
Aaron Berman, UAW 7902 — SENS-UAW
Ethan Friedland, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Nora Carroll, UAW 2325 — ALAA (Association of Legal Aid Attorneys)
Monica Panzarino, UAW 7902 — ACT-UAW
Emily Janakiram, UAW 2110
Christina M Ruiz, UAW 5810 — UC Irvine
Maren Karlson, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Sunny Chen, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Cesar Bowley Castillo, UAW 2865 — University of California, Los Angeles
Carol Darleny Larancuent, UAW 2325
Gregoria Olson, UAW 2865 — UC Berkeley
Michael Wasney, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Colin Vanderburg, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Piril Nergis, UAW 509 — USC-GSWOC
Johannah King-Slutzky, UAW 2710 — Student Workers of Columbia
Ina Morton, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Bella seppi, UAW Region 6 — UAF-AGWA
Michael Ernst, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Katrina T. , UAW 2110
Sarah Halabe, UAW 2865
Andrew Bergman, UAW 5118 — HGSU
John King, UAW 7902 — ACT-UAW 7902 at NYU
Semassa Boko, UAW 2865 — UC Irvine
Daniel Arcand, UAW 2865 — UCSD
Leonardo Vilchis-Zarate, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Katherine Funes, UAW 2865
jaime ding, UAW 2865
Alice Wang, UAW 2320 — NOLSW
Sarah C., UAW 2865
Jennifer L., UAW 2110
Irene D, UAW 2865
Jarred Brewster, UAW 2865 — UCLA GSA
James Karabin, UAW 2865 — UC Santa Cruz
Zaynab Mahmood, UAW 2865
Kathleen Cash, UAW 2320
Sophie Wilkowske, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Grant Leuning, UAW 2865
Mariko Whitenack, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Emily Whalen , UAW 2325 — BDS
Cameron Dunphy , UAW 3520
Amed Galo Lopez, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Ramona A., UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Melissa Smyth, UAW 2325 — Neighborhood Defender Service
Madeleine Roepe, UAW 2865
Victoria Tran, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Nabil Hassein, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Ahmed Mitiche, UAW 2710
Tamar Ghabin, UAW 2110 — NYU GSOC
K Persinger, UAW 2865 — Riverside
Dana Zofia Flicker, UAW 2865
Sudipta Saha, UAW 5118
Carolin Huang, UAW 2865 — Irvine
Iris Ramirez , UAW 2865
Carol Darleny Larancuent, UAW 2325
Paul Brown, UAW 2710
Danica Radoshevich , UAW 1596
Joanna Lee-Brown, UAW 2710 — Student Workers of Columbia
Michael O’Brien, UAW 5118
Conrad B. , UAW 2325 — The Bronx Defenders Union
Rurik Asher Baumrin, UAW 2325
Natalie Robertson , UAW 2865 — Davis
Jake Scarponi, UAW 2322 — WPI-GWU
Kourtney Nham, UAW 2865
Noah Pinkham, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Allison Rosen, UAW 509
Thalia Ertman, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Noor Al-Sharif, UAW 5810 — UCLA
Diego Ayala , UAW 2865 — UC Berkeley
Mason Smith, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Anisa Jackson, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Maggie Davis, UAW — USC
Adam Cooper, UAW 2865 — San Diego
Frances H., UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Kira Pratt, UAW 2010 — NYU-GSOC
Nia Abram, UAW 2110
Alex Ferrer, UAW 2865
Olivia Ortiz, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
james d sirigotis, UAW 2865 — ucsc
Ethan Hill, UAW 2865
Kirt Mausert, UAW 2865 — UC Berkeley
Benjamin W., UAW 2865 — UCLA
Gabriel Flores, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Rebecca M., UAW 2110
Akshay Ragupathy , UAW 2710
Robin Gabriel , UAW 2865 — UCSC
Naomi Schachter, UAW 2325
Eric Cohn, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Aiza K., UAW 2865 — UCLA
Marilia Kaisar , UAW 2865 — UCSC
Brian Allen, UAW 7902
Athena G, UAW 2865
Johnathon Vargas, UAW 2865 — UCSD
Samantha Griggs, UAW 2865 — UCR
Noam Chen-Zion, UAW 2710
Bineh Ndefru , UAW 2865
Palashi V, UAW 5810
michelle chang, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Christopher L., UAW 2865
Lauren Palmieri, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Emily Janakiram , UAW 2110
Wilson Hammett, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Cooper Lynn, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Naima Karczmar, UAW 2865
Rebecca Angela Ruiz, UAW 2865 — UC Irvine ASE
Jason Butters, UAW 2710
Geroline Castillo, UAW 2320 — NOLSW
Wes Wise, GSWOC-UAW — USC Grad Student Workers
Da In Choi, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Summer Sloane-Britt, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Francis Galang, UAW 2865 — UC San Diego
Isik Kaya, UAW 2865
Robbie Trocchia , UAW 2865
Sasha K., UAW 2865 — UCLA
William Guerrero, UAW 2865
Doga Tekin, UAW 2865 — UCLA
Matt Schneider, UAW 2865
Leslie H., UAW 2865 — UCSB
Aaron Posner, UAW 7902
Cybele Kappos, UAW 2865
Michael Buse, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Cristina Awadalla, UAW 2865 — UCSB
Annika Berry, UAW 2865 — Santa Cruz
Aviva Galpert, UAW 2325 — ALAA
Tanvee Trehan, UAW 2320
Amanda B Parmer, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Sidrah Marotti, UAW 2865
Charlotte Minsky, UAW 5118
Jeremy Montano, UAW 2325 — ALAA
Anna Haynie, GSWOC-UAW — USC
Josh Turner, UAW 2865 — UC Davis
Aditi Kini , UAW 2865 — UC San Diego
Elena Peterman, UAW 2865 — UC Berkeley
Andrew Brown, UAW 4121
Ifeanyi Awachie, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Flavia Maria Lake , UAW 2865 — UCLA
Vincent Doehr, UAW 2865
Rayyan Mikati, ACT-UAW 7902 — Sens-UAW Local 7902
Ruwa Alhayek, UAW 2710 — SWC
Edward Painter, UAW 2865
Adithya Gungi, UAW 2710 — SWC
James Huynh, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Emi B., UAW 2865 — Davis
Dimitri D., UAW 2865
Bryan Ziadie, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Meredith Durbin, UAW 5810 — Berkeley
Jonah Gray, UAW 2865 — UCSD
Oya Gursoy, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Zachary Valdez, UAW 2110 — Columbia University Support Staff
Ellis Garey, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Cathy Román, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Jordan Victorian, UAW 2865
Jason Butters, UAW 2710 — SWC
Isabel Duron, UAW 2865
Max Grear, UAW 2710 — SWC
Peter VanNostrand, UAW 2322 — WPI-GWU
Susanna Collinson, UAW 2865
Aiko Dzikowski, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Nicholas Hu, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Kate Metcalf, UAW 2865 — San Diego
Caroline Bowman, UAW Region 9A — NYU Researchers United
Adam Gill, GSWOC-UAW
Roberta Dousa, UAW 2865
Clara Lingle, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
William Sánchez, UAW 2865
Aaron Posner, UAW 7902
Sarah Z Ahmed , UAW 7902 — NYU Adjuncts Union
john king, ACT-UAW 7902 — NYU
Vandhana Ravi, UAW 2865
Elsy El Khoury , UAW 4100 — Columbia Postdoctoral Workers
Edward Berdan, UAW 2865
Mehrnush Golriz, UAW 2865
Eric Maron, UAW 186
Emmy Cantos , UAW 2320
Antony Wood, UAW 285
Walker Hewitt, UAW 2865
Sal Suri , UAW 5118 — HGSU
Kimberly Yu, UAW 2865
Ashley Guzman, UAW 2325
Patrick R Forrester, UAW 5118 — HGSU
Alyssa W., UAW 2865 — UC San Diego
Nohely Guzman, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
A P, UAW 2110 — NYU GSOC
Sophia Sambrano, UAW 2850 — Los Angeles
Isabel Bartholomew, UAW 2865 — UC Irvine
Paul Werner, UAW 7902 — ACT-UAW NYU
Madison Bowers, UAW 2320
Andrea Lara-Garcia , UAW 2865 — Berkeley
TJ Shin, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Junho Peter Yoon, UAW Local 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Sakura Price, UAW 2865
Burcu Bugu, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Kimberly Soriano, UAW 2865 — UCSB
Magdalena Donea, UAW 2865 — San Diego
David Borgonjon, UAW 2710 — SWC
Ben Berners-Lee, UAW 2865 — UC San Diego
Lucas Koerner, UAW 5118
Sophie Friedman-Pappas, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Calypso Taylor, UAW 2325 — UAW Local 2325 – NDS
Elliot White, UAW 2865
Janel Pineda, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Kelsey Kim, UAW 2865
Toly Rinberg, UAW 5118
Hala Al Shami, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Miguel Castaneda , UAW 2865 — UC San Diego
Ana Howe Bukowski, UAW-GSWOC — USC
Jonathan V., UAW 2865
Aman Williams, UAW 2110 — NYU-GSOC
Peter Racioppo, UAW 2865 — Los Angeles
Alexia P., UAW 2710 — Student Workers of Columbia

Community Members

Sona, NYU Alumni ’23
Gladys M. Jiménez-Muñoz, UUP Binghamton University Chapter
Cami Dominguez
Diana Filar
Demetrius Tien, UC Irvine
Julie Nguyen
Eric Patel, IWW NYC
John Wellman
Louisa Chang
alexis roberto
Nezar Eltal
Xander Percy, Teamsters Local 449
Colleen Asper
Eirene Tsolidis Noyce, Australian Services Union Victorian Branch
Mudassir Mayet
Sam Karnes, NYU Law Student
Meera Jaffrey, JVP North Jersey
Marco de Laforcade
Rania Kanazi, NYU
Neil Rudis , RN
Francesca Altamura, Former UAW Local 2110 member
Lauren Textor, UAW graduate
Claudia Benincasa, Past UAW 1596 Member
Sarah Chaudhry, ALAA
Jasmin L., Student, 2023
Jonathan Tan, OPEIU Local 153
Lucas kane , Member of NYC Local 30
Ala’ Qadi, Algonquin College Faculty Union, Local 415, Second VP
Ryan C Taylor
Clue Quilala
Clancy Murray, GET-UP UAW
Babatunde Salaam, IBEW Local 24
Elizabeth Tommey , UCLA Alumni
Amelia Baxter
John Hammond, PSC-CUNY/AFT
Evan Sakuma, UC Berkeley TDPS PhD student
Sam Malabre, UC-AFT Los Angeles Chapter and UAW 2865 (retired membership status)
Narmin Jivani, NYU Wagner Grad Student & Tutor
Dave Lindorff, founding editor of
Adil Hussain
Tirthankar Ghosh, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
Sophie Drukman-Feldstein
Sofya Aptekar, PSC-CUNY
Tiana Reid
Hassan Ahmad
Vick Baker, NPEU
Terra Poirier, Non-Regular & Unifor 3000
Riddhi S. Patel, environmental and labor justice organizer, Kern County, CA
Stephen Sheehi
Farah Khimji, 1199SEIU UHE
Leandra Williams
Danielle Gartenberg, Hunter college, Urban Planning
Claire Glass
Cole Papadopoulos , NPEU, IFPTE 70
Giacomo Bianchino, Professional Staff Congress
Nantina Vgontzas, PSC-CUNY
Jessica Enriquez
Ashleigh Wellman
Mateen Bahai, UCLA SJP
Marina Aina
Alia ElKattan, UAW Local 2110
Baraa Abu Ghalyoun, SJP Operating Board Member
Ru Mehendale
Beezer de Martelly, UAW 2865 alum
Shreya Chowdhary, University of Michigan GEO
Sheila Kulkarni, International Delegate, UAW 2865 Santa Barbara
Lucy Briggs
Jennifer Austiff, HGSU-UAW, Local 5118 (2023)
Nate Landry , East Bay DSA
Hilary Rasch, Training Coordinator, IATSE Local 161
Yaheya Quazi
Paul Rho, Pratt Institute
Mohammad Shafi
Raphe Gilliam
Kyla Mace, GETUP-UAW (pre-certification)
Rachel Besharah, Unifor 2025
Alex Mireles, UAW 2636
Timothy Workman, RAWR CWA Local 9415
Anna Dang
Michaela Telfer
Medha G
Grace Manalo
Laura Martin , Former member of UAW 2865, current member of AFT
Devyn Mañibo
Emily Bleijerveld
Rebekah Woelkers
Olivia Leiter, AFSCME Local 126
M.C. Overholt, GET-UP UPenn
Anthony Lakey
Jaz Brisack, Workers United Upstate NY & VT (in individual capacity)
Kari Litteer, NPEU IFPTE Local 70
Dan Beeton, NPEU
Margaret Barbosa
Sam Jaser, NYU Admin
Nader Salem
David Bragin, Jewish Voice for Peace
Carolina Poveda
Sally Jane Gellert
Yazen Nasr
Jodie Doherty, Labor Advocate
Omar Simjee
ARG, Community
Jacob G.
Sal Tuszynski, OPEIU Local 153
Kelly Tran
Lara Sheehi
Marla Hoffman, NYS Court Clerks Association
Tayler Hall
Prahas Rudraraju
Reno Garcia, UCLA Graduate Student
Breanne Sparta, UCLA
Ferris Tseng, Nava United, OPEIU Local 1010
Tai-Ge Min
Shira , MORE / UFT
Emma Hartung
Saurav Sarkar, NWU
Naima Kalra
Zuri Gordon, NYU
R. M. Aranda
Annie Powers
Jeff Schuhrke, UUP-AFT 2190
Sanaa Sayani
Ghaliah Fakhoury
Liam Maher, AFT Local 6290
Daniella D’Acquisto
Shaye Skiff, FOE Workers United
Ryna Workman, NYU Law 2024
Conner Glynn
Ayman Ahmad, SBCC
A. Ahmed, Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Elizabeth Tang, IFPTE Local 70
Chrysanthemum George, IAMAW Local 4538
Paris VanHoozer
Basma Radwan
Brett Daniels, Amazon Labor Union, Democratic Reform Caucus
Amber Chong

Unions and Community Organizations

National Students for Justice in Palestine
Rank and File for a Democratic Union (UAW 2865)
Pan-Arab Decolonial Feminist Collective
BIPOCanalysis Collective
Nevada County Mutual Aid
The Young Democratic Socialists of America at the University of Michigan
Occupy Bergen County (New Jersey)
UC Berkeley Graduate Students for Justice in Palestine

Last Updated October 31, 2023, at 10:00 PM. Signature Order is randomized.

30+ NYU Student Groups Pledge Non-cooperation with NYU Tel Aviv (Mondoweiss)

30+ NYU Student Groups Pledge Non-cooperation with NYU Tel Aviv

We, the undersigned student clubs, pledge to not participate in or apply to study abroad programs hosted at NYU Tel Aviv. Our participation would render us complicit in the state of Israel’s targeted discrimination against activists and Palestinian and Muslim students. In January 2018, Israel released a list of twenty organizations whose members are denied entry into the country because of their endorsement of the Palestinian call for BDS (Boycotting, Divesting from, and Sanctioning Israel).

The University, as an adoptee of AAUP principles of academic freedom, has the duty to uphold these standards throughout the Global Network University (GNU) and be proactive in addressing any violations of these principles. NYU must upgrade its commitment to ensure equal access to GNU sites and to appeal decisions of entry within the Global Network. Until then, the members of our clubs will not study away and/or visit NYU Tel Aviv.

