The Ministry Of Higher Education Cultural Studies Essay

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The term Arab American is more ambiguous in meaning than first appears and covers different cultural groups, and immigrant generations. In addition to comprising people of many different faith backgrounds (e.g. Maronite/Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant Christians, Copts, Chaldeans as well as Druze, Sunni/Shi'a Muslims), the term covers also immigrants' national origins (e.g. Lebanese, Egyptians, Iraqis, Palestinians, Tunisians Yemenis, and more.) immigrants, and those who are American citizens (U.S. born generations: second, third, fourth, etc.) The term refers to immigrants who trace their origins to Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East and North Africa. [1] In other words, it refers to individuals speaking Arabic, whether as a mother tongue as it is the case for the pioneers who migrated to the new world, or as a language spoken at home while the first language is English. The second category includes Arab Americans from the second generation onward, who have English as their mother tongue because of their education while they speak Arabic, practice it a little, with their parents at home. This term includes also those who hardly speak any Arabic at all because as time goes by, the later generations lose the original language. [2] 

By studying Arab Americans and using this term, this research will not assume that all people from this region consider themselves Arab, or that Arab or Arab American signifies a cohesive and homogenous community. In fact, this is a highly mixed ethnic group both in terms of religion and country of origin. [3] In addition, this study does not suggest that there is a single unifying Arab identity, but to draw attention to the shared linguistic-cultural base of the different groups involved. There are multiple forms of "Arabness," as it is not felt and experienced in the same way by all Arab Americans, and its meaning may differ from one Arab to another living in the United States. For some, it is a very important part of their identities and they hold such an identity proudly, while for others it does not mean much because they do not care about their ethnic origins. For other Arabs, it is impossible to escape from the past so they are first Arabs, and then Americans. In addition, the meaning of being Arab is not static for all Arabs at all times and places, thus it can differ from generation to generation and from place to place.

The term "Arab American" itself, did not find a common usage until recently, since especially during the early phase of immigration, members of this community referred to themselves as Syrians or Syrian Lebanese. [4] In other words, the label Arab American was essentially formed in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. By then, the third generation of the early Arab immigrants had started to awaken to their own identity not as "Syrian" in the old sense of the term but rather as Arab. This has sparked their fight for a collective identity, and for the political mobilization of the group. Therefore, the coining of this term underwent the same phases of the formation of the community itself.

However, one sociologist that did not share the prevailing view that says Arabness became visible only after 1967 is Evelyn Shakir. According to her, Arabness has always marked Arabs in America. Shakir pointed out that everyone in the community is recognized as being ibn (son of), or bint (daughter of) an Arab, implying acceptance of a cultural sense of identity and heritage. Indeed, being the "son/daughter of an Arab" is a cultural stance, whereas the admission "ana Arabi" (I am Arab) is a political declaration, asserting a nationality that exists in ideology, if not in state or legal terms. Therefore, in the absence of any collective Arab state that can bring together various cultural Arabs under one law and nationality, the only venue that had been available historically to declare this Arabity is through cultural attestation of belonging to something bigger and larger than parochial subdivisions. Thus, being ibn/bint Arab is a form or cultural nationalism that has existed in America long before the political and ideological nationalism of the latter half of the 20th Century Arab World. [5] 

In terms of historiography and social science research, the examinations of Arab immigration that appeared in the 1920 had two main concerns: description and assimilation. The same themes were typical of the research of the 1930s and 1940s as well. Yet the political tension in the Middle East, which led to the Six-Day War of 1967, awakened the community and sparked two trends in research. First, it initiated a tradition of markedly political studies and works defending the Arab community against the American bias, as a response to the Arab defeat in the Arab Israeli war. Second, this tension gave rise to a genre of research devoted to the stereotyped image of Arabs in the various media. These two trends would prove to be of great significance in the coming decades. [6] Despite their divergent approaches, Arab American scholars mostly agreed that their activism is a way to oppose racism in the U.S and abroad, since they would have viewed American support of Israel as a form of anti-Arab racism. Certainly, the second half of the twentieth century made researchers give more attention to studying Arab Americans. Literature about Arab Americans evolved around their history and identity, its politics and multiplicity, on their stereotyped image in the western media and the Palestinian Israeli conflict. In addition, a few studies published after the 9/11 attacks on the United States focused on the effect of these attacks on Arab Americans. As a result, numerous articles, journals, and books on the topic have been published to fill a visible gap in ethnic studies.

The collection of various resources drawn upon for this study can be classified according to two major schools of thought. The first is the classic assimilationist trend. The Assimilationist perspective is used against the biological perspective on ethnicity during the mid-twentieth century. Assimilationists commonly assume that ethnicity would disappear overtime, as multi-ethnic societies became less multi and less ethnic. By going through phases of contact, competition, conflict, and accommodation, different ethnicities would finally be assimilated, and one homogenous nation would be achieved. They believe that America's ethnic and racial groups must abandon their cultural identities and assimilate to the Anglo-Saxon tradition under the pretext that such differences may possibly lead to ethnic and religious wars.

