Arab-American voters rally around Sanders

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a town hall in Flint, Michigan, U.S.,March 7, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 08 March 2020

Arab-American voters rally around Sanders

  • Sanders received support from the Yemeni American Democratic Caucus (YADC) in the Michigan Democratic Party. The YADC called Sanders ‘the best and most qualified candidate for president’

CHICAGO: Major Arab-American organizations and leaders this week announced their endorsements of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in his bid to win the Democratic Party nomination and unseat President Donald Trump.
Until last week, Sanders was leading in the early state caucuses. Former Vice President Joe Biden, however, took the lead when the Democratic Party establishment rallied around him, in part because of Sanders’ criticism of Israel and his support for Palestinian rights.
With Democratic backing, Biden won the majority of 14 Super Tuesday state primaries on March 3, taking 664 of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the party nomination. Sanders has 573.
Elections on March 10 and March 17 could restore Sanders’ lead, especially with the support of Arab Americans.
He included support for “Palestinian human rights” in his newest TV campaign commercial, which he released on March 3.
Arab-American leaders in Michigan — which holds its presidential primary on March 10 along with North Dakota, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington State — endorsed Sanders.
Key Arab-American endorsements of him also came from Illinois, which holds its primary on March 17 along with Ohio, Florida and Arizona.
Sanders has won states where Arab Americans have a large presence, such as in California, which has the largest delegate count and which Biden lost. Similarly, Sanders could do well in Illinois and Ohio.
Abed Ayoub, a Michigan activist, tweeted in his personal capacity that Sanders “has consistently stood on principle, even when no one listened. He didn’t change his message, he kept on standing. Now it’s our time to stand for him. We can make this happen!”
Samir Khalil, executive director of Illinois’ largest Arab-American Democratic organization, mailed thousands of “Get Out the Vote” cards endorsing Sanders, and urged the state’s roughly 500,000 Arab voters to support him.
“If what Sanders is saying is implemented, he can save the fabric of America from racism and hate, and also bring a new and fair approach to foreign policy,” Khalil said.
“Sanders, who is Jewish, showed us you can criticize Israel and Jewish activists for their political behavior without the fear and blackmail of being called anti-Semitic. Sanders has lifted this burden.”
One issue that drove the Democratic establishment to rally around Biden was Sanders’ tough criticism of Israel and his strong support of Palestinian rights during a Feb. 25 presidential debate on CBS. In contrast, Biden has openly declared himself “a Zionist.”
Seven Arab-American leaders in Michigan endorsed Sanders on Friday in the lead-up to the state contest.
He received the endorsement of the American Arab and Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC), which cited his “clear commitment to the working class, and longstanding stance on negotiating a just peace in the Middle East.”
He also received support from the Yemeni American Democratic Caucus (YADC) in the Michigan Democratic Party. The YADC called Sanders “the best and most qualified candidate for president.”
The Arab American Political Action Committee of Dearborn endorsed him, as did Palestinian Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Somali Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Arab American Institute founder Jim Zogby.
Michael Fasullo, Michigan coordinator for the “Bernie 2020” campaign, said: “It is an honor to have these leaders standing with us as we work to transform this country for the better.”
He added: “While Trump has terrorized so many communities, particularly Arab-American and Muslim communities, our movement is working to bring together people of all backgrounds. Together we can ensure a just political system rooted in human rights for all.”

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

Updated 31 May 2020

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

  • Troops can go in ’very quickly,’ Trump says

CHICAGO: The firestorm of protest, arson and looting that has consumed the US for five days began at the counter of an Arab American grocery store.

Staff working for Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, called Minneapolis police after George Floyd, 46, twice tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase.

Officers who arrested Floyd held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as he pleaded that he could not breathe. He lost consciousness and died later in hospital. One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and further charges are expected.

“What took place outside … was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh told US TV. “The murder and execution was something done by the police, and it was an abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”

Abumayyaleh said he knew Floyd as a customer, and as someone who was always pleasant. He did not find out until the following morning that the man had died. “We were all outraged,” he said, and Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”

The store owner and his sons, Samir, Adam and Mahmoud, have gone into hiding in the face of a wave of threats against them on social media. They took down their store’s Facebook page and its landline phone has been disconnected.

Minneapolis has more than 50 Arab- and Muslim-owned stores mostly north of where the incident occurred, all operating under statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Arab store owners said they feared speaking out publicly about the incident.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at one Arab-owned store told Arab News that both the killing of Floyd and vandalism against businesses “is wrong.”

Since Floyd died last Tuesday, protesters have vandalized, looted and burned down more than 200 stores in Minneapolis. On Friday and Saturday, the violence spread to New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte North Carolina.

In Minnesota, protesters maintained a daily vigil in front of the Cup Foods store at 3759 Chicago Avenue, painting walls and the street with murals and graffiti in memory of Floyd. After four nights of confrontations in the city, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s national guard on Saturday for the first time since the Second World War.

US President Donald Trump said troops could be deployed if local authorities requested their help. “We could have our military there very quickly,” he said.