In the Spring of 2018, the NYU Student Government Assembly passed a resolution expressing concern over the lack of global mobility and cited NYU Tel Aviv as a case study. Citing the U.S. Department of State’s website, the resolution cites the fact that “upon arrival at any of the ports of entry, Palestinians, including Palestinian-Americans, may wish to confirm with Israeli immigration authorities from what location they will be required to depart. Some have been allowed to enter Israel or visit Jerusalem but told they cannot depart Israel via Ben Gurion Airport without special permission, which is rarely granted. Some families have been separated as a result, and other travelers have forfeited airline tickets.”

Recently, we have been seriously troubled by the case of University of Michigan Associate Professor John Cheney-Lippold, in which after refusing to write a recommendation for a student’s study in Israel application, has been arbitrarily punished through a freezing of his pay and a cancellation of all sabbaticals for the next two years. This sets a dangerous precedent, in which departments have the ability to unjustly penalize faculty simply for their support of Palestinian human rights. As a department, we stand within solidarity with Cheney-Lippold and any faculty and students that support the Israeli academic boycott for Palestinian human rights.

We, the undersigned student clubs, pledge to not participate in or apply to study abroad programs hosted at NYU Tel Aviv.


  1. African Students Union
  2. Aftab
  3. Asian American Political Activism Coalition
  4. Bella Quisqueya
  5. Black and Brown Coalition
  6. Black Student Union
  7. Brownstone Publication
  8. CampGrrl
  9. Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc
  10. Incarceration to Education Coalition
  11. International Socialist Organization
  12. Jewish Voice for Peace at NYU
  13. La HerenciaLatina
  14. LUCHA – Latinos Unidos Con Honor y Amistad
  15. Muslim Graduate Student Group
  16. Muslim Students Association
  17. NYU Against Fascism
  18. NYU Disorient
  19. NYU Dream Team
  20. NYU GSOC UAW Local 2110
  21. NYU Law Students for Justice in Palestine
  23. Pakistani Students Association
  24. Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
  25. PorColombia
  26. Sanctuary
  27. SHADES
  28. Students for Justice in Palestine
  29. Student Labor Action Movement, United Students Against Sweatshops Local #44
  30. T Party
  31. The Incarceration Education Coalition
  32. Young Democratic Socialists of America

The Arab American radicals who paved way for BDS (Electronic Intifada)

The Arab American radicals who paved way for BDS

The Rise of the Arab American Left: Activists, Allies, and Their Fight against Imperialism and Racism, 1960s-1980s by Pamela E. Pennock, The University of North Carolina Press (2017)

One of the earliest boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, victories in the United States came in 1973 when United Auto Workers Local 600 in Dearborn, Michigan, voted to divest its Israeli bonds after a campaign waged by the Arab Workers Caucus and the American Arab Coordinating Committee. The campaign drew comparisons with apartheid South Africa and won the support of many Black autoworkers in Michigan.

Was it just an oddity that decades before Palestinian civil society called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in 2005, industrial workers in the US heartland were already waging a BDS struggle? Or, far from being a rogue wave, was it an integral part of the oceanic upheavals among workers, students, immigrants and people of color during the heady maelstroms of the 1960s and ’70s?

The Rise of the Arab American Left makes it clear this was no oddity, although it did have certain characteristics unique to the Arab American experience. Given the relative paucity of scholarship on the history of the Arab American left, this book is a must-read for those who wish to learn more about that community’s activism during this period of radical upheaval.

Pennock, an associate professor of history at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, focuses on radical activists, who she defines as “secular, ideologically leftist and avidly pro-Palestinian.” She concedes that this group – with its support of armed struggle, a revolution for what was then called the “Third World,” and one democratic, secular state throughout all of Mandate Palestine – was a subset of the Arab American population at a time when a majority of Arab Americans held more moderate positions.

“Nevertheless,” she notes, “the issue that most united and galvanized Arab Americans – across differences of generation, social class, religion and national origin – was their shared outrage over the dispossession of Palestinian Arabs through the establishment of the state of Israel.”

The book’s narrative covers the impact Israel’s 1967 War had amongst Arab Americans, the intense period of repression and surveillance that followed the rise of activism in the 1970s and the gradual moderation of activism in the 1980s, when outlooks became less transnational and more focused on domestic civil rights issues.

Natural allies

In the 1960s, organizations such as the Association of Arab American University Graduates and the Organization of Arab Students arose, along with such figures as the academic Ibrahim Abu-Lughod and civil rights attorney Abdeen Jabara. The Rise of the Arab American Left offers a unique opportunity for readers to learn about these early trailblazers.

One of the book’s most enlightening chapters, aptly titled “Intersections,” documents how Arab Americans began to find “natural allies” in the movements of other oppressed groups with roots in the Third World.

In particular, the book looks at the alliance that developed between Arab American autoworkers in Michigan and activists with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, also based in the auto plants.

The alliance extended to issues related to urban removal as the city of Dearborn attempted to turn the Southend neighborhood, where most Arab immigrants lived, into an industrial zone to act as a buffer between Dearborn and predominantly Black Detroit in the wake of that city’s 1967 rebellion.

Pennock’s singular focus on Dearborn is illuminating and detailed, but she also surveys the national scene, showing how central figures in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, such as James Forman and Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture), came to embrace the Palestinian cause, along with the Black Panther Party and other prominent Black activists such as Jack O’Dell of Operation PUSH and Francis Beal of the Third World Women’s Alliance.

In the early 1970s, Pennock observes, the largely white, student-based New Left also “developed a pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist position.” However, she concludes, that “on the whole, the American Left’s commitment to the Palestinian revolution was soft and somewhat perfunctory; in general, the activists’ understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict was superficial, and their position was rooted in an idealized image of Third World guerrillas.”

For many white activists, the New Left’s embrace of the Palestinian struggle opened a rift that lasted for decades, although it actually delineated an already existing faultline: namely that between the left-liberal wing of the movement and the more radical, Marxist-Leninist wing.

Pennock describes in detail how both black and white radicals embraced the Palestinian cause, while more centrist forces emerging out of the civil rights and student movements failed to break with Zionism.

Political intimidation

Another chapter documents how Arab American activists faced repression and surveillance, with the active assistance of the Israel lobby, as early as the Organization of Arab Students’ 1969 convention when the Anti-Defamation League sent infiltrators posing as media.

In Pennock’s account, both the ADL and the Israel lobby group AIPAC colluded with the FBI and the CIA, leading to the creation of the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism and a concerted political intimidation campaign known as Operation Boulder. The cabinet directed the FBI, the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Services to monitor Arab Americans, surveillance that included an illegal FBI burglary of the Dallas, Texas, office of the Arab Information Center.

Pennock says the triggering incident was the Black September attack at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics but clarifies that the creation of the cabinet committee was seen as a way to placate AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League.

The author notes that “the investigations never detected a single case of terrorist or espionage activity among Arabs living in the United States.” But that, of course, was not the point. Operation Boulder was essentially “a program of political intimidation,” Pennock observes, that was meant to suppress Arab-American activism and to inject “divide and conquer” tactics within the movement.

The direct role of the Israeli government in this surveillance was also strongly suspected, but never proved. Both The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribunepublished articles describing collusion between Israeli intelligence agencies, the Anti-Defamation League and the FBI, with the ADL keeping files on Arab American activists for the FBI.

Eventually, the National Security Agency was also exposed for its electronic surveillance of Abdeen Jabara, wiretapping at least 40 of his telephone conversations even though the FBI admitted that Jabara was not the subject of a criminal investigation.

It’s hard to think of any of this as lost history, given that the same practices prevail today, with groups like Canary Mission and others compiling dossiers on Palestine student activists at US campuses.

If one of the first recorded BDS victories was that of United Auto Workers Local 600 in 1973, then the trajectory continued in 2015 when both the United Electrical Workers and the Connecticut branch of the AFL-CIO adopted pro-BDS resolutions, as did the Black Solidarity Statement and the Movement for Black Lives.

If today’s BDS movement reaches farther, it’s because it stands on the shoulders of the giants who came before.

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is active with the Occupation-Free Portland campaign.

Sally Howell, Southend Struggles: Converging Narratives of an Arab/Muslim American Enclave

Mashriq & Mahjar 3, no. 1 (2015), 41-64
ISSN 2169-4435

Sally Howell



This paper explores political struggles that took place in the Southend of Dearborn in the 1970s that coincided with the rise of Arab nationalist and Islamic movements in Michigan and linked these interests to those of Arab- American activists involved in the civil rights movement, labor organizing, and other campaigns for social and economic justice. These struggles launched the careers of activists who cooperated in the 1970s and 1980s to establish several of the nation’s leading Arab- and Muslim-American service, religious, and community-based institutions and played a significant role in transforming Dearborn into the well-known Arab American hub of today. In the Southend, newer and older Arab constituencies joined forces to build an unprecedented institutional infrastructure, both the left-liberal, secular, politically empowered Arab-American establishment of Dearborn and it’s equally engaged, but pious and socially conservative Muslim-American establishment. Thus the Southend struggles provide key insights into the social challenges that came to define Arab-American (and Muslim-American) identities in the half century that followed. In this essay I bring these histories together and explain why more work needs to be done before we can make sense of the political challenges Arabs and Muslims—as distinctive and overlapping communities—have faced in the U.S.

In the 1950s the city of Dearborn, Michigan, led by Mayor Orville Hubbard, began a campaign to declare the Southend neighborhood a “blighted area,” evict its ethnically diverse, working class residents, and turn their properties over to the Ford Motor Company and the Edward C. Levy Company (a local asphalt producer) for development as an “industrial park.”1 Neighborhood residents decided to stand their ground and fight. The Southeast Dearborn Community Council (SEDCC) mounted a long and politically costly effort to save the Southend. In 1973, after 350 homes and several important public buildings had been demolished, community activists finally halted the mayor’s bulldozers in a courtroom action led by a young Lebanese-American attorney named Abdeen Jabara.2

Three years later another legal battle took place that was equally critical to the future of the Southend. This conflict began when a group of Yemeni and Palestinian autoworkers broke into the Lebanese-led American Moslem Society (AMS) and performed the ʿĪd al-ʾAḍḥā prayers. Rather than celebrate the holiday on the nearest weekend, which was the established practice of the thirty-eight-year old congregation, these “trespassing” worshippers insisted on praying on the actual holiday, following the religious norms of their homelands. Shortly thereafter, the two factions went to court over control of the mosque. In 1976, a judge ruled in favor of the new, Yemeni-majority board of directors.3

These Southend struggles brought people together from a remarkable array of backgrounds. They coincided with the rise of Arab nationalist and Islamic movements in Michigan and linked these interests to those of Arab-American activists involved in the civil rights movement, labor organizing, and other campaigns for social and economic justice in Detroit. They created and sustained a relatively safe space in which the tens of thousands of Arab refugees who began arriving in Detroit in the 1970s (from Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, and Iraq) could establish a foothold in America. They launched the careers of community activists and “culture brokers” who worked together in the 1970s and 1980s to establish several of the nation’s leading Arab- and Muslim-American social service, religious, and community- based institutions. The Southend struggles, in other words, played a significant role in transforming Dearborn into a city that, by 2013, had a population of 97,140, of which 42 percent was Arab.4 Today, Dearborn is home to fifteen mosques, while greater Detroit has over eighty. Roughly 230,000 Arab Americans live in Detroit and its suburbs, and nearly half of them are Muslim.5

The Southend struggles of the 1970s were projects of place making. They produced new identities for the neighborhood, involving its residents in existential conflicts and a search for consensus. According to Arif Dirlik, place making “defuses claims to ‘pure’ identities that may be essential to struggles against existing structures of power” and encourages people to imagine and realize alternatives.6 Contests over space illuminate the flexibility, temporality, and constructed nature of identities, be they religious, ethnic, or geographical in origin. The political struggles that took place in the Southend in the 1970s are important because they explain how the Dearborn of today came into being. The city and its Arab population were transformed by these conflicts in vital ways. Within Michigan, the Southend struggles matter because they allowed Dearborn to persist and grow as the epicenter of both a large, diverse, and politically empowered Arab-American community and an equally large and similarly empowered Muslim-American community. Nationally, the Southend struggles matter because they represent, in highly concentrated form, the seismic changes that took place in Arab-American communities in the post-1965 era. The new immigration regime, coupled with new geopolitical conflicts and opportunities overseas, drew a broader spectrum of immigrants from the Arab countries. Unlike those who came to the U.S. in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the post-1965 arrivals were much more likely to be Muslim and from sending nations other than Syria/Lebanon. Like their predecessors, they were eager to remain involved in the politics of their homelands, but as American interventions in the Middle East increased during the Cold War, it became obvious to new Arab migrants and their established American co-ethnics that their ability to participate fully and equally as U.S. citizens would depend on how the U.S. pursued imperial policies in the Middle East. In the Southend, the newer and older Arab constituencies joined forces to build an unprecedented institutional infrastructure that addressed these domestic and international changes. For all these reasons, the Southend struggles provide key insights into the political and social challenges that came to define Arab-American (and Muslim-American) identities in the half century that followed.

Because they represent different constituencies, the two narratives presented here—one centered on neighborhood preservation, the other on the takeover of a mosque—are rarely integrated in a single telling. One storyline is deployed to explain the rise of Dearborn’s left-liberal, secular, politically empowered Arab-American establishment. The other is used to explain the rise of Dearborn’s socially conservative, pious, and politically engaged Muslim-American establishment. Arab-American leaders frequently point out that Dearborn is the “largest and most highly concentrated Arab community in North America,” while its Muslim spokespeople refer to it as “the Muslim Capital of the West.”7 These equally real, equally imaginary, spaces overlap in Dearborn. Here, Arab-American history and Muslim- American history move in parallel orbits, intersecting at key moments, but resisting attempts to situate them in integrating frameworks. In this essay I will try to bring the two histories together and explain why more work, especially on the post-1965 era, needs to be done before we can make better sense of the political challenges Arabs and Muslims—as distinctive and overlapping communities—have faced in the U.S.

The institutions that grew out of the Southend struggles—principally, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) and the reformed AMS—gave their support to a variety of Arab and Muslim causes that were often at odds. They contributed to national organizations that, during the 1980s and 1990s, pulled Arab and Muslim networks in different directions, which may be why it has been important to keep the two histories separate for so long. Focusing on the left or the right, the secular or the pious, has inevitably privileged one identity at the expense of the other. In the post-9/11 era, as Arab and Muslim institutions have been driven together by crisis and opportunity, it has become possible (even necessary) to stitch these historical threads together. By doing so in this essay, I hope to illuminate the broader array of circumstances that compelled Arab Americans to work together across their many differences to defend a way of life and an urban space that offered them limited but important refuge. These conditions shaped the Southend in the 1970s, and they are essential to understanding the role of Arabs and Muslims in the city of Dearborn (and elsewhere) in the 2010s.


I began working in the Southend of Dearborn in 1987, when I was hired to establish a cultural arts program for ACCESS, then a neighborhood-based social service agency. My new colleagues were eager to fill me in on local history and folklore; they had wonderful stories to tell of labor organizing, goon squads, personal encounters with Henry Ford, Depression-era survival strategies, and life in Dearborn’s working- class “melting pot.” Those who lingered with me over cups of coffee in neighborhood haunts, or pored over newspaper clippings collected in family albums, exposed me to what Lucy Lippard aptly designates the “lure of the local.”8 Many of these narratives were passed on to me as preparation for the task of representing the local community in the grants I wrote to support ACCESS’s fledgling arts program. Like the storytellers all around me, I soon became a “culture broker and image-maker”9 in my own right. My job, after all, required me to explain who Detroit’s Arabs were, how they had come to live there, and what their lives were like. At ACCESS, these narratives always began in the Southend itself.

