Chicago-based organization established to promote the interests of the city’s large Arab-American population
Supports expanded rights for illegal aliens
Founded by anti-Israel professor Rashid Khalidi, former director of the PLO press agency and onetime moderator of PLO advisory committee
Established in 1995, the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) "seeks to empower Chicago-area Arab immigrants and Arab Americans through the combined strategies of community organizing, advocacy, education and social services, leadership development, and forging productive relationships with other communities … [and] to be an active agent for positive social change.” Its founders were Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi (the former Director of the PLO press agency and onetime moderator of the PLO Advisory Committee) and his wife, Mona Khalidi.
Headquartered in the heart of Chicago's large Palestinian community, AAAN views the United States as a nation wherein Arab citizens are routinely maltreated. To remedy this perceived societal injustice, the organization aims “to challenge government policies that violate the civil, political and human rights of the Arab American and Arab immigrant community.” Among these policies are “detentions, deportations and other attacks on immigrants that result from Homeland Security [measures].”
AAAN has worked closely with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which seeks to: (a) promote open borders immigration policies; (b) give illegal aliens who attend Illinois high schools (dubbed “undocumented students” by AAAN) "the opportunity to pursue higher education"; (c) press the state for increased funding for immigrant services, such as English Language, Outreach and Interpretation, and Civics programs; and (d) "support other beneficial immigrant rights legislation."
In December 2005, AAAN and numerous other Arab lobby groups composed a letter to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, characterizing a North Carolina/New Mexico joint initiative to deny driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants as a “bigoted attack on Arabs and Muslims.” At issue, said the letter, was “an inflammatory and misleading billboard campaign … which contains extremely negative images of Arabs and Arab cultural symbols with the message, ‘Don’t License Terrorists.’ The billboards unfairly conflate the question of immigration and national security and cast a shadow of suspicion on Arabs and Muslims, unfairly equating them with terrorism and encouraging an environment that can lead to prejudice and hate crimes. In doing so, the ads utilize false stereotypes and racist rhetoric to promote an anti-immigrant agenda.”
AAAN is “committed to speaking out” against what it calls the pervasive “biased reporting, media stereotypes, and the criminalization of Arabs and Muslims.” Its staff and Board have developed a Speakers’ Bureau of experts on these issues from throughout the Chicago area, speakers who have made many presentations to audiences at schools, universities, churches, community centers, and corporations. Moreover, they facilitate workshops and “provide training to agencies on the provision of culturally appropriate human services to our community.”
In early 2005, AAAN co-sponsored an art exhibit titled "The Subject of Palestine." Held at DePaul University and featuring the works of ten Palestinian artists, the exhibit's central theme was "the compelling and continuing tragedy of Palestinian life ... under [Israeli] occupation ... home demolition ... statelessness ... bereavement ... martyrdom, and ... the heroic struggle for life, for safety, and for freedom."
AAAN’s hostile view of the Jewish state is further manifest in the organization’s reference to Israel’s creation in 1948 as Al Nakba (“The Catastrophe”). In collaboration with the American Friends Service Committee, AAAN recently initiated a project titled “Al Nakba: 1948 As Experienced by Chicago Palestinians.” This venture solicits photographs, letters, and verbal accounts of local Palestinians’ recollections about their sufferings immediately before, during, and after Israel’s establishment.