The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Op-Ed: Arab American Heritage Month Is a Publicity Stunt

America Could Do More for Arab Americans Than Dedicate a Month of Honor.
Torch Photo / Malak Kassem

This April marks the fourth Arab American Heritage Month in the United States since President Joe Biden officially declared the commemoration in 2021. This year, The White House released a briefing stating, “This month, we honor the rich heritage, history, and hopes of the more than 3.5 million Arab Americans across our country.” 

While Biden was the first president to recognize Arab American Heritage Month, he didn’t call for the initiative. Arab American and the Arab America Foundation first proposed the commemoration in 2017, slowly gaining recognition across the country. 

The act of honoring is not accomplished by a press release published once a year. It’s not accomplished by government hosted iftar dinners, which were heavily boycotted this year. It’s not accomplished by a date on the calendar. Arabs don’t need a special month to know their value. This is an invitation for the press. It’s a plea for attention. 

Honor is an act of appreciation and respect. It’s treating others with dignity and value. But The White House refuted its own efforts when it vetoed a United Nations resolution for a ceasefire three times in Gaza in February. Every time the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, raised her hand in opposition to the world’s plea, Arab-Americans dealt with guilt that their own country sentenced their people to death. 

If The White House truly believed in the honor of Arab Heritage, then they would use their influence to preserve Arab life anywhere in the world. What about the parents, grandparents and children that belong to the Arab Americans that “exemplify so much of what our country stands for: hard work, resilience, compassion, and generosity?” 

This year’s continuous vetoes for a ceasefire is not the only example of Arab American abandonment. About 20 years ago, the U.S. invaded Iraq killing at least a quarter of a million Iraqi civilians. 

Until today, the country is still recovering and is nowhere near the level of flourishment that was once a reality. The Bush Administration instilled so much fear into the American public, that not only did Americans justify an enormous civilian death toll, but 56% of Americans justified the prospect of thousands of fatalities among United States troops. However, 62% of Americans considered the war “not worth fighting for” in 2033, realizing the falsehoods that justified the invasion that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. 

In 2024, Palestine is under attack. Yemen is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has ever seen. Syrians now account for one of the world’s largest numbers of refugees. Lebanon is being bombed. Sudan is in bloodshed. These are regions with beautiful landscapes, rich history and a population with enormous hospitality. But The White House expects its diaspora to accept a month of “honor.” 

America is the world’s superpower. It doesn’t need to relabel the month of April to get its point across. It can honor Arab Americans by choosing peace in the next U.N. meeting. It can choose to learn from mistakes in wars past. It can choose sincerity over publicity.

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About the Contributor
Malak Kassem
Malak Kassem, News Editor
Malak Kassem is a third-year journalism student serving as the News Editor for the 2024-2025 academic year. She has previously been on the editorial board as Opinion Editor for the Fall 2023 semester. When she's not writing for The Torch, Malak loves going for long walks and baking. Malak can be reached at [email protected].
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