Blog Archive

Blog Archive – May, 2012

Ghazi Khankan (1934-2012) and the 64th anniversary of the Nakba

May 14, 2012

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

What enables a citizen to work for peace and justice day after day, year after year… for three generations? Some answers can be found in the life of Ghazi Khankan. Our American-New York brother died suddenly two weeks ago, Khankan’s resolute manner exemplifies the enduring struggle and demonstrates the finest qualities of a long-distance runner in this demanding phase of our US history.

The Zionist undermining of all efforts at peace pervades the US culture, a sinister, energetic shadow of its brutish force across Arab and Muslim lands themselves. Since 1967 when voices swelled in opposition to Zionist expansion into Palestinian lands and homes, Arabs in this country organized, campaigned, wrote, spoke and marched to expose the myths and present the realities-- to speak truth to power. Most eloquently expressed by our scholar Edward Said, the struggle was implemented and paid for by many, many lesser known. There are those whose lives were sacrificed, others whose health and family were the price, and countless anonymous, tireless activists whose livelihoods were thwarted. 

Forces set against Palestine merged into assaults on Bosnians, Chechens, Iraqis, and became a confrontation that found its fullest, ugliest expression against what seemed an assault against all Muslim peoples and our faith itself.  

One who defended Palestinian rights in the early 1960s and stayed faithful up to his last breath was Ghazi Khankan. From the 1964 World Fair in New York when Khankan joined with MT Mehdi in a campaign to defend a mural of Palestinian history at the exhibition’s Jordan pavilion, he was there—daily-- trying to educate, to persuade, to join, to reason, to connect. From that fight for Palestinian rights Khankan moved to a career embracing African American Muslim leadership. He went on to challenge falsehoods in US media, to correct the myths, to inter-faith dialogue, to champion Muslim American rights.

Following his sudden death, testimonials to Ghazi Khankan’s integrity and leadership broadcast across the internet. Countless friends and colleagues recalled his work with MT Mehdi, another noble leader of these decades-long struggles. These men’s persistence, their intellect and humor, and their enduring belief in justice were remembered in testimonial after testimonial. They launched the Eid stamp, not a minor matter in the US. Another institution they initiated was the Star and Crescent in public places, a symbol of Muslim American presence alongside other American faiths. When inter-faith dialogue became a community educational strategy, Ghazi was at its center. Long before the dreadful watershed events of September 2001, Khankan was there-- tireless, patient, well-informed, moving forward without rancor, whether leading demonstrations on Fifth Avenue, conducting inter-faith matrimonials or teaching Arabic.

Khankan, despite a lifetime commitment to Palestinian sovereignty was not of Palestinian origin but Syrian. After graduating from the Lysee Francais in Aleppo, he went to AUB in Beirut, then UCLA in Los Angeles. Khankan remained in the US, settling in New York with his wife Tanya and together they raised their children Dhalia and Yahya.

See the May Day broadcast on WBAI Radio N.Y., May 1, 2012. Now ‘podcast’--

[ Ghazi Khankan (1934-2012) and the 64th anniversary of the Nakba ]

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