Palestinian Heritage Foundation Celebrates 16th Anniversary
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
On Sept. 13 the Palestinian Heritage Foundation held its 16th anniversary banquet in Teaneck, New Jersey. Some of the foundation’s achievements of the past year include Palestinian costume shows, lectures, and exhibits in Montreal, Princeton, colleges in New Jersey, New York and Maryland, and in Canberra, Australia. It also contributed parts of its collection of traditional Palestinian clothing to the six-month exhibition on Arab Americans at the Museum of the City of New York, and has recently launched a Web site: <www.palestineheritage.org>.
from left: Naila Asali, Clovis Maksoud, Mary Rose Oakar, Rami Mortada, Sayyidna Philip, Farid Abboud and Ziad Asali.
Standing Farah and hanan Munayyer
Two special exhibits honored Arab American women who recently died. Palestinian actress Bushra Karaman was a major force in establishing Palestinian theater and cinema. In her memory, and in order to make Palestinian cinema more available to those in the diaspora, the Palestinian Heritage Foundation supports and has contributed to the creation of a Palestinian film archive at Columbia University.
Dr. Hala Maksoud, a university professor and former president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), also was the co-founder of the Committee for the Preservation of Palestine Heritage in Washington, DC. The exhibit in her memory featured traditional Arab dresses from her personal collection. The foundation contributed a portion of the proceeds from the banquet to the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab American Leadership.
The evening’s honored guest and keynote speaker was her husband, Dr. Clovis Maksoud. A lawyer, journalist, diplomat and academic, Maksoud was formerly the senior editor of Al-Ahram, and the Arab League ambassador first to India, then to the United Nations. Currently professor of international relations at The American University in Washington, DC, he is founder and director of the university’s Center for the Global South.
Palestinian Heritage Foundation founders Farah and Hanan Munayyer presented Maksoud with a plaque honoring his achievements. Among others paying tribute, former Rep. Mary Rose Oakar, the current ADC president, said that during her years in Congress, “no one was a more effective diplomat than Clovis.” She praised Maksoud as a champion of freedom and justice throughout the world.
His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, said that, as one of the generation of Arabs that has seen defeat in every decade since the 1940s, he shares Maksoud’s dream of a united Arab nation, established on democratic values, with no ruler and ruled, but a free people practicing their rights. Dr. Simon Shaheen performed an improvisation on the oud in honor of Maksoud.
Thanking the Munayyers, Dr. Maksoud said the award was particularly meaningful because, whatever the deficit of power, the Palestinian cause is an important element of moral influence on the global scene among the international constituency of conscience. It is the arena of the Arab historical struggle against the new apartheid and the new colonialism. But, he said, the Palestinian struggle with the Zionist project is also an historical embarrassment, the result of an abdication on the part of Arab governments of their responsibility toward the liberation of Palestine. In the absence of a united Arab front able to provide a framework for Palestinian resistance, the ruthlessness of Israeli power has at times generated a recklessness of response, he noted, adding,” It is crucial that we stop suicide bombing in order that we develop within resistance the cult of life and not the cult of death.”
Maksoud described what is taking place in both Palestine and Iraq as vengeful acts that may satisfy a desire to make the occupations costly to the occupiers, but do not constitute resistance.
According to Maksoud, the lack of a united front renders every component of the Arab nation—Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria—vulnerable to interference by those who have hegemonic intentions in the area. Arab unity has been interrupted by both those regimes that have developed a shameful dependency on the U.S., and those that irresponsibly confront the West. Moreover, he said, the Arabs are not what their regimes project to the world. Because of the gap between governments and civil society in the Arab world, the Arab nation has been associated with dictatorial governments rather than human rights and empowerment. It is past time, Maksoud said, for Arabs to reclaim their national heritage and to make the dream of Arab unity a reality.