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Arab American Heritage Month is a time intended to commemorate and honor the achievements of the roughly 3.7 million members of the community residing in the U.S. However, this year, many Arab Americans do not feel inclined to celebrate. Instances of anti-Arab hate and sentiment have been on the rise since the start of the war in Gaza in October, with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) receiving sharp upticks in reports of hate and bias incidents, directly linked to the violence in Gaza where Israel has been accused of genocide against Palestinians. High-profile incidents of violence against Arabs in the U.S. have ranged from verbal to fatal, further heightening tensions within the community.

Arab Americans have a long history that dates back to the end of the 19th century, when Arabs started to immigrate to the U.S. to escape conflict and seek economic opportunities. Advocacy groups, including the ADC, have been working for approximately 40 years to establish a month to celebrate community members’ contributions to various fields. While President Joe Biden declared April as Arab American Heritage Month in 2023, this year comes at a somber time for many Arab Americans due to ongoing violence and conflict in Gaza. Many individuals within the community feel that the current climate in the U.S. makes the celebration of the month feel hollow and inadequate.

Despite Biden’s acknowledgment of the pain within the Arab American community and the bias and discrimination faced by its members in the U.S., some feel his words are insufficient, especially as his administration continues to support Israel with arms furthering the violence in Gaza. Arab Americans, particularly those advocating for Palestinian human rights, have faced increased repression, harassment, and intimidation, both online and in public spaces. Many have been targeted for their beliefs and face potential consequences, including job loss, as a result of their advocacy.

The group Palestine Legal has documented a significant increase in incidents of bias and harassment against individuals advocating for Palestinian rights since the escalation of violence in Gaza. The response to those advocating for Palestinian human rights has ranged from physical attacks to verbal harassment and even job loss. Statements released by officials acknowledging Arab American Heritage Month have been seen as hypocritical and disingenuous by many in light of the ongoing repression faced by community members. Despite the challenges and risks, many within the Arab American community continue to speak out for justice and rights for Palestinians, motivated by a desire to end the occupation and achieve justice for all.

The current climate in the U.S. has led many Arab Americans to question the significance of Arab American Heritage Month, with some feeling unheard, unsafe, and unrepresented by lawmakers. Advocates for Palestinian rights continue to push for an end to violence in Gaza, often meeting resistance and backlash for their efforts. Despite the challenges, many within the community remain committed to advocating for justice and an end to the violence and occupation in Gaza. The hope is to one day celebrate Arab American Heritage Month in a way that truly recognizes and honors the contributions and struggles of the community, similar to how other racial and ethnic groups celebrate their history and heritage in the U.S.

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