It was incorrectly reported in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post that Najeeb E. Halaby was elected president of the National Association of Arab Americans. Halabe was invited as a guest speaker at the organization's annual meeting in Pittsburgh but neither was elected president nor is a member of the NAAA. The new president is Hisham Sharabi, professor of history at Georgetown University.
Arab-Americans gathered here over the weekend to launch a lobbying counterattack to offset what they call political pressures on Congress by American Jews and the Israeli government.
The delegates to the convention of the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), which represents about 20,000 members, mapped strategy to counter what the featured speaker, Sen. James Abourezk (D.S.D.), called a highly organized and well-financed Jewish-American lobbying effort over the past 30 years.
The convention also submitted a package of resolutions strongly denouncing what it characterized as an Israeli policy of military expansion in the Middle East. These resolutions, in part, asked the Carter administration to:
Recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole voice of the Palestinian people. The NAAA argues that the United States, before the formation of the state of Israel, recognized an Israeli government-in-exile. It also demanded that the United States give the PLO full freedom to open and maintain offices in this country.
Halt the arms trade with Israel, including "aircraft, tanks, munitions and material for military purposes," and the "sale or credits or gifts" of anything which may be used for weapons, until Israel guarantees the human rights of Palestinians and all other minorities living in Israel. The delegates noted that the United States supplied arms, including "cluster bombs," used against civilians in the recent Israel incursion into Lebanon.
At the same time, the delegates urged that the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and Egypt be approved.
Demand a renewal of peace talks for a "just and lasting peace."
The resolution on arms sales came as a partial defeat for NAAA's new president, Najeeb A. Halaby, a former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and an international businessman who proposed the endorsement of the U.S. arms sale package to Egypt, Saudi Arabia - and Israel - as "the best of a bad bargain for all sides."
But it also came as a hardline answer to attempt by pro-Israeli elements in this country to block the sale of 60 F15 fighter planes to Saudi Arabia.
Joe Baroody, outgoing president, said the newly adopted resolutions are realistic, but the delegates are realistic enough to know "Carter is not going to accept these positions tomorrow. But these are what we're looking for."
Abourezk said the jewish-American lobby, which he considers much more influential than the Arab-Amereican lobby on Capitol Hill, is tied to a great extent to Israeli: government policies.
He said the fledging NAA is "an organization of Americans, acting in the interests of the United States." He said he supports the association as long as it maintains an American posture and does not become a tool of Arab nations.
The Jewish-Israelu lobby effort has largely gone unchallenged, Abourezk said.
"On Mideast affairs, most people in the United States didn't really care, and politicians were free to vote on the issues without fear of violating their responsibilities of representation," he said. "So, it was a political vacuum - and the Israel lobby was quick to fill that vacuum. They are highly organized, and they called for support from the American Jews with newsletters . . . ."
Abourezk expressed fear that another weapons since Israel now has a "nuclear alternative!" His view was shared by another speaker, Ghassan Tueni, Lebanese U.N. ambassador, who warned it would not be a "local" war.
Halaby, a former chief on Pan Am who now heads an international corporatioon aiding in development and finance in the Eastern Hemisphere, including the Mideast, pictured the NAAA as an American moderator to help solve the Middle East crisis.
"First I believe that the best thing we can all do is to try to isolate the zealots on both sides who have made such a mess for themselves and for us in that part of the world," he said.