Why a new Lebanese American organization?
Over the past few decades, as Lebanon struggled for survival amidst constant Mideast turmoil and various wars over its land and among its people, the Lebanese Americans in the USA have felt a strong urge to organize in attempts to help their country of origin and preserve their heritage.
Some of these organizations have come and gone. They were formed in response to a given crisis, and as circumstances changed, interest shifted. Some allied themselves with leaders and parties in Lebanon, and as the related leaders lost favor or died, the organizations’ roles diminished or they ran out of funding. Others organized into various councils or coalitions to support a given political line in Lebanon and somehow, unintentionally imported into the US, divisions that have plagued political currents in the Old Country. Truly independent Lebanese-American organizations are rather rare.
The result is that Lebanon continues to need a lot of help from the expatriate community and we are still far from unity on how to provide the most effective support. Further, many important Lebanese American leaders are deeply involved in Arab-American Organizations and are focused on the Palestinian-Israeli problem or issues related to other Arab countries such as Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc., and do not have either the time or the desire to worry about Lebanon’s problems. Further, unfortunately Lebanese-Americans involved in other Arab causes frequently find themselves subject to criticism or at odds with Lebanese-Americans who are completely dedicated to Lebanese issues. This results in internecine arguments and diminished effectiveness on the national scene. Nevertheless, the leadership of some of the most prominent Arab-American organizations continues to consist of Lebanese Americans. In a recent brochure published by the Arab American Institute Foundation, at least 75% or more of the celebrities listed as making a difference are Lebanese Americans.
The American Lebanese Foundation (ALF) believes in a united, independent, democratic and truly sovereign Lebanon where Lebanese Christians and Muslims live in freedom and equality, and where human rights are fully respected. The overwhelming majority of Lebanese Americans, whether active in Arab American organizations or in those purely dedicated to Lebanon tend to agree with us in this regard. Disagreements or polarization tend to occur in regard to the approach, focus or rhetoric used by either group. The ALF will search for solutions to bridge the gaps and find consensus wherever possible. It will also aggressively look for new ideas and mechanisms to solve problems through understanding and tolerance. We acknowledge the importance of neighborhood influences on the Lebanese scene and we believe we can differentiate between influences that are positive and those that are negative. We also believe in honest dialogue and engagement to sort out conflicting factors and reserve our right to disagree in an open and constructive manner.
Although many of the ALF Board Members do have significant political influence, activity or leadership in the US, Lebanon or both, the Organization as such is not a political entity or a lobby. As stated in the Mission Statement, it is mainly a “think tank” organization that promotes new ideas, education, communication and peaceful solutions based on consensus and honorable compromise.
The ALF sees Lebanon after it regains its full sovereignty and stability as the antidote to the “Clash of Civilizations”. The Lebanese people, having suffered from terrorism for decades before it reached the US mainland, do have a deeper understanding of this terrible phenomenon. They certainly know the difference between legitimate resistance and terror and recognize well when one evolves into the other. Further, in Lebanon Christians, and Muslims have interacted and interfaced on a broader scale than practically any other country in the world. Thus Lebanese Americans may be a likely source of ideas about additional solutions for terrorism beyond pure military power.
While ALF is a non-profit organization and has applied for 501c status, its budget will be rather limited and project oriented. We will try to operate on minimal resources that can be provided by any single Member of the Board. Therefore ALF should never be forced to compromise or adjust its principles to secure funding from any source.
ALF believes that although there may be occasional disagreements between a given Lebanese government and the US, historically there has never been a significant conflict of interest between Lebanon and the USA. Now that the US is trying to proactively promote true democracy in the Arab world, a free, democratic and fully sovereign Lebanon should present the most likely target for initial success in that regard, if the Lebanese are protected from the meddling of neighboring or distant countries in their internal affairs. Therefore Lebanon should always have excellent relations with the US and should act as a catalyst to improve US relations with other Arab countries
Finally, the ALF respects the individualism of its leaders and members, many of whom also lead or participate in other organizations. We see strength in diversity and honest dialogue. We also look forward to communicate and work in good faith with all Lebanese and Arab American Organizations whether they agree with us or not.
Robert A. Chahine, M.D.
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