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Concerned Arab Americans Meet in Washington

The current Middle East crisis has been especially difficult for Americans of Lebanese descent. Recently, many Arab Americans met in Washington to share their concerns with members of the U.S. Congress.

More than 100 Arab Americans came to Washington for what they described as an emergency summit to express their concerns about the Middle East crisis. They called for an immediate halt to hostilities.

James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute. "There is no military solution to political problems," he said.

All agreed with President Bush that Hezbollah started this crisis and that Israel has the right to defend itself. But many of those at the meeting feel Israel's response has gone too far.

Houeida Saad is a Lebanese American from Arlington, Virginia. "I think there is a feeling in the American public that somehow Lebanese Americans do not think that Israel has a right to defend itself,” she says. “The issue really here is, is it appropriate to target civilians? And to target the infrastructure of Lebanon? That only creates more harm to the state of Israel."

Abbas Youssef is a Lebanese American from Dearborn Heights, Michigan. He says that while Hezbollah may have created the current crisis, the root of the problem is the 58-year-old Israeli-Palestinian land dispute.

“The problem is we have a dispute over territories. We have the Palestinians -- no state. He [President Bush] dropped the peace process and it is unfortunate that a president in his position has taken that stand.”

The participants also had the opportunity to speak to several members of Congress about their concerns. They say that Arab American opinions need to be heard more in Washington's halls of power.

Elizabeth Ayoub is an artist from Miami, Florida. "We need to raise money. I have always said it and I have always thought about it. Money equals power,” she says. “And also it is resources. Tapping into the right people that have a lot of power to get your message across. But until you reach those people, and until you have enough power and clout, then it is really an uphill battle."

The conference participants criticized the Bush administration's refusal to call for an immediate cease-fire -- and what they see as the Bush administration's abandonment of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

However, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States is working to end the violence. Rice, who arrived in the Middle East Sunday, said before her departure that the Bush administration supports an enduring peace in the region. "We do seek an end to the current violence. We seek it urgently. More than that, we seek to address the root causes of that violence so that a real and endurable peace can be established."

Secretary Rice also ruled out negotiating a quick ceasefire that does not deal with the causes of the violence, calling it a "false promise" because it would not last.