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Outspoken Palestinian-American Target of Arson : Dissent: Fire destroys his business. A U.S. Army veteran, the Michigan man has openly opposed gulf involvement.

January 23, 1991|AMY HARMON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BLISSFIELD, Mich. — A fast-food restaurant owned by a Palestinian-American who has openly opposed U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf was destroyed by arson Tuesday, Michigan state police reported.

"It's arson. There's no question about that," said Sgt. John Fatchett of the state fire marshal's office. Fatchett said the investigation would likely continue for several weeks.

Kareem Khoury, a U.S. Army veteran, stood in the parking lot Tuesday evening, surveying the blackened shell of the Dairy Queen he opened three years ago. "The feelings I have are very mixed," Khoury said. "There is anger, of course, but so many people came to help and say they are sorry, people I don't even know who they are. So you get one feeling from the community, but then you see something like this," he said, gesturing to the broken glass, twisted metal and charred wood littering the parking lot.

Khoury has made no bones about his opposition to the war: "I think this country went to war way too fast. I don't hide it when I get into a conversation. I tell people what I think. I thought that's what this country stood for."

The arson was not the first attack on the Dairy Queen. Last Saturday morning, Khoury found the restaurant splattered with blue and green paint. Peace signs and "USA No. 1!" were spray-painted on the walls.

As word spread of the vandalism, more than 60 members of the community came to help clean it up, Khoury said. "We had floods of people coming in. It was very overwhelming."

Khoury, 35, has lived in the United States for 18 years. He served for two years in the Army, and now resides in Blissfield, Mich., with his wife and four sons. "I'm proud to be an American and I would serve my country whenever I am needed," Khoury said. "But I am Palestinian, too, and I am not going to throw away my heritage."

"It's hard to believe people can hate that much," said the Rev. Robert Garrett, minister at First United Methodist Church, where Khoury teaches Sunday school. Garrett, who has collected 600 signatures on a petition to deplore the vandalism at the Dairy Queen, said: "The terrorists are here and it's not the Iraqis."

Alan Van Looke, 43, a carpenter who came by to board up the shattered windows, said the vandals could not have known who Khoury really was.

"A lot of what's happened to this building is just ignorance, people who don't know him," Van Looke said. "He teaches my son at Sunday school. He's a good man."

Khoury said he will not be intimidated.

"If this Administration and this nation could tolerate the occupation Palestinians have suffered under for so many years, why can't they wait a few more years and settle the occupation of Kuwait peacefully without killing anyone's kids?" Khoury asked. "I will keep saying that. This won't make me change my mind."

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