Christian Arabs in US could be region’s hidden advantage


Christian Arabs in US could be region’s hidden advantage

When Donald Trump announced the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he wasn’t just doing it to appease Israel’s government. He was doing it to appease a significant voter base in America, Evangelical Christians.
According to the Brookings Institute, more than 81 percent of Evangelical Christians voted for Trump and his recognition of Jerusalem as “Israel’s capital” and promise to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem plays into that support.
Yet the Arab world has failed to use its own ace in the hole, or hidden advantage, in America. That advantage is the growing population of Arab Christians who hold positions of influence at every level in politics and business.
Christian Arabs in America are an untapped resource that the Arab world should recognize, and then partner with.
The truth is that, when most Americans use the word “Arab,” they intermingle it with the word “Muslim.” Americans have been blinded to the existence of Christian Arabs.
In part, that blindness comes from a strategic Israeli campaign to falsely claim that they, more than the Arab world, champion the rights of Christians in the Holy Land.
This blindness also comes from the fact that Christian Arabs in America and in the Middle East are often excluded from Arab activities, which focus mostly on Muslim concerns.
Every attempt to elevate the issue of Christian Arab rights is marginalized and excluded from the Middle East and American Arab debate.
This issue goes beyond Evangelical Christians to encompass all Christians in America, who make up more than 70 percent of the population.
Mainstream American Christians support Israel not because history shows Israel has been good to Christians, but because most American Christians have no idea that among those Arabs being brutalized by Israel are Christians, too.
So why doesn’t the Arab world use that powerful affinity to lobby Americans to support Palestinian and Arab rights? Because politicians and pro-Israel activists, and even extremist Muslims, in America work hard to prevent Christian Arab voices from being heard.
The majority of Arabs who live in the US — 63 percent, according to the Arab American Institute — are Christian, yet why haven’t they mobilized as a voting bloc to lobby and influence American foreign policy to put a spotlight on Israel’s many human rights abuses?
Supporters of Israel have continued to block efforts to include the category of “Arab” in the US Census. The reason is simple. In America, you can dilute the power of ethnic groups by preventing them from knowing their true demographic strength.

63 percent of Arabs who live in America are Christian; they are an untapped resource that the Middle East should recognize and then partner with.

Ray Hanania

Under US laws, ethnic and national groups identified in the Census receive many benefits, including financial support through grants to promote their culture and heritage. By preventing Arabs from being counted, they do not receive Federal support to build programs or campaigns to educate Americans about who the Arab people really are.
Secondly, politicians are elected to office from districts at many levels, which include Congress, state legislators and local county commissioners. These districts are defined in a large part by the presence of ethnic and national groups. If the Census recognizes a large concentration of one ethnic or national group in any area, Federal and local laws are compelled to keep that ethnic or national identity cohesive inside a voting district. The idea is to preserve and enhance the voting power of an ethnic group.
By excluding “Arab” from the Census, pro-Israel activists in America’s government are able to prevent concentrations of Arab populations from receiving financial and voting support. They know where we live but, without a census to verify it, they can divide our community and dilute our voting strength, thus squelching our voices.
Christian Arabs have a powerful voice that is untapped in America, but just how strong are American Arab Christians? Population estimates extrapolated from voting rosters show that there might be close to four million Arabs in America, although the official US Government estimate dilutes that to fewer than two million.
Population estimates also show there are 3.3 million Muslims in America. But, of that number, around 25 percent are actually Arab — the largest Muslim group in America is African American, followed by Asian American.
When you compare these two statistics, you can conclude that, of those who are Arab, the vast majority are Christian.
And most Christian Arabs will tell you without hesitation that, despite some issues, Muslims have been the biggest champions of Christian Arab rights.
So why don’t we use the Christian Arab American population as the spearhead of a communications campaign to convince Americans of the rights of Palestinians and the abuses taking places against Palestinian and Arab civilians in the Middle East?
Why is there no strong Christian Arab lobbying group? It’s a question we need to answer, if we hope to one day correct the American public’s misconceptions and lack of knowledge about Palestine, Islam and the Arab world.
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and author. Twitter: @RayHanania. 
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