2018 Year in Review: What Happened in Arab America?
By: Heba Mohammad/Arab America Contributing Writer
Happy New Year! As we look to 2019, we’d like to take some time to reflect on this past year. The Arab American community faced significant challenges with resilience and determination, and we also had much to celebrate this year.
Many of this year’s challenges came in the form of domestic policies at the state and federal levels. From anti-BDS legislation being introduced or passed in several states, to the appointment of several anti-civil rights actors into high-level administration positions, our battles to maintain equal rights have been ongoing.
In many instances though, the pushback against bigoted policies was successful. In several states, anti-BDS legislation was stopped, or laws were repealed after successful litigation. Bad actors in positions of power are being held accountable by Arab Americans and our allies. While we can expect many of these challenges, and new ones, to carry into the new year, so, too, will our fierce community energy and opposition to those wishing to limit the basic civil rights and liberties of our community.
This year we watched as national and international opinion toward Palestine continued to shift for the better but at a great human cost. As Palestinians continue to be targeted by Israeli oppressors, our community is speaking up loudly to demand justice and an end to Israeli occupation. Part of this campaign is preserving the Palestinian culture, and many Palestinian artists and historians have been recognized for their work in 2018.
Of course, we cannot speak about 2018 with acknowledging the dozens of Arab Americans who were on the ballot this year and behind the scenes working on campaigns. From ballot initiatives that will increase access to the ballot, like Michigan’s Promote the Vote, to candidate campaigns of Arab Americans Ilhan Omar (MN), Marc Solomon (VA), Ammar Campa-Najjar (CA), Nader Hashim (VT), and more, our community took pride in the courage of those who showed up to do the work to make our democracy more equitable, representative, and functional.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the important milestones our community experienced this year. Each category is in chronological order of events. We welcome suggested additions: please leave us a comment below.
From the Arab America family, we hope this year brings you all good tidings!
National Arab American Heritage Month
April Arab American Heritage Month commemorations occur acr
Palestine Museum US
Palestine Museum US opens its doors to educate visitors on Palestinian history & culture.
Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim, Palestinian embroiderer, receives a 2018 NEA National Heritage Fellowship for her work on Palestinian tatreez education. Her daughter, Wafa Ghnaim, is awarded an NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Folk Arts discipline the following month.
Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian teen living in the West Bank, is released from Israeli prison after eight months of detention.
#YallaVote celebrates 20 years of registering, educating, and empowering the Arab American community.
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi is murdered, prompting community and international outrage at Saudi Arabia and the US response to the killing of a US Resident.
FBI Hate Crimes
FBI Hate Crime Statistics show a 17% increase in hate crimes over-all and a 100% increase in anti-Arab crimes between 2016 & 2017. This data represents three consecutive years of increases in hate crimes in the United States.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is reauthorized. “This statute permits information gathering on common activities, like protesting outside of a U.S. embassy, supporting a human rights group, or even writing a blog about international affairs. It also enables surveillance to be conducted incidentally on communication between American citizens and their foreign contacts.”
The Census Bureau announces its reversal of plans to include the Middle East or North Africa Category on the 2020 Census. For years, Arab Americans have suffered from an undercount, leading to the deprivation of our community’s access to basic services and rights.
TPS for Syrians
DHS announces TPS redesignation for Syrians already registered in the program is renewed, but the program will not accept new applicants.
Department of Commerce
The Department of Commerce announces intentions to include a citizenship question on US Census.
Photo: Gage Skidmore
Mike Pompeo, former CIA Director with a lengthy history of bigotry, confirmed as Secretary of State.
Congress reintroduces a bill to limit free speech, particularly speech critical of Israel.
The SCOTUS decision on the Trump Administration’s Muslim & Refugee Ban is handed down in favor of allowing the Ban to stand. Of the countries affected, four are Arab countries: Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
Kenneth Marcus, known for his bigoted and repressive civil rights positions, is confirmed to serve as Assistant Secretary in the Office of Civil Rights, Department of Education.
TPS for Yemenis
DHS re-designates TPS for Yemen.
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthori
Foreign Policy & Events
Vice President Pence
Vice President Pence visits Israel, addresses Knesset & reaffirms US support for Israel.
Gazans commemorate Land Day in March by beginning the Great March of Return, a repeated march calling for the right of return for Palestinians.
The US Embassy in Israel is relocated to Jerusalem. In response and as part of the Great March of Return, Gazans demonstrated and dozens of Palestinians are killed, with thousands more injured.
The Israel Knesset passes the Nation-State law, thereby codifying linguistic and cultural discrimination against Palestinians.
The Trump Administration closes the Palestinian Embassy in DC.
National Voter Registration
Dozens of Arab American candidates win their elections, including several new Congressional representatives.
Heba Mohammad is a Field Organizer at the Arab American Institute.