The Southend, I was told, took shape as a home to industrial workers in the late 1910s and early 1920s after Henry Ford began work on what would quickly become the world’s largest industrial complex, the Rouge Factory, along Miller Road.10 In its heyday, the Rouge employed over 90,000 workers who converted iron, coal, and rubber into automobiles. New migrants from the American South, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Mexico, and the Middle East settled in the Southend, as long as they were not black. Ford helped develop housing in Inkster, just west of Dearborn, for his black workers; the rest were encouraged to remain in Detroit.11 The white and off-white migrants who settled in the Southend had a great deal in common, although they had come to Michigan from very different places. They struggled to learn English, to earn enough money to get ahead in the world, and to build the social clubs, churches, and mosques that fostered the cultural forms they had brought with them. They faced the perils of urban life together.

Those who grew up in the Southend in the 1930s to 1950s delight in describing its broad ethnic spectrum. Joe Borrajo, using an allusion common in Dearborn, told me “In the 1950s, Ripley’s Believe it or Not had Dearborn listed in its book as being a very unique demographic area. It had 33 different nationality groups in that particular community. And, little did I know, or any of the guys I ran with (and the guys I ran with were of Mexican background, Italians, Romanian, Southern boys and Lebanese) and we would all go to each other’s homes and taste each other’s foods […] And we went with each other to the different churches that each of us belonged to.”12 Borrajo is himself the child of immigrants; his father was from Yemen and his mother from Yugoslavia. Despite having grown up in an isolated neighborhood during hard times, most former Southenders are conspicuously proud of their neighborhood’s complex ethnic mix. In his detailed examination of census data from 1940, neighborhood historian Rudy Constantine places this number of ethno-national origins carefully at 49.13

The Southend is also notorious for the brutal labor battles that took place there in the 1930s, when the United Auto Workers (UAW) fought to organize the last major automobile manufacturer that resisted unionization, the Ford Motor Company, or “Ford’s,” as it is still known in Dearborn. The Ford Hunger March took place on Miller Road in 1932. The four white men killed by the Dearborn Police in this confrontation are buried in nearby Woodmere cemetery.14 The “Battle of the Overpass,” which took place on Miller as well, in 1937, was a significant turning point in the campaign to unionize Ford.15 And in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the neighborhood’s “militant” UAW Local 600 led a “right to work” campaign that sought, despite tremendous opposition from their national leadership, to disrupt the decentralization and automation of the industry and end its growing reliance on the use of overtime.16 For neighborhood residents, participation in union struggles was not uniformly glorious and heroic, nor was it one-sided. Henry Ford’s best union-buster and all-around-thug, Harry Bennett, recruited several members of his “goon squad” in the Southend.17 This private militia enforced company policy in the neighborhood, at the factory gates, and on the shop floors.

Alan Amen, whose father worked at the Rouge for 34 years, explained to me that the union issue was not as clear-cut to Southend workers in the 1930s as it is today. Both sides promised better pay and working conditions. “You have to remember, Dearborn was Henry Ford: the benefactor, the old man, the guy who took care of you. Organizing in opposition to Ford’s wishes was not an easy task for immigrants who looked at Ford as a, what was he? This guy was the icon of American opportunity.”18 Don Unis, a Dearborn fire fighter who grew up in the Southend, tells a number of “clever fox” stories about his immigrant father and other Lebanese workers from the neighborhood celebrating their skill at escaping work by making the best of chance encounters with Ford himself or, a few years later, with Jimmy Hoffa.19 Many workers in the first immigrant generation were not interested in class struggle but in using personal connections and raw wit to leverage job security.

Stories about the multiethnic past and labor activism already seemed sepia-toned and a bit surreal in the late 1980s. The Southend’s six thousand residents were by then overwhelmingly Arab, immigrant, and disproportionately unemployed.20 When I visited Dix Avenue, the Southend’s commercial strip, for the first few times on my own, I was treated with outright suspicion and occasional hostility. The only non- Arabs left on Dix, it appeared, were INS officials, social workers, cops, and the occasional sex worker. By 1987, a new set of stories had emerged alongside the older ones, and they expressed the same eagerness to connect the local to the national and transnational, to assert the importance of this small, neglected place. These narratives were also about labor organizers and unions, immigration, diversity, and political activism. Yet neighborhood politics and class interests were now rendered in explicitly Arab terms. In the new stories Arabs were the leaders. Arabs defeated Dearborn’s infamous racist mayor, Hubbard. Arab workers, and their compatriots in the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, shut down the Dodge Main assembly line to protest UAW support for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Arabs took over (and Arabs lost control of) the city’s oldest mosque. Most importantly, Arabs created the community organizations that now empowered them to tell these stories, like ACCESS and the AMS. In the Southend, Arabs were constructing a new politics that would connect Dearborn to an Arab/Muslim community that was decidedly American, yet global in orientation and impact.

This newer way of talking about the Southend evolved against the backdrop of Arab Detroit as a whole, a community that spread across urban and suburban boundaries in ways the older, Southend- centric, multiethnic, working-class identities could not. The story of Detroit’s “Arab-American community” begins in the Ottoman Province of Syria (today’s Lebanon and Syria) with a handful of Christian villagers who decided to seek their fortunes in “Amreeka,” a world they had learned about from French and American missionaries in the Levant. By 1900, Detroit was already home to a small colony of Syrians, mostly peddlers and their local suppliers.21 Muslim Syrians had joined the migration and were quickly establishing themselves in Highland Park when Henry Ford, desperate to staff his newly minted and hopelessly tedious moving assembly, doubled the daily wage of workers in 1914. The economy of Detroit took off in this period, and the Syrian enclaves in Highland Park and near the Jefferson Avenue Chrysler plant on Detroit’s East side took off along with it. Village clubs and religious associations established in the 1910s developed into a half dozen Syrian-majority churches and mosques in the decades that followed. The Muslim families who migrated with Ford to Dearborn in the 1920s opened their first mosques, the Progressive Arabian Hashmie Society and the American Moslem Society in 1937 and 1938 respectively, near the intersection of Dix Avenue and (today’s) Vernor Highway. A small network of Iraqi and Palestinian Christians also established themselves in Detroit in the early part of the century. Most of these communities, once firmly in place, would sponsor the chain migration of relatives. This steady trickle of arrivals continued until 1965, when the liberalization of U.S. immigration laws, combined with political conflict in the region, encouraged the migration of tens of thousands of Middle Easterners to Detroit.22

The Arabs who settled in Dearborn’s Southend were mostly Muslim and working class, which set their community apart from the Arab Christian enclaves which were, by mid-century, largely middle class and dispersed among the city’s eastern suburbs. In addition to the two mosques, the Southend business district along Dix Avenue was home to Kamel’s, a small neighborhood restaurant, Ozman’s and Abbass’s restaurants, Shaheen’s Supermarket, several Turkish and Arab coffee houses, Berri’s Halal Meats (the first explicitly halal business in Michigan),23 Mr. Saad’s grocery, a cobbler, Louie’s Coney Island, and a plethora of non-Arab businesses: a small theater, a Chinese laundry, a bar, a five and dime shop, a drug store, and a gambling joint known as “the Hole.” This business district, usually referred to as “Dix” by Arabs living in other parts of Detroit, was the “symbolic center and heart” of the city’s Arab communities, and it was known not only for its tight concentration of businesses and people, but also for its “receptivity to and involvement with politics in the home country.”24

Abdo Elkholy, in his 1966 study of the local Muslim community, captures the feel of the Southend:

Members of the Detroit community… came from the old country directly to Detroit, where they established their ghetto-like colony in Dearborn … One cannot but observe the Arabic atmosphere on Dix Street: here are many coffee-houses whose patrons speak Arabic and drink the same strong tea and Turkish coffee in small cups that they drank in the old country and play the same games … The Syrian groceries import food from Syria. The Syrian bakeries and pastry shops provide familiar foods too.25

In the 1950s and 1960s, Lebanese, Palestinians, and a growing Yemeni population co-existed comfortably with their non-Arab neighbors, who were still, far and away, the Southend’s majority population. In the wake of the civil rights movement, however, cracks began to appear in the collective narrative of immigrant struggle and assimilation. Newly arriving Arabs were increasingly viewed as disruptive to the status quo, and, after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the pan-Arab alliances that formed in solidarity and defiance quickly threatened earlier bonds that had encouraged Arab inclusion in the Southend’s white working class.


By the 1950s, Dearborn’s Southend had become politically expendable. It was an isolated neighborhood with a reputation for horrific pollution, militant autoworkers, and over-crowded housing. As Dearborn’s available landscape filled with homes and shopping malls, schools and “residents only” parks (a Dearborn euphemism for “whites only”), Mayor Hubbard was under pressure to set aside more land for heavy industry. Ford Motor provided over half of the city’s revenues,26 and this gave the auto manufacturer immense clout in city hall. The Ford Leasing Development Company, a division of Ford, constructed upper middle class housing and shopping malls on their land in central and west Dearborn, but zoning ordinances kept their heavy industry away from the city’s white collar precincts. The Southend also lay inconveniently between the gates of the Rouge factory and those of the Edward C. Levy Company, which converted slag and other industrial waste into asphalt for local roads. This combination of factors led Hubbard and the City Council to plan for the gradual rezoning of the Southend as an industrial park.

The Southend’s housing stock, much of it built quickly and cheaply in the 1920s, was deemed run down and inadequate in the 1950s. Iris Becker, a teacher and longtime neighborhood activist, described the conditions under which neighborhood housing was first created: “Some of [the housing] was very fast and part of it was self-built. You know, the people who were foreign-born or came from other places built small homes and some of them were larger. They did a lot of work themselves. Some of it was quality work and some of it was not quality work.”27 A report written about the neighborhood in 1940 by Sociologist Albert Ammerman described the housing as much more likely to be substandard than in other parts of Dearborn, reaching “near slum conditions” in some places and suffering from intense overcrowding. The data he drew on for this report was collected during the Great Depression, when the number of unemployed in Detroit reached over 400,000 workers.28 Many families doubled up during this period, but the boom years that followed (during World War II) did little to alleviate overcrowding as hundreds of thousands of new people flocked to the city to work in wartime industries. Detroit’s factories spilled out jeeps, tanks, and airplanes at record speed, but many new arrivals to the area lived in tents and other forms of temporary housing. In the post-war period, Ford, in particular, began to decentralize automobile production, introducing automation and reducing the size and power of the labor force at the Rouge.29 This too affected the Southend. The generation of neighborhood men who walked to their jobs at Ford’s was quickly passing away. When veterans returned from the war, many of them bought houses elsewhere. The Southend had come to be viewed as an immigrant ghetto. Many residents, despite their warm feelings toward the place, fled it as soon as they had the chance, moving usually into more stable, middle-class parts of Dearborn and its neighboring suburbs.

To make matters worse, the Southend was a residential island in a sea of heavy industry. The mile- long Rouge colossus bordered the community to the west and overshadowed its skyline. To the east, there was the Levy Company, with its uncovered mountains of slag. To the north, a series of trucking facilities, brick manufacturers, and other light industries added noise and exhaust. To the southeast lay Woodmere Cemetery and Patton Park, in Detroit. Just southwest of Dearborn, in Melvindale, was the Darling soap works and several oil refineries. Prevailing winds brought the emissions of the Rouge plant directly over the Southend. Winds from the south brought the sickening smell of offal that had not yet been perfumed to make soap. Winds from the east brought flecks of slag so steadily that in the 1960s, residents’ homes were covered by a thick film of residue.30 In 1971 the Air Pollution Control Division of Wayne County found the Southend’s air to have “on the average twice as many suspended particulates—dust, fly ash, coke, iron oxides (to name a few)—as the federal standards permit for health. On some days, it has more than three times the maximum.”31 Fly ash from the factory slowly ate away the paint on neighborhood cars. Houses were filthy on the outside, and difficult to keep clean inside as well. Drying laundry while keeping it free of soot and ash was an endless battle in the era of the clothesline.32 Neighborhood residents referred to Hashmie Hall, one of the mosques on Dix, as “the coal mine” because its uninsulated windows let in so much soot that the surfaces of the furniture had to be cleaned before each and every use.33 By the 1970s, the roof of the local elementary school began to collapse from the heavy weight of accumulated pollutants.34

It was the Southend’s location between the Ford and Levy facilities that led to the first confrontation between Southend residents and city officials. Levy had begun hauling slag away from the Rouge in 1922, and in 1948 opened a new slag processing facility at 8880 Dix Avenue, just across the border in Detroit, to deal with increased production at Rouge Steel and other nearby factories on Zug Island.35 Their somewhat convoluted entrance on Dix was not convenient to their new facilities, so they began to exploit their back entrance at the end of Eagle Street in the heart of the Southend’s residential area. To facilitate this shift, the city began repaving Eagle with reinforced steel roadbeds designed for multi-ton trucks in the early 1950s, even though city-zoning ordinances prohibited such industrial usage of residential streets. Soon thundering tandem vehicles, spraying slag as they drove past, were a constant nuisance and threat to local residents. The slag itself was stored in large, unprotected berms, directly across the street from neighborhood homes.36 In response, Octavius Germany, head of the Southend’s Homeowners Association, called on a young neighborhood resident, Michael Berry, who had just passed the state bar exam, to see if anything could be done to force the city to intervene on the residents’ behalf. Berry and Germany convened a meeting for affected homeowners at Romanian Hall and laid out a plan to draw media attention to their plight. They organized a series of protests that are best remembered today for the human chains local housewives formed to bar the trucks from their street. These tactics generated sympathetic press accounts, which helped Berry win a temporary injunction to halt the traffic and construction. A young and very green Berry then found himself facing off in court against William Henry Gallagher, among the leading trial attorneys in Michigan, who had the resources of Ford Motor behind him. The judge nonetheless found in Berry’s favor and halted the plans of the city and its corporate patrons.37

This courtroom defeat did not deter the city of Dearborn from its efforts to gradually phase out housing in the Southend. Instead, municipal authorities began to ignore levels of blight that were not tolerated in other parts of the well-resourced suburb, reduce city services, and pressure residents to leave. Neighborhood health hazards, including the trash-filled, stagnant “Baby Creek” and rat infestations, received no attention from city officials. In 1961, led this time by Darrell Donaldson (a Southend resident with roots in Kentucky), Joe Borrajo, and Helen Atwell (a Lebanese American), the Southeast Dearborn Community Council (SEDCC) organized to redress the area’s sagging appearance and endangered environment. According to Donaldson, “We fought absentee landlords—buildings filled with code violations—abandoned cars—etc. We took jars of bugs we gathered from rooming houses and took them to the health department. Mayor Hubbard would never meet with us. We lost every battle.”38 Joining with the International Institute of Detroit,39 residents began a “keep Dearborn clean” campaign to rectify environmental dangers and clean up neglected municipal spaces. Suzanne Sareini, whose family owned a Coney Island on Dix that later became a well-known nightclub, Uncle Sam’s, remembers complaining to business owners on Dix about the shoddy appearance of the business district. With a water hose in hand, she would spray the windows of offending store owners, yelling at them, “If you don’t wash your windows, no one is going to come down here and buy anything from you!”40

The early members of the SEDCC were representative of the neighborhood as a whole and not of any one ethnic constituency. The three presidents who followed Donaldson, for example, were Italian, Greek, and Cherokee in turn.41 Much of the SEDCC’s success was attributed to the multiethnic alliances the group enacted. Ironically, the city justified its plans to rezone the Southend by pointing to the same environmental factors SEDCC activists had long complained about, especially the poor air quality. As one city brochure put it, “one has to drive through the area himself to determine that the location is not best suited for residential use. The South End should have been, and some day will be, an industrial park.”42When, in 1961, the City began refusing to issue building permits to Southend residents, set about condemning homes that needed repairs, purchasing them at below market rates, and tearing them down—all with funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development—the SEDCC was positioned to fight back.

The first blocks of houses were destroyed in 1962, at a loss of eighty-five homes, and sold to the Levy Asphalt Company and Mercier Bricks. In 1966 another ninety-two families were displaced. Their properties were sold to the Ford Leasing Development Company. Eventually, more than 350 homes were destroyed and their families evicted, while the distance between Ford and Levy shrank, block by block.43What is more, the city posted signs in front of recently acquired homes that said, “Free at your risk, take any part of the house. First come, first served. Hurry.”44 By neglecting the properties they acquired, the city drove down the value of the homes of those who refused to sell, further contributing to the environmental crisis facing the community. Another sign, “Whoever wishes to sell to the city of Dearborn, call City Attorney,” followed by a telephone number, became ubiquitous in the neighborhood. Working with Detroit’s FHA and commercial lenders, the city was able to deny loans and loan insurance to private citizens attempting to make home improvements or purchase neighborhood properties.45

When the city of Dearborn, using strong-arm tactics like these, made an offer on Lebanese-American Katherine Amen’s house, she and her son, Alan, decided to stand their ground. They were joined by the newly committed membership of the SEDCC, which had grown and become more radical in its tactics as the city targeted scores of neighborhood homes and institutions. “[Ford and the city of Dearborn] messed with the wrong people,” remembers Ismael Ahmed, another Lebanese American who entered neighborhood politics in the early 1970s. “A lot of the older workers here were people who had organized the union—old Italian anarchists and Marxists—and a lot of people in the neighborhood who had nothing to lose but their homes.”46 They “shared tactics and strategies” with younger SEDCC activists, who then went out and applied them. If the council received news that a building was ear-marked for destruction, they would occupy the building and organize human chains to stand in front of the city’s bulldozers. Sometimes these tactics worked, but only for the short term. Residents sought support from the Teamsters (who operated the city’s tractors). Alan Amen went on a public speaking tour in West Dearborn and gave tours of the neighborhood to church groups from the west side and urban rights organizations that were forming in Detroit.47

Meanwhile, the businesses along Dix also began to organize. Understanding that without a neighborhood to sustain them they would soon lose everything, several store owners set about repairing shabby storefronts and attracting new business to the area. The South East Community Development Corporation (CDC) was formed in the late 1960s and worked with Congressman John Dingell’s office to leverage low interest loans and grants from the federal government to provide the business district with a facelift and to rebrand the area as “Arabian Village.” Allan Mallad, whose family had long managed a restaurant on Dix, led this effort. In 1970, he and his father, Sam, converted their Coney Island and adjoining stores into a 225 seat night club named Uncle Sam’s, spending a half million dollars on the project. The full service bar and nightclub featured more than Arab food. It also presented live music and belly dancing, which were new to the Southend commercial district. Mallad, an admirer of Mayor Hubbard, remembers adopting the mayor’s personal slogan—“Clean your own doorstep and the whole world will be clean!”—as his own. Mallad’s sister, Suzanne (Sareini), ran a grocery store next to the restaurant that also catered to the “Arabian Village” theme. It was the first truly full service Arab grocery in the area, offering imported goods from the Middle East, fresh Arab breads and sweets, and the spice and grain bins that are ubiquitous in such stores today. Despite their shared goal of cleaning up the neighborhood and investing in its stability and growth, the CDC did not collaborate well with SEDCC activists, whose leftist politics were at odds with those of the entrepreneurs. Instead, Mallad encouraged Ford, his primary employer, to renovate its mile long parking lots and other facilities along Miller Avenue. Mallad’s efforts to transform this corridor into a “gateway” to the neighborhood failed.48

Renewed interest in the neighborhood by these different factions notwithstanding, time was running out for the Southend. A public school was destroyed in 1966. Dearborn bus lines reduced their services to the Southend, cutting it off further from the rest of the city. The neighborhood library and police sub- station were closed. While some of the neighborhood’s older, non-Arab activists began to abandon the struggle and sell to the city, Alan Amen quit his job and took on the fight to save the neighborhood full time. He became vice-president of the SEDCC in 1968 and president in 1970. In 1971 he filed a class action suit against the city, with the support of Wayne County Legal Services, to halt the destruction, and in 1973 he won an injunction to force the city to stop seizing properties and to end their urban renewal campaign.49In the decision’s wording, “Thus far this court has determined that the city of Dearborn through its agents […] has mounted a campaign in the South End and Eugene-Porath areas that constitutes a taking and that many of the sub-plans and clearance projects have been without a public purpose.”50 Among other actions, the city was forced to reimburse homeowners for the full value of their property, to work with the newly minted Environmental Protection Agency to enforce air quality regulations in the area, and to stop intervening in the acquisition of loans and loan insurance for residents. The issue was tied up in the courts for several years, but the neighborhood had won.


By the time the fight against city hall ended, roughly twenty-five years after Mayor Hubbard first declared the Southend a “blighted area,” the demographics of the neighborhood and the SEDCC had changed significantly. Many of the activists who supported the council in its early years had lessened their involvement or moved away, leaving the organization firmly in the hands of Amen and Atwell, with many of the community’s older Lebanese families providing manpower and moral support. These families were among the pioneer residents of the neighborhood. They had built Dearborn’s first mosques during the Great Depression: Hashmie Hall, which was Shiʿi, and the American Moslem Society (AMS), which was Sunni. The Shiʿi community, which was larger and more dispersed, had also established a second, more impressive and modern mosque, the Islamic Center of Detroit, a few miles away in 1963. By the early 1970s, Hashmie Hall was a shadow of its former self, whereas the AMS was an important Southend institution with an active Sunday school program and youth group, a new, American-born imam (Mike Karoub), and an active outreach program to local churches and universities. The mosque and the UAW Local 600 had clearly become (and still are today) the most vital institutions on Dix Avenue. Local residents who worshipped in Baptist churches or Roman Catholic parishes could (and did) find similar congregations in other parts of Detroit, but the same was not true for the Southend’s Arabs, who were overwhelmingly Muslim. For Lebanese Sunnis, in particular, the Southend felt like a hard won and irreplaceable home.

Along with the mosque, the area’s increasingly visible Arab businesses began to draw new immigrants to the Southend (initially, Yemenis and Palestinians). Arab student activists from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan were also a growing presence in the neighborhood. In fact, these young activists played a significant role in helping the SEDCC fund and even staff its legal campaign.52 Members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Black Panther Party, and the White Panther Party were active in Dearborn, and members of the Organization of Arab Students (OAS), a national student organization founded in Ann Arbor in 1952 to advocate for the development of the Arab region, began to hang out in the coffee houses on Dix, as did members of several far-left factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).53 They got to know the established Lebanese-American population, the new Yemeni autoworkers, and the equally new Palestinians, who were mostly from Beit Hanina and El Bireh, West Bank villages that had recently been occupied by the Israeli military.

To the Arab student activists, the Southend represented an open field for political recruiting. George Khoury, who was prominent among these students, arrived in Detroit in the 1960s to study engineering at Wayne State. Khoury had been active in the OAS, but the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and Sinai motivated him to abandon campus-based politics.54 He and his compatriot in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Mohsin Abdul-Munim, headed to Dix to seek a following among local Arab workers. Nabeel Abraham, a Palestinian American who grew up in Southwest Detroit and also became active in student movements and the Palestinian resistance movement in the late 1960s, described the interaction between campus activists and local community members: “I remember as a student activist at Wayne, guys like Hasan Newash—DFLP [Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine], oriented completely toward Palestine—started connecting with Dix.”55 Dix, with its coffee houses and Yemeni workers, represented “Arabs.” “We met Ali Bilead [a Yemeni nationalist and labor organizer], and we were impressed. ‘This is a community,’” he continued. “Hasan and the Palestinian activists hadn’t gotten anywhere with Arab students on campus, so they went to the Southend to get in with the people. […] This is the time when we were showing the Battle of Algiers at the mosque.”56

Laurel Wigle and Sameer Abraham capture this moment on Dix:

Late 1968 and the year 1969 saw Palestinian nationalism at its peak. Though the Palestinian sector of the community felt closest to the Resistance, every Arab identified himself with the struggle to liberate Palestine. In place of Nasser’s photo, posters of the fedayeen [freedom fighters] were pinned up in homes, stores, restaurants and many coffeehouses… Talk turned from Nasser and the affairs of Arab states to the activities of the fedayeen. The daily incursions into Israeli occupied territory were followed with great zeal in the news reports… These issues provoked a great deal of intense discussion and debate in the coffeehouses and restaurants.57

Ismael Ahmed, the son of a third-generation Lebanese-American mother with deep local roots and an Egyptian father, became involved with the SEDCC in this period. Connected to the SDS, both Panther parties, and other local Marxist groups, Ahmed entered Arab nationalist politics through his association with Yemeni and Palestinian autoworkers he met at Dodge Main in 1970. He joined forces in the factory with other radical labor organizers who had organized the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) in 1968 to fight worsening labor conditions and anti-black racism in the UAW. By this time, it was apparent that the several thousand newly-arrived Yemenis were routinely being assigned the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs in the plant, often being given the workload of two men. With poor English skills and little exposure to organized labor tactics, they were easy targets for management, while their UAW representatives looked the other way. They were also desperate for work, relatively isolated from other workers, and the wages they received were, by Yemeni standards, fantastically high.58 DRUM leaders became concerned over the plight of Yemeni workers and argued that Chrysler sought “to make conditions worse for all of us by first attacking conditions for the Arab workers.”59

In 1973, Ahmed brought together these radical black workers, Arab leftists, and Arab autoworkers to form the Arab Workers Caucus (AWC), modeled on, and in solidarity with, DRUM. The AWC sought to improve working conditions in the urban factories DRUM and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers operated in, where both black and Arab workers were concentrated. Just as significantly, they sought to compel the UAW to divest its sizable holdings of Israeli war bonds (a bad economic investment undertaken for political reasons that were hardly progressive). Among Arab workers (and many of the radical black workers) the insult of handing over part of their paycheck, via union dues, to support Israeli occupation forces was rich fuel for mobilization. As Ahmed wrote in 1975, “the role of Arab nationalism in building an Arab workers caucus should not be underestimated.”60

Yemeni workers were propelled into action by two dramatic events that took place back to back in late 1973. The first, in August, was the shooting death of a Yemeni farm worker in California during a United Farm Workers (UFW) protest.61 While Naji Daifullah’s death discouraged his co-nationals in California from joining the UFW, in Dearborn, it had the opposite effect. Yemenis organized a large demonstration in support of the UFW in September and sought to become more involved in the AWC. When the October Arab-Israeli War broke out, they joined Palestinian leftists who were active outside the factories and were even more galvanized to take action. 62 The AWC chose to picket the 28 November 1973, B’nai B’rith banquet where UAW president Leonard Woodcock was set to receive an award for his unflagging support of Israel. AWC and DRUM demonstrators demanded that the UAW sell off its Israeli war bonds, then valued at more than $750,000. Over 2,000 (mostly Arab and black) workers on the afternoon shift at Dodge Main walked out to attend the rally. This forced the closure of one of the two Dodge assembly lines and seriously slowed the second. AWC leadership was ecstatic. DRUM and other radical movements within the local black and left communities were also impressed. By working together, they had pulled off something akin to a wildcat strike. Surely this meant Arab Americans were a constituency to be reckoned with.63

The UAW was less impressed. In response to this labor action, it sold off $50,000 of its Israeli bonds (less than ten percent), and both Chrysler and the union soon began targeting Arab workers in retribution for their unsanctioned strike.64 This led to a serious rift between Yemeni workers, now cast as irresponsible hotheads, and Arabs from other national backgrounds. Many Yemenis were permanently laid off and forced to return to their homeland.65 In droves, Detroit’s Yemeni (and other Arab) workers walked away from the AWC and from work-related, class-based political organizing after their pyrrhic victory at Dodge Main. They were not alone. Despite their cathartic success at organized resistance, won by an alliance of Arab and black autoworkers opposed to U.S. imperialism in the Middle East and their own mistreatment by the UAW and their corporate employers, the fleeting nature of this victory, compounded by the longer lasting corporate retribution, resulted in a major shift of direction by Detroit’s radical Arab-American leftists. In the Southend itself, where Palestinian activists continued to vie with one another for local support, events in the Middle East (such as King Hussein’s crushing blow to the Palestinian resistance movement in Jordan in 1970) and intense local factionalism, led to a decline in their fortunes. Eventually many of the “locals” (Southend residents) came to suspect that the “revolutionaries” would never accomplish, and perhaps did not have, goals of practical significance. For some of these locals, the mosque began to provide a compelling retreat. For others, SEDCC and its neighborhood-based model of activism provided a more attractive outlet for their political energies.66


A slightly different set of campus-based activists were drawn into the mix of Southend politics in the same period. The Association of Arab University Graduates (AAUG), which was established in 1967, provided a forum for Arab scholars in the U.S. who wanted to counter hegemonic representations of the Middle East and its conflicts, with a special focus on Palestine, human rights, and American policies toward the region.67 These scholars were leftists who cared deeply about Palestine, but they were better able than others to connect the dots between the displacement of Palestinian refugees overseas and the sought-after displacement of Southend residents, an increasing number of whom were also Palestinian. Abdeen Jabara and Barbara Aswad, in particular, helped develop this new angle on the Southend struggle, turning it from a class-based, multiethnic campaign into a civil rights campaign on behalf of the neighborhood’s Arab minority. In very real ways, this framing of the struggle would fundamentally reshape Arab-American identity in Dearborn and Detroit for the next generation or more.

Abdeen Jabara, a Lebanese-American attorney from Northern Michigan, belonged to an immigrant family that had come to the U.S. at the same time, from the same region, and along the same routes as many other Lebanese in Dearborn. He grew up attending the AMS when his family came to Dearborn to celebrate Muslim holidays or the weddings of kin and friends. While not a resident of Dearborn, Jabara was also not a stranger there. When he first learned about the SEDCC campaign, he volunteered to work on the Amen class action suit and eventually filed a legal brief on their behalf. The lead attorney on the case was Michael Barnhart, who worked for the Center for Urban Law and Housing, a division of Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services. Barnhart had actively advised the SEDCC since 1965, long before Jabara’s involvement. Jabara nonetheless acted as a bridge between the civil rights legal community in Detroit and the AAUG, and he was able to leverage financial and personnel support from these outside constituencies for the neighborhood campaign.68

For instance, Jabara introduced anthropologist Barbara Aswad to the Southend when she was hired at Wayne State in 1968. Of Scottish ancestry, Aswad had carried out her field research on the border between Syria and Turkey and later married a Syrian engineer, Adnan Aswad, who was also a founder of AAUG. From her position at WSU, Aswad carried out a landmark needs assessment study of the Southend’s Arab community in 1971 that established a baseline portrait of a population that accounted for only a quarter of Southend residents at the time, but was in the midst of significant change and on the brink of exponential growth.69 Aswad’s study framed the Arab population of the Southend as a newly arrived, fragile, and disadvantaged population, an image very unlike the white, working class, well- established American identity that was more familiar to the Amens themselves, or to other SEDCC activists like Ismael Ahmed, Helen Atwel, Don Unis, and Joe Borrajo, all of whom were American born. Aswad’s team found that 85 percent of the Southend’s Arab residents were foreign born and of rural origins, with a third having lived in the U.S. for fewer than five years. The educational attainment of this population was low relative the rest of the city, with 21 percent having received no formal schooling whatsoever and another 30 percent having no more than an eighth grade education.70 It was this vivid representation of the population as minoritized, recently arrived, economically marginal, and consisting mostly of disenfranchised post-colonial subjects, that became central to the new Arab-American identity with which Dearborn was associated in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ironically, this way of seeing Arabs in the Southend has been retrofitted to explain the Southend struggle itself, which is nowadays depicted as a distinctly Arab-American campaign. While it is true that the victory of the SEDCC had the greatest consequences for Arabs who remained in the Southend, and that the group was led by Arabs in its final days, it is important to remember that the Southend was still a majority non-Arab neighborhood in 1973. Moreover, the SEDCC still had prominent non-Arab supporters, like Donaldson and Iris Becker, local school teachers who had a long history of working closely with the SEDCC. According to Barbara Aswad, most neighborhood Arab Americans did not participate in the SEDCC campaign at all. Instead, they were “waiting to see who emerges the victor, the City or the Council.”71 Nor were the Palestinian student activists involved. Jabara and Aswad were the rare outside activists who clearly understood how the local plight of Southend residents was related to U.S. foreign policy and Arab nationalist causes overseas.

