A standing-room-only crowd of about 400 people attended an evening of Palestinian cultural events last night in the Rayburn Office Building. The event was part of an effort by Americans of Arab descent to overcome what they describe as barriers of ignorance and prejudice against Palestinians that they believe exist among some members of Congress.
"It's an opportunity to present Palestinian culture on Capitol Hill for the policy makers of this country and try to show them that we Palestinians have a heritage we are proud of," said Sami Khateb, an official of the Palestine Aid Society, one of the nine groups that helped organize the event.
Four members of Congress hosted the evening of songs, dances, fashion shows and poetry the theme of which was "Palestinians and their Land."
"It seems obvious to me we know very little about Arab people and their culture," said Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.). "This is an apolitical, harmless and quite enjoyable way to participate in this kind of cultural event.
"But there is a deeper meaning also. It is the beginning of an understanding of the problems which bedevil us in this part of the world in which we are inextricably involved and where there seems to be great difficulty in arriving at a solution. This is a great beginning."
Members of Congress attending or supporting the event included Reps. Howard D. Nielson (R-Utah); George W. Crockett, Jr. (D-Mich.); Nick J. Rahall, II (D-W.Va.) and Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio).