Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services
The Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services was launched in 1991 and "is a non-profit agency committed to advocating for and empowering individuals, families, and communities."
The National Network for Arab American Communities is an institution of the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), along with other national Arab advocacy groups Center for Arab American Philanthropy and Arab American National Museum.
The Center began operating out of a storefront in Dearborn’s south end in 1971. The group states on their website the reason the Center was launched:
- "The 1960s was an extremely volatile time both politically and socially, and this volatility deeply affected the Arab-American community. The burgeoning Dearborn Arab community was developing an identity, and it was in the midst of this that a small group of dedicated and concerned people came together determined to provide assistance for immigrants in any way they could. We saw the daily struggles many Arabs who immigrated to the United States faced—the linguistic, cultural, and social barriers—and we knew we had to do something. ACCESS was literally a labor of love; it was completely staffed by volunteers assisting those who had trouble with filling out applications in English, completing their tax forms, translation, and anything else they needed. In 1970, George Khoury (a current lifetime member of ACCESS’s Board of Directors) was elected our first board president."
Cultivating Kucinich and Gabbard
Bassam Khawam, a former executive director and current board member of the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS-Ohio), said that Tulsi Gabbard's 2017 trip to Syria wasn’t the first trip his Cleveland-based organization has coordinated for U.S. lawmakers to the Middle East. Founded in 1991 to serve the Arab American community in Ohio, AACCESS has organized three trips to the region for Dennis Kucinich, the former Democratic congressman from Ohio, between 2006 and 2011; Khawam said the group did the same for Gabbard, a two-term Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, because of her expressed interest in the region.
Gabbard initially declined to say who financed her trip to Syria. However, in a press release Gabbard revealed her delegation (which also included former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich) had been “led and sponsored by” an outfit called the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS—Ohio). Her statement added she and the rest of the delegation had been accompanied by two men, Elie Khawam and Bassam Khawam.
A 2006 article refers to “Sam Khawam,” an alias of Bassam Khawam’s, as the “chairman of the Arab American Community Center for Social and Economic Services.” It would suggest, then, despite the slight naming discrepancy (“Social and Economic” rather than “Economic and Social”), that the Messrs. Khawam are part of AACCESS.The Guardian reported that Bassam Khawam was the executive director of the organization.
Gabbard’s press release described the pair as “longtime peace advocates.”
In truth, Bassam Khawam and Elie Khawam are both officials in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), a political party and paramilitary organization founded in Lebanon in 1932, and currently actively engaged in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad regime.
According to the SSNP website, Elie enjoys a senior position in the politburo; “Chief of Cross-Border Affairs;” while Bassam was given the honor of presenting Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Ja`fari, with a gift and a toast at a New York dinner in 2015. The pair, in other words, are two of the key U.S.-based point men for the party—and, by extension, the Syrian dictatorship.
Highlights of the party’s activities since its founding include assassinating the first Lebanese prime minister, Riad al-Solh, in 1951; and participating in the brief civil war of 1958 as well as its much less-brief successor from 1975-90, during which period they earned the distinction of recruiting Lebanon’s first female suicide bomber, 16-year-old Sana’ Mehaidli, who drove an explosives-laden Peugeot into a convoy of Israeli troops in 1985.
In May 2008, the SSNP assisted the Islamist militants of Hezbollah in their armed takeover of Beirut’s western half, and has ruled its fiefdom of Hamra with an iron fist ever since, famously assaulting and attempting to kidnap the late Christopher Hitchens in 2009, and less famously hospitalizing the Lebanese journalist Omar Harqous.
When the Syrian uprising began in 2011, it fell to the SSNP to violently disperse anti-regime demonstrators outside the Syrian embassy in Beirut, using “fists, sticks, and belts.” Most recently, the party has dispatched an estimated 6,000-8,000 fighters to the Syrian battlefield to help the Assad regime annihilate its opponents, to whom the SSNP officially refers as the “Jews of the interior” and “an essential arm of the racist Jewish enemy.”
As at Aug. 18, 2011, the following serve on the board of the Center:
- Wadad Abed, President
- Yasser Al-Soofi, Treasurer
- Edward Bagale, English Secretary
- Amal M. Berry-Brown, Arabic Secretary
- David Allen, At-Large
- Aoun Jaber, At-Large
Board of Directors
- Hussein Berry
- Ramzi Chraim
- Greg Clark
- Amal David, Ph.D.
- Rasha Demashkieh
- Dennis Denno
- J. Joseph Diederich
- Debbie Dingell
- Dr. Basim Dubaybo
- Charlene Elder
- Paul Good
- Wassim Mahfouz
- Mike Makki
- Hassan Makled
- Mike Makki
- Linda Mansour
- Ron May
- Ziad Ojakli
- Robert Riney
- Wafa Salah
- Hussien Shousher
- Gerald Smith
- James Stokes
- William Swor
Emeritus Board Members
- Ali Baleed Almaklani
- Barbara Aswad, Ph.D.
- Andrea Awada- Zeaiter
- Linda Hallick
- George Khoury
- Noel J. Saleh
As at Aug. 18, 2011, the following worked for the Center:
- Hassan Jaber, Executive Director
- Maha Freij, Deputy Executive Director & Chief Financial Officer
- John Burl Artis, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer
- Anan Ameri, Ph.D., Arab American National Museum Director
- Rashid Barkaji, Information Technology Director
- Abdallah Boumediene, Community Health & Research, Center Operations Director
- Amne Darwish-Talab, Social Services Director (East Dearborn Office)
- Hannan Deep, Communications & Marketing Director
- Brigitte Fawaz-Anouti, Social Services Director (Main Office) and Special Projects
- Najwa Hadous, Employment & Training Director
- Adnan Hammad, Ph.D., Senior Director, Community Health & Research Center
- Mosein Hussein, Human Resources Director
- Sonia Harb, MSW, CSW, Senior Director, Employment & Training and Youth & Education
- Jamie Kim, Center for Arab American Philanthropy Director
- Wisam Qasem-Fakhoury, Finance Director
- Anisa Sahoubah, Youth & Education Director
- Nadia Tonova, National Outreach Director
- ACCESS: Mission & Vision (accessed on Aug. 18, 2011)
- https://www.accesscommunity.org/national-programs/national-network-arab-american-communities National Network for Arab American Communities accessed August 8 2018
- ACCESS: A Brief History (accessed on Aug. 18, 2011)
- The Daily Beast Tulsi Gabbard’s Fascist Escorts to Syria Alex Rowell Tim Mak Michael Weiss Updated 04.11.17 4:10PM ET / Published 01.26.17 7:25PM ET
- ACCESS: Board of Directors (accessed on Aug. 18, 2011)
- ACCESS 2010 Annual Report