There was no prime rib, no cocktails, no idle chatter Saturday night at the second annual American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) dinner in the Washington Hilton ballroom.
Instead, about 1,000 guests dined on a last-minute change of menu: "an Arabic austerity dinner" of lentil rice, tossed salad and pita bread. And they talked about the sadness of the war in Lebanon.
In conversation and in speeches, the same topics were discussed.
On President Reagan: "He is letting the Israelis get away with genocide," said Robert D. Joseph, president of the National Association of Arab Americans.
On Secretary of State Alexander Haig's resignation: "I think Reagan saw the storm clouds gathering on the electoral horizon," said Washington lawyer and former South Dakota senator James G. Abourezk.
"Haig was a man who was going to lead America into war," said Richard Shadyac, a local attorney and chairman of the dinner.
On George P. Shultz's ascension to Haig's job: "By the time the confirmation hearing is done, West Beirut will be finished," said Abdeen Jabara, a Detroit lawyer and ADC executive committee member.
"Shultz will give us greater opportunities, broader horizons in the Middle East," said Shadyac.
On Americans' image of Arabs: "Arabs are defined in the media as barbarians or greedy, oil-rich, high-spending sheiks," said Abourezk, whose parents immigrated from Lebanon.
On the American public's attitude: "There's a tremendous closet faction of supporters," said Shadyac. "I must have gotten 15 phone calls yesterday from people I don't know. I went to a bank meeting--WASP-y, of course--and everyone told me their sentiments were with me."
On politicians: "Where are the Ted Kennedys who moaned about El Salvador and Vietnam?" asked Abourezk. "The Jimmy Carters who talked about Afghanistan? The Ronald Reagans who talked about the illegal acquisition of territory by Argentina in the Falkland Islands. More people were killed in one week in Lebanon than were ever killed in El Salvador, and yet they remain silent."
On Mayor Marion Barry, who announced at a pro-Israeli demonstration last week that District residents support the invasion: "We're going to take that statement of Barry's and ram it up his nose," said Abourezk.
On Menachem Begin: "Remember him?" asked Abourezk. "He's the Menachem Begin who spoke at the disarmament conference. The same Menachem Begin who received the Nobel Peace Prize. The same Menachem Begin who said he did not invade any country. And before that, he said it was the most humane invasion ever perpetrated."
On Israel: "The Israeli government owes reparations to Lebanon," said James Zogby, ADC's executive director.
On relief: "ADC has organized a nonprofit, tax-exempt foundation called Save Lebanon Inc., dedicated to finding families and helping thousands of refugees made homeless by American money and Israeli military power," said Abourezk.
As soon as Abourezk requested donations, a succession of guests each offered $500. Alex Dandy, owner of the Hamady Brothers supermarket chain, announced he would pick up the tab for the dinner and donate $25,000.
Guests included Josephine Butler, who accepted $500 from ADC for the D.C. Statehood Party; the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Olafur Grimsson, member of the Icelandic Parliament.
Many Europeans, said Grimsson, "think in the long run the invasion will hurt the Israeli people as much as it is hurting the Lebanese people today."
Said Hala Maksoud, executive secretary of the Arab Women's Council and participant in a daily vigil near the White House: "We were joined by a large group of Jewish women. It shows that our people can live together in the future."