"ADC Banquet Honors HE Amre Moussa in Washington" + speeches

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Posted by Alli ( on February 11, 2002 at 11:03:25:

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) hosted a banquet dinner honoring His Excellency Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, on February 5 in the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz Carlton Hotel located in Pentagon City, Virginia.

The event opened with introductory remarks by ADC Vice President Khalil E. Jahshan. Following dinner and music by Simon Shaheen and Qantara, ADC President Ziad Asali, MD, addressed the audience. Dr. Asali praised the democratic system the United States was built upon, and said that it is incumbent on all Americans to continuously strive to make our system as perfect as it can be. He encouraged all Americans to be active and responsible citizens in this period of heightened national security concerns by participating in the public debate and in the shaping of U.S. policies. Dr. Asali concluded, “Our goals will not be achieved by pleading and by scoring debating points, but by our active participation in local and national civic, political and cultural arenas. We have been increasingly playing a role that reflects our presence and our commitments. The time of our self-marginalization has come to an end, and we will see to it that our ideas get the hearing they deserve.” After a brief introduction by Dr. Asali, His Excellency Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States gave the keynote address. The Secretary General began by thanking ADC for its work in defense of Arab Americans and promoting the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs. He wholeheartedly agreed with Dr. Asali that our time of self-marginalization must end. He then expressed enthusiastic support over the growing cooperation between Arab Americans and the Arab world by establishing bridges of understanding between the United States and Arab countries. The Secretary General offered specific approaches to achieving closer communication with the Arab-American community, including the establishment of liaison offices in several U.S. states for the Arab League.

The Secretary General emphasized the importance of activating the Congress of Arab-American Organizations to coordinate the activities of the Arab-American community. He also announced the first Arab Economic Conference, and the Arab League’s plan to convene a Global Conference on U.S. –Arab Relations in the United States in Spring 2003.

Finally, Mr. Moussa discussed the current situation in the Middle East by stating that the problem in the region will be solved only through serious negotiations. He emphasized that as long as Israel practices occupation, Palestine will practice resistance. The Secretary General called on the U.S. to be an honest broker in resolving the conflict. He expressed his appreciation to Secretary of State Colin Powell for the positive vision for peaceful coexistence he outlined in his Louisville, Kentucky speech November 19, 2001. Following a clear portrayal of the Arab dream of creating a peaceful, stable and secure Middle East, he concluded by saying, “Let us seize this opportunity to be builders, not destroyers. Let us reinforce the spirit of genuine dialogue and avoid the notion of clash. Let us all work together collectively towards a shared vision of a better future for us and for generations to come.”

The program concluded when Khalil E. Jahshan and Dr. Ziad Asali presented HE Amre Moussa with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Recognition of his Distinguished Service to the Arab World and the Cause of Peace.

Some of the distinguished guests of the evening included the host of the dinner His Excellency Ambassador Bader Al-Dafa of Qatar, in addition to the Ambassadors of Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and the Chief Representative of the Palestinian Authority. Also in attendance was Prince Faisal bin Salman Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. The following members of Congress, Nick Joe Rahall, Darell Issa, and Cynthia McKinney also attended the dinner. Other guests included Assistant Attorney General Ralph Boyd, Ambassador Chris Ross, and Aaron Miller of the State Department. DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey was also in attendance as a special guest of ADC.

Text of ADC President Ziad Asali's Address at the Banquet Honoring HE Amre Moussa

Your Excellency Amre Mousa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Your Excellency Ambassador Badr Al Dafa our host for the evening, Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Members of Congress, Honored Guests, it is my singular honor, to welcome you on behalf of the National Board and members of ADC, the National Association of Arab Americans.

Arab Americans have several reasons to be proud. We are proud to be American citizens, full fledged partners in this great human experiment that is America. The simple and central concepts of freedom, liberty and rule of law have been the guiding principles upon which this whole society and system of governance have been built. This system has generated so much acceptance, dignity and abundance for its citizens, including Arab Americans, as it engendered political influence for this country which has become the only standing Superpower. This system is dynamic, pragmatic and open and it lends itself to be molded and challenged. It is up to us, all of us, as citizens of this great nation, as we enjoy its manifest privileges and rights, to strive to make this Union a more perfect one.