A prominent advocate of the Assimilationist trend is the historian Philip Hitti. As early as 1923, about 50 years after the first documented Arab immigrant settled in the U.S., his famous book Syrians in America is the first academic study devoted to Syrian immigration to the United States. It provides an estimated number of Syrian immigrants to be about 200,000, most of whom were Christians. [7] Although those immigrants are concentrated in certain states more than others, they are dispersed throughout the country. He addresses the causes of the early Syrian immigration to the United States, which seem to be a mixture of economic, social and political factors. He does not only provide a historical overview of the social, economic, and geographical characteristics of the Syrians, as Arab Americans were referred to at that time, but also depicts their status in America. He explicitly declares that individuals are more inclined toward the patriotism that takes the form of love for family, sect, and geography of homeland. He also talks about leadership, education, culture, religion, and language. [8] 

Concerning politics, Hitti stated that Syrians were almost absent from the political scene, except for one attempt of a Syrian who ran for a senatorial position as a Republican in New York but was defeated. However, he uncovers the ignorance of the American public about these immigrants and the public's extreme bigotry and intolerance toward them. He asserted that, "the colossal ignorance and prejudice, on the part of some, is amazing and constitutes the chief obstacle in the way of better understanding." [9] 

As far as assimilation is concerned, Hitti said, "far from being a melting pot, assimilation is…more of a weaving process-weaving according to the old and slow hand-loom system by which each contributes his share toward the production of the final fabric." [10] However, Hitti mentioned that American mainstream refused to accept the contributions of the 'Syrian' into this new process and was unwilling to accept their assimilation neglecting the various services these immigrants provided to their host country especially during the years of WWI when about 7% of the Syrian community served in the U.S. army. Hitti also put into focus the religious status of the immigrant community saying that the majority of the immigrants were Christians, who just as the Muslims and Druze among them retained their faith. He also recognized the role of the American churches in "Americanizing" and "Christianizing" the Syrians, but argued against the violation their sense of dignity. [11] 

In the same vein and in her book Becoming American: the Early Arab Immigrant Experience; social historian Alixa Naff espouses an assimilationist perspective. Naff's book becomes a turning point in the history of Arab Americans in their new American home. Through a collection of different primary sources, mainly interviews, she traces back the history and early experiences of the pioneer Arab immigrants, particularly from the Levant, or what she calls greater Syria. Her book focuses on the assimilation of early Arab immigrants to the United States and the role of peddling in that process. [12] She presents an historical overview of the Arabs' immigration to the U.S., which started in the 19th century. Naff mentions that the early immigrants came with the idea to better their economic status and return within two or three years to their country with wealth and prestige, whereas the later immigrants came with the idea of making America their home without cutting off their cultural roots. Settling in and setting up businesses was a landmark in the assimilation process of these immigrants into the American new home. [13] Alexia Naff's work on early Arab immigrant experience excessively utilizes personal interviews and memoirs in its methodology. Thus her interpretations have been dominated by an internal approach meaning the focus on the experiences only from the point of view of the immigrants themselves.

The assimilationist trend was ferociously attacked by proponents of the Nationalist school of thought. This trend advocates cultural pluralism [14] , as individual ethnic groups have a right to exist on their own terms within the larger society while retaining their unique cultural heritage. The Nationalist historians believe that assimilation can hurt minority cultures by stripping away their distinctive feature thus the idea of complete assimilation of immigrants no longer seems relevant in the United States. They argued that assimilationist acts proved to be counterproductive throughout history. This emerging political trend had one fundamental theme which is the 1967 Six-Day War on behalf of what could be termed as "Arab causes." [15] 

A prominent advocate of the Nationalist trend is Michael Suleiman, a political scientist. His works provided a vast amount of information on the history of the community and a major scholarly contribution to the increasing number of studies of Arab Americans. For instance, Arabs in America: Building a New Future, is an edited chapter in The Development of Arab-American Identity by Earnest McCarus, Micheal Suleiman espouses the Nationalist trend in which he is in favor of the survival of Arab identity. The researcher devoted a whole chapter entitled "Arab-Americans and the Political Process" in which he asserted that being sick of "the outsiders" image, Arab Americans started to assimilate more into the American way of life during and after WWI when they started joining the army and fighting on behalf of the United States. [16] 

Following WWII and realizing that America was their permanent home, those immigrants started to develop an Arab-American community. They started to be more united by engaging themselves in campaigns to better inform the American citizens about their Arab heritage. [17] Suleiman argues that after WWII, Arab American communities nearly assimilated fully and almost lost their Arab identity but this identity loss was reversed because of the Palestinian issue and the highly educated and politicized individuals and professionals of the post WWII Arab immigration wave. Those immigrants were looking for a better life for themselves and for their home countries as well; thus, they started working in the political arena in their newfound home. [18] 

Nationalists believe that the identity awakening of the third generation of the early Arab immigrants and the 1967 Arab Israeli war, all, contributed to the emergence of an Arab identity rather than just a national one and led to the formation of some Arab American organizations. Yet most of Nationalists ignored the fact that this political awakening has its roots in discrimination and hate against Arabs in the U.S. even before the war created the need for organized hyphenated Arab politicized organizations to defend them.

