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James George Abourezk

In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by Karl E. Mundt
Succeeded by Larry Pressler

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1973
Preceded by E. Y. Berry
Succeeded by James Abdnor

In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by None
Joseph C. O'Mahoney in 1947 (Senate Committee on Indian Affairs)
Succeeded by John Melcher

Born February 24, 1931 (1931-02-24) (age 78)
Wood, South Dakota
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of South Dakota, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Profession Attorney
Religion Syrian Orthodox

James George Abourezk (born February 24, 1931) is a former Democratic United States Representative and United States Senator, and was the first Arab-American to serve in the United States Senate. He represented South Dakota in the U.S. Senate from 1973 until 1979.


Early life

Born to Christian Lebanese parents, who had emigrated from the southern Lebanese village of EI-Kfeir, Abourezk was born in Wood and lived in South Dakota most of his life. Between 1948 and 1952, he served in the United States Navy during the Korean War. Back in the U.S., he received a degree in civil engineering from South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City in 1961, and then earned an advanced degree from University of South Dakota School of Law in Vermillion in 1966. He passed the bar, and began a legal practice in Rapid City.

Political career

He was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives, and served from 1971 to 1973. He then was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1979.

As a senator, he criticized the Office of Public Safety (OPS), a U.S. agency linked to the USAID and the CIA that provided training to foreign police forces. He also was the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs and of the American Indian Policy Review Commission. Abourezk was an early supporter of the National initiative and with fellow Senator Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR) introducted an amendment allowing more direct democracy. However, this initiative failed.

In 1974 TIME magazine named Senator Abourezk one of the 200 Faces for the Future[1].

In 1978, Abourezk chose not to run for reelection.


In 1980, Abourezk founded the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, a grassroots civil rights organization. In 1989, he wrote Advise and Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the U.S. Senate (ISBN 1-55652-066-2) and he is the co-author of "Through Different Eyes: Two Leading Americans — a Jew and an Arab — Debate U. S. Policy in the Middle East."

Abourezk now works as a lawyer and writer in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


U.S. support for Israel

In the CounterPunch interview, Abourezk also argued that America's support of Israel endures because "the Congress is pretty much reliant on money from radical Zionists".[2]

He reiterated this statement in an editorial for Electronic Intifada on July 30, 2006, where he wrote:

...the U.S. Congress is despicable in its silence. They are all bought off by the Israel lobby and are afraid to criticize. If this were happening in any other country by any other country, there would be speeches on the floor of Congress, legislation introduced to stop aid and other help to whoever would be committing this cruelty. But since their campaign money comes from the Israeli lobby, we hear only silence.[3]

In a letter dated December 2006, Abourezk wrote:

"I can tell you from personal experience that, at least in the Congress, the support Israel has in that body is based completely on political fear—fear of defeat by anyone who does not do what Israel wants done. I can also tell you that very few members of Congress—at least when I served there—have any affection for Israel or for its Lobby. What they have is contempt, but it is silenced by fear of being found out exactly how they feel. I’ve heard too many cloakroom conversations in which members of the Senate will voice their bitter feelings about how they’re pushed around by the Lobby to think otherwise. In private one hears the dislike of Israel and the tactics of the Lobby, but not one of them is willing to risk the Lobby’s animosity by making their feelings public...
I see no desire on the part of Members of Congress to further any U.S. imperial dreams by using Israel as their pit bull. The only exceptions to that rule is the feelings of Jewish members, who, I believe, are sincere in their efforts to keep U.S. money flowing to Israel.
I believe that divestment, and especially cutting off U.S. aid to Israel would immediately result in Israel’s giving up the West Bank and leaving the Gaza to the Palestinians. Such pressure would work, I think, because the Israeli public would be able to determine what is causing their misery and would demand that an immediate peace agreement be made with the Palestinians."[4]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
E. Y. Berry
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Dakota's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
James Abdnor
United States Senate
Preceded by
Karl E. Mundt
United States Senator (Class 2) from South Dakota
Served alongside: George McGovern
Succeeded by
Larry Pressler
Political offices
Preceded by
Committee created
Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs
1977 – 1979
Succeeded by
John Melcher
Party political offices
Preceded by
Donn H. Wright
Democratic nominee for United States Senator from South Dakota
(class 2)

Succeeded by
Don Barnett


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

James Abourezk (born 1931) was the first Arab-American elected to the United States Senate.


  • I marveled at the Hezbollah resistance to Israel . . . It was a marvel of organization, of courage and bravery.
  • The Arabs who were involved in 9/11 cooperated with the Zionists, actually. It was a cooperation. They gave them the perfect excuse to denounce all Arabs.
  • There's a direct correlation, we've found, between the demonization of Saddam, and violent acts against Arab-Americans in this country.
    • The Arabs: Who they are, who they are not, from the Moyers collection

External links

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