It is incumbent upon us as active and responsible citizens to contribute to the public debate, and to try to shape policies when security of our nation has assumed paramount importance in the consciousness of the American people after the horrendous events of September 11.

Cognizant at all times of our security needs, we should strike a balance that precludes the adoption of foreign policies that might put our national interest in jeopardy, or domestic ones that might sharpen the divide between our ideals and our deeds.

At this time of great danger and instability for the world, with talk of expanded war in the air, and with emotions running high, let it be said that the American people stand together against terrorism and for a world order based on justice and peace. Let us make certain it is also said some of us have raised our voices to speak of the need to address festering issues that breed despair and terror. Let it also be said that we have counseled for a deeper understanding of the concerns of the silent majority of the Arab world, and for an awareness of their sense of injured dignity. We have counseled that this understanding and awareness be reflected in policies adopted, and statements made, by our national leaders.

We are proud also of being the descendants of the great Arab Islamic culture, which has given so much to world civilization, and to the legacy of humankind in all spheres of knowledge and achievement. We will not stand by in silence, as we witness the so-called experts and pundits, reduce this multi-textured and rich civilization, and Islam, the faith of its majority, to a two dimensional portrayal of backwardness and terrorism. We are proud of the tireless and selfless efforts of millions of people to build more just societies, and to expand the circles of freedom, across the Arab World. As we acknowledge criticism, regardless of its source or the agenda of those who voice it, of countries and people of the Arab World for lack of democracy, we must draw lessons from the tragic events of September 11. We need to deprive extremists of the opportunity to exploit the sense of humiliation and despair of individuals alienated by an incendiary mix of religion and oppositional politics. National priorities in the Arab World have to be rearranged for inclusion and for enlightenment.

But above all we are proud to be Arab Americans. A community that has blended the best of both cultures with its love universal family values and love of freedom. A community whose men and women have made significant contributions to our great nation in all spheres of human endeavor. A community that is proud of its heritage and its country, that understands both cultures, and wishes them both the best. A community that sees itself as a bridge of understanding and also a mirror that we hold for each culture to view itself, as it faces simplistic and unkind images of the other. It is our unending task to foster goodwill and to promote avenues for friendship and mutual benefit. Those who call for clash of civilizations, on both sides of the waters, do damage to all by their words and by their deeds. We tell the "clashists" and doomsayers on both sides that they are on the wrong side of history. We tell them that the march of humanity, after the passing of the dark clouds, is for tolerance and for mutual understanding and for exploring opportunities of shared prosperity.

We, as Christian and Muslim Arab Americans, are here to say that we are proud citizens of this country and will yield no grounds to anyone who would diminish our standing. We truly appreciate the efforts of the Administration and in extending protection to our community at this time of crisis. We are also very proud of the civil liberties achieved for people in this country following a glorious record of sacrifice and wise choices made by generations of people in the civil rights community. We do perceive a real threat to our civil liberties, but are confident that with hard work and wisdom, and by forging alliances across this great land, we will reverse this threat. We pledge that we will work hard to erase the gap between the ideals and principles embedded in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the realities of the lives of so many law abiding people.

Our goals will not be achieved by pleading and by scoring debating points, but by our active participation in local and national civic, political and cultural arenas. We have been increasingly playing a role that reflects our presence and our commitments. The time of our self- marginalization has come to an end, and we will see to it that our ideas will get the hearing they deserve.

We are proud tonight to honor a man amongst us who is the standard bearer of Arab consensus, a diplomat with a most distinguished record of achievement in Egyptian and Arab politics, a statesman who maneuvers his way in a minefield with the sure hand of a veteran captain. A man who had a song made about him that sold 4 million copies. How many politicians can claim that?

It is my distinct privilege to introduce to you, H.E. Secretary General Amre Moussa.


Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentelmen,

It gives me great pleasure to address this distinguished gathering of Arab Americans and other friends. I am glad to see so many familiar faces today and hope to get acquainted with many more of you. I am honored to be the guest of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC); the work that ADC does is so very important.

