An open letter to the ADC National Board of Directors- cease the opportunity to act forthrightly

30 Oct

October 30, 2013

Dear Members of the ADC National Board of Directors,

The ADC National Board of Directors has the prospect of providing a teaching opportunity and a leading role on how to effectively address abuse whether from within our community or from the larger community. While it is important to understand that sexual harassment has no color or gender and every community regardless of faith, creed or national origin will deal with it at one time or another- it does not help our community or protect us from harm or scrutiny if ADC appears unwilling to address sexual harassment claims decisively and straightforwardly. Nonetheless, it is still not too late to act forthrightly, model  and provide clear organizational actions that the Arab American community can foster and emulate when our community organizations, groups, and ADC members face or encounter.

Clearly you agree that ADC should not allow incidences of sexual harassment to occur at all on an ADC office charged with protecting our community from all forms of abuse, harassment and prejudice. Although, ADC claims that the sexual harassment allegations involving Mr. Imad Hamad have been fully investigated at this point, nevertheless any implied suggestion that there is an atmosphere of tolerance of sexual harassment or intimidation of victims of sexual harassment by ADC’s National Board of Directors’ that could be construed  by the board’s indecisive action or inaction will hurt our community. ADC needs to address this issue coherently, transparently and above board.

In addition to ADC ‘s National Board of Directors’ obscure public response to the most recent sexual harassment charges, the rumors that are milling that the National Board has decided to put ADC’s President Mr. Warren David on probation for appearing sympathetic with the young women’s claims, and fire anyone employed by ADC who sympathies with Mr. Imad Hamad’s victims are worrisome–if these rumors are true, this is most disappointing, and if not true than these rumors should be cleared and corrected.

Furthermore, the failure of the ADC National Board to recognize the gravity of the charges when they were originally brought to their attention several years ago does not fare well.  Above all the board’s failure to see the value of this incident in holding those in our community responsible for sexually harassing our sisters, mothers and daughters is most distressing.  ADC’s apparent public waffling reaction and the National Board’s refusal to address incidents of sexual harassment on their premises straightforwardly from the onset does not serve us well.

ADC’s National Board decision to continue the employment of Mr. Hamad as a consultant – with monies ADC has raised from our community- meanwhile publicly appearing to deny the right of his victims to be heard respectfully, are forcing many to conclude that the ADC leadership is of the mind that sexually harassing Arab American women is not a major concern and harassing women is tolerable.

As mothers, aunts, sisters, and grandmothers we believe ADC leaders’ apparent ambivalent response and messages contradicts with our community values and challenges our constant vigilance to teach our young children- daughters and sons- to stand against all forms of abuse including sexual abuse. The lackadaisical approach of the board in effectively addressing these charges is reverberating across our community, where many have and will in the future face a similar fate- harassed or harasser. Nevertheless, we believe that ADC still has an opportunity to craft the right action and message by openly and unequivocally stating that ADC, its leadership and the Arab American community will not tolerate any kind of abuse from within or at large.

Notwithstanding, we command and applaud the bravery of the  half a dozen young Arab American women who stood up to their abuser and are challenging the prevailing culture of accepting and tolerating sexual abuse- their soft approach and efforts to spare ADC and our community from pubic condemnation and financial harm should not be misconstrued as consenting to abuse.  We also support the calls of the four ADC employees who chose to support their sisters by striking to bring attention to this issue and force our community to deal with sexual harassment in our midst in an open manner. They have the right to demand protection from sexual harassment and our community has the obligation and duty to protect them. Mind you, if these sexual harassment claims were initially addressed when they first surfaced several years ago, and ADC made the sincere effort to effectively address, rectify the situation and protect the victims from harm, ADC could have saved these young women from working under duress, and offered the Arab American community a communal opportunity to learn how to decisively deal with sexual harassment.

Meanwhile our community continues to endure many outside pressures that are beyond our control and demand serious attention by ADC and its leaders, instead the board has lost precious time and resources by focusing and dealing with an issue that is within ADC’s purview. In this particular in house case, ADC could have helped our community avoid the negative publicity of a matter that ADC leaders have complete control of shaping and addressing.  Most critically, the ADC National Board could have spared our community the added scrutiny of an issue that is clear-cut.

But not all is yet lost and we still hope that the ADC National Board will come through and act in ways that clearly states that any form of abuse will not be tolerated by ADC’s leadership or the Arab American community. Regardless, we trust that ADC National Board will not squander this important teachable moment that has befallen our entire Arab American community.  In the meantime we still have faith that ADC will provide the right leadership role and response by effectively dealing with this issue or any form of abuse that may surface in the future irrespective of the gravity of the allegations responsibly- a befitting response to ADC’s mission and objective “to protect the civil right of Arab Americans” regardless of gender.

Sincerely,

American Palestinian Women’s Association

***American Palestinian Women’s Association is a non-profit, non-political, secular, tax-exempt, registered organization, established in 2004 by concerned American Palestinian women of the States of Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

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