Arab America Presents: #FalafelFighters with 12 Legislators Fighting For Arab Americans
In response to the popular series #HummusHaters, which highlights those who vilify the Arab American community and calls on them to try a taste of our culture, Arab America presents #FalafelFighters. Those who fight against anti-Arab bigotry, Islamophobia, and discrimination towards Arab Americans are Falafel Fighters who stand by our side. Falafel Fighters are the Arab and non-Arab Americans who embrace the our culture through tolerance, kindness, and love of the classic Arab dish falafel.
While not every member of Congress on this list has a perfect record on Arab American issues, or the issue of Palestine, it is equally as important to highlight their positive roles in promoting Arab American rights.
Want to add your own Falafel Fighter? Head to the poll below to voice your concern and add your candidate for addition to our falafel fighters list!
1. Representative Mike Honda, (D-CA)
Protecting Arab Americans from Discriminatory Actions through Legislation and Solidarity
In response to Islamophobic rhetoric and legislation: “The internment of Japanese Americans was the result of prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Congressman Mike Honda is a keen supporter of Arab and Muslim Americans. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Honda made a gesture of solidarity towards Arab and Muslim communities, urging them to remain true to their cultural backgrounds through reflecting on his experience of persecution following the Pearl Harbor attacks.
Honda also defended Representative Keith Ellison’s decision to swear-in over a Qur’an instead of the Bible.
Recently, Honda worked alongside the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) to propose a consumer protection amendment to the Transportation Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill (T-HUD.) The amendment pushed for regulating airline passenger removal practices and mandated a reporting processes on the number of, and reason for, passenger removals.
2. Representative Debbie Dingell, (D-MI)
Arab American Community Liaison Combatting Discrimination
Commenting on the TAKE ON HATE campaign: “We all want our community to be a place where everyone feels welcome and respected. You cannot fight intolerance with intolerance, and this resolution sends a powerful message that we are united in our efforts to counter stereotypes, overcome prejudice and end hate.”
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell presides over a highly concentrated population of Arab Americans. Her district’s largest city Dearborn is 33% Arab American. In the past, she has been an outspoken advocate of Arab American rights, supporting the TAKE ON HATE campaign to combat discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans, backing the Visa Waiver program, and often speaking out against hate speech and Islamophobia within her district.
There is a mutual bond between congresswomen Dingell and the Arab American community as evidenced by the recent “Arab Americans for Debbie Dingell” fundraising event held to promote her 2016 campaign.
3. Representative Hank Johnson, (D-GA)
Pro-Palestine Human Rights Advocate
On Israel Palestine: “Corrosive settlement policies undermine the ability of all citizens in the region to enjoy healthy, peaceful lives in safe communities . . . we must work to promote policies that support a two-state solution and encourage trust between both sides.”
Congressman Hank Johnson has been an outspoken, and recently controversial, voice for a two state solution to the Palestine-Israel question. He recognizes the Israeli occupation and settlements as unjust and contrary to human rights accords. His commitment to social justice and the protection of human rights has led him to pursue an all-encompassing approach to not only Palestine, but the Black Lives Matter movement, as well.
Johnson has remained ardently opposed to the Iraq war, consistently advocating for troop withdrawal and de-escalation.
Recently, John and fellow congressmen Mike Leahy penned a letter to the state department requesting an investigation of human rights abuses levied by Egyptian and Israeli police and armed forces.
4. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Pro-Palestine Advocate for increased US relationships with the Middle East
In regard to increased US commitment in the Middle East “That is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. We need to engage more. I argue that the set of connections between the United States and the region of the Middle East, the problem with our relationship in the past has been that it’s been shallow and thin . . . We need a richer set of connection points. “
As Congress’ first Muslim member, Keith Ellison has proved to be a vital liaison between Muslim communities and mainstream America. He has pushed for increased US engagement in the Middle East as a means to foster healthy diplomatic and normative relationships.
His visits to Palestine and Israel in 2012 sparked his support for the Palestinian movement and a two-state solution. He was recently picked as a DNC platform delegate by Bernie Sanders, where he pushed for language criticizing Israel’s occupation and settlement expansion in Palestinian Territories.
5. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Central to Congressional Support for Increased Refugee Response
From a senate floor speech. “The United States leads the world in financial assistance for the Syrian refugee effort. But we have a moral obligation to do that and more . . . I call on the administration to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees”
Senator Durbin has steadfastly advocated for the admittance and protection of Syrian refugees in the United States. In 2012, at the onset of the Syrian Civil War, Senator Durbin called to extend the Temporary Protected status of Syrian Nationals within the U.S. to protect them from continued violence in Syria. Later in 2015, Durbin travelled to Greece to witness the plight of Syrian refugees with his own eyes. The experience left him determined to increase the US response to the refugee crisis. Durbin also led a group of 14 senators as they pressed President Obama to significantly raise the refugee admittance ceiling to 100,000.
6. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Two State Solution Advocate with Reproaches to Israeli Policy
In a J-Post Interview: “I am 100 percent opposed to the settlements. State-supported settlement activity is a primary driver of Israel’s international isolation and sends a signal to the world that Israel has no interest in the creation of a Palestinian state. In fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted that settlements have been used as a retaliatory tool. The existence of the settlements is a troubling reality, but the drive to further expand them is unacceptable.”
Along with Senator Durbin (D., IL) and 26 other Senators, Feinstein penned a letter to the Department of Justice, advocating for a program to track hate crimes committed against Arab Americans – a valuable dataset in the fight to end discrimination.
Feinstein was also a cosigner of a letter to President Obama that urged the continued advancement of a two-state solution to the Palestinian question.
The congresswoman represents a state with a sizable Jewish population and has opposed Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu on a variety of measures in recent years, stressing the diverse set of viewpoints within the Jewish political community.
7. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Leahy’s Law an integral bulwark against military injustice.
Speaking on the Refugee Protection Act: “Now, more than ever, we must reaffirm our role as a humanitarian leader and renew our commitment to those fleeing persecution across the world,” Leahy said. “I am hopeful that if we pause and remember the role refugees and asylum-seekers have played for generations in making our communities strong and vibrant, we will be able to move past the hateful, ugly rhetoric of this campaign season. Our moral obligation to innocent victims of persecution demands it and our national interest requires it.”
Patrick Leahy is the grand architect of the Leahy Amendment, which prohibits the provision of military aid “to foreign military unites that human rights with impunity.” In a letter to the state department, Senator Leahy, alongside ten house members, urged the investigation of U.S. military relations with Egypt and Israel due to watchdog accusations of human rights violations.
In 2012, Leahy joined Senator Durbin and others to propose the extension of the Temporary Protection Status of Syrian Nationals within the United States in response to the onset of Syria’s now five-year-old civil war.
Recently, Leahy, alongside Congresswoman Zoe Loffman, proposed the Refugee Protection Act, which reinforces U.S. commitment the 1951 Refugee Convention and repeals some of the most troubling barriers faced by refugees, including access to council while in immigration court. The bill is currently in committee, but has a slim chance of being passed when faced with a general vote
8. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Debate Rhetoric: “Of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long-term, there will never be peace in that region, unless the United States plays an even-handed role, trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people … There comes a time when, if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”
Bernie Sanders failed 2016 presidential bid brought the Palestinian question to the forefront of the Democratic Party. Sanders’ handpicked DNC Platform delegates, which included an Arab American, pushed strongly for the inclusion of language criticizing the Israeli settlements and occupation in the DNC platform, but lost out in a majority vote.
During a 2016 primary debate, Sanders acknowledged Israel’s disproportionate military response in the 2014 Gaza Conflict, indicating a larger shift in party perceptions on the Israeli-Palestine issue. This marks a turn for Sanders, who was previously on the fence over Palestine.
Sanders’ campaign also brought important Arab American voices to the forefront of the political world. Linda Sarsour a prominent Arab American activist, and Dr. Jim Zogby of the Arab American Institute, were prominent collaborators in the Senator’s 2016 campaign.
9. Representative Charles Boustany, (R-LA)
“[Solving the Israeli Palestinian Conflict] essential for American interests in the Middle East and around the world.”
Charles Boustany is a Lebanese American Republican Congressman from Louisiana. He has been a strong supporter for Arab American rights and a two-state resolution to the Palestinian question. Early in Obama’s presidency, Boustany, alongside Representatives Steve Cohen (R-TN) and Russ Carnahan (R-MO), urged the president to increase US involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two state solution.
The congressman has also pushed for increased awareness of important early Arab American figures, such as author Ameen Rihani.
10. Representative Darell Issa (R-CA)
The Lebanese American congressman has taken the initiative on a variety of legislative measures regarding the Middle East. Issa co-signed the Cohen Boustany Carnahan Letter promoting US involvement in the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He also drafted a resolution expressing his solidarity with the Egyptian people during the 2011 Arab Spring.
The Arab American Leadership Council designated him as an important role model for Arab American political involvement. His recent endorsement of Donald Trump for president has levied controversy in a party quickly alienating Arab American voters, but his long career in Congress continues to make him a role model for politically motivated Arab Americans.
11. Representative Richard Hanna (R-NY)
Richard Hanna is a Lebanese American Republic Congressman from New York. He has shown his dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and supported President Obama’s plan to bring the troops home from the war.
He also declared his Lebanese heritage, with pride, on the 70th anniversary of Lebanon’s Independence Day, while additionally honoring the Lebanese Americans who have elected to live in the city of New York.
Congressman Hanna is one of only a few congressmen who meets with Arab Americans in his state and listens to their needs, making him stand out from others.
12. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Democratic congresswoman Betty McCollum has been a long time supporter of Palestinians and initiated a letter to President Obama, asking for the rights of Palestinian children to be prioritized. The letter explicitly speaks to the frequent military mistreatment and detention of Palestinian children after they are arrested.
In the letter, McCollum notes, “Israel’s military detention of Palestinian children is an indefensible abuse of human rights. I hope this letter results in State Department pressure on the Government of Israel to end this systemic abuse immediately.”
Alongside McCollum there were 18 other members of Congress that joined in on signing the letter including: Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA.)