American Arab Journalists denounce Wayne State University’s cancellation of Helen Thomas Award as a move to undermine Free Speech

Chicago, Il – The National Arab American Journalists Association Saturday denounced the decision to Wayne State University to terminate its annual Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award, calling the move a cowardly act surrendering to racist hate.
Wayne State University, which has a large American Arab student population located in the heart of the nation’s largest American Arab community, took the action in the face of pressure from Pro-Israel hate organizations angry because Helen Thomas expressed an opinion criticizing the influence of Zionist American organizations on American Foreign Policy.
Thomas, the keynote speaker at a Diversity Conference hosted Dec. 3 by ArabDetroit.com and attended by more than 300 participants, criticized those who attacked her for challenging Israel’s actions in Palestine. She repeated her belief that the Zionist political movement in the United States “controls” the White House, the Congress and American foreign policy.
“The topic of Zionism is irrelevant to this debate. The real issue is free speech. Is America a nation of Free Speech or has our free speech been compromised by oftentimes vicious and hateful special interest organizations,” said NAAJA coordinator Ray Hanania.
“This is America and America is the nation that is supposed to be the country of Free Speech. Instead of cowering in the face of pressure and special interest lobbying groups, journalists especially and other mainstream organizations should allow an open and full public discussion of the issues, controversial or not.”
Hanania said that American Arab journalists have come under intense pressure from their news organizations and from organizations across the country in the wake of Helen Thomas’ public crucifixion.
Thomas denied she resigned from the Hearst media corporation and said she was “fired” for expressing her views. She called President Barack Obama and other mainstream journalists “who fear challenging Israel’s influence” in this country “cowardly.”
The Society of Professional Journalists this year closed down the American Arab Journalism section and blog specifically because American Arab journalists have expressed opinions that challenge the news media’s failure to be objective on the issue of the Middle East. The decision by Wayne State University to cave to special-interest political pressure is a continuation of growing anti-Arab sentiment.
“Mainstream American journalism is being bullied and pressured into censoring pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian free speech. American Arabs have never said that the pro-Israel view should be silenced. We have only demanded that the mainstream American news media include our views equally and present them fairly. They have not done that. Helen Thomas is a perfect example of that lack of professionalism.”
NAAJA has more than 250 members across the country working in mainstream American journalism positions and the ethnic media.
American Arab Journalists from across America will converge in Dearborn March 4 – 6, 2011 to participate in a national conference to address this and other topics. The conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency in
Dearborn. The web site is www.NAAJA-US.com.
“The voices of American Arabs will not be silenced in a country where we, too, have served our country valiantly in every war, in every military branch and in every public and government position that has been open to us. Wayne State University’s actions ate shameful and undermine the very aspect that makes this country great, free speech,” Hanania said.

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