Release All Captives, U.S. Arabs Urge
Saying they share this country’s outrage over American hostages being held in Beirut, Arab-American spokesmen in Los Angeles called Thursday for the release of those hostages and more than 700 Lebanese civilians held by Israel. The hostage crisis, they also said, has provoked violence and threats against American Arabs.
David Habib, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Los Angeles chapter, told reporters at a press conference that Arab-Americans “unequivocally denounce” the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, the murder of an innocent U.S. Navy petty officer and the taking of passengers as hostages.
He urged “those having influence over this matter in Lebanon” to release the hostages and “make the perpetrators of this terrorist act accountable for their deeds.”
Habib and James A. Kaddo, chairman of the Los Angeles-based United American Lebanese Committee, also urged Israel to abide by international law and “act on its own initiative to release the 700-plus remaining civilian hostages it illegally removed from southern Lebanon.”
Urges U.S. Pressure
Israel’s removal of Lebanese citizens appears to be the underlying cause for the hostage crisis, said Habib, who urged the Reagan Administration to demand that Israel release those Lebanese.
“As Americans, we reject the notion that demanding that our allies abide by international law generally, and the Geneva accords specifically, constitutes a ‘concession to terrorism,’ ” Habib said.
Kaddo said that Americans of Lebanese descent are “doubly saddened” by the hostage situation in Beirut.
“As Americans, we grieve for the taking of hostages of our fellow Americans,” he said. “And as Lebanese descendants, we also deplore the taking of Lebanese hostages by Israel. Two wrongs do not make a right, in our opinion.”
While deploring the taking of hostages, Habib said there is an explanation for it: “You can’t remove hundreds of people from their homes without expecting a consequence. We must insist that our allies abide by principles we publicly support. If Israel did so, this (hostage) crisis would be over. That’s not giving in to terrorism.”
Sees Racist Exploitation
Habib also said that racists have exploited the hostage situation in Lebanon by portraying Arabs and Arab-Americans as people who are “uncivilized, untrustworthy, have no regard for life or limb and are otherwise somehow less than human.” Such views have resulted in violence and threats of violence against Arab-American institutions and individuals, the spokesmen said.
“The media (are) full of people, including elected officials, crying out for retaliation against anything Arab,” he said. “Already we find a mosque in Texas has been pipe-bombed, and at least one Southern California mosque regularly receives ‘Hello, you’re dead’ telephone calls. A Seattle woman receives similar calls, and her business is now being systematically boycotted.”
Representatives of the anti-discrimination committee distributed a list of nine acts of violence or threats aimed at Arabs since the hijacking, including the pipe-bombing in Texas, a Maryland mosque’s windows being smashed, telephone threats in New York, Washington and Michigan, and a Jewish Defense League demonstration at a mosque in Cudahy.
The anti-discrimination committee, founded by former U.S. Sen. James Abourezk of South Dakota, describes itself as the largest Arab-American organization in this country, with 25,000 members, 6,000 of them in California.