By Marwan Ahmad

Khalil Jahshan is a Palestinian American political analyst and media commentator who also is serves at the current Executive Director for the Arab Center Washington DC. He has also held many positions  in Arab American organizations such as the Vice President of the American Committee on Jerusalem, President of the National Association of Arab Americans, National Director of Arab-American graduates just to name a few. He has also appeared on both english and arabic speaking news channels to give insight and analysis on political issues. This month Hayat Washington had the pleasure of meeting with Khalil Jahshan at the Arab Center Washington DC.

What made you decide to come to the United States to  study political science and did that help you in what you do today?

I wasn’t the first one, there were people that had preceded me in coming to the United States and studying this field.  These people played a key role in our community and sought a voice for the Arab American community in this country. It was unusual for an Arab to come to the the United States to study in this field, however it was not unheard of. I had a personal yearning for understanding why things played out the way they did in Palestine and why there is this international policy of neglect towards the Palestinians. In contrast to support for the Israeli side, particularly during the 1970’s, which is when I attended school here. The period was very turbulent, because frankly the war of 1967 was a very serious turning point for the Palestinian cause and the role of the Arab American Community. It prompted Arab American leaders to came together to question why things happened the way they had. These leaders concluded that the lack of objective information regarding Arab issues was the major problem. They felt that an organization needed to be established to address these problems. So, they created the Arab American University Graduate organization, which became a small Think Tank based in Massachusetts.

Do you think we are better off today than we were in the past?

I would say in some respects we are better off today in terms of the knowledge, experience and impact of the community. We are a lot more sophisticated today as an ethnic immigrant community. But I would say this isn’t the golden age of involvement by the community. We were certainly better off in terms of involvement and quality of impact in the past than we are today.

In terms of the community, can  you compare today’s community with the community in the past?

The community was influenced by the nationalist Arab thinking of the 60’s and 70’s. The Arab world was going through Arab nationalism and that seeped into the community here and lasted for  quite a long time. Arab Nationalism became the motivating force that brought together diverse ethnic, religious and geographic components within the community. Arab Nationalistic thought produced a common agenda and that common agenda tended to unify the community. Later on though there were competing forces that emerged. There has been a disintegration over the years of this nationalist unifying element.

Who represents the Arab American community today and speaks upon its behalf?

We do not have one unifying voice today, each person speaks for his own. We did have a short period of time over the past 30 years where there were some organizations who would represent the community. Today though it is such that nobody can truly speak on behalf of the Arab American Community, but there are multiple voices. In a way this is positive because we live in a democratic society where nobody owns the voice of an ethnic community in an individualistic society like America.

Did national Arab organizations fail to offer communities across the U.S. what they were looking for or is there a different issue?

There aret two issues. There was a series of failures in representing the community, but failures of mostly adjusting to change. We found ourselves as a community in this tug of war between our Arab Culture and our newly adopted American Culture. Some organizations were then deemed irrelevant due to the difference in where the community mindset was and what the organization’s goals were. The other issue is that we do not have a long term strategy. We focus on the latest issues and conflicts that come up. As new generations came into the Arab American Community, they began to lose interest and commitment to issues. Although we have gained a lot, this problem has hampered our progress.

Who does the United States Government approach from the Arab American organizations?

During the crisis in 1982, the invasion of Lebanon, the Arab American Community came together instinctively to form a unique organization called the Council of Presidents of National Arab American Organizations. We invited the major organization at the highest level and formed an organization where we could speak in unison as a community because on this issue we agreed. We used to meet with Presidents, Vice Presidents and Secretaries of State of the United States to make it easier for them to listen to you, as well as to make it easier for you as a community to express your desires. Unfortunately, it fizzled due to failure to institutionalize it, differences between the organizations and disintegration of Arab American political efforts and so there is no equivalent today.

Hayat Washington would like to thank both Khalil Jahshan as well as the Arab Center Washington DC for their time in allowing us to interview them and providing great insight in today’s issues for the Arab American Community at large.

