June 8, 1980, The San Diego Union

Below, some traces of the history of Arab Americans in San Diego. In the 1970s and 80s, the Arab American Society of San Diego is the center of this history, though the organization appears to have be short lived. It’s president, one Fozi Khouri, founded the San Diego Branch of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). During its existence, the Society organized demonstrations, fundraisers, and gave a platform for prominent Arab speakers like Tawfiq Ziad, Fayez Sayegh, and Clovis Maksoud. It activism—and actions against it—is inextricably tied to Palestinian movement in Los Angeles and Arab American activism across the United States.     

Harry Steinmetz Papers; Box 7 Folder 2;
Special Collections and University Archive, San Diego State University Library 

She is 22 years old, a student in San Diego, Calif. She was born in Ramallah, in the West Bank, came to this country at the age of 3 and is an American citizen. On the telephone, she sounds like California. I shall call her Evelyn Bitar: not her real name.
''I was studying, alone in the school library, on the night of Jan. 28. At about 8:30 a large man, 6 feet tall, came up and shoved a paper in front of me. It said 'subpoena' and had my name on it. He flashed what looked like a badge and said, 'Evelyn, we want you to come with us.' . . .

''When I still didn't respond, they said, 'At your rally you said ''Long live Palestine.'' We'll show you what we think of your Palestine.' They took out a small Palestinian flag, about 3 by 5 inches, and burned it. 
''Then they took me out, back into the car. They stopped about two miles from my house. They said, 'Listen, Babe, when you least expect us, expect us. We'll always be around.' I looked at my watch. It was 8:30 A.M.'' 
— Anthony Lewis, “Abroad at home; is this America?” New York Times (February 10, 1987) 

September 20, 1975, The San Diego Union

More than 500 persons were evacuated from the Royal Inn at the Wharf last night during a bomb scare that proved to be a hoax.  

Police asked delegates to the convention of the Wester Federation of Americans of Arabic Heritage and other hotel guests to assemble in the hotel parking lot while officers searched the hotel for a bomb.  

The night manager of the hotel told police he received a telephone call that appeared to be from a gravelly voiced older man.  

Phillip Smith, the night manager, quoted the called as saying: “I’m calling from the Los Angeles and I represent the Jewish movement. We have planted a bomb in the hotel that is due to go off in 22 minutes.” 

Leaders of the Arab-American organization were outraged by the hoax.  

—“500 Evacuated In Bomb Scare,” The San Diego Union (September 7, 1975)  

An orderly crowd of the curious filled Lewis Junior High School auditorium in Grantville last night to watch a showing of the controversial film, “The Palestinian,” sponsored by the Arab American Society of San Diego.  

About eight uniformed police officers and an undetermined number of officers from the Criminal Intelligence Unit also were on hand but there was no trouble.  

— “Controversial Film Showing Is Orderly,” The San Diego Union (May 5, 1978); a month later a bomb went off at a Los Angeles showing of the same film.

The San Diego Arab community, 15,000 strong, is fed up and isn’t going to take it anymore.  

“The average American thinks of an Arab as a Bedouin living in the desert, a camel driver, a filthy-rich sheik or a terrorist,” complains Fozi Khouri, a Palestinian who came here in 1967 and became a naturalized American citizen.  

“But, most Americans don’t think of us as civilized people with great culture and pride. Always we are presented here in caricature or derogatory image.”  

So, on Sunday, Khouri said, a local chapter of the fast-growing American-Arab Anti-discrimination committee will be founded here with a banquet. 

“We have met informally several times in the last two months and already have about 100 members,” said Khouri, who has been the principal organizer of the chapter.  

“Our purpose is to combat and correct the bad image that has been carrying across to the American public about Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular.  

“The institutional instruments of discrimination against people of Arab descent have ranged from the city schools system and news media to immigration authorities and the FBI.   

— “Arabs Here Plan Anti-Bias Group In Attempt to Correct Bad Image,” The San Diego Union (November 4, 1981) 

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