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Jewish, Arab Groups Call Truce on Bill About Counterterrorism


As Congress continues the push to vote on counterterrorism legislation by the end of the month, Jewish and Arab Americans have sounded a truce in their war of words over the proposed measures.

The agreement comes in the wake of accusations by Arab American leaders that Jewish organizations launched a war against their community by supporting the legislation.

In a joint statement released here last week by the National Association of Arab Americans and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, the two communities joined to condemn terrorism and pledged to continue working together, in spite of sharp disagreements over the proposed counterterrorism legislation.

The Jewish umbrella group and the NAAA, which is the largest of the Arab American organization, pledged in the statement not to permit their “different perspectives” on the counterterrorism bill and other initiatives to “damage our relationship or to deter our two communities from continued cooperation on behalf of shared goals and interests.”

The Senate and House of Representatives continued hearings last week on measures that, among other provisions, seek expedited deportation of aliens suspected of terrorism and limit fund raising for foreign groups designated as terrorist.

These provisions have drawn the ire of Arab Americans and the skepticism of many Jewish groups, which support the goal of the legislation but remain concerned about protecting civil liberties.

The legislation weaving its way through Congress would also establish a national counterterrorism center staffed by 1,000 new law enforcement personnel, increase federal law enforcement agencies’ access to financial and other records of suspected terrorists, expand surveillance authority and require tagging explosives so they can be more easily traced.

Despite the continuing disagreements, Arab Americans and American Jews will continue to work together in other areas.

“The relationships between the Arab American and the Jewish community cannot be and will not be shunted aside because there are disagreements over counterterrorism legislation,” said Larry Rubin, executive vice chairman of NJCRAC.

At a point news conference with Rubin, the NAAA’s executive director, Khalil Jahshan, called the statement “another milestone and a major step forward” in relations between Arab Americans and Jews.

“We have a philosophical disagreement. We are not convinced new laws are necessary,” Jahshan said.

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