‬بقلم‭ ‬مروان‭ ‬احمد

خليل‭ ‬جهشان‭ ‬محلل‭ ‬سياسي‭ ‬فلسطيني‭ ‬أمريكي‭ ‬ومعلق‭ ‬إعلامي‭ ‬يعمل‭ ‬أيضا‭ ‬كمدير‭ ‬تنفيذي‭ ‬للمركز‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬بواشنطن‭ ‬العاصمة‭. ‬شغل‭ ‬جهشان‭ ‬العديد‭ ‬من‭ ‬المناصب‭ ‬في‭ ‬المنظمات‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬الأمريكية‭ ‬فكان‭ ‬نائب‭ ‬رئيس‭ ‬اللجنة‭ ‬الأمريكية‭ ‬للقدس‭ ‬ورئيس‭ ‬الجمعية‭ ‬الوطنية‭ ‬للأمريكيين‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬والمدير‭ ‬الوطني‭ ‬للخريجين‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬الأمريكيين‭ ‬على‭ ‬سبيل‭ ‬المثال‭ ‬لا‭ ‬الحصر‭. ‬كما‭ ‬ظهر‭ ‬على‭ ‬القنوات‭ ‬الإخبارية‭ ‬الناطقة‭ ‬بالإنجليزية‭ ‬والعربية‭ ‬لإلقاء‭ ‬الضوء‭ ‬على‭ ‬القضايا‭ ‬السياسية‭ ‬وتحليلها‭. ‬في‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬الشهر‭ ‬تسعد‭ ‬حياة‭ ‬واشنطن‭ ‬باللقاء‭ ‬مع‭ ‬خليل‭ ‬جهشان‭ ‬في‭ ‬المركز‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬بواشنطن‭ ‬العاصمة‭.‬

ما‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬جعلك‭ ‬تقرر‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تأتي‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬لدراسة‭ ‬العلوم‭ ‬السياسية‭ ‬وهل‭ ‬ساعدك‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬في‭ ‬ما‭ ‬تفعله‭ ‬اليوم؟

لم‭ ‬أكن‭ ‬أول‭ ‬واحد،‭ ‬كان‭ ‬هناك‭ ‬أشخاص‭ ‬سبقوني‭ ‬في‭ ‬القدوم‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬ودراسة‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬المجال‭. ‬لعب‭ ‬هؤلاء‭ ‬الناس‭ ‬دورا‭ ‬رئيسيا‭ ‬في‭ ‬مجتمعنا‭ ‬وسعوا‭ ‬وراء‭ ‬خلق‭ ‬صوت‭ ‬مسموع‭ ‬للمجتمع‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬في‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬البلد‭. ‬كان‭ ‬من‭ ‬غير‭ ‬المعتاد‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يأتي‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬للدراسة‭ ‬في‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬المجال،‭ ‬ولكنه‭ ‬لم‭ ‬يكن‭ ‬أمرا‭ ‬مستحيلا‭. ‬كان‭ ‬لي‭ ‬توقاً‭ ‬شخصياً‭ ‬لفهم‭ ‬كيف‭ ‬آلت‭ ‬الأمور‭ ‬إلي‭ ‬ما‭ ‬آلت‭ ‬إليه‭ ‬في‭ ‬فلسطين،‭ ‬ولماذا‭ ‬هناك‭ ‬سياسة‭ ‬عدم‭ ‬إهتمام‭ ‬دولية‭ ‬تجاه‭ ‬الفلسطينيين‭ ‬على‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬دعم‭ ‬الجانب‭ ‬الإسرائيلي،‭ ‬وخاصة‭ ‬خلال‭ ‬السبعينات،‭ ‬وهو‭ ‬الوقت‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬حضرت‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬المدرسة‭ ‬هنا‭ . ‬كانت‭ ‬الفترة‭ ‬مضطربة‭ ‬جدا،‭ ‬بسبب‭ ‬حرب‭ ‬عام‭ ‬1967‭ ‬بالطبع‭ ‬والتي‭ ‬كانت‭ ‬نقطة‭ ‬تحول‭ ‬خطيرة‭ ‬جدا‭ ‬بالنسبة‭ ‬للقضية‭ ‬الفلسطينية‭ ‬ودور‭ ‬الجالية‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬الأمريكية‭. ‬مما‭ ‬دفع‭ ‬الزعماء‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬الأمريكيين‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الإجتماع‭ ‬والتساؤل‭ ‬عن‭ ‬سبب‭ ‬حدوث‭ ‬هذا‭. ‬وخلص‭ ‬هؤلاء‭ ‬القادة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬أن‭ ‬عدم‭ ‬وجود‭ ‬معلومات‭ ‬موضوعية‭ ‬بشأن‭ ‬القضايا‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬وهو‭ ‬المشكلة‭ ‬الرئيسية‭. ‬ورأوا‭ ‬أن‭ ‬هناك‭ ‬حاجة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬إنشاء‭ ‬منظمة‭ ‬لمعالجة‭ ‬مثل‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬المشاكل‭. ‬فقاموا‭ ‬بإنشاء‭ ‬مؤسسة‭ ‬الخريجين‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬الأمريكيين،‭ ‬التي‭ ‬أصبحت‭ ‬مؤسسة‭ ‬فكرية‭ ‬صغير‭ ‬مقرها‭ ‬في‭ ‬ماساتشوستس