Another book used in this research is Gregory Orfalea's the Arab American: a History. [19] It gives a detailed and highly readable account of the three major waves of Arab immigration to America providing a deep description of their coming and settling in their new homeland. [20] Orfalea also states that the Arab Israeli War was a major turning point for the awakening of the community. He discusses the country's principal Arab American organizations and examined the effects of post-9/11 attacks. This book is essential to go beyond the media stereotypes of Arab Americans and provided an incisive rendition of the community's problems of challenges during and after World War II in the early attempt to eliminate Arab aspirations and fears.

Moreover, another writer who shares the same perspective is sociologist Gary David. In his article "The Creation of "Arab American": Political Activism and Ethnic (Dis) Unity," he studies how the Arab American identity was first shaped, then continues to change over time. He discusses the different phases of the evolution of the term 'Arab American.' Earlier Middle Eastern and North African migrants were mostly to be Christians, and made large efforts to blend in with "average" Americans by adopting their ethnic dominant culture and background. David addresses the changing priorities of the immigrants by mentioning that earlier groups would tend to immigrate because of financial reasons, and therefore have lower socioeconomic status (SES). [21] Later groups were moving to escape political turmoil, and violence.

Yvonne Haddad, a professor of the History of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Georgetown University Haddad's book Muslim Communities in North America Albany outlined the religious composition and affiliation of the Arab American immigrants. She did not ignore the role of the 1967 war in reawaking the Arab identity among the various religious groups and gaining more power over the national identity (e.g. Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian…). Moreover, Haddad provided a detailed view of the different religious sects making up the Arab American community: Christians, Muslims, and Druze. Then, she examined the history of establishing their roots in the United States. She also brought into focus Islam in the US and its different nature as Arab American Muslims are assimilating and integrating into the American society. However, Haddad acknowledged that, "the Arab American community is changing and will continue to change "in constituency and in its forms of self identification in the years to come." [22] In addition, she pointed out that the new immigrants with their ideologies and commitments in addition to the U.S. tolerance or intolerance of the aspirations of this community will have a great impact on how this identity will be shaped. Another recent book of hers is Becoming American?: the Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America in which the American historian Yvonne Haddad argues that American Muslim identity is as uniquely American it is for as any other race, nationality, or religion in a time when Muslims are often pictured with the brush of "terrorism." [23] 

In his Arab-Americans in the 1990s: What Next for the Diaspora?, Political scientist Shain Yossi evaluated the challenges facing the Arab American community in the United States. He put a major focus on the actions and rhetoric of some Arab American groups, mainly the leftist activists and the Islamic groups. His study was, in fact, an echo of what others said about the invisibility of Arab Americans before the 1967 Arab Israeli war, which pertained to provide an ideological core and a national political agenda for Arab Americans. Shain classified Arab Americans into two groups, the isolationists and the integrationists. While the isolationists tend to resist what he calls a "powerful assimilation vision found in America," the integrationists resist total assimilation into the U.S mainstream and call for cultural and political recognition. The integrationists identify themselves as Americans, and supporters of American values and a vision of pluralist democracy. The author views that the way the Arab Americans will face these diasporic challenges will depend on the different political events within the U.S and in the countries of origin. [24] 

In the same vein, Shain declares that the Palestinian Cause and many other events that took place in the Middle East such as the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 provided a unified ground for the differently oriented Arab Americans. Nonetheless, Shain saw that the political events that took place within the Arab countries or between Israel and some Arab countries, and the Palestinian Israeli agreements of the 1990s overall have pulled the rug from under these differently oriented groups and created a new challenge for Arab Americans in redefining their identity and agenda. [25] 

The Arab Israeli conflict, which started in 1948 and reached its peak in 1967, precipitated a new mood among Arab Americans characterized by frustration, anger, defiance, and ethnic pride, provided also a terrain to unite Arabs on one cause and to revive the national identity of Arab Americans. It led to a rising activism and to more expressions of pride in their cultural heritage. Years later and within few weeks of the "terrorist" attacks of 9/11, a large number of books and articles were published that reflected a renewed interest in political activism and in the processes for their national visibility. These histories formed the backbone for a geographically distinct "Arab American historiography" that would be characterized by the same trends in the research of the coming decade. [26] 

  This study will be descriptive based on a combination of primary and secondary resources. More specifically, I will adhere to the Nationalist school of thought and I will undergird this study with social construction approach that theorizes any discriminatory treatment or pressure from outside the group, causes group solidarity and pushes people to identify themselves more strongly with their group. As this approach suggests, the more Arab Americans group perceives negative out-group attitudes, the stronger the in-group identification will be. I will consider two major turning points: the 1967 Arab- Israeli War and the 9/11 attacks. Most noticeably, in the latter period, the emergence of many negative media portrayals of Middle Easterners in news reports and movies led to discrimination against Arabs and labeling them as "Terrorists". It gave them an unwelcome but shared historical experience. It is important to question the extent of perceived discrimination against Arab Americans because this might affect their activism patterns.