I would like to tell you at the outset how impressed I am with your enthusiasm to participate in our efforts to forge stronger links and establish new bridges of cooperation and understanding between America and the Arab world. I am particularly pleased to have received so many proposals and initiatives for the advancement of the Arab-American friendship. The Arab League is, as we speak, studying and working with some of these ideas in order to turn them into feasible ideas.

As many of you may be aware, since I assumed my position as Secretary General of the League of Arab States, I have attached great importance to engaging Arab Americans and other communities of Arab origin around the world. To this end, I paid two visits to the US last October and November, during which I addressed various Arab-American communities in New York, Washington, and Michigan.

I truly appreciate the serious efforts that ADC and other Arab-American groups have recently devoted to bridging the gap between the image and reality of the Arab world. Your concerted efforts to identify the common values shared by all civilizations and to underline the fact that what unites far exceeds what divides have been received with much gratitude in the Arab world.

Your active role in urging the media to adopt a more objective and responsible stance in projecting the image of our peoples and to refrain from stereotyping is indispensable. Your endeavors to fight against cultural and religious fanaticism are reciprocated by many similar efforts in the Arab world.

I am also here to discuss your relationship with the Arab world, the Arab League's role in this respect and how effectively and constructively we can cooperate in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all aware of the hardships you endured in the wake of the attacks of September 11. Admirably, you have dealt well with a difficult and unprecedented situation, without having to compromise either your sense of belonging to your country of citizenship, the US, nor your affinity to your rich Arab heritage.

In doing so, you were not alone. It is only fair to state the facts. You had the full support of your government. The clear statements made by President Bush about the need to preserve the rights of Arab Americans, his visits to Arab and Muslim centers and the very positive and strong statements made by Secretary of State Colin Powell were all clear messages regarding your indisputable attachment to American society and the government's commitment to ensure your fair rights.

We in the Arab world see you as Americans, as part and parcel of the American fabric. You should never give this up. At the same time, you have to let the American people know that you are proud of being of Arab origin, you are proud of your heritage, just as much as we are proud to have you as the link between the Arab world and the US.

As Arab Americans, your community has embodied an ideal blending of American and Arab cultural values and traditions. Your contribution in shaping future American ideals and policies towards the Arab and Muslim worlds is of immense importance.

It is your destiny to carry this legacy and to continue acting as a formidable bridge between the Arab world and America. You can illuminate the many blind spots on both sides, not just as Arabs or Westerners, but as people who belong to one human civilization. In doing so, you are sending a message of tolerance. You are conveying a message of faith in yourselves, faith in the good and authentic qualities of your Arab roots, standing firm in the face of the forces trying to tarnish them.

We in the Arab world also have a big job ahead of us. We are building a new Arab order in the fullest meaning of the word. One where Arab collective work is based on concrete mutual interests an not merely on rhetoric. One where reforms in various social and political fields are warmly embraced and one where the great Arab values and ideals are projected in no uncertain terms. In this endeavor, we intend to reach out to you and to benefit from the great experience you have acquired in the different walks of life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, since the day that I assumed my responsibilities at the Arab League, I have strived for a closer rapport with Arab Americans. And during the past few months, I have made many contacts and conducted much research to assess the possibilities for us working together to jumpstart this link. Today, I would like to share with you some ideas we have seriously been considering.

First, the time has come to establish key focal points as liaison with the Arab League in the US. These focal points are none other than members of the Arab-American community. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that your friend and my very good friend Mr. Nasser Beydoun is going to be our first liaison, Nasser will be the liaison for Michigan. His task is huge, but he is very able and I am confident that he will do an excellent job.

Liaison representatives will soon be named in the various states with significant Arab American communities and we hope that through them we can lay the ground work for a better dialogue and a more productive working relationship between the Arab world and the United States.

In addition, and for too long, the Arab League office in Washington has had no permanent Ambassador. I do intend to redress the situation in the near future.