Another somewhat anachronistic way of describing the Southend struggle is the attribution of anti- Arab attitudes and an ethnic-cleansing agenda to city planners and Mayor Hubbard. Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin suggest that “Mayor Hubbard had never made it a secret that Dearborn was a ‘white man’s town,’ and the Arabs were considered to be so many ‘white niggers’.”72 In a similar vein, Barbara Aswad links the mayor’s stepped up actions to the growing Yemeni population in Dearborn.73 The newly-arrived Yemenis, as these writers point out, were generally darker-skinned than the Lebanese, and they certainly had fewer English language skills or other socioeconomic advantages. Most Yemeni auto-workers were in the U.S. without their families, and they were widely seen to have a destabilizing impact on the neighborhood. Suzanne Sareini, who sold beer and wine at her Arab grocery store, remembers binge drinking, qat chewing (a stimulant narcotic consumed legally in Yemen that went unregulated in Dearborn until the 1980s), and frequent street-level fighting. “We had a hard time getting people to come down to the Southend. It was like the Wild West down there, with guys throwing punches and bullets flying through the windows,” Sareini recalls today.74 And yet in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Yemeni population lived mostly in an area south of the mosque, which was not included in the city’s urban renewal plans.75 It is unclear the extent to which city officials were even aware of the diversity of the Arab community at the time.

Alan Amen likewise attributed the mayor’s hostility to the Southend to several factors, race primary among them. “The issue of racism as it played in the Southend of Dearborn had a particular bent when it came to the dark-skinned citizens of the Southend, who were the Arabs. That’s a term used by Orville Hubbard. He referred to what he needed to do with his ‘dark-skinned citizens’ in the Southend. But it’s basically an issue of racism, an anti-black and anti-African American sentiment extended onto people who are dark.”76 Joe Borrajo adds that by the 1950s and 1960s many of the older Lebanese families in Dearborn were doing well enough financially to purchase homes in East Dearborn, a neighborhood that was then largely Irish, Italian, and Polish. “Arabs were confined to the Southend at the time, so we weren’t looked upon as a threat to be concerned about. But when we started moving into the east end, holy jeez, then … that’s when the problem starts.”77

Hubbard’s anti-black racism was well known in Michigan and nationally. In Dearborn, the popular slogan “Keep Dearborn Clean” was a euphemism for keeping it white, and while Ford Motor had depended on black labor, Henry Ford had been equally careful to maintain racially segregated housing for his workers. The most infamous segregationist mayor in the North, Hubbard also expended a great deal of energy trying to keep blacks out of the city. During the housing shortages of WWII, he adamantly opposed the construction of public housing in Dearborn, arguing that “housing Negroes is Detroit’s problem,” and, more evocatively, “When you remove garbage from your backyard, you don’t dump it in your neighbor’s.”78 A generation later, during the 1967 uprisings in Detroit, Hubbard also stood alongside his police force on the Michigan Avenue border and commanded them to “shoot any looters on site.”79 As Amen puts it today, “People knew where they were supposed to live by your color and your level of assimilation and your job.”80 Those who lived in the Southend in the 1950s and 1960s certainly understood their privileged status as white workers. They also sensed their less than privileged ranking in the class divisions of Dearborn, where it was generally felt that “only persons of foreign birth would live in the South End.”81 In Joe Borrajo’s words, “we were all from immigrant backgrounds. We were called ‘culturally deprived.’ The stigma of being from the Southend… We were treated as pariahs in the rest of Dearborn.” Ismael Ahmed recently asserted that the discrimination he experienced growing up in the Southend was class based, and that he felt it “not as an Arab, but as a person of the Southend. Because as you began to go out of the neighborhood, the Southend had this terrible reputation in the city, mainly because it was a low-income neighborhood, I think. We were called ‘factory rats’ then and so forth.”82

This sense of exclusion was a far cry from the violent, anti-black racism of Hubbard and his supporters. Nonetheless, as the Southend became more Arab, existing classist and racist sentiments were projected onto the newly arriving Arabs, who were described in the local press as “arrogant, unclean and sloppy, untruthful and clannish beyond belief”; who were referred to as “camel jockeys” and “sand niggers” in the hate-mail received by the mosque; who were euphemized as “the foreign element” by representatives of the city; and who were told, in a familiar refrain, to “go back where you came from” at the SEDCC.83 “So pervasive” was “the Arabic atmosphere” of the neighborhood that many of the non- Arabs who remained there began to complain of feeling “‘in a foreign country’ in one’s own neighborhood.”84 Yet there is no evidence to suggest that Dearborn stepped up its efforts to replace Southend housing with heavy industry in direct response to the increasing Arabization of the population. The latter trend developed only toward the very end of the Southend struggle. The neighborhood itself was not a majority-Arab enclave when the SEDCC began its fight in the early 1960s. It is more a matter of coincidence that the most heavily Arab-populated areas happened also to be those located nearest to the Amazon entrance to the Levy Company. Yet because the Southend became an Arab majority area in the period immediately following the SEDCC legal case, the memory of the Southend struggle has been Arabized in retrospect. In the 1980s, this narrative twist allowed the earlier-arrived Arab families and the new Arab immigrants to attach themselves to a locality, and a local history, that now belonged uniquely to them.

Additionally, many of the activists who took part in the Southend struggle—a small group from the AAUG, several leaders of the SEDCC, Palestinian and Yemeni leftists, and the leadership of the AWC— came together to found the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in 1974, with George Khoury, Helen Atwell, Ismael Ahmed, and Charles Albert as its first officers.85 Initially, in 1971, a smaller collection of Arab leftists and AAUG supporters opened a storefront organization on Vernor Highway in Southwest Detroit that they called the Arab Community Center for Employment.86There they began to address “the pressing domestic problems plaguing the immigrant community, problems which were largely ignored by them in the past. In so doing, the activists sought to link the social and economic concerns of the immigrant workers to the broader issues of Arab nationalism.”87 The fledgling organization initiated efforts to redress the problems Aswad had identified in her 1971 study via English classes, employment services, and translation services. The volunteers quickly recruited SEDCC members and a few leaders from the growing South Yemeni National Liberation Front and their neighborhood assistance outlet, the Yemeni American Benevolent Association (YABA), who all insisted the group relocate onto Dix Avenue, where they operated out of Hashmie Hall. Ron Amen (Alan’s older brother), George Khoury, Hasan Newash, Ali Bilead, Mohsin Abdel-Munim, Abdeen Jabara, Sobhi Abdel Sater, the Aswads (Barbara and her husband, Adnan), and Don Unis were the activists who joined forces to build ACCESS in its earliest days.88

Ismael Ahmed joined the group in 1973, shortly after the excitement and disappointment of the AWC campaign led him to re-evaluate his goals and to walk away from the radical left. In a 1985 interview with Robert Mast, he describes this transition in the following language:

During those years in the plants, I worked with a lot of Marxist groups. But there was a parting of the ways at a certain point. This was a very rhetorical time among the left. I would work in the community and see that talking about Soviet revisionism didn’t make sense. That’s the last thing on people’s minds. The main difference I had with a lot of the left people was that they called community work reformist. And to me it was the only thing that mattered. So I resigned from the plant and began writing grants for ACCESS. I wanted to help develop it into a community-based organization that not only provided services but took on social issues and built allegiances with other, mainly minority, working-class folks.89

Ahmed was welcomed at ACCESS because the student activists thought he might hold the elusive key to mobilizing Arab workers. He instead steered the organization toward providing much-needed services to Arab workers and immigrant families. These goals were supported in the beginning by small grants from AAUG, the International Institute of Detroit, the Presbyterian Church, and by the gratis use of the YABA building on Salina Street. Inspired initially by the breakfast program of the Black Panther Party, the Saul Alinksy community organizing model, and Latino service organizations in Southwest Detroit, the ACCESS agenda gradually came to be dominated by Ahmed and several SEDCC organizers, whose initial success at landing government block grants distributed by the city of Dearborn turned their heads away from the radical left and toward municipal, state, and federal funding sources.

While they remained sympathetic to revolutionary aspirations and Third World liberation movements of every stripe, Southend activists increasingly focused their efforts on rebuilding the neighborhood and improving the quality of life for its residents. In the years after it defeated Orville Hubbard, the SEDCC was able to leverage a $3.4 million grant from HUD to develop public housing on the site of destroyed neighborhood homes. They also received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to explore the aesthetic traditions of their once-diverse community.90 The Community Development Corporation active on Dix was finally able to give the business district a facelift using city block grant dollars, constructing a series of Arabesque arches along the street’s storefronts and officially renaming the district “Arabian Village.” These efforts were not administered by ACCESS, but by its neighborhood rivals. By 1979, Arabs made up roughly three-quarters of the area’s residents. The Southend had lost its multicultural working class profile and was now an enclave of newly-arrived, poor, often unskilled Arab immigrants. ACCESS and the SEDCC came to resemble one another in personnel, form, and intent. They began to compete, not for workers and volunteers, but for government assistance, especially Dearborn block grant funds. ACCESS won this competition, and the SEDCC closed its doors in 1985.91 Today, the ACCESS annual budget tops $18 million. Many of its activities are national in scope, including the Arab American National Museum, which ACCESS launched in 2005. In creating ACCESS, a confluence of organizers discovered the power of language and identity to shape political alliances. They came together to address the immediate concerns of Arabs in Dearborn. Rather than focus principally on nationalist movements in the Arab world, ACCESS turned it energy toward quality of life issues in the Southend, labor movements in Detroit and elsewhere, and the civil rights movement. Pam Pennock argues that this merging of political and social issues was not unique to Dearborn or Detroit. The OAS, AAUG, and other activist organizations of the period were also “creating a transnational, activist, increasingly Arab American identity built upon a leftist, non-sectarian political orientation that championed Palestinian Revolution.”92 What these organizations lacked, however, were the firm links to American public and private funding sources that ACCESS had managed to create out of this long process of struggle and place making.


Today, stories about the Southend struggles of the 1970s are a tremendous source of power and legitimacy for ACCESS, and they appear often in print, public art, and museum exhibitions. They summarize the complex, messy chain of events that gave rise to the Arab-American community ACCESS serves, administers and, in very real ways, hopes to control. The left/secular/engaged identity formation these narratives sustain is embraced by many of the Arab-American institutions that evolved in the wake of ACCESS and AAUG: for instance, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Arab American Institute, the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, the Arab American Political Action Committee, and the Arab American News, to name just a few. And yet the Southend struggles also contributed to a much more conservative Arab/Muslim identity, one that is equally common in Detroit (and especially in representations of Dearborn) ever since. Because this identity did not emerge out of campaigns waged against the state (city officials) or industrial interests (Ford, Chrysler, and the UAW), but out of conflicts waged among Arab Muslims themselves, it has been much more difficult to narrate in public contexts. This silence should not be interpreted as evidence that the events I am about to describe are less well known in Detroit, or that they are less vital to Dearborn’s Arab/Muslim communities. Instead, it suggests that another kind of public is at stake.

In the 1960s and 1970s, not all recently arrived Arab workers in the Southend spent their spare time and money in the coffee houses and bars on Dix Avenue. Many had chosen to settle there, despite the neighborhood’s shrinking size and apparent neglect, because there was a mosque in the neighborhood, and not just any mosque. The AMS was the oldest mosque in Michigan. Expanded and renovated in the 1950s, it had a sizeable prayer area, classrooms, a simple dome and small, symbolic minarets. It looked and felt like a mosque to those who worshipped there. Although it was one of a handful of mosques in the U.S. that had been built explicitly as a mosque, rather than renovated from an earlier structure, the AMS was not like a Middle Eastern house of prayer. Its American born imam, Mike Karoub, who assumed leadership of the congregation when his father, Hussein Karoub, passed away in 1973, preached in English. The younger Karoub’s left-progressive perspective was of a piece with that of the SEDCC, AWC, and ACCESS. He worked closely with Masjid al-Mu`mineen, Detroit’s oldest black Sunni congregation, and with other black converts throughout the city. He supported women’s rights, civil rights, legal access to abortion, and worker’s rights, while opposing the Vietnam War, Israel, and other U.S.-backed imperial projects. Under his leadership, the AMS was not uniformly open on Friday at noon for prayer, instead holding its communal prayers on Sunday mornings. The Women’s Auxiliary of the mosque held almost as much sway over the institution as did its all-male Board of Directors, and women came and went from the mosque as if it were their second home, wearing the fashions of the period, including shorts, short skirts, and sleeveless dresses. Scarves were donned in the mosque by women only when they entered the prayer hall to pray. Just as importantly, the mosque was kept under lock and key when not in use. If a group wanted to use the mosque outside its regular worship hours, they were asked to pay a small fee to help maintain the building. This was equally true of weddings, funerals, practice sessions for the mosque’s dabka troupe, and for groups who met at the mosque to hold Qurʾanic recitations or other religious programs not overseen by the board or the imam.93

As the demographics of the Southend began to change in the 1970s, the Lebanese families who had sustained the mosque since it was established in 1938 found themselves increasingly on the defensive. The younger Karoub’s leadership style, which had long been problematic for the board’s more conservative members, was odd and offensive to many new immigrants. Some felt that the imam’s Arabic was not strong enough, even though he was fluent and had long edited an Arabic language newspaper. Some felt that his informal religious education, consisting of long tutelage at his father’s feet and a religious studies degree from WSU, was inadequate. Many were uncomfortable with his politics. For Abdo Alasry, the problem was one of spiritual leadership. Alasry arrived in Dearborn from Yemen in 1967, and like many of his fellow nationals, he embraced a conservative lifestyle and religious orientation that were explicitly averse to the leftist politics of the period. He was not impressed with the AMS, the Southend, or the Muslim Americans who lived there. “The institution was very bad. If you looked at it from a [Muslim perspective], lot of people they do not practice Islam. They do not pray. It doesn’t matter. You could not make a difference between them and other people, you know. Lot of them. You might see a few people practicing Islam, but the majority, no. You see gambling places. You see bars. They have alcohol, a lot of places. Also they had some Arab people being killed in this area, too.”94

This perspective was common among the new, post-1965 migrant cohort, most of them recently displaced by the Israeli Occupation, related political instability in Lebanon, or the independence movements and civil wars that beset North and South Yemen in the 1960s and 1970s. Echoing patterns from the early twentieth century, the newcomers who settled in Dearborn were often bachelors or married men whose families remained in the homeland. Their religious expectations were different from those of the already established congregation at the AMS, which was now predominately American born. The new Muslim immigrants endorsed a general turn away from the secular left and toward a more intentional and explicit Islamic practice. They also sought to preserve their culture and identity in ways the AMS founders, who now felt very at home in the U.S., found irrational and extreme. The mosque’s board became nervous, not just about Karoub, but also about the tensions that came with this new demographic reality.