This study examines the political experience of Arab American from 1967 onwards. It firstly traces the process of their unity with reference to their historical political contribution before 1967 that has been ignored by most researchers. Secondly, it shows that many factors behind their isolation from the American socio-political arena are at the same time the triggers that fostered their mobilization. More specifically stated, these elements are political events (such as Six-Day War [27] or the 9/11 attacks [28] ) and immigration policies (such as NSEER [29] or the PATRIOT Act [30] ). Thirdly, it accesses the community's success in gaining a political voice in the United States with reference to the attitude of the Arab community towards the 2012 U.S. elections according to a study published in the magazines Tunisia Live and L'economiste Maghrebin.

The historical data on which the study is based includes primary and secondary sources. We referred to the archival data or primary resources to look for official governmental documents (the American Constitution) to access what is written and practiced in reality regarding the rights of the immigrants; while the running records of various non-profit organizations established by the Arab American community to refer to reports published by the U.S. Census Bureau for specific data about the community. Added to that, we relied heavily on secondary sources; we used books and articles that investigate the settling of the Arab American immigrants. Books/eBooks and periodicals accessed through the online Libraries Questia and Jstor were written by historians who analyzed primary sources, studied others' arguments, and then formed their own understanding and conclusions of a historical question. Secondary sources were vital in shaping the different perspective of this study.

The significance of the period of this study is that 1967 represents a turning point in the history of Arab Americans. It marks the beginning of the turmoil between the U.S. and Israel on the one side and the Arab world on the other. As the turmoil ended up with the Arab defeat and the creation of the state of Israel, this period ushered the coming of a huge wave of Arab immigrants to the American soil, a wave that significantly differed from the early already assimilated comers. This wave has more pride in its ethnic heritage and was willing to challenge the assimilation process. Moreover, since the US intensified its alliance with Israel and did not show any attempt to change its policies in the Middle East, 1967 marked the beginning of the adoption of Arab Nationalism. It represented the starting point for the creation of the Arab American ethnic identity. Furthermore, 1967 witnessed the emergence of the stereotyped image of the Arabs as they were seen as villains and savages in the American media. The same image is intensified after the 9/11 attacks, another critical event in this study. Finally 1967 war serves as the event that set the foundation for the establishment of various Arab American organizations such as the Arab American University Graduates (AAUG)...etc

Despite the fact that Arab Americans make up a growing diverse minority population in the United States, the topic has not been sufficiently addressed in research regarding the first steps of their participation in the political life. There are some objectives behind this research. In fact the historiography of the Arab American political activism has been minimal until recent years. Most studies have been written about the contemporary issues of the community than on the earlier historical period. [31] Firstly, this is due to the diversity of the Arab American community and the high degree of misconceptions regarding their classification. Secondly and most importantly; because of the belief that Arab Americans became involved in politics only after the mid-1960s. Thirdly, only recently Muslim Americans began serious involvement in the political scene. [32] Therefore, it is important to realize that our knowledge of the political orientation and participation patterns of early Arab immigrants is incomplete due to lack or serious research on the subject. The vast majority of research completed on their activism concentrated on what I would like to call 'internal' factors. The parts dealing with the early immigration in Georgy Orfalea's volume is highly based on personal interviews. Alexia Naff's work on early Arab immigrant experience similarly utilizes personal interviews and memoirs in its methodology. Thus the historiography of this ethnic group has been dominated by an internal approach meaning the focus on the experiences from the point of view of the immigrants themselves. Studies have ignored the external factors that led to the isolation of the community. Thus this research intends to bridge the gap in Arab American historiography by connecting the internal to the external factors of isolation which are in turn the same factors of mobilization. Thus, the first objective is to show that the causes of isolation are in turn factors of mobilization. In other words, any discriminatory treatment causes group solidarity and people to identify themselves more strongly with their group. The second objective is to alter the traditional narrative that says Arab Americans were not politically active when they first settled on the American soil and give evidence of their political contribution that paved the way for later on activism. The final objective is to access Arab American success in U.S politics.

This work is divided into three chapters: The first chapter describes the historical experiences of the three waves of Arab American immigrants. This description consists of immigration data, the socio-religious profile of the immigrants, and the causes for immigration. Most specifically, a heavy focus will be put upon the third wave, which is of great relevance to the building and sustenance of ethnic cohesion, efficient political activism, and stability.

The second chapter explores the factors responsible for the existence of political isolation of Arab Americans, the challenges facing the community ranging from discrimination and policies to pro-Israeli lobbies that, all, reduce possibilities of access of Arab Americans into politics.

The third chapter studies the history of the political activism of Arab Americans, the various pro-Arab organizations they created. This chapter argues that the 1967 Six-Days War sparked processes of unity for Arab Americans. It also sheds light on their success throughout their journey on the American soil with reference to the attitude of the Arab community towards the 2012 U.S. elections according to a study published in the magazines Tunisia Live and L'economiste Maghrebin.

Chapter I:

The Historical Experience of Arab Americans

Arab Americans have long historical ties with America. In her Article, "Who Are Arab Americans?" [33] Scholar and historian of the Arab community, Helen Hatab Samhan, an Arab Americanist and former Executive Director of the Arab American Institute, explains that Arab Americans constitute a pan-ethnicity made up of several waves of immigrants from the Arabic-speaking countries of southwestern Asia and North Africa that began arriving in the United States during the 19th century. Their original homeland includes 22 Arab countries, stretching from Morocco in the west to the Arabian Gulf in the east. Although they represent a highly diverse U.S. group, Arab Americans descend from a heritage that represents common linguistic, cultural, and political traditions.

For immigrants, America unquestionably represented a new "promised land," a land of plenty and opportunity and freedom from oppression, more specifically for Arab Americans whose history of coming and settling is long and diverse. The story of Arab Americans in the United States is a very vivid one. Many came to the United States as scattered sojourners planning on going back to their homelands. [34] In the course of time, they assimilated and became an invisible population. For the last few decades, and especially after 9/11, the status of Arab Americans has changed. They have become a singled out and stigmatized group that is politically marginalized, yet economically successful, able to "blend in" the American mosaic. Aside from the flowing of these scattered Arabs, Arab immigrants came in three waves: the first wave was the period from 1878 to 1924; the second, from 1948 to 1966; and the third, from 1967 to the present. [35] 

First Wave of Arab Immigrants

The first wave of Arab immigration to the United States started in the middle of the 19th century and ended around 1924. It consisted overwhelmingly of Christian farmers and villagers who came from the Greater Syria region (especially present day Lebanon), [36] which was under the Ottoman rule. [37] . According to Yvonne Haddad, a professor of the History of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Georgetown University, "the first recorded Arabs came to America to partake of the Homestead Act around 1862." [38] 

It is very challenging to establish reliable data on the numbers of immigrants from Arab countries before 1899, as immigration officials did not employ a standard term for identifying the immigrants. They were first called Turks, then Syrians. The names also included Ottomans, Armenians, Greeks or Arabs. [39] It is estimated that 110,000 immigrants from Arabic-speaking countries came to the United States by 1914, representing about 85 % of the total Arabic-speaking population up to 1940. Immediately after WWI, less than four thousand Arab immigrants arrived to the United States. They were motivated by two major economic push factors in their homelands. The first was the opening of the Suez Canal, which sidelined the world traffic from Syria to Egypt and made the trip to the Far East easier and fast. For instance, many Yemenis came after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. [40] The second occurred when Lebanese vineyards were infected by the fungus phylloxera, devastating the wine industry there and leaving the farmers with no income. [41] 

Apart from the economic reasons, the sectarian massacres of 1860 in Mount Lebanon and in Damascus were also the root of the first wave of immigration, amplified later by the conscription of the Arabs to fight in the Ottoman Empire's wars, and culminating in the Levantine disasters and famine in the First World War. Additionally, the Christian immigrants were being persecuted by the Ottomans; they were not considered loyal subjects of the Ottoman Empire because they were westernized and Christian and protested against the Ottoman hegemony in the area. Especially until the turn of the century, the initial Arab community in America was made of single individuals or nuclear families that were mostly poor, uneducated and illiterate and could work only in factories and mines. Such jobs did not offer opportunities for the fast accumulation of wealth, which was their primary objective for those who had no intention to settle permanently in the New World.

As unskilled laborers in a labor market already filled by other ethnic groups, many of the Lebanese and Syrians became back peddlers. Success in peddling did not require much training, capital or knowledge of English. It simply required thrift, hard work, very long and courage to endure, harsh travel conditions and sometimes insults from children or resentful customers. In fact, both women and men carried a stock of goods consisting mainly of items for personal use that were difficult for farming families to make themselves or to procure in nearby stores:

They carried on their backs products such as dry goods, lotions, tin ware, combs, and handcrafted goods. A handful of families established a network of peddling, setting the routes and supply sources for next families to come. No other immigrant group, with the exception of German Jews, was so completely identified with peddling. [42] 

By 1920s, many of the peddling families were able to establish stores. Subsequently, they became wholesalers and retailers of groceries and produce. [43] Consequently, Naff says that peddling was a key factor in the assimilation of this minority group and concluded "If political and economic events had not reactivated Arab immigration and an interest in Arab culture, Syrian-Americans might have assimilated themselves out of existence." [44] Alaxia Naff asserted that it was not until after World War II that Arab Americans began to develop an Arab identity to counter the ignorance about their history.

Obviously, not all Arab immigrants were peddlers. Eric Hooglund, the editor of Taking Root: Arab- American Community Studies 2, views the "Syrian peddler" as a stereotype and image, observing that early Arab immigrants occupied various jobs and established separate ethnic neighborhoods (e.g. Little Syria in New York). Assimilation, in his view, occurred among the second generation of Syrians, born between 1900--1940, which moved out of these neighborhoods and were Americanized. [45] The majority of them settled in, and worked as unskilled laborers in factories. They established businesses in big cities such as Boston, New York, and Cleveland, and in medium size cities and towns, primarily in the East and Great Lake region. In Brooklyn, they opened up all clothing stores of manufacturing and lingerie. [46] In 1919, more than half of all Arab immigrants lived in four states, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. A minority, perhaps fifteen percent, were involved in entrepreneurial activities such as barbering, bakery, grocery, carpentry, transportation, and manufacturing. The smallest percent in the first wave consisted of professionals such as dentists, doctors, clergymen, pharmacists, and teachers. Some Syrians revived the silk production that they had been doing in Greater Syria. [47] 

Before WWI most Arabic speaking immigrants thought of themselves as sojourners, thinking that they were temporary residents and ultimately wanting to go back to their homeland. [48] While there was a communal solidarity built along the lines of several communities, they were often in tension with each other. [49] There were splits in the community between the Nationalists [50] and Americanists. [51] The former group was oriented mainly to their homelands, even though a process of socialization and assimilation resulted in increased participation in voting and party membership. [52] In fact, this integration was not on behalf of their national identity, but rather based on interests at the community level, while the latter advocated assimilation and participation in the wider American society. A lot of them did not maintain their Arab ethnicity, in many cases; Arab treats and culture were on the verge of extinction. The flow of immigration was interrupted by WWI and then restricted by the National Origin Act/Immigration Quota Act of 1924, which reduced quotas of immigrants from the Middle East to 100 per year. [53] The slow communication with the homeland, weakened the flow of immigration, and made the first Arab immigrants engage themselves in the pattern of assimilation that remolded them into American citizens. Consequently, they settled in America, raised their families, launched businesses and became established merchants. In the summer, children helped in the family business by performing various chores. Children were taught that thrift and hard work are the basis of success. [54] 

Most of the Arab families encouraged the education of their children. By the turn of the 19th century, many Arab American children finished school and some were able to continue to trade school and college. [55] They Anglicized their names; Muhammad became Mo and Ali was recognized as Al. [56] They started attending citizenship and English classes while studying the American governmental system as a preparation to become well-informed citizens. In order to cease feeling like strangers in the new country, community leaders suggested that Arab Americans should follow the assimilation patters. They established their own churches, clubs and newspapers, but they were not active in the political arena of the United States. They were anxious not to offend their hosts, not to break laws, and not to behave in a manner offensive to Americans, but they did not intermarry with Americans and did not participate in the political system except for voting. [57] 

Second Wave of Arab Immigrants

A second wave of Arab immigration started in 1948 and ended in 1966 when Arab nationalism was nascent, as Arab states agitated for independence. [58] The United States became involved in Middle East petroleum politics and recruited students from newly independent Arab states to study at American universities in hopes of creating a desirable influence on the region. [59] Additionally, many newly formed Arab states initiated free and fully accessible education. For example Iraq had the best educational system in the region, then Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait. These education systems facilitated wider access to scholarships abroad. Many of the students married American women and stayed in the U.S.

After WWII, Arab Americans who were sequent generations of immigrants have mostly assimilated and a large number of them were Palestinians who were forced out of their country after the creation of the state of Israel: Egyptians who lost land to the Nasser regime and Syrians, Yemenis, and Iraqis fleeing political upheavals and aspiring revolutionaries. [60] The new immigrants came from all parts of the world including a newly growing emigration movement from the Arab Gulf states, Sudan, and the countries of North Africa. [61] This second wave of Arab immigrants brought to the New World a much more diverse population, one that differed greatly from the early pioneering group. By 1940, U.S. officials reported that 350,000 immigrants were Arabic-speaking. About 80% of them were from today's Lebanon, 15% from Syria and Palestinian territories, with the rest from Yemen and Iraq. The majority were Christian (45% Maronite, 45% Greek Orthodox) and only 4% were Muslim. [62] 

Moreover, these immigrants were mostly men from middle and upper class urban backgrounds, often highly educated professionals like lawyers, professors, teachers, engineers, and doctors. [63] Many found good employment opportunities and stayed in the United States while many others were semi-educated Arabs who were primarily political refugees who became engaged in trade in the U.S. Having a different composition and higher education levels, immigrants of the second wave were more inclined toward political issues. However, because of lack of knowledge about the American political system and fear of authoritative regimes back home where giving political opinions is always undesirable, the majority of the second wave Arab immigrants were more outspoken when it came to Arab issues, but not so much about American politics. [64] 

Unlike early arrivals, who were predominantly Christian, the new immigrants were Christians and Muslims. However, there were several factors that revived and mobilized the Arab identity once again and increased the immigration to the United States. The dismemberment of Palestine, creation of the state of Israel, and mass immigration of Palestinian refugees to the United States after 1948 were precipitous events. During the Nakba, [65] the turmoil resulting from independence struggles in the Arab region, professionals and young students became involved in Arab world politics and transplanted this outlook to American soil, but this was unrelated to American politics. Finally, the Six-Day War in 1967 had devastating effects on the Arab states and thus awakened a multitude of Arab American identities as they started to call themselves Arabs instead of a specific national origin.

Third Wave of Arab Immigrants

The sixties marked the beginning of the third wave of Arab immigration to America. This wave has been called the "brain drain." [66] Internal and external factors contributed to this inflow of Arabs. As a result of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act [67] which lifted the national origin quotas, allowed Arabs to move into the country more easily and increased overall immigration into the United States, huge numbers of Arab immigrants started to pour from around the Arab world basically from Arabic speaking countries such as Egypt and Iraq and emphasized diversity. This was a significant pull factor. The push factor for the majority of foreign-born Arab Americans was political turmoil in the Middle East, such as the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. [68] These newcomers were more educated, often having college degrees, bilingual and more politically motivated. The vast majority of these Arabs were the 'educated elite' in their country and somewhat Westernized. Many had received education abroad and decided to seek higher education in America. [69] When they arrived in America, they established churches, mosques, newspapers and meeting centers and emphasized the value of education to their children. [70] 

Arab Americans have traditionally been successful in the educational sector. According to the 2000 Census Report on Ancestry issued in March 2005, Arab Americans as an ethnic group are more educated than the average Americans. It states that the proportion of all Arabs with at least a bachelor's degree was higher than that of the total population (41.2% compared with 24%). About 73% of employed Arab Americans worked in management professional, in sales and office occupations. Most Arab Americans work in the private sector (88%), while 12% are government employees. [71] They live in all fifty states, but two thirds tend to reside in ten main states. One third of the total population lives in California, New York, and Michigan. About 94% live in the Metropolitan Areas, with the top five metro areas being Los Angeles, Detroit, New York/New Jersey, Chicago and Washington, D.C. [72] 

The largest segment of the third wave was Palestinians. Out of 757,626 Arab immigrants who came during the period between 1967 and 2003, 121,737 were Palestinians (even though they came through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Persian Gulf countries). Many from the third wave were similar to the second wave in its composition of professionals including lawyers, professors, teachers, engineers, and doctors. The first main difference between previous waves and the third one is that the third wave was larger than the second one due to the end of nation-based quotas in U.S. Immigration laws. [73] Secondly, Arabs were fleeing not only Israeli aggression but also intra-Arab conflicts. Those Iraqis, Lebanese and Syrians, for instance, have left situations that had been shaken by change of rule, or new economic structures. The Lebanese Civil War and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 brought 119,562 new Lebanese immigrants to the U.S. [74] U.N sanctions on Iraq and the Gulf Wars drove 53,388 Iraqis to the U.S. Economic hardship and authoritarian government in Syria brought 71,033 Syrians to the United States. Additionally, increasing Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East drew many Christians (Copts, Chaldeans) away from the Arab countries, including 80,000 Iraqi Chaldeans that arrived in Detroit between 1960 and 2003, as well as 129,518 Egyptians (between 1967 and 2003) many of whom were Copts. [75] 

The third wave significantly changed the overall composition of immigrants, enhanced the diversity of ethnicities, religions, and nationalities of the Arab and Muslim world, including more women and immigrants from all social classes and religions. Christian Arabs continued to migrate in this newer wave, but most of the arrivals were educated Muslims, whose achievements encouraged integration into the American middle class. [76] As new comers, they maintained ties with their countries of origin. Unlike the first and second waves that followed the patterns of assimilation, the third wave remains in the process of making their way into the American society through keeping stronger political and social ties with their homelands. [77] Transnational ties are strong in the recent immigrants. Many Arabs came to the United States and stayed, yet there were communities like Saudi Arabians who came to the United States in order to get an education and experience and return back home. At an earlier time, many Arab communities were intent on assimilating, which resulted to the next generation being unable to speak its mother language.

