The National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) was established on November 29, 2003 in Washington, DC, under the leadership of its founding chairman and national coordinator, Elias Rashmawi. Viewing the United States as a nation rife with discrimination against ethnic minorities, NCA seeks to: (a) help Arab Americans assert their “national presence as a community from coast to coast”; (b) ensure that their “Arab heritage, culture, and identity are fully respected and cherished”; and (c) help put an end to the “collective criminalization” and “racial and religious profiling” of Arabs and Muslims.
Just prior to the Iraq War in 2003, one NCA missive stated: “Regardless of the source, the notion that the people of Iraq ‘need some form of Western intervention,’ even if temporary, to secure their very own stability is overtly racist and a real threat to civilization.” “We are unequivocal in our rejection of war,” added an NCA anti-war manifesto later in 2003, calling for America’s immediate, unilateral withdrawal from Iraq and exhorting the U.S. to renounce its “militarism and colonial expansions.”
That same manifesto was also decidedly hostile to Israel—advocating the suspension of all forms of U.S. economic, political, and military support for the Jewish state, while demanding that Palestinians be granted a full “right of return” without further delay. Moreover, NCA allied itself with International ANSWER to campaign against the construction of the Israeli security fence in the West Bank, which they dubbed an “Apartheid Wall.”
Among NCA’s more noteworthy projects in its early years were the following:
* The Defense of Civil Rights in Academia Project, launched in 2004, was aimed at “proactively defending and securing the rights of the Arab American academic community, students, faculty and staff.” Supporters of the initiative included Hatem Bazian, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Michael Shehadeh, and Khalid Turaani.
* The Legal Defense Project consisted of a program where participating attorneys made themselves available for free initial consultations with Arab American clients; a legal hotline that provided information in Arabic and English “on immigration policies and procedures that may directly affect the Arab-American community”; a program designed “to safeguard and promote the civil rights of … Arab Americans living in the United States”; and a nationwide speakers’ bureau “devoted to bringing civil rights issues faced by Arab Americans to the fore.”
* The Arab American History Project featured a committee of academics and community activists who helped some 100 students across the United States to “document the experience of 100 personalities representing the cumulative experience of our [Arab American] people in the U.S.”
On August 12, 2006, NCA took part in a large-scale protest against “the U.S.-Israeli assault” on “Lebanon and Palestine”—a reference to Israel’s then-active war against Hezbollah and Hamas. The demonstrators chanted, “Occupation is a crime, from Lebanon to Palestine!” Other participating organizations included Al-Awda, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Green Party, International ANSWER, the Muslim American Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Women in Black.
That same day, NCA vice chair Mounzer Sleiman addressed more than 30,000 demonstrators at a parallel rally on the streets around the White House. His fellow speakers included Brian Becker, Mahdi Bray, Ramsey Clark, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, and Clovis Maksoud.
At a March 20, 2010 rally in Washington, DC—marking the seventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—NCA vice chair Mounzer Sleiman condemned America’s “seven years of destruction”; claimed that the Arab and Islamic world had become “a killing field for the [U.S.] war machine”; declared that it was “time to liquidate the military project [and] the empire”; lamented that the Palestinian people were “still under seige” at the hands of Israel; stated that “the Arab and Muslim community in this country” was likewise “under seige” and living in constant “fear”; and called on the U.S. to spend its money “on education, on fighting poverty, on health care, on fighting the degradation of the environment” rather than on military purposes.
At various times over the years, NCA has had chapters in Chicago, Los Angeles, Massachusetts, New York, Sacramento, and San Diego. Since 2011, the Council’s activities have been sparse.
For additional information on NCA, click here.