Second, the time has also come, as you may agree, to start working on the formation of a Congress for the heads of Arab-American organizations. Coming together is what these organizations need to do now. This would be in the interest of every member of the Arab-American community, and would build yet another bridge of cooperation with the Arab world. And, for my part, I can promise that the Arab League will do all it can to engage this new body and to open as many doors as possible for it in the Arab world.

Dear friends, to further boost our ties and cooperation we need to work together to set up volunteer projects in many different fields. Our cooperation should not be confined to cultural issues, as important as they may be. We could set up many formats for cooperation in the areas of IT, a field of growing interest in the Arab world, as well as in several other vital areas.

To fully unleash the Arab economic potential, I would like to inform you that the Arab League, in cooperation with the Egyptian government and in accordance with the Amman Summit resolutions, is now preparing to host the first Arab Economic Conference at the league headquarters in mid-June this year. It is the first-ever international economic conference focused on the Arab private sector. You are all invited to participate at this event that is being organized with the World Economic Forum and is expected to draw quite a large attendance. It is a great match-making opportunity, Arab and non-Arab businessmen will be going out on a blind date. And, we are sure that they are going to click-business will be made.

Finally, we are coordinating with the many Arab-American organizations, including ADC, AAI, and the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, for the convening of a Global Conference on US-Arab Relations in the US in the spring of 2003. This conference will capitalize on the resources of Arab Americans, to become an effective bridge that encourages dialogue, creates economic opportunity and builds better understanding between the United States and the Arab world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to now address the heartbreaking situation in the Middle East. There has never been in modern history a more intractable conflict as the Arab-Israeli conflict. It has been plagued over the years not only by realities on the ground, but also by special interests of external powers in the region, the rivalry of the cold war, and even by internal politics in countries thousands of miles away. Election years, polls, the media, lobbyists, and interest groups have always had an effect on the degree and quality of the great powers involvement in this grueling conflict.

Decades of experience in the peace process has left me convinced of several facts. First, the Middle East problem will never be solved through wars and bloodshed…but through serious negotiations. Second, these negotiations do need the active involvement of the US in particular; through the role of honest broker…any other role would certainly have a harmful effect and would end in failure. We have often heard that the only solution is one that is acceptable to both parties. True, but what if the occupier refuses to end the occupation? What is he insists on unfair conditions? It is then the role of the third party and the international community at large to guarantee a just solution and guarantee the rights of the weaker party.

And today like no other time before, the international community and the US in particular are called upon to come to the help of the Palestinians. To shed light on how miserable conditions in the Occupied Territories have become, suffice to quote what hundreds of Israeli Army reservists have said in exercising their right of conscientious objection to serving in the Occupied Territories and I quote, "We will no longer fight beyond the Green line for the purpose of occupying, deporting, destroying, blockading, killing, starving, and humiliating an entire people."

These conditions have led to a spiral of violence and counter-violence, with innocent civilians on both sides paying too exorbitant a price. It has been made clear that as long as the occupation continues, resistance shall continue. Occupation, by its very nature, breeds resistance. We cannot call on the Palestinians alone to stop the violence without addressing the other party to stop its atrocities and illegal occupation.

Having said that, it is essential to reiterate that civilians on both sides be spared in the conflict-a call that I have made repeatedly from the rostrum on the Arab League.

Dear friends, the Palestinian people, like other peoples are seeking to fulfill their natural aspirations of self determination and statehood. This entails ending occupation and reaching a balanced settlement that guarantees the right of both parties and preserves their security.

I am confident that both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples want a just peace and to end the dangerous state of affairs that has disrupted their lives and threatened their security. We all have to realize that what we face today is a real deadlock in the Arab Israeli conflict.

Despite the great discrepancy in the power of the two parties, no one party has emerged or would emerge victorious and no one party has been or would be vanquished. And the problem has not and will not go away. As the Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery has recently described it, it is a confrontation between an irresistible force and an immovable object. The greater pressure that you apply, the more steadfast and determined the other party becomes.

Ladies and gentlemen, amid the violence and despair of the last months, the US has rekindled some hope in the resumption of negotiations. I seize this opportunity to express our appreciation for the leadership of Secretary Powell has been exercising in this crisis and welcome the Secretary's positive vision outlined in his speech at Louisville on November 19. A vision where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in peace, dignity and security, and where the State of Palestine, a viable state of Palestine, will coexist next to the State of Israel. Secretary Powell made it very clear that resolving the Palestinian cause involves finding a balanced settlement of all outstanding issues, including Jerusalem, refugees, security and settlements. This is the political framework through which the current crisis in the Occupied Territories should be brought to an end, in a just and therefore lasting way.

We value the Secretary's contribution and believe that it makes an important landmark in US policy towards this conflict. More than ever before, the US role is now needed to break the cycle of violence and bring the partners back to the negotiating table. I strongly call from this podium that this vision turn into a roadmap for an immediate process of negotiation.

You may ask the question what if the Prime Minister of Israel refuses to settle or refuses to negotiate Jerusalem or refugees. What then? This, my friends, is the predicament we find ourselves in today. The Israeli government seems to believe that no one can pressure it to do anything and therefore, sees no need to give into any concessions. In fact, it believes the time is right to abrogate all the commitments of peace emanating from the Madrid peace process or the Oslo agreements.

I know however, for a fact, that if Israel refuses to compromise, it will never have a partner on the Palestinian or the Arab side as is the case today. Again, only a just and balanced peace can end this century-old antagonism between the Arabs and the Israelis. The US, through the role of honest broker, has a special responsibility in this regard.

I would like to end with the following note. At the close of the 20th century, we were probing the future of the Middle East under conditions of peace…ending 50 years of hostility and hatred…believing that the peoples of the region will step into the 21st century with hope for better economic and social circumstances. Yet, today we are faced with the worst scenario. Are we to endure another 50 years of conflict? God forbid…and all of us should work to forbid such a sad eventuality.

A few years ago, while addressing the Davos forum, I asked my audience to join me in thinking of what kind of a Middle East we would have when peace is achieved. We were talking of prosperity that would be enjoyed by all peoples of the region as they peacefully coexist. We spoke of a region that could put conflict behind its back and open up to the world, or actually be the center of the world. We were dreaming of a time when we no longer hear the news of violent confrontation or bloodshed. We were imagining how the generations who had lived through wars, who had to witness the bitterness and misery of the conflict, would live long enough to see peace and witness its fruits being enjoyed by all. We were visualizing a better future for our children and grandchildren, hoping that we could spare them having to go through what we suffered from. Today this dream has turned into a terrifying nightmare. Yet, we have not lost hope. The ultimate objective of diplomacy is to open very window of opportunity, to follow every ray of light and to pursue every road for peace, no matter how rugged it may be.

Two days ago in article published in the New York Times, President Yasser Arafat tabled a bold honest and comprehensive vision for peace. A warm peace in which two peoples and states would live side by side as equal neighbors and enjoying mutually beneficial economic and social cooperation. He states that despite the brutal repression of Palestinians over the last decades, he believes that when Israel sees Palestinians as equals and not as subjugated people upon whom it can impose its will, such a vision of a just peace can and must come true. He ends his article by invoking a power that is even greater that Israel's military power…the power of justice. I hope that this important manifesto outlined by President Arafat will not go unheeded.

My friends, we seek a secure, stable, and prosperous Middle East with open borders. No one is seeking to isolate Israel as long as Israel respects international legality and as long as it does not believe or act as if it is above the law. A stable and peaceful Middle East necessitates that we avoid new wars or attacks on any country in the region. We are of the strong conviction that the problems of the Middle East, whether related to the Arab Israeli conflict or any other Arab country can and should be resolved through a sound diplomatic and political process and through dialogue. The Middle East cannot afford to be thrown into another cycle of turmoil or instability. I do not exaggerate if I tell you this evening that we are truly at a historic crossroads in the development of our region. Let us seize this opportunity to be builders, not destroyers. Let us reinforce the spirit of genuine dialogue and avoid the notion of clash. Let us all work together collectively towards a shared vision of a better future for us and for generations to come.

Thank you

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