11 July 1990 Political activist letter
Dr. Mohammad Said,
Democratic State Delegate and Platform Member, 13th District,
Vice Chairman, Democratic Central Committee,
Grant County, Washington State, USA
To: Arab Americans, Palestinian Americans, and Muslim Americans.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Assalamu-AIIaikum
I am writing this letter as a political activist, President and Founder of newly formed political organization called the Palestinian-American Action Committee to convey to you my personal experience in the mainstream of American politics. I am like many of you, of Arab decent, and Palestinian background, with Islamic faith. Some of my friends and Arab American organizations asked me to make a brief history of my political involvement since they could not believe that a Palestinian American in a little town no more than eight thousand people in a rural area in Washington State can single-handedly accomplish so much, and be able to pass very important resolutions at the Washington Democratic Convention, held on June 9, 1990 in Spokane, Washington State, the only state in the nation to pass such important resolutions.
In the presence of more than 1500 delegates, who are considered the core of the Democratic party in the state, unprecedented victory was achieved when one resolution after another was adopted while my wife Nadia, who happened also be a delegate, was manning our table with signs and literature dealing with the Palestinian issues, and while my children Yasser, 13, Noor-Philastine, 12, and Hashem, 8, were distributing my letter to the delegates, with other literatures, in spite of the opposition of the mighty Pro-Israeli camp, including the AIPAC and ADL with their biggest gun of all, a letter signed by Congressmen, U.S. Senator, the Governor of the State, many state senators and elected officials of the state, 83 of them advocating a pro-Israeli stand, calling for a vote against self determination and statehood for the Palestinian people and bashing the Palestine Liberation Organization and 21 Arab States.
However, the convention overwhelmingly approved resolutions calling for a Palestinian statehood, self-determination, visa to Chairman Arafat, FAO resolution, hold Foreign aid to Israel, and resolutions on Chemical and Nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The resolution on Jerusalem was not put on the floor because of the time which passed almost 7 PM and therefore, with 12 others, were referred to the Democratic Central Committee when they meet in September of 1990, and I have no doubt that resolution would have passed overwhelmingly if it had come to the floor, and I am still hoping it will be passed by the Democratic Central Committee in September, and I am working on it.
How did it happen? Simple, a commitment in time and money. In other words, I had to do my homework, and I found that if you are committed to a cause and you are articulate, and well prepared, and if you are at the level of every stage of the political process. and if you present your case in a way easy to understand but with force, without any fear or any inferiority complex, the American people will respond favorably and overwhelmingly. I found the Americans are just average people like anybody else, fair minded, are willing to support a just cause in spite of the opposition from their elected officials.
Some of you may ask how I got involved, very simple, if you are in a State where there is a caucus, just go to your Caucus and get involved. It does not matter if it is Democratic or Republican. So in February of this year, when I called for a meeting of the Caucus in my office as precinct Committeeman, I had no illusions that many people would show up. Indeed, I persuaded my wife, who used to be a Republican, to change and register as a Democrat this time and to join me in my Caucus. I persuaded her to join me because 2 years ago, when I held my Caucus only 4 people showed up, they signed the official paper and left, and I was left alone to write all the planks and the resolutions, some of them went all the way to be adopted at the State Convention in Olympia, which dealt with the Palestinian self-determination and Statehood, and I went from a delegate elected in my Caucus by myself, to be on the Platform, and be elected by the State convention in Olympia to represent the whole state of Washington on the Democratic National Platform Committee and to be one of those 186 platform members who represented all of the United States, who drafted the Democratic Platform for Presidential aspirant at that time.
This year, I was very happy that my wife was the only other person in my Caucus, though in retrospect, I regret that, since had she stayed as a Republican, we would have introduced some important and similar resolutions at the Republican convention through her, since the Washington State Republican Party passed resolution reaffirming the unconditional support of Israel. We could not find anybody to carry some of our resolutions to the Convention.