Nihad Hamed, an Egyptian engineer who was the mosque’s president, worked with Imam Karoub to change the mosque’s bylaws in order to protect the status quo. The imam asked for a permanent seat on the board, and the president attempted to have his own term extended from one to four years. Additionally, the women’s auxiliary tried to deny voting rights to new members of the congregation. The board, however, fearing the influence of Karoub and the women’s auxiliary, and in some cases siding directly with the conservative doctrines and social values expressed by the mosque’s newest members, blocked these proposals.95

As these conflicts brewed at the AMS, Muslim revivalists began to visit the coffeehouses on Dix. The most visible of these missionaries were associated with the Tablighi Jamaʿat, a Pakistan-based piety movement that encouraged Muslims to focus on the everyday practice of their faith. Tablighis had first targeted Detroit’s Muslim enclaves in the early 1950s, sending Pakistani missionaries who were welcomed at Masjid al-Mu`mineen, a black Sunni mosque in Detroit. By the 1970s, many African Americans had joined the movement and became missionaries themselves. To them, the Southend’s Arab Muslims represented a curiosity and a prize. According to Alasry:

They start going to the places, to the coffee shops, the stores where the people go. Sometimes they go even to the bar to talk to the people. They do this until 1976, and then some of them start talking to some of the people who are in charge of this mosque, the Lebanese people. Some people told him [Nihad Hamed], “OK, can we have the key for the mosque? Can we have the key so we can open the mosque and go inside and pray?” He said, “Yes, we can issue you a key, but you have to pay the bill.” Because at that time the society was very poor.96

The new Muslim activists convinced the board to let them use the mosque, but it struck them as odd that they should have to pay a fee to pray in the mosque or hold religious classes there. The newcomers also complained about the infrequency of the formal jumʿa congregational prayer at the mosque and the overall laxity of religious observances there. As their complaints gradually escalated into demands, Hamed devised a radical strategy to fend them off. He organized a meeting of the city’s Muslim clerics and scholars and asked them to issue a formal edict—to “make shura,” as Alasry put it—declaring Sunday a legitimate substitute for Friday as the day of congregational prayer for Detroit’s mosques. “Of course, the imams and the scholars are not going to ask for this,” Alasry assured me, “to move the prayer from Friday to Sunday. I think it was the members, because the majority does not have knowledge. They want to have it on their day off. To them, they said, ‘OK. Everybody can come on Sunday, we’ll have the meeting on Sunday.’”97 The Shura Council rejected this suggestion outright,98 and the mosque began (or returned to) hosting formal congregational prayers on Friday in addition to their Sunday lectures.

The issue of rescheduling religious observances for the weekend, however, resurfaced later that year onʿĪd al-ʾAḍḥā. The English-language faction planned to celebrate the holiday on the weekend, as they always had. The Arabic-language faction showed up instead on the ʿīd itself, a Wednesday, and were blocked by Hamed and others on the board. “Today is the eid,” Alasry remembers the newcomers crying. “We have to pray today. Today is eid.” Rather than be turned away, the would-be worshippers broke the lock on the door and went inside to pray.99

Shortly after this incident, another conflict took place that ultimately doomed the Lebanese congregation at the AMS. On a Friday evening, the Yemeni faction was hosting a class upstairs in the mosque, and the Lebanese faction was hosting a dance downstairs in the social hall. The building was not soundproofed, and the loud, raucous music was disruptive to the group gathered upstairs. When the adhānwas called for the evening prayer, the Yemenis expected the music to pause for the prayer itself. When it did not, the upstairs crowd became angry and asked the others to stop the music so the prayer could be conducted in peace. Their request was denied. The Lebanese felt their right to hold a party in the social hall of the mosque was being violated. The Yemenis felt their right to hold a prayer in the mosque was being violated.100 At this point, the newcomers decided to take over the mosque’s board. In 1977 they elected (Hajj) Fawzi Mura`i president of the AMS board. Hajj Fawzi was a Palestinian from Beit Hanina, a West Bank village on the outskirts of Jerusalem where Israel was constructing of one of its earliest and largest settlements. He was a very conservative Muslim, sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, and a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights. His election—by a Yemeni-dominated but culturally diverse block of voters—marked the end of nearly forty years of Lebanese control over the mosque.

The new board reflected a very different political position from that of the founding congregation. Dissatisfied with the failures of Arab nationalism and the Arab Left in general, and equally critical of American materialism, social injustice, violence, mistreatment of Arab immigrants, support for Israel, immorality, and hollow religiosity, the new board turned instead to the precepts of the Qurʾan and sunna as a guide for personal and collective reform.101 The two groups attempted to use the mosque jointly, but the new board quickly solicited an imam from Yemen and established a new set of rules for the AMS.102These included gender segregation in all the mosque’s activities, including Sunday school classes and congregational prayers. The hijab had to be worn by women at all times, everywhere in the building. This hijab could no longer be a simple scarf to cover the hair, but also entailed covering all parts of the body except for the hands, face, and feet. All social functions hosted by the women’s auxiliary were banned from the premises. When the women’s group protested these moves, the new imam told them, “I am here to teach you the right way; you have gone astray.”103 When the women protested further, they were banned from the mosque outright.

The two groups went to court over these new, restrictive policies. Representatives of the founding congregation argued that the mosque itself was one room in the larger facility and appropriate religious attire was observed historically in that room alone. They argued that they had built and sustained the mosque for forty years and should be able to determine the facility’s rules. But the judge, siding with the new board, asked the Lebanese faction to turn over their keys to the building. “In the beginning,” Alasry explained, “we were ok with them. We said, ‘You have the key, you can go in anytime. No you cannot make dances, and [wear short dresses]. They may make a wedding with no problem, but not like with dancing as it used to be in a club. Not in a mosque … belly dancing, that is what I mean. That’s why we don’t want it here. We couldn’t. We said, ‘That is not right.’” 104

The women’s auxiliary of the AMS, still in possession of their savings account, was able to open a new, smaller mosque in 1982. Tucked inside a former warehouse on a quiet side street (Chase Road) in northeast Dearborn, this new mosque, the American Muslim Bekaa Center, returned to providing English language sermons at their Sunday lectures and congregational prayers. High school graduation parties, wedding showers, and youth activities were equally at home there. Women at the Bekaa Center did not enter through the back door, segregate themselves from the men in any of the mosque’s functions, except prayer, or allow others to dictate when and how they should cover their hair and bodies. This new mosque was located closer to where the majority of the city’s Lebanese Americans now lived—in east Dearborn rather than the Southend. This shift was not precipitated solely by the city’s efforts to rezone the Southend, or by the loss of the AMS to a more conservative congregation. Many Lebanese and Palestinian families followed their non-Arab neighbors to east Dearborn and other Detroit suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s. Their Southend homes were purchased by newly arriving Lebanese, Palestinian, and, increasingly, Yemeni families. Today the Southend is a Yemeni-American enclave, the business district is overwhelmingly Yemeni, and the AMS leadership is Yemeni also.

In the 1980s Detroit’s older Arab communities, which dated back to the early decades of the twentieth century, were reduced to minority status by new Arab migrants, most of whom did not know about or identify strongly with the historical roots of Arabs in the area, and who arrived with, or would soon develop, a powerful subaltern consciousness of their own. The United States, for the newcomers, was a purveyor of economic and military policies that threatened Arabs, Muslims, and people of color around the world. These immigrants saw themselves, and were often seen by others, as people who had no place in mainstream American political and religious culture. Many of them wanted to maintain this separation and they looked to their mosques and churches to help them do so. This stance was especially hard for the older AMC and SEDCC activists to understand. Not only had they struggled to build the very mosque the newcomers now controlled; not only had they fought to protect the neighborhood and infrastructure of communal life that was now so hotly contested, but they had done so as part of a distinctly white, working-class and (originally) multiethnic alliance. The takeover of the AMS was a paradigm shift that established a new regime, one not of incorporation or accommodation but of confident orthodoxy and (initially at least) principled separation from the larger society.

The conflicts that engulfed the AMS in the late 1970s were just as important to the development of the Southend and the city itself as was the fight against Mayor Hubbard. To most of the community organizers who allied with the SEDCC and ACCESS in its early days, the outcome of these intra-mosque battles was one of devastating loss. They were experienced as a foreign takeover by an extremist, backward, un-American faction—by a misogynistic, fanatical Islam. In the several mosques that were later built elsewhere in Dearborn by refugees from the AMS, this is still how many people speak of the Southend and the Arab-Muslim identity it represents.

To the mosque’s new leaders and the tens of thousands of new migrants who joined them in Detroit in the 1980s and 1990s, the story of the AMS takeover is told as a cautionary tale of a very different kind. It depicts a mosque and a larger Muslim community that had strayed far from its roots and was successfully redeemed from error. This tale of victory against unrestrained assimilation is told today in hopes of keeping mosques relevant, vital, and on the straight path. I have heard it told by scores of mosque leaders across Detroit—by Palestinian and Yemeni Americans, by Syrians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and African Americans—and it is a staple narrative at mosque fund raising events. More recently, I have also been told the story by members of the original AMS congregation who have made peace with the Southend’s new Arab-Muslim identity. “The new mosque they got, it is beautiful,” Hussein El Haje told me in 2005, in reference to the AMS’s latest renovation effort. Now over 1,000 worshippers can pray there at one time. As a young man in 1938, El Hage helped dig the foundation of the original mosque. For him “it is beautiful to see a thousand people praying together. But sometimes they say things about our community [the founding Syrian-Lebanese congregation], and I don’t like that.”105


The Muslim-American establishment in Detroit today rivals that of the secular Arab establishment. Groups like CAIR-Michigan (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), the Michigan Muslim Community Council, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, Muslim Family Services, the Huda Clinic, and the region’s mosques (which now number more than eighty) arguably exceed the secular Arab-American establishment in terms of influence, dollars raised, and services provided. This is a remarkable accomplishment, given that this infrastructure of religious institutions is supported primarily by the Muslim community itself. The same could be said of the Muslim-American establishment nationally, which has gained prominence in the post-9/11 era, as Islam has become one of the key sites of inclusion and exclusion in American public culture. Like Arab-American identity, and other minoritized ethnoracial formations, Muslim-American identity is the product of a complex cycle of trauma, crisis, and incorporation,106 and the true value of narratives about the Southend is that the traumas described in these stories were not necessarily of the larger, geopolitical kind. The fights over control of housing stock and prayer spaces predated the Iranian Revolution, the Israeli invasion and occupation of South Lebanon, the Palestinian Intifadas, the 9/11 attacks, and the decade of American wars in the Middle East that followed. Arab and Muslim identities in Detroit have always evolved in relation to momentous events that occur overseas, but the traumas of the Southend were local; they warranted local responses and created local identities in the process.

Urban space is a site of contest between strangers, especially those whose lives have been shaped by migration and faith. Today’s scholars are eager to theorize this contest as a locus of creativity and dynamism as well as a generator of racial, class, ethnic, and religious hierarchies. Ayse Caglar and Nina Glick Schiller, for example, encourage us to upend our more traditional focus on how migrants are changed by cities and look instead at “how migrants actively contribute to the restructuring and repositioning” of the cities they inhabit.107 Dearborn and its Arab/Muslim populations have certainly been “transformed together” over the past century of dwelling, conflict, and narrative imagining, co-producing a center of belonging through “cooperation, solidarity, the usage of broad networks and resources, [and] shared knowledge.”108 What has been difficult to see in these narrative imaginings is just how tightly they have been woven together into what Gerd Baumann calls a “convergence.” A convergence occurs when different ethnoracial and migrant populations assert their cultural identities vis-à-vis each other and the state, when they “seek the same point of agreement; but each of them does so from its own point of origin and by its own route.”109

Precisely such a convergence occurred in Dearborn in the 1970s, and it is time that the narratives that account for the city’s remarkable Arab/Muslim persona also converge. In reality, Detroit’s Arab and Muslim establishments are not now and have never been far apart, even when the struggles of the Southend were waged most heatedly. Once the AMS takeover was accomplished and the mosque moved on to new crises and controversies, activists from the SEDCC and ACCESS quickly came to its aid. They supported the mosque in 1980 when it began broadcasting the call to prayer from loudspeakers on its roof and was taken to court, this time by the city. They supported it a few years later when the mosque broke ground on a large expansion project and the SEDCC stepped in to integrate the new mosque design with the Arabian Village facades. Similarly, ACCESS is predominantly staffed by and provides services to an immigrant, Muslim-majority constituency.

In fact, it is rare to encounter a prominent Arab organization in Detroit today that is not led (or significantly influenced) by Muslims or a high profile Muslim organization that is not led (or significantly influenced) by Arabs. The AMS is no longer the isolationist congregation that it was in the 1980s, but an integral part of Detroit’s religious landscape and of the public life of Dearborn itself. Likewise, ACCESS is no longer predisposed to wage battles against the state and global capital. Today, like much of the Arab-American establishment, ACCESS runs on support from government agencies (state and federal), corporations (like Ford and Chrysler), and charitable foundations. ACCESS and ADC have long been welcoming to devout Muslims and include hijab-wearing women on their boards and in executive positions. Similarly, Ron Amen, who was once kicked off the board of the Islamic Center of America for his role in founding ACCESS (then rumored to be a hotbed of atheism and communism) is today the board president of this very large and prominent mosque.

The Southend of Dearborn is an urban space whose Arab and Muslim histories continue to converge today as scholars narrate its history on paper, artists paint it into murals, religious leaders teach it to their followers, and activists call it to the attention of a new generation of community organizers. The story of Arab/Muslim Detroit does not begin in the Southend, but it cannot be told without referencing this distinctive space and the many struggles that took place there. The Southend was home to Detroit’s working class Arabs, to its most viable and influential mosques, and to its most visibly Arab commercial district from the 1930s-1980s. When threatened with displacement and dispersal, its residents knew that something more than their homes was at stake. They fought to protect the Arab and Muslim identities the Southend made possible. This Arab/Muslim space continues to draw new migrants to Dearborn. Despite its persistent marginality, the Southend remains a compelling space. It is a space of fragile power, amassed over decades of political and cultural struggle, but it is a space of power nonetheless.


1 Kathy Horak, “A Reversal of Fortunes,” Dearborn Press and Guide, 3 August 1978:1.

2 This landmark battle was first documented in Barbara C. Aswad, “The Southeast Dearborn Arab Community Struggles for Survival Against Urban ‘Renewal’,” in Aswad, ed., Arabic Speaking Communities in American Cities (New York: Center for Migration Studies, 1974) 53-84; and more recently in Barbara C. Aswad, “How a Dearborn Community Gained the ACCESS it Needed,” Dearborn Historian, 51:1 (2014), 9-18.

3 This landmark case was first documented in Nabeel Abraham, “Arab Detroit’s ‘American’ Mosque’,” in Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock, eds., Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000), 279-311; see also Sameer Abraham, Nabeel Abraham, and Barbara Aswad, “The Southend: An Arab Muslim Working-Class Community,” in Abraham and Abraham, eds., Arabs in the New World: Studies on Arab- American Communities (Detroit: Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies, 1983) 163-185; and Sally Howell,Old Islam in Detroit: Reimagining the Muslim American Past (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 30-42, 104-127.

4 U.S. Census Bureau, “Selected Social Characteristics in the United States, 2010 American Community Survey 1- Year Estimates” for Dearborn, Michigan (DP02),

=table (accessed on 18 July, 2015).

5 For Muslim and mosque estimates see Howell, “Old Islam,” 5; for Arab estimates see Kim Schopmeyer “Arab Detroit after 9/11: A Demographic Portrait,” in Nabeel Abraham, Sally Howell and Andrew Shryock, eds., Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011), 29-65.

6 Arif Dirlik, “Place-Based Imagination: Globalism and the Politics of Place,” in Roxann Prazniak and Arif Dirlik, eds.,Places and Politics in an Age of Globalization (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001) 39.

7 For the origins and veracity of the Arab American claim, see Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock, “Introduction: Qualities/Quantities,” Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock, eds., Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream(Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000) 39-44. The Muslim American claim is from Hassan Qazwini, American Crescent (New York: Random House, 2007) 112.

8 Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (New York: New Press, 1997).

9 Anne McClintock, “’No Longer in a Future Heaven’: Gender, Race, and Nationalism,” in Anne McClintock, Amir Mufti, and Ella Shohat, eds., Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997) 100. For more on the early days of the ACCESS Cultural Arts Program see “The Art and Artistry of Arab Detroit: Changing Traditions in a New World” in Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock, eds., Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000), 487-514; and Sally Howell, “Cultural Interventions: Arab American Aesthetics between the Transnational and the Ethnic,” in Diaspora, 9:1 (2001), 59-82.