Until the 1960s, assimilated Arab Americans had little connection with recent Arab immigrants. Both waves lived as disconnected groups. [78] Yet, in the 1960s many of these Americanized Arabs started to adopt Arab nationalism as their political outlook. [79] Yossi Shain, an American historian, in fact, states that the Palestinian cause provided "the very foundation for pan-Arab ethnic identity in the United States." [80] He adds that, "before that war, Arab-American identity was amorphous and dormant." [81] In the later decades of the 20th century, Arab Americans felt the urgent need to engage in action in order to drive away myths regarding their cultures and to correct prevailing injustices among Arabs in the United States and back home. [82] In other words, it was a reaction to anti-Arab bias which grew during the war. Consequently, ethnic awareness had tremendously developed and had helped to revive immigrants' interest Arab in their cultural heritage. This revival was seen as more and more mosques were being built on American soil. Interest in the Arabic language became considerably important as the next generation became willingly interested to learn about their cultural heritage. Many college-degree holders started taking extra courses to learn Arabic and enhance their knowledge of Arab history as a necessary means to combat ethnic stereotypes. [83] 

TABLE 1: The following table provides a portrait of the Arab population in the United. It specifies the ethnic identities of immigrants and shows that the Arab Americans community is not a monolithic group. Their national origins, religious affiliations vary considerably.

Distribution of Arab- Americans by Major Ancestry Group: 1980, 1990 and 2000 [84] 











Total Population






Total Arab Population




























All other Arab Reports



































The table gives evidence that the Arab American population grew rapidly in the last two decades. From 711,760 in 1980 (when data on ancestry were first collected in the decennial census) to 860,354 in 1990 while in 2000, 1.89 million people reported an Arab ancestry in the United States. More than one-third of those reporting an Arab ancestry were Lebanese (37%), including both people who indicated that they were only Lebanese and those who reported being both Lebanese and another ancestry, which might or might not also be Arab. The next largest specific groups were Syrian and Egyptian (12% each). Among the nearly half-million people who reported other specific Arab ancestries, the largest proportion was Palestinian (6.1% of the total Arab population). The Jordanian, Moroccan, and Iraqi populations were also sizable (3.3%, 3.3%, and 3.2%, respectively).

In comparing the 1980, 1990, and 2000 censuses, Rifaat Dika, census information specialist working with the Arab American community in the 1990 and 2000 censuses notes:

All of them do not reflect the number of the community because of structural problems in the ways the questions are asked in the long [census] forms, where the answers are 'write-in' responses. This is different, for example, for racial groups who have specific boxes to choose from in the short form, such as Hispanic, African American, and so on. However, comparing the three censuses in terms of the worst or the best, there is no objective database to come to a solid conclusion. But, I would say that census 2000 is the best of them in terms of reaching out to the community nationwide for the first time in the history of the Census Bureau, and the involvement of more Arab organizations in the process in addition to the media local and national.

In the 1980 census there was no single Arab American working for the census. In the 1990 census it was the first time an attempt was made by the census to reach out to the community and to get community grassroots organizations as census partners, but it was a limited project in terms of number of Arab Americans who were hired including me and few other people." [85] 

What is challenging here is that it is impossible to determine the exact number of Arab immigrants to North America. Counting members of the Arab ethnic community in the United States has always been problematic. Not only because Arabs came in waves from differing parts of the region, but also because of self-identifications (regional, linguistic, religious) that may have emphasized aspects of identity other than the greater ethnic one (i.e., Arab). Thus one finds a variety of labels depending on the time of arrival of these groups, such as: Syrian, Lebanese, Maronite, Chaldean, Orthodox, Muslim, etc. [86] Apart from that, because U.S immigration officials have at different times used different classification schemes. As a result, we might understand the contrasted estimates used to summarize statistics for one population group may be contrasted with estimates published by various governmental and nongovernmental institutions. For instance, the 2000 U.S. Census special report on ancestry entitled "Ancestry: 2000" indicates that there were 1.395.553 million persons of Arab Ancestry in the United States, which is 0.5% of U.S population in 2000, but experts believe that the official Arab American population could swell to more than 4 million people if Arab Americans cohesively checked the "other" box and write in "Arab". While the Arab American Institute [87] conducted its own count and produced a better picture of the Arab American scene through its reports of estimates established by Zogby International, an American private research and polling group, whose research projects Arab American population figures to be three times more than the Census Bureau. [88] 

Though there is debate about the exact numbers, the Arab-American population is clearly on the rise. In the 2011 American Community Survey, the U.S. Census Bureau reported there were close to 1.8 million Arab Americans trace their heritage to the Arab world, an approximately 47% increase in population size from 2000. [89] According to the Arab American, for instance, the number of Arab-Americans is increasing at an even greater rate, with a total population closer to 3.7 million. [90] Some believe, moreover, that this drastically undercounts the Arab American population as the Census Bureau numbers suggest a total number two-thirds less than the numbers produced through the Zogby poll.

The official government categorization of Arab Americans as White or Caucasian denies Arab Americans full citizenship. Arab Americans' legal classification as white essentially ignores the present extreme discrimination and racist attitudes toward Arab Americans in the U.S. Given the contexts of Racism, bias, and bigotry, the population at large regards Arab Americans as part of the "other" rather than as part of the white majority. [