With my wife’s support at our caucus we drafted and passed those important resolutions by ourselves, and both of us were elected by ourselves to be delegates to the County Convention and from there as delegates to the State, and myself as Platform member later on. Some of the resolutions we drafted such as in Health care, and Injured workers, were adopted at the State Convention and probably will go into the Legislature and be adopted in the State, and we are proud of this contribution. It is not that difficult. Everyone can register and attend any of these Caucuses, and remember, if you want to be something, if you want your voice to be heard in this country. there is only two ways: to vote, or to contribute in terms of time or money. If you don’t do any of those, you are nothing, and you are counted on us as a number only, as Arab-American, Palestinian-American or Muslim-American. It is very important to go every step on the way, otherwise your resolutions and planks will die out completely, especially on the Palestinian Israeli issue. You will find many people who are sympathetic to our cause, but they are not going to do the job for us, they simply are not brave enough, or maybe intimidated, not to present any of our resolutions. We have to be physically present at every stage of the political process: Caucus, County Convention, Legislative District Meeting, Platform Sub-Committee meeting, Platform, State Convention. etc. The presence of the Pro-Israeli, particularly from the Jewish community made a difference in their tremendous influence throughout the nation over the years, because no body was there to challenge them or to present our views.
Letters to delegates are a very important source of information, it is important that the letters be truthful, not a letter of numbers, or abstracts, with a personal experience and I have no doubt that many Palestinians had many experiences including personal tragedy and emotional upheaval just like I had. Don’t be defensive, be frank and courageous, mention everything by name, don’t be shy in mentioning Israel and its brutal suppression and its terrorist tactics.
I am getting sick and tired everywhere I go, to any Arab, Palestinian, or Muslim convention to hear again and again that nothing else could be done, that the Pro-Israeli in this country, particularly the Jewish Community are so powerful that they control the news media, etc., and I remind those people that this is true because they have been in the field alone, and nobody was there to present our ideas and our concern.
I say this to the Arab-Americans, 3 million of them in this country, what kind of a commitment do they have? How many Palestinian-Americans are in this country? Probably over 100,000, and I am sure lots of them are in every state and city, if we have only one in every city, and several in a state, if they are committed, and many of them are educated and articulate, they will make a difference. I say to Muslim-Americans who are more than 5 millions, who run tens, maybe hundreds of Mosques all over the nation, to get involved taking as examples the churches and the synagogues political activities. I have been to many Mosques and Islamic centers and unfortunately they are in their own shells, at the margin of American politics, their concern sometimes seem to be is more about Halal meet than about Jerusalem. Many of them claim to be fundamentalists, and their political activity is centered on prayers for victory and the curse of their enemies. But I tell them, my description of fundamentalism is to get out into the community and be active at every level. To carry out our message in this time of communications, satellites and faxes, this is a true Jihad, I say this because I myself have been involved in the Islamic organization all my life. I was the founder or the co-founder of the Islamic Student Organization in Europe, Spain, the Muslim Communities in Canada, the Islamic Medical Association in Europe and the USA, etc.. I never found any conflict of being involved in Arabic, Palestinian or US political organizations at the same time, such as Common Cause, ACLU, Peoples for the American Way, the Rainbow Coalition, MAD, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Nuclear Freeze, etc.. It is true, there is lots of negatives in this country, family disintegration, drugs, alcoholism, pornography, etc., and I am aware of those because I see those on a daily basis through treatment of my patients, however, I see lots of positives, a great country, which I consider the heart of the political and economic activity of this planet.
So if we want to change things in Africa, Asia or Europe, we change them through the United States, through their communications, their movies, their books, their satellites. I have been to many Islamic conventions and some of them about Palestine, and it is tragic that the people who attend those conventions from overseas and the USA are practically the same people who talk among themselves in Arabic yet they fail to carry this message to the most important sector, to the American people. They emphasize only on the negative, that nothing can be done here. They fail to understand that only in this country are they able to meet and discuss many issues which they cannot do in any Arab country. Their publications are only published through here and cannot be allowed freely, to be published in any Arab Country.
How do you start? First of all, you have to register as a voter, to any party of your choice, and attend rallies in your area, there is nothing special about it, there is little or no money involved, simply your time. My first involvement in the main stream of American politics, though I was active in politics all my life, was in 1984, when I volunteered for one week for Jessie Jackson, when he ran for President. I went to Iowa and I campaigned for him. I met with many people. He was very grateful for our contribution and effort at that time, when he was just starting to be known. When I came back from Iowa, I attended a Caucus in my area for the first time. We were only 4 people, the guest, his wife, myself and somebody else, we met in the kitchen and we passed some resolutions. That was my first taste, to be involved and be elected a delegate.
One other way to get involved is to join local service clubs such as Kiwanas, Rotary, Lions, etc. Some people object, and they think those clubs are Zionist inspired organizations, and some Islamic groups think those are a conspiracy against their faith, and I say it is completely false. I have been a Rotary for more than eight years, and we meet once a week, on Tuesday at 12, noon, to eat, then to discuss issues related to the community, to sponsor exchange students from overseas. I was chairman of the program many times. I talked at least 5 or 6 times about Palestine, about many issues related to the Arabs and Muslims. They were very pleased. They know I do not eat pork, so when we eat, they bring me special food. Isn’t this a way to convey your ideas and message, rather than be an isolated person?
Some of them might object to those clubs back home in the Arab or Muslim countries, I did attend some of those clubs over there, and indeed they are more elite type of clubs and I was not pleased with their way of services and their way of conducting their business, but in the United States, they are quite fair, they are open to anybody, and they are very pleased to have people from different cultures and background. Some of you might say that you are too busy, you don’t have time, but this is just an excuse not to do anything. I believe everybody has the time to spend 2 hours a week, which in my judgment will be sufficient to carry our ideas and messages to others. I am a busy doctor, my office one of the busiest in Eastern Washington State. I also run another satellite office and a daycare center and supervise my big ranch of more than 100 acres with livestock etc. and I still have time to do my worship. Some of you as professionals might be scared or intimidated to do any kind of political activity, but my experience has been the opposite, people appreciate getting involved and expressing my ideas.
You also could avoid campaigning activities right in the area where you work , however, most important, you have to be wide open, not just concentrate on Mid-East issues, but a broad spectrum of issues such as the environment, child care, drug and alcohol abuse. All of these are very popular and very important issues, they will get you right into the core of the political scene. Join groups with these objectives and work with them and our issues and concerns will be part of there agenda.
When Carter became President lots of us had great hopes that he would do something, but after he engineered the Camp David Accord, and after he mentioned in a little town in New England about the Suffering of the Palestinian people, he faded away. We were disappointed with his performance and we thought the Republicans would be forth coming, so when President Reagan came, we had great hope, but after his first term, with his strong support for Israel, we thought that in the second term, he would not be under pressure for re-election, so he would be more evenhanded, but our thinking and expectation was not correct. When President Bush came to office with John Sununu, the Chief of Staff, and George Mitchell the Majority Leader of the Senate, both of Arabic decent, we thought things would change, but nothing will change. The obstacle we are facing is not the White House, or Secretary of State, it is Congress with their subcommittees who decide the direction of foreign policy and the appropriation bills, and unless those are changed, nothing will change. The only way to change those congressmen and senators is through the grass roots from their states, like we did in Washington State. One state will not do very much unless other states join in so that many Senators and Congressmen, under pressure from their constituents start to introduce bills and legislation favorable to Self- Determination and Human Rights for the Palestinians which is a just cause in light of the US Constitution, traditional values and the national interest.
It is difficult to put all my ideas and plans in this letter, but I am available for advise, so write or call me. Finally, I am enclosing some important literature, including my letters and the resolutions which we passed. Also if you feel any of the enclosed materials are of interest please feel free to make copies and pass them along.
Mohammad H. Said, M.D., Ph.D.