10 Heather Barrow, “’The American Disease of Growth:’ Henry Ford and the Metropolitanization of Detroit, 1920- 1940,” in Robert Lewis, ed., Manufacturing Suburbs (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004), 200-220.

11 Joe Darden, Richard Hill, June Thomas, and Richard Thomas, Detroit: Race and Uneven Development, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987); and Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

12 Joe Borrajo interview, Dearborn, Dec. 2, 2000.

13 Arabs, at 653, were the fourth largest group in the neighborhood, following “Americans” (mostly Southerner whites), Romanians, and Italians. Rudolph Constantine, personal communication (March 17, 2015).

14 Another young man died several weeks later of his injuries. As a black man, he could not be buried in this white’s only cemetery. Steve Babson, Working Detroit (New York: Adema Books, 1984), 92-93.

15 Ibid.

16 Sugrue, “Urban Crisis,” 158-162.

17 Allie Saide was the Arab American member of Bennet’s team, which included representation from each of the major ethnic groups in the neighborhood; Don Unis interview, Dearborn, Nov. 17, 2000; Constantine, personal communication.

18 Alan Amen interview, Dearborn, Nov. 1, 2000.

19 See, for example, Donald Unis, “Dumb like a Fox,” in Nabeel Abraham and Andrew Shryock, eds., Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000), 103-106.

20 Aswad, “Community Struggles.”

21 See Alixa Naff, Becoming America: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985).

22 Howell, “Old Islam,” 30-42, 104-127.

23 Ronnie Berri interview, Dearborn, Feb. 14, 2013.

24 Nabeel Abraham, “From Campus to Coffeehouse: The Spread of Palestinian Diaspora Politics (1968-1978)” (unpublished manuscript, 12 April 2002); Laurel Wigle and Sameer Abraham, “Arab Nationalism in America: The Dearborn Arab Community,” in David W. Hartman, ed., Immigrants and Migrants: The Detroit Ethnic Experience(Detroit: New University Thought Publishing, 1974), 279-302.

25 Abdo A. Elkholy, The Arab Moslems in the United States: Religion and Assimilation (New Haven: College and University Press, 1966), 55.

26 Aswad, “Community Struggles.”

27 Quoted in Barrow, “American Disease,” 208.

28 Ibid.

29 Babson, “Working Detroit.”

30 Amen, interview.

31 Quoted in Aswad, “Community Struggle,” 79.

32 Constantine, personal communication; Amen, interview.

33 Chuck Alawan interview, Dearborn, August 2005.

34 Amen, interview.

35 Edward C. Levy Co., “Our Legacy,” (accessed 13 May 2015).

36 Amen, interview.

37 This legal victory launched the political career of Berry, who went on to serve as Wayne County Road Commissioner and was a leader in Michigan’s Democratic Party from the 1970s-1990s. See Susan Griffen, Michael Berry(Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2007), 41-43; Amen, interview.

38 Darrel Donaldson, “Letter to parents and community leaders” (6 August 2000).

39 Borrajo, interview.

40 Suzanne Sarieni interview, telephone, February 24, 2015.

41 Amen, interview.

42 Horak, “Reversal.”

43 Aswad, “Community Struggle,” 71.

44 Katherine AMEN et al., Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF DEARBORN, a municipal corporation, et al., Defendants. United States District Court Eastern District. Michigan Southern District, 14 August 1973.

45 Ibid.

46 Ismael Ahmed, interviewed in Detroit Lives, ed. Robert Mast (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 28.

47 Amen, interview.

48 Alan Mallad interview, telephone, 25 February 2015; Sareini, interview.

49 Amen, interview, is the source of much detail for the entire paragraph. Published accounts of the Southend struggle can also be found in Aswad, “Community Struggles” and “How a Dearborn;” and in Janice Terry, “Community and Political Activism Among Arab Americans in Detroit,” in Michael Suleiman, ed., Arabs in America: Building a New Future (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999), 241-256.

50 Amen v. Dearborn.

51 This chant was used by DRUM and AWC in the late 1960s and 1970s. See Finally Got the News (Stewart Bird, Rene Lichtman and Peter Gessner. Icarus Films, Detroit, 1970).

52 Abraham, “From Campus to Coffeehouse,” 2002.

53 Ahmed, interview.

54 George Khoury interview, Dearborn, October 22, 2000.

55 Nabeel Abraham interview, Dearborn, Dec. 11, 2000.

56 Ibid.

57 Wigle and Abraham, “Arab Nationalism,” 279-302.

58 Abraham, “From Campus to Coffeehouse,”

59 SPARK bulletin sited in Dan Georgakus and Marvin Surkin, Detroit: I Do Mind Dying (Cambridge: South End Press, 1998), 31.

60 Ismael Ahmed, “Organizing an Arab Workers Caucus,” MERIP Reports 34 (1975), 19.

61 Mary Bisharat, “Yemeni Farmworkers in California,” MERIP Reports 34 (1975), 22-26.

62 Ahmed, “Organizing,” 19.

63 This walkout and demonstration followed an equally large rally that took place in the Southend several weeks earlier. The first march, which was also attended by over 2,000 people, began at the AMS and proceeded down Dix to the UAW Local 600. The mosque was critically involved in this campaign. Ahmed, “Organizing,” 19; Abraham, Abraham, and Aswad, “The Southend,” 179.

64 Ibid; and Ahmed 1994.

65 Nabeel Abraham, National and Local Politics: A Study of Political Conflict in the Yemeni Immigrant Community of Detroit, Michigan (Ph.D. thesis, University of Michigan, 1978), 136; Ahmed, “Organizing,” 19; and Ahmed, interview.

66 Abraham interview; Terry, “Community.”

67 Pamela Pennock, “Third World Alliances: Arab American Activists at American Universities, 1967-1973,” Mashriq and Mahjar: Journal of Middle East Migration Studies 4 (2014), 55-78; and Michael Suleiman, “‘I Come to Bury Caesar, Not to Praise Him’: An Assessment of the AAUG as an Example of an Activist Arab-American Organization,”Arab Studies Quarterly 9: 3, 4 (2007), 75–95.

68 Abdeen Jabara interview, Dearborn, October 27, 2000; Abraham, “From Campus to Coffeehouse.”

69 Aswad, “Community Struggle,” 74.

70 Ibid.

71 Ibid, 75.

72 Georgakus and Surkin, “Detroit I do Mind Dying,” 63.

73 Aswad, “Community Struggle,” 59.

74 Sareini, interview

75 Aswad, “Community Struggle,” 72.

76 Amen, interview.

77 Borrajo, interview.

78 See especially Sugrue, “Urban Crisis,” 76-77.

79 David Good, Orvie: The Dictator of Dearborn: The Rise and Reign of Orville L. Hubbard (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987).

80 Amen, interview.

81 Quoted in Kathy Horak, “A Home Away From Home for Middle Easterners,” Dearborn Press and Guide, 20 July 1978:1.

82 Ahmed interview, 12.

83 Quoted in Kathy Horak, “Residents Express Fear, Anger, and Understanding,” Dearborn Press and Guide, 17 August 1978:1; and Aswad, “How a Dearborn,” 10. See also Kathy Horak, “The Gradual Move to the East End,” Dearborn Press and Guide, 10 August 1978:1.

84 Abraham, Abraham, and Aswad, “The Southend,” 167.

85 Articles of Incorporation, Michigan Department of Treasury, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), May 22, 1974.

86 Terry, “Community,” 248.

87 Abraham, “National and Local Politics,” 128.

88 Amen, interview.

89 Ahmed, interview, 29.

90 Helen Atwel interview, Dearborn, December 1, 2000.

91 The battle between the two organizations became bitter and involved back-room meetings with the mayor, the trashing of the SEDCC’s offices by angry ACCESS “thugs,” and worse.

92 Pennock, “Third World Alliances,” 61.

93 Howell, “Old Islam,” 175-182.

94 Abdo Alasry interview, Dearborn, 2008.

95 Alasry, interview; Nihad Hamed interview, Farmington Hills, 2005; Abraham, “’American Mosque.’”

96 Alasry, interview.

97 Ibid.

98 Alex Balooly interview, Dearborn Heights, 2008.

99 Alasry, interview; Hamed, interview; Abraham, “’American Mosque.’”

100 Abraham, “’American Mosque.’”

101 See Larry Poston, Islamic Da`wah in the West: Muslim Missionary Activity and the Dynamics of Conversion to Islam(New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

102 Alasry, interview; Abraham, “’American Mosque;’” Howell, “Old Islam.”

103 Quoted in Abraham, “’American Mosque,’” 292.

104 Alasry, interview.

105 Hussein El Haje interview, Dearborn, 2005; Howell, “Old Islam,” 208-217.

106 For a fuller discussion of this cycle, see Andrew Shryock, Nabeel Abraham, and Sally Howell, “The New Order and Its Forgotten Histories,” In Abraham, Howell, and Shryock, eds., Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2011), 381-394.

107 Ayse Caglar and Nina Glick Schiller, “Introduction: Migrants and Cities,” in Glick Schiller and Caglar eds., Locating Migration (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011), 2.

108 Dimitris Papadoulous, Niamh Stevenson, and Vassilis Tsianoa. Escape Routes: Control and Subversion in the Twenty-first Century (London: Pluto Press, 2008), 220.

109 Gerd Baumann, The Multicultural Riddle: Rethinking National, Ethnic, and Religious Identities (New York: Routledge, 1999), 126.

Sally Howell is Associate Professor of History and Arab American Studies at University of Michigan-Dearborn; Email:

© Moise Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Sally Howell

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies

College of Humanities and Social Sciences


NC State



LFP Bulletin: Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution

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May 27, 2016
Graduate Student Workers Resist New Attack on UAW 2865 BDS Resolution
— and more, from Labor for Palestine
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Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine: Statement from UAW 2865,GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification
Three UAW Locals have overwhelmingly endorsed, by full member vote, to support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers and society. This grassroots momentum has only increased despite anti-democratic actions by higher up Union officials to quell debate on the issue among locals.
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Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS (Electronic Intifada)
“Despite the attempts of top-down … officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank and-file support is against them,” Keady added. “We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom and equality.”
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Is BDS Simply a ‘Campus Movement?’How Deceitful Can Thomas Friedman Actually Be? (Huffington Post)
Michael Letwin, Co-Convener, Labor for Palestine; Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 comments, “By respecting the BDS picket line, a growing number of U.S. trade unions are honoring the most fundamental labor principle: An injury to one is an injury to all. The refusal by ILWU Local 10 dockers to handle Israeli Zim Line cargo in 2014 shows the unparalleled power of labor solidarity against apartheid Israel.”
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Resource: Labor for Palestine: Challenging US Labor Zionism (American Quarterly)
Notable challenges to this dominant Labor Zionism began in the late 1960s. These include positions taken by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1969 and wildcat strikes against the United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership’s support for Israel in 1973. Since September 11, 2001, Israel’s wars and other apartheid policies have been challenged by New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW), Labor for Palestine, ILWU Local 10 dockworkers, UAW Local 2865 graduate students at the University of California, the United Electrical Workers, and others. Increasingly, such efforts have made common cause with racial justice and other movements, and—at the margins—have begun to crack Labor Zionism’s seemingly impregnable hold in the United States.
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Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine: Statement from UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification

Screenshot 2016-05-27 09.03.37For Immediate Release
May 26, 2016

Union Members Struggle for a Democratic Debate on Palestine:
Statement from UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322, and GSOC-UAW 2110 Palestine Solidarity Caucuses on UAW 2865 BDS Vote Nullification

UAW 2865 BDS Caucus Press Contact:
GEO-UAW 2322 Palestine Solidarity Caucus Contact:
GSOC-UAW 2110 BDS Caucus Contact:

Three UAW Locals have overwhelmingly endorsed, by full member vote, to support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers and society. This grassroots momentum has only increased despite anti-democratic actions by higher up Union officials to quell debate on the issue among locals. The UAW’s Public Relations Board (PRB) is the latest body to attempt to quell labor solidarity with Palestinians by affirming the UAW International Executive Board’s (IEB) nullification of Local 2865’s majority member vote to support BDS.

UAW Local 2865, which represents over 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California, voted in December 2014 to support BDS with 65% of voting members in favor. The vote saw unusually high turnout, greater than that of a recent contract ratification vote. A few members who opposed the resolution engaged a union-busting corporate law firm to appeal the vote. In December 2015, the International Executive Board struck down the BDS resolution, despite affirming the democratic integrity of the vote. This week, the UAW PRB, a body charged with reviewing decisions of the Executive Board on appeal, affirmed the nullification.

The PRB’s decision to uphold nullification of the BDS vote is based solely on a thread of antidemocratic thinking that misrepresents basic facts. They posit that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007 – without any record of discussion or debate within the IEB, let alone the membership – the International Union now holds a position against BDS and subordinate Locals cannot assert a different position. The PRB ignored the clear language of the resolution, which simply called on the UAW IEB to change its current position of investment in multinational corporations that enable human rights abuses. Because the original BDS vote thereby recognized the authority of the IEB, the PRB decision represents an attempted ban on even raising the debate within the UAW.

Local 2865 BDS Caucus member Jennifer Mogannam, a rank and file member, said, “This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers. The PRB’s decision tells us that the President of UAW in 2007 had a different view. Clearly, several thousand UAW members from coast to coast disagree with the president from 2007. The International Union cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS.”

Liz Jackson, attorney from Palestine Legal, commented, “This mirrors the national trend of suppression: members are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS, but when the upper echelons of the power structure disagree, they frequently resort to shutting down debate from the top. This may work in the short term, but suppression of speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion.”

A growing number of graduate student worker organizations have endorsed BDS. In April, the New York University Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), representing over 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose BDS against Israel. Last week, the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA/AFT Local 3220) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, representing over 9,000 graduate workers and students, voted overwhelmingly in favor (81%) of adopting a BDS resolution.

“Already, the clear will of the membership of three UAW locals is to support our Palestinian counterparts, including workers and broader society, in their struggle against racism, dispossession, and apartheid. Despite the attempts of top-down International Union officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank-and-file support is against them. We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom, and equality.” – Joe Keady, GEO/UAW2322 rank & file member

Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS (Electronic Intifada)

Electronic Intifada

Rank and file challenge US union bosses over BDS

Union bosses, like American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, are increasingly finding their pro-Israel positions challenged by the rank and file. (AFGE)

Graduate teaching assistants at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this month became the latest unionized workers in the US to vote in favor of a resolution supporting the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Meanwhile a United Auto Workers review board upheld a decision by the union’s national executive to nullify a democratic vote backing BDS by rank and file members in California.

In the Wisconsin ballot, 81 percent of voting members in the 9,000-strong Teaching Assistants’ Association backed a resolution calling for divestment from Israeli state institutions and international firms complicit in Israeli military occupation and ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights.

The resolution passed by members of TAA/AFT Local 3220 calls on the University of Wisconsin, its parent union the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO national labor federation to divest.

The TAA Palestine Solidarity Caucus notes in a press release that deteriorating working conditions for educators in the US “are directly related to the rise of spending on militarism and the consequential disinvestment from public universities and the public sector as a whole.”

The union also takes aim at widespread efforts to demonize and criminalize BDS activism, including within the trade union movement where support for Palestinian rights is growing.


TAA is the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States.

Its vote represents a challenge to the leadership of its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), whose executives have strongly opposed BDS.

As The Electronic Intifada reported last year, AFT President Randi Weingarten has tried to smear BDS by association with violence and terrorism.

Weingarten and other top union officials have used their positions to promote Zionism, albeit in its liberal form, the Israeli state ideology that denies Palestinians their basic rights.

They have also helped Israel whitewash its 2014 assault on Gaza that killed approximately 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 550 children.