هل‭ ‬تعتقد‭ ‬أننا‭ ‬أفضل‭ ‬حالا‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬مما‭ ‬كنا‭ ‬عليه‭ ‬في‭ ‬الماضي؟

في‭ ‬بعض‭ ‬النواحي،‭ ‬نحن‭ ‬أفضل‭ ‬حالا‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬من‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬المعرفة‭ ‬والخبرة‭ ‬والتأثير‭ ‬في‭ ‬المجتمع‭. ‬نحن‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬أكثر‭ ‬تطورا‭ ‬بكثير‭ ‬كمجتمع‭ ‬عرقي‭ ‬مهاجر‭. ‬ولكنني‭ ‬أقول‭ ‬إن‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬ليس‭ ‬العصر‭ ‬الذهبي‭ ‬للإندماج‭ ‬في‭ ‬المجتمع‭. ‬كنا‭ ‬بالتأكيد‭ ‬أفضل‭ ‬في‭ ‬الماضي‭ ‬من‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬الإندماج‭ ‬ونوعية‭ ‬التأثير‭ ‬مما‭ ‬نحن‭ ‬عليه‭ ‬اليوم‭.‬

من‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬المجتمع،‭ ‬هل‭ ‬يمكن‭ ‬مقارنة‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬بالمجتمع‭ ‬في‭ ‬الماضي؟

تأثر‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬بالفكر‭ ‬القومي‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬في‭ ‬الستينات‭ ‬والسبعينات‭. ‬لقد‭ ‬كان‭ ‬العالم‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬متأثراً‭ ‬بحركة‭ ‬القومية‭ ‬العربية،‭ ‬وتغلغل‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬في‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬هنا‭ ‬واستمر‭ ‬لفترة‭ ‬طويلة‭. ‬وأصبحت‭ ‬القومية‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬القوة‭ ‬الدافعة‭ ‬التي‭ ‬جمعت‭ ‬عناصر‭ ‬عرقية‭ ‬ودينية‭ ‬وجغرافية‭ ‬متنوعة‭ ‬داخل‭ ‬المجتمع‭. ‬أدى‭ ‬الفكر‭ ‬القومي‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬وضع‭ ‬أجندة‭ ‬مشترك‭ ‬فادت‭ ‬الأجندة‭ ‬المشتركة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬توحيد‭ ‬المجتمع‭. ‬بمرور‭ ‬الوقت،‭ ‬على‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬ظهور‭ ‬قوى‭ ‬متنافسة،‭ ‬فقد‭ ‬بدأ‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬العنصر‭ ‬الوطني‭ ‬الموحد‭ ‬للمجتمع‭ ‬يتفكك‭ ‬على‭ ‬مر‭ ‬السنين‭.‬

من‭ ‬يمثل‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬ويتحدث‭ ‬باسمه؟

ليس‭ ‬لدينا‭ ‬صوت‭ ‬واحد‭ ‬اليوم،‭ ‬كل‭ ‬شخص‭ ‬يتحدث‭ ‬باسمه‭. ‬كانت‭ ‬هناك‭ ‬بعض‭ ‬المنظمات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تمثل‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬في‭ ‬فترة‭ ‬قصيرة‭ ‬من‭ ‬الزمن‭ ‬على‭ ‬مدى‭ ‬السنوات‭ ‬ال‭ ‬30‭ ‬الماضية‭. ‬ولكن‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬على‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬أنه‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يمكن‭ ‬لأحد‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يتكلم‭ ‬بالنيابة‭ ‬عن‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬حقاً،‭ ‬ولكن‭ ‬يوجد‭ ‬أصوات‭ ‬متعددة‭.‬‭ ‬وبطريقة‭ ‬ما‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬أمر‭ ‬إيجابي‭ ‬لأننا‭ ‬نعيش‭ ‬في‭ ‬مجتمع‭ ‬ديمقراطي‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يمكن‭ ‬لأحد‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يمتلك‭ ‬مجتمع‭ ‬عرقي‭ ‬في‭ ‬مجتمع‭ ‬فردي‭ ‬كأمريكا‭.‬

هل‭ ‬فشلت‭ ‬المنظمات‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬في‭ ‬تقديمها‭ ‬ما‭ ‬تبحث‭ ‬عنه‭ ‬الجالية‭ ‬في‭ ‬جميع‭ ‬أنحاء‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬أو‭ ‬هل‭ ‬هناك‭ ‬مشكلة‭ ‬اخرى؟

