Thursday, December 15, 2011

Missing A Gingrich Opportunity

By: Fadi Zanayed

The American-Arab community missed two golden opportunities this past week when former House Speaker and Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich stated the Palestinians are an “invented” people and when Lowes Corporation succumbed to Islamophobia by pulling its ad from the reality show All American Muslim.  Most national Arab organizations issued press releases and made an effort to call its members to action, but beyond that, nothing significant materialized.
It is unfortunate that the national Arab organizations could not meet and mount a major campaign to combat these racist actions by a politician and a major American corporation.  Action to make each of them reverse their actions is not very hard.
Let me give an example what we in Chicago did in 1985 to force a local television station to issue an apology within one hour.  On Tuesday November  20, 1985 ABC local sportscaster, the late Tim Weigel, made a derogatory statement about Arabs on the 6 pm News Broadcast because the Monday Night Football Half Time Show chose  to update the nation on what was happening in the Mediterranean Sea as the Achillo Lauro Ship was being hijacked instead of its usual highlights of the previous Sunday football games as the Chicago Bears romped the Dallas Cowboys (44-0).
The next Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., I, as the Regional Director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), called the station to demand an apology.  When I could not get through to the news director, I called local ADC members and friends and asked them to call the news station to demand an apology and to have the news director call me.  I made about 30 calls and asked people to make similar calls.  I supplied the telephone number.
By 10 a.m., the news director called the ADC office, asked to speak to me and made an apology.  I demanded an on –the-air  apology which was given later that evening.  The news director asked me to call off the telephone calls as they were disrupting the news station.  I redoubled my efforts.
The lesson here is that we used an unorthodox method to shut down a business that made disparaging remarks about Arabs and we won.  In retrospect, I should have demanded more—such as a personal apology at one of our dinners or a sensitivity training course for the news staff.
This week, we as a community should have shut down the Lowe’s headquarters.  We should have sent thousands of calls from all over the country to demand an apology; to resume the ads; and to make a significant contribution to ADC to help fight the Islamophobia that has engulfed this country.  We should have demonstrated in front of Lowes stores all over the country until our demands were met.
This week, we as a community should have shut down the Republican National Committee telephone lines by sending thousands of telephone calls to demand that the RNC distance itself from the racist statement by Gingrich.   
We did not do any of these things because our national organizations are too bent up looking for their own personal glory rather than working for the glory of the community as a whole.
I sent an email to the American Arab Institute, after receiving an email action alert to call the RNC, which I did.  I called upon James Zogby’s organization to mount a telephone tree campaign to get people to call.  I heard nothing back.
The National ADC office issued its email newsletter which contained both incidents.  Whether people did anything is not noteworthy as neither Gingrich, the RNC, or Lowes apologized to the American-Arab Community.
In essence, the American-Arab community fumbled yet another opportunity to once and for all stop the discrimination against us. We got romped!. 
The telephone number for the RNC is 202.863.8500).
The telephone number for Lowes is (1-800-445-6937).

(  © Copyright, Fadi Zanayed.  Publication or distribution of this material is allowed provided its content is not altered and the source and its author are cited.)

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