AFT leaders have endorsed Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election despite the presumed Democratic nominee’s hawkish support for Israel and justifications of its killings of Palestinians.

Yet the TAA vote is another marker of a shift among rank and file union members.

Last month, graduate student workers at New York University voted to back BDS by a large margin.

Their local union, GSOC-UAW 2110, held a vote despite efforts by executives from the parent union to block a referendum and cancel an election.

A week earlier, the Graduate Employee Organization of UAW Local 2322 (GEO-UAW 2322) adopted a BDS resolution with 95 percent of the votes.

That union represents more than 2,000 graduate student workers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Overturning democracy

In 2014, UAW Local 2865, which currently represents 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California, became the first US union to join the BDS movement in a landslide vote.

But executives at the parent union, the United Auto Workers, nullified the vote last December.

In a decision issued on 16 May, the UAW’s Public Review Board (PRB) rejected an appeal against the nullification.

The 27-page ruling “to uphold nullification of the BDS vote … is based solely on a thread of anti-democratic thinking that misrepresents basic facts,” the solidarity caucuses of UAW 2865, GEO-UAW 2322 and GSOC-UAW 2110 said in a joint statement.

According to the statement, “[the review board posits] that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007 – without any record of discussion or debate among the [International Executive Board], let alone the membership – the international union now holds a position against BDS, and subordinate Locals cannot assert a different position.”

“The [Public Review Board] ignored the clear language of the resolution, which simply called on the UAW [International Executive Board] to change its current position of investment in multinational corporations that enable human rights abuses,” the solidarity caucuses state.

The nullification of the vote represents “an attempted ban on even raising the debate within the UAW,” they add.

A leading Israel lobby group has welcomed the UAW’s decision to overturn a democratic vote.

“We applaud the Public Review Board for declaring that UAW Local 2865 had no authority to subvert the UAW International’s position opposing the BDS movement,” Dean Schramm, the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles regional president, said.

Schramm accused union members of promoting “polarizing political propaganda and misinformation promoted by the BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

In contrast to its opposition to the struggle for Palestinian rights, the UAW strongly supported divestment from apartheid South Africa. In 1978, the union withdrew all its money from banks that made loans there.

It also pulled pension fund investments from firms complicit in human rights abuses in South Africa.

Sea change

The decision to nullify the vote came after UCLA graduate student Stephen Brumbaugh and other members of a small anti-BDS group called Informed Grads filed a complaint.

Informed Grads were represented by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, an elite law firm with a long record of defending corporate clients, including such union-busting and environment-polluting firms as Chevron and Walmart.

Liz Jackson, an attorney from Palestine Legal, commented, “This mirrors the national trend of suppression: members are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS; but when the upper echelons of the power structure disagree, they frequently resort to shutting down debate from the top.”

“This may work in the short term, but suppression of speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion,” Jackson added.

That sea change is already happening. As a recent survey by the Pew Research Center found, the base of the Democratic Party is increasingly sympathetic to Palestinian rights, opening up an ever wider gap with establishment leaders like Hillary Clinton.

The support for Palestinian rights is growing most rapidly among Millennials – people born after 1980.

Similar cracks are now starting to show in the trade union movement as well.

“This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers,” Local 2865 BDS Caucus member Jennifer Mogannam said, adding that thousands of union members disagree with the position on BDS stated by the UAW president almost a decade ago.

Union leaders “cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS,” Mogannam added.

“Already, the clear will of the membership of three UAW locals is to support our Palestinian counterparts, including workers and broader society, in their struggle against racism, dispossession and apartheid,” said Joe Keady, a rank and file member of GEO-UAW 2322.

“Despite the attempts of top-down … officials to crush our union democracy, the tide of rank and-file support is against them,” Keady added. “We will work hard to implement the will of our members until Palestinians have won justice, freedom and equality.”

Union officials suppress member support for BDS (Palestine Legal)

Palestine Legal

Union officials suppress member support for BDS

May 25, 2016

As a growing number of local unions endorse Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in solidarity with Palestinian workers, the United Auto Workers (UAW) Public Review Board last week affirmed a decision to nullify the BDS resolution adopted by members of Local 2865.

UAW Local 2865 – which represents over 14,000 graduate student workers at the University of California (UC) – voted by an overwhelming majority in December, 2014 to demand that their union and their employer, the UC, divest from companies complicit in human rights violations against Palestinians. A few members who opposed the resolution engaged a union-busting corporate law firm to appeal the vote. In December 2015, the International UAW, which oversees Local 2865, nullified the vote – despite its own finding that the local conducted a fair and democratic election. The local union appealed, and last week, the union’s Public Review Board affirmed the nullification.

The new decision reasons that because the UAW International president signed a letter opposing BDS in 2007, UAW now holds a position against BDS, and subordinate membership groups cannot assert a different position. But this reasoning ignores the fact that the 2007 statement was signed without any record of discussion among the Executive Board, much less any debate among the UAW’s membership.

Rank and file member of Local 2865, Jennifer Mogannam, said, “This decision cannot erase the fact that increasing numbers of UAW members stand in solidarity with Palestinian workers. … Clearly, several thousand UAW members from coast to coast disagree with the president from 2007. The International union cannot just reach into a dusty file cabinet to shut down the growing number of members who want to discuss and change the union’s position on BDS.”

Liz Jackson, Palestine Legal staff attorney, commented, “The nullification reflects the national trend of suppression. People are voting by democratic majorities to support BDS. But when higher officials disagree – like state legislators, university administrators, and presidential candidates – they resort to shutting down debate from the top. This may work in the short term, but attempts to suppress speech cannot stop a sea change in public opinion.”

Popular support for BDS is growing as three more graduate student worker organizations adopted resolutions this spring. In April, the New York University Graduate Employee Union (GSOC-UAW 2110) and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Graduate Employee Union (GEO-UAW 2322), representing 2,000 members each, endorsed by full membership vote the call from all major Palestinian trade unions and civil society groups to impose BDS against Israel.

Last week, the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA/AFT Local 3220) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, representing over 9,000 graduate workers and students, also voted overwhelmingly in favor of adopting a BDS resolution.

UAW 2865 Condemns Horowitz Posters, Climate of Islamophobia and Racism

Tikkun2May 2, 2016

UAW 2865 Condemns Horowitz Posters, Climate of Islamophobia and Racism


On Friday, April 15th, 2016, posters defaming individuals involved with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), and campaigns for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel, more broadly were discovered at UCLA. Commissioned by conservative agitator David Horowitz and likely circulated by unknown individuals working in collaboration, similar posters have also been confirmed at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and San Diego State University. While this is not the first time that Horowitz has circulated posters on university campuses attacking SJP and MSA, this latest round represents a serious escalation from Horowitz’s past efforts. In this most recent poster campaign, individual student and faculty names from each respective campus are prominently displayed beneath the charge of having “allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists to perpetrate BDS and Jew Hatred on campus” as a result of their supporting BDS and the broader Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination.

In addition to student activists in MSA and SJP, Horowitz also attacked two Black professors at UCLA as well as Angela Davis, a prominent activist combatting all forms of oppression in the US and abroad and Black professor from UC Santa Cruz, for their support of Palestinian rights. This is hardly unexpected from Horowitz, who in addition to his attacks on Muslims, has a long history of attacking the Black community. In 2001, Horowitz took out ads in campus newspapers including the Daily Californian which claimed that Black Americans should be “grateful” for slavery.

Horowitz’s poster campaign followed a recent incident at the University of California, Riverside which took place sometime over spring break in which graduate student offices and a faculty office were vandalized. The Chair of the department of Ethnic Studies, Dr. Dylan Rodriguez, identified the incident as “despicable acts of symbolic and cultural violence, threat and harassment.” He also said, “Women of color have been specifically targeted by these parties, and the available information makes it abundantly clear that these acts of violence are significantly motivated by anti-Muslim and Islamophobic sentiment and/or ideology.”

We in UAW 2865 condemn these posters as Islamophobic and racist fear-mongering tactics intended to chill and silence protected political speech. Though concerned by the woefully insufficient reaction of UC Berkeley administration as well as the complete lack of attention by officials at UC Santa Barbara, we are heartened by the swift administrative response from UCLA, whose Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion sent an email to the campus community denouncing the posters as intimidation and defending the integrity of SJP and MSA. Nevertheless, we hope that UC administrators will continue working to better implement SJP UCLA’s requests, which include a meeting between the Chancellor and Palestinian students on campus and training campus officials in recognizing, condemning and confronting Islamophobia and racism against people of Southwest Asian/North African background as they should any other form of institutional, ideological or interpersonal xenophobia and violence. We further hope that administrators on all other impacted campuses will take similar measures.

Although UCLA administrators have worked to address the needs of students there, UCSB administrators have been silent thus far. And Berkeley officials, though aware of the strong statement released at UCLA, opted to stop short of offering the same level of support. Instead they released an anemic statement that failed to provide the campus community with adequate context in understanding why these posters are so inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous. Horowitz has had a long history of surveilling college students on their very own campuses and his tactics of slander, intimidation and bullying have been experienced by multiple generations of student organizers. Yet even as some administrators in the UC have been quick to repudiate Horowitz’s actions, it is clear that they did not occur in a vacuum.

In May 2015, UC President and former Head of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano opined that the UC Regents should adopt the State Department Definition of anti-Semitism, which equates virtually any criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism. In fact, the push for the UC Regents to adopt this definition was the result of years of effort by groups such as the AMCHA Initiative, the Zionist Organization of America, and the Brandeis Center to ensure that any and all  speech that advocates for Palestinian freedom through BDS and other non-violent educational activities on UC campuses are equated with anti-Semitism. This latest attempt to stifle support for Palestinian rights developed from various previously unsuccessful pursuits of Title VI complaints, each of which was dismissed by the Department of Education, alleging that BDS and pro-Palestine speech deprived Jewish students of equal access to a quality education. The clamor for the State Department Definition was only the most recent phase of this broader push to slow the growth of the BDS movements on UC campuses, and AMCHA founder and UC Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin (who was caught on video espousing repugnantly Islamophobic generalizations about Palestinian and Palestine solidarity student activists) admitted that enforcement of the State Department Definition would stigmatize BDS as anti-Semitic.

Despite the UC Regents’ claims to the contrary, the desire to abandon adoption of the State Department definition in favor of an ostensibly all-encompassing “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” did not ultimately constitute a shift away from monitoring criticism of Israel on university campuses. This was made clear by the very selection of so-called “experts” who were to be consulted during the drafting process: all of them were men, one was a driving force for the racially exclusionary Proposition 209, and two are known to advocate for the suppression of speech critical of Israel. This panel represents a rather limited demographic of “experts” to weigh in on what is alleged to be an all-encompassing anti-oppression statement.

Accordingly, the struggles of various communities were superficially coopted in a cheap attempt to legitimize the statement’s direct and false equation between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Though the “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” was ultimately amended before being passed to condemn instead “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism,” and though it remains technically unenforceable on constitutional grounds, we condemn the process of drafting the “Statement of Principles” and find the finished product to be disastrously and offensively out of touch with the on-the-ground realities university students face today. Among other portions, this disconnect is evidenced by a section from the introductory “Contextual Statement” about Islamophobia.

According to page 5 of the “Contextual Statement”:

“Terrorist attacks by self-described religious fundamentalists have fueled Islamophobic attacks against peaceful members of our communities who are–or are perceived to be–followers of Islam. These attacks and counter-attacks generate fear on UC campuses as much as they do outside the UC community, and they sometimes generate policy positions or statements that are perceived to be personal attacks that reflect prejudice or intolerance based solely on religious belief.”

Despite the fact that the UC Regents repeatedly prided themselves on having drafted a statement that included Islamophobia at their March 23rd meeting, this language comes appallingly close to apologia for Islamophobia in centering not the reprehensibility of Islamophobia itself nor the danger to those directly impacted, but rather the “fear” of the general UC community, and implying a cyclical parity between vigilante violence and Islamophobic bigotry and aggression. Most distressingly, the statement’s conclusion that this “cycle” of attacks and Islamophobic “counter-attacks” “generate[s] policy positions or statements that are perceived to be personal attacks that reflect prejudice or intolerance based solely on religious belief” paints Islamophobia as a matter of misperception, rather than a dangerously escalating phenomenon. It also does not recognize that the culture wars taking place on University campuses are largely informed by, funded through and incited by the University of California’s ties to privatized business profiting from war and militarization in the South West Asia and North Africa (SWANA) region. The statement gives no mention to rhetorics of intolerance and bigotry in the current Presidential election or US policy and structural and institutional violations of civil liberties impacting Arab, Muslim and SWANA peoples in the US as being tied to the rise of Islamophobia.

This is hardly the statement one would expect in response to a domestic climate in which politicians and public figures have seriously proposed interment for Muslims in the U.S.; when leading presidential candidates campaign on banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and glorify Islamophobic violence; when half of polled American voters support this proposed Muslim ban; when individuals are assaulted simply for speaking Arabic or wearing hijab in public;when Muslims (and those perceived to be Muslim) are removed from flights without explanation,, or for speaking Arabic, as recently befell a UC Berkeley student of Iraqi origin; when Islamophobic sentiment in the U.S. is so pronounced that the Department of Education feels compelled to issue an open letter warning educators to be vigilant about the climate for Muslim students.

These toxic attitudes have also entered U.S. policy, evidenced by a law signed last December that subjects European citizens of Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Sudanese descent to discriminatory screening and visa barriers to travel to the U.S. This law risks making U.S. citizens with national origins from those same countries into second-class citizens by causing the E.U. to reciprocate and subject them to visa discrimination as well. Even after the “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance” was passed, the UC Regents attempted to use their authority to intimidate the American Association of Anthropologists into voting against an academic boycott of Israeli institutions with a proven track record of perpetuating the occupation, discriminating against and denying Palestinians the very right to academic freedom on which the Regents claim to base their opposition, showing where their true priorities lie.

The statement’s take on other forms of racism and xenophobia, which are cheaply consolidated into a single paragraph and reduced to a matter of differences in “debates” on university campuses, is equally abysmal. Racism is transformed from a systemic issue to a matter of insensitive discourse, which is convenient given that it was the UC Regents who helped introduce structural inequality to the UC system by laying the groundwork for what would become proposition 209, which effectively decimated the enrollment rate and statistical and physical presence of students of color on UC campuses. Transmuting racism from a systemic issue to a matter of personal worldview and speech allows the UC Regents to deflect responsibility and complicity for the structural inequalities still inherent to the UC from both themselves as well as the administrators on each campus tasked with responding to student needs.

There is no denying that Horowitz’s posters are defamatory, racist, and Islamophobic. But when the UC Regents continue to prioritize the monitoring of discourse related to Palestine/Israel over acknowledging the clearly escalating levels of Islamophobia and racism on the national front, or when administrators on UC campuses remain glaringly uninformed about Islamophobia and racism, they are complicit in creating the very environment that leads to Horowitz’s incitement as well as the incident currently being investigated as a hate crime at UC Riverside.

Make no mistake, it is the repeated ignoring and delegitimization of Islamophobia, racism, and complicity in the routine suppression of pro-Palestine speech and activity on university campuses that allowed for the sort of escalation we have seen from David Horowitz and his followers, whose actions epitomize the often ignored intersection of Islamophobia, racism, and the demonization of pro-Palestine sentiment.

Whatever our demographic and/or political beliefs, all of us–students, faculty, and campus workers–deserve equal protection and an educational environment free from harassment and intimidation. But absent a genuine comprehension of the racism and harassment most directly affecting university students today, such a goal will be nothing more than a pipe dream to which UC officials can pretend to pay lip service through the denunciation of someone like Horowitz, who in fact is only capitalizing on an atmosphere that UC Regents and administrators have aided and abetted.

The full text and PDF of this statement, including relevant citations, can be found here.