Abire Sabbagh, Community Engagement Coordinator with Palestinian American Community Center (PACC)

“It’s the people. The ones that are physically, mentally and emotionally resisting oppression. They inspire me.”

-Abire Sabbagh

Abire on how she supports PACC...

I am the Community Engagement Coordinator! I am responsible for coalition-building with local, state-wide, national and (eventually) international organizations. I also write press releases that highlight the existence and resilience of our people. I coordinated PACC’s Census campaign and Get out the Vote campaign, as well. I also support PACC’s education classes focusing on Palestine! I started our advocacy and community engagement youth teams in order to empower our youth to advocate for Palestine. It’s a mix of community building, solidarity statements, internal Palestine education, and civic engagement.

Abire on PACC’s five main focus areas...

  1. Providing cultural, social, educational, and recreational activities to our local community members to help them integrate in American society while holding onto their Arab heritage 
  2. Engaging in social service and mutual aid support to provide both short-term and long-term sustainable relief 
  3. Building partnerships and coalitions with other local organizations and referring our community members to the relevant organization that can help meet their needs   
  4. An on-going commitment to civic engagement, to ensure that our local Arab/Palestinian community’s voice is elevated and heard by local and national elected officials
  5. Leading Palestine education efforts to ensure that Palestinian history, struggle, culture, and resistance to present-day occupation is never forgotten or overlooked. 

Abire on PACC’s involvement with the Alliance...

We have been a member of the Alliance for about a year now! PACC has built a solid foundation for the local Arab and Palestinian community. We wanted to expand to have more of a statewide, and eventually national, reach. We also wanted to build coalition with other organizations across New Jersey. PACC is intentional about being intersectional in our work. The Alliance was the perfect way to do it all.

Abire on what the Alliance means to PACC...

The Alliance provides us the opportunity to share our community’s stories and needs, especially when Arabs and Palestinians are excluded from the mainstream immigrant justice conversation. We are often forgotten, but working with the Alliance has given us the opportunity to represent the diversity of the immigrant community and raise awareness around the issues that impact Arabs and Palestinians. We also bring another perspective to the Alliance: we highlight foreign policy issues and how it impacts our communities, too.

Abire on her moment of politicization...

In 2006, when I was twelve years old, I went to visit my family in Lebanon. It was then that Israel invaded Lebanon, which is known in the region as the 33-Day War. We were located in southern Lebanon, so we had to evacuate north. Because we were U.S. citizens, my mom, my siblings, and I were able to be evacuated on a U.S. military ship. When I came back, I wondered why was Lebanon invaded and by whom? And also, I questioned the idea of privilege. Why was it that I got to leave, and my family had to stay behind? It goes back to the idea that because of a piece of paper, my life is deemed more valuable than the people I share blood with. From there, it was learning more about the world and getting involved.

Abire on who inspires her...

The people inspire me. The people on the ground doing the work. The people abroad who resist U.S. imperialism, those who are forced to immigrate, survivors of the carceral state, and so on. The people of the Arab world inspire me. It’s the people. The ones that are physically, mentally and emotionally resisting oppression. They inspire me.

Abire on the need of Arab-American Heritage month...

It’s important to have a designated time period to honor the contributions of Arab-Americans. It’s a time to highlight immigrants who come to this country, build in the community, and build a legacy. It's an opportunity for youth, and generations to come, to have examples to follow. Especially post-9/11, there is a need to decimate the stereotypes of who Arabs are, combat orientalism, and the falsehood that we’re backwards. It’s a time to reclaim who we are. 

Abire on the beauty of Ramadan...

Ramadan moves away from the ego. It’s a time to build community in the sense of “I have and you have, so let's come together.” There’s also great discipline that comes with Ramadan. We are so conditioned and used to material things, and Ramadan reminds us of the things in life that are so much more important than that. Are you treating people with respect? Are you meeting community needs? Are you working on yourself?

Abire on what she’s currently reading and impactful books...

I just started reading Begin Again by Eddie Glaude. He is amazing. The book that has impacted me the most is the Autobiography of Malcolm X. I read it when I was 16. I remember feeling so validated after reading it, especially as a Muslim committed to social justice. My passion for social justice is inherently connected to my identity as a Muslim.

Abire on what brings her joy in these turbulent times...

Teaching. Having the opportunity to teach the youth about what is going on in Palestine. It’s about being a part of that moment when things connect and a spark is lit.

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