هناك‭ ‬مشكلتان‭. ‬كانت‭ ‬هناك‭ ‬سلسلة‭ ‬من‭ ‬الإخفاقات‭ ‬في‭ ‬تمثيل‭ ‬الجالية،‭ ‬ولكن‭ ‬معظمها‭ ‬إخفاقات‭ ‬في‭ ‬التكيف‭ ‬مع‭ ‬التغيير‭. ‬لقد‭ ‬وجدنا‭ ‬أنفسنا‭ ‬كمجتمع‭ ‬في‭ ‬خضم‭ ‬حرب‭ ‬الشد‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬بين‭ ‬ثقافتنا‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬وثقافتنا‭ ‬الأمريكية‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تبنيناها‭ ‬حديثا‭. ‬واعتبرت‭ ‬بعض‭ ‬المنظمات‭ ‬غير‭ ‬ذات‭ ‬صلة‭ ‬بالمجتمع‭ ‬بسبب‭ ‬اختلاف‭ ‬عقلية‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬عن‭ ‬أهداف‭ ‬المنظمة‭. ‬المشكلة‭ ‬الأخرى‭ ‬هي‭ ‬أنه‭ ‬ليس‭ ‬لدينا‭ ‬استراتيجية‭ ‬طويلة‭ ‬الأجل‭. ‬فنحن‭ ‬نركز‭ ‬على‭ ‬أحدث‭ ‬القضايا‭ ‬والصراعات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تنشأ‭ ‬ونهمل‭ ‬القديم‭ ‬منها‭. ‬ومع‭ ‬دخول‭ ‬الأجيال‭ ‬الجديدة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬الأمريكي،‭ ‬يبدأون‭ ‬بفقدان‭ ‬الإهتمام‭ ‬والالتزام‭ ‬بتلك‭ ‬القضايا‭. ‬وعلى‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬أننا‭ ‬اكتسبنا‭ ‬الكثير،‭ ‬فإن‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬المشكلة‭ ‬أعاقت‭ ‬تقدمنا‭.‬

من‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬تتعامل‭ ‬معه‭ ‬حكومة‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬من‭ ‬المنظمات‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬الأمريكية؟

خلال‭ ‬غزو‭ ‬لبنان‭ ‬عام‭ ‬1982،‭ ‬اجتمع‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬بشكل‭ ‬غريزي‭ ‬لتشكيل‭ ‬منظمة‭ ‬فريدة‭ ‬من‭ ‬نوعها‭ ‬تسمى‭ ‬مجلس‭ ‬رؤساء‭ ‬المنظمات‭ ‬الوطنية‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬الأمريكية‭. ‬قمنا‭ ‬بدعوة‭ ‬المنظمة‭ ‬الرئيسية‭ ‬على‭ ‬أعلى‭ ‬مستوى،‭ ‬وشكلنا‭ ‬منظمة‭ ‬يمكننا‭ ‬فيها‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نتكلم‭ ‬في‭ ‬انسجام‭ ‬تام‭ ‬كمجتمع‭ ‬لأن‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬القضية‭ ‬جمعتنا‭. ‬كنا‭ ‬نجتمع‭ ‬مع‭ ‬الرؤساء‭ ‬ونواب‭ ‬الرؤساء‭ ‬ووزراء‭ ‬في‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬المتحدة‭ ‬لتسهيل‭ ‬وصول‭ ‬صوتنا‭ ‬إليهم،‭ ‬فضلا‭ ‬عن‭ ‬جعل‭ ‬التعبير‭ ‬عن‭ ‬الرأي‭ ‬أسهل‭ ‬بالنسبة‭ ‬لمجتمعنا‭. ‬ولسوء‭ ‬الحظ،‭ ‬تهاوت‭ ‬المنظمة‭ ‬بسبب‭ ‬عدم‭ ‬إضفاء‭ ‬الطابع‭ ‬المؤسسي‭ ‬عليها،‭ ‬والاختلافات‭ ‬بين‭ ‬المنظمات‭ ‬وتفكك‭ ‬الجهود‭ ‬السياسية‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬الأمريكية،‭ ‬ومن‭ ‬ثم‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يوجد‭ ‬ما‭ ‬يعادل‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬المنظمة‭ ‬اليوم‭.‬

تود‭ ‬حياة‭ ‬واشنطن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تشكر‭ ‬كل‭ ‬من‭ ‬خليل‭ ‬جهشان‭ ‬وكذلك‭ ‬المركز‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬بواشنطن‭ ‬العاصمة‭ ‬على‭ ‬السماح‭ ‬لنا‭ ‬بالأخذ‭ ‬من‭ ‬وقتهم‭ ‬لإجراء‭ ‬المقابلة‭ ‬لتقديم‭ ‬رؤية‭ ‬وبصيرة‭ ‬واضحة‭ ‬عن‭ ‬القضايا‭ ‬التي‭ ‬يمر‭ ‬بها‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬العربي‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬ككل‭.‬