This essay will look at the most important moment in Arab history that lead up to immigration to the United States. The moment that will be looked at is the immigrants that came to the United States during the Palestinian/Arab War with Israel that began in 1948. This was a defining moment in Arab history as many Arabs sought to desperately leave the area for the United States in search of peace. This even created a new set of Arab Americans that were different that past groups. This group was really the group that defined modern Muslim Americans.
Prior to the Palestinian war with Israel there had been limited immigration of Arabs to the United States. As documented in the book “Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience” by Aliza Naff the author documents how prior to the World Wars many Arab immigrants sought to come to American for only brief time periods . Naff explains that early Arab immigrants were not like the majority of other immigrants. Many other immigrants from Europe sought new life’s and new land for agriculture. The European immigrants also sought industrial jobs. Meanwhile, the Arab immigrants sought jobs as peddling goods for short periods of time. Thus they would come to sell a certain good or service that they got involved with from other Arab immigrants. Thus the immigrants were artisans who did not see a long future in America. However, many ended up staying. Many stayed and created homes and would later encourage others to come and stay with them during the war that broke out in the Middle East after the conclusion of World War II.
Unlike this early immigration the immigration after World War II was due to conflict and the search for peace. The Arab-Israel war began in 1948 as a war over the territory that is today mostly Israel. The war began in an attempt to create a state for the Jewish people after their persecution during World War II. Given the immense conflict and casualties many Arabs sought to leave the area in search of peace. Many ended up in the United States. The war continued though there were brief peace treaties. The war again broke out 1967 as Israel sought more land for the Jewish citizens. The war and unease in the eara has continued until this day. From this point on there has been a constant wave of Arabs seeking immigration to the United States to escape the conflict and find peace.
This new wave of immigration was not temporary. The immigrants that fled to the US during the war intended to stay. They were often professionals and highly skilled doctors and engineers. They became active in American politics when they arrived and sought to pressure the United States to instill peace in the Middle East. Thus they became an important and active class of people in the US. During the era of civils rights, the immigrants strongly supported a multi-cultural identity for America. They fundamentally infused American culture with their beliefs and became a new segment of American Society.
This event was the most important moment in Arab American history because it defined a new set of Arabs that saw themselves and fundamentally American. They did not see their time in America as temporary and sought to fully become American. They came with a new set of beliefs in the multiculturalism and a belief that all people should have equal rights. They used this belief to oppose the Israel Palestine war and wanted to bring peace to the region. The belief that the new immigrants were American was first and foremost, however, this new group did not leave behind their identity and their past. There was a large growth in Mosques and Islam in the United States that followed this immigration. It was not until this time that the Arab culture and Islam religion became a large part of American society. It remains a large part today and will continue to grow. Unfortunately, peace in the Middle East seems to be an endless struggle. Today we see many immigrants coming to America from Syria from the War on ISIS. They will join the group of Arab immigrants that came starting in 1948 and will no doubt keep many of their ideals. A strong commitment to the United States, a belief in multi culturalism, and a focus on achieving peace in their homeland.
- Naff, A. (1993). Becoming American: The Early Arab Immigrant Experience. Southern Illinois Univ Pr (Trd); 1st edition (March 24, 1993).