If so, there are likely more Hamas and Hamas-linked Muslims in Chicagoland too.
Little Beitunia – Orland Park, Illinois’ ‘Palestinian’ diaspora.
Chicagoans are fond of saying that there are more Poles here than anywhere outside of Poland. But ask about Palestinians and you may get a blank stare. As it turns out, there are likely more Palestinian immigrants living in the Chicagoland area than anywhere else in the U.S.
The nexus of Arab American life in the Chicago region is the city’s Southwest suburbs. Bridgeview, the oldest and most established of the area’s Muslim community, is seen as the hub, but the community also extends to neighboring towns like Oak Lawn and Orland Park.
When listeners learned that reporter Michael Puente and I planned to visit Orland Park this week, they asked us to look into the town’s diverse population. “I work out in Orland and I’d be interested to hear you address the large Arabic populations here,” listener Eric Olsen told us. “Where are they from?”
“There are 23,000 people living here from Beitunia,” he told us, much to our surprise. “And only 2,000 back in Beitunia.”
The truth is more complicated, but surprising nonetheless. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there were closer to 20,000 people living in Beitunia as of 2007. But sociologist Louise Cainkar, a professor at Marquette University and an expert on Arab immigration, backs up the underlying thrust of Hassan’s claim.
“Historically Beitunia was the largest feeder village [of Palestinian immigrants] to Chicago,” she said.
Cainkar has spent time in Beitunia and has seen the results of this relationship.
“[The village]used to be characterized by agriculture, but is now quite built up,” she said.
Cainkar says the investment from money made in the U.S. and sent back to the village in the form of remittances is visible.
Cainkar estimates that as many as a quarter of all Palestinians living in the U.S. live in the counties surrounding Chicago — more than live any other American city. And, Palestinians make up the single largest Arab ethnic group in the Chicago region, according to Cainkar — as much as 40 percent of the area’s total Arab population.
Cainkar said the biggest wave of Palestinian immigration to the U.S. came in the 1980s and ‘90s. Many who came were not immigrants but students, Cainkar said, earning advanced degrees.Many of those same students-turned-engineers, say, went on to live in Persian Gulf states, drawn by the promise of good paying jobs funded with oil boom money. But 350,000 Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait and other Gulf states in 1990 after the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) refused to back foreign intervention as a solution to Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Cainkar said that for many of these Palestinians, “this meant their only other option for survival was the U.S.”
“Overall Arab income in the U.S. is higher than the median income of the U.S. as a whole,” Cainkar said. “Usually groups that face discrimination don’t do well in this country, but they’re an exception to this pattern.”
Read it all and related story here.