US presidential election a dilemma for Arab Americans


US presidential election a dilemma for Arab Americans

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Barack Obama looks on as Donald Trump greets Joe Biden at the Republican’s swearing-in as president. (Reuters)

While there is enthusiasm among many Arab-American activists to oppose the re-election of Republican US President Donald Trump, there is little enthusiasm to support his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

There are so many conflicts surrounding both of them that Arab-American voters will either have to close their eyes to some of Biden’s anti-Arab stances and turn a blind eye to his running mate’s extreme pro-Israel rhetoric, or take a chance with the mercurial and unpredictable Trump whose administration has helped realize many of Israel’s racist apartheid goals.

Arab Americans could also waste their vote and give it to a third-party candidate, one who embraces their unachievable dreams and demands of turning back the clock, and reality, to 1947. There are several. But a vote for a third-party candidate is basically an indirect vote for Trump.

Yet, backing Biden is also a vote for Israel as surely as supporting Trump is more of a high-odds gambling risk that might not pay off.

We all know about Trump’s Middle East stances. They have been highlighted excessively by Arab-American activists and their far-left friends as consequences of Republican policies.

But one could argue that Trump is not really a Republican. He is a conservative Democrat – sometimes called a Reagan Democrat after the populist policies of former US President Ronald Reagan (1981 to 1989) who led the Republican party by strongly supporting blue color, mainstream American hopes, and dreams.

Reagan was certainly better at catering to conservative Democrats than Trump, who stumbles through one controversy after another on Twitter and in a White House consumed by scandal.

Normally, Trump might have appealed to Arab-American voters who are politically centrists. Arab Americans (Muslim and Christian) embrace many of the same conservative ideals that are the core issues of the Republican Party. For example, they mainly oppose abortion and support family values, a term often denounced by Democrats and the Left.

But when it comes to his Middle East foreign policy, specifically on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Trump’s efforts to try a different tactic to support Palestinian statehood have been dominated by the pro-Israel camp who crowd his White House and cabinet decisions.

The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which in reality is only a small step past the position of the Democrats who support Israel’s claim that a united Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, and it also supported Israel’s claims over the Golan Heights, but past administrations, Republicans, and Democrats never did anything to force Israel to withdraw from those lands.

Trump created the foundation for the UAE’s normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for a promise that Israel would suspend annexation of major areas of the West Bank. Sadly, there is little difference between Israel’s threats of annexation and the reality of Israel’s occupation today, which Republicans and Democrats both defined not as occupied, but rather as being disputed.

Clearly, when it comes to this, Trump’s actions have been purely political, public-relations spin, and labels that redefine a reality that has seen Jerusalem, the West Bank, Palestinian rights, and Israeli violence as little more than an actualization of existing Israeli policies.

Biden, on the other hand, has not been much better and neither has his running mate Kamala Harris. Biden has declared himself as a Zionist in the past. Worse is that the Democratic National Committee (DNC, the governing body of the US Democratic Party) has carefully gutted language that would support Palestinian rights, striking provisions opposing those illegal settlements by supporting the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement sought by Arab-American Democrats, pro-Palestinian members of Congress including The Squad, and some DNC activists.

When it comes to his Middle East foreign policy, specifically on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Trump’s efforts to try a different tactic to support Palestinian statehood have been dominated by the pro-Israel camp.

Ray Hanania

Basically, the Democrats have Trumped the clarion call for Palestinian justice, staking out a politically neutered position of denouncing unilateral actions such as those taken by Trump but also taken by Israel to undermine Palestinian rights.

The Democrats could have confronted Israel’s racism, pushed ahead with support for an end to Israeli occupation and the expansion of illegal settlements, an ongoing form of more than subtle occupation, and called for justice for Palestinians. The DNC supports a negotiated two-state solution, something that clearly will never happen and has not happened in the past 27 years since it was embraced by former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in 1993.

The Trump administration’s policies have disappointed Arab Americans when it comes to the Palestine issue while Biden and the Democrats prefer to wrap their deceit in rhetoric that encourages hope but little more. Trump or Biden? There is no real choice.

  • Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at Twitter: @RayHanania
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