Pro-Israel groups ignore US voters’ needs, trying to ‘buy’ Michigan elections, says daughter of Palestinian immigrants

Short Url
Updated 21 July 2022

Pro-Israel groups ignore US voters’ needs, trying to ‘buy’ Michigan elections, says daughter of Palestinian immigrants

Pro-Israel groups ignore US voters’ needs, trying to ‘buy’ Michigan elections, says daughter of Palestinian immigrants
  • Democratic Party congressional candidate Huwaida Arraf decries AIPAC’s ‘lies’ and insults, and big-money campaigns
  • Affordable healthcare and lower taxes are critical issues for American workers, argues civil rights attorney

Civil rights attorney Huwaida Arraf told Arab News Wednesday she is determined to address the “real issues” facing voters to overcome personal and false attacks, and big-money campaigns, from pro-Israel political action committees seeking to block her from winning the Democratic Party nomination for congress in Michigan’s 10th District.

Arraf is being targeted by negative ads worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, funded by pro-Tel Aviv PACs coordinated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC has this year spent more than $12 million mostly attacking candidates who question or challenge Israel’s policies.

This past Tuesday in Maryland’s Democratic primary election, AIPAC-affiliated groups channeled more than $6 million to defeat former Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards in a wave of negative ads because during her past decade in congress she sought to hold Israel accountable for its actions.

Similarly, Arraf is facing a wave of negative ads funded by AIPAC-affiliated PACs focused on Michigan’s Democratic Primary on Aug. 2. But she believes most voters see past AIPAC’s “vitriol and their lies” and are responding to her message which addresses core issues that mean more to them than the politics of a foreign country.

Arraf said AIPAC is trying to “buy the election” to protect their interests in Israel, a foreign country, rather than address “the real needs” of voters who live in America.

 

 

“I am fighting to make this government and economy work for working people. We have a structure that is largely due to the influence of big money in politics. And AIPAC obviously falls into that. With their millions of dollars they try to buy politicians and that is why we see a lot of members of congress, unfortunately, blindly voting in support of Israel,” Arraf explained during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Radio Show.

“And I am talking to voters about the need to get big money out of politics so that we can make this government and economy work for them. When we are talking about why people don’t have healthcare. Why 40 percent of Americans newly diagnosed with cancer lose their entire life savings within two years because they can’t pay for the treatment that they need. Or you have an illness or an accident and you are worried about bankruptcy. Why we can’t guarantee healthcare. You are talking about big insurance companies and the influence of their money in politics. Why we are so overcharged for prescription drugs and life-saving drugs. That is the pharmaceutical companies.

“Why we are not cleaning up our air and water. You are talking about fossil fuels and the coal companies. People feel very much and are very cynical unfortunately about the elections. Who are these people representing (us) in elections? Are they representing us or are they representing those buying them or who are writing them the big checks?”

Arraf said the influence of big money is “destroying” American democracy and must be stopped.

A Christian Palestinian and mother of two young children whose immigrant father was a UAW worker in Detroit’s motor industry, Arraf is seeking to strengthen support among the large population of Christian Arabs and Chaldean Middle East Christians who constitute a large pocket of voters in the 10th District, which is considered a 50-50 Democratic and Republican district.

She said that when voters can hear her message above the attacks funded by AIPAC, voters are more sympathetic and supportive of her candidacy.

 

 

“I have been trying to motivate more people to support. And as you say, our community has been slow to come on and support for a variety of reasons, unfortunately. So, it has been a struggle getting the resources to be able to do the voter outreach,” Arraf conceded.

“But one of the things that has been very interesting is we ran a poll a couple of months ago. And that poll showed that if the election was today and voters were just going by name, this opponent that I have would win by double digits. He would beat me and everybody else. Because everybody knows his name.

“But then we read to the voter everybody’s biographies and their issues and then I move ahead slightly of this person. And then we read (to) the voters positives and negatives about everyone. For me, I included negatives like all of the horrible things that AIPAC and the like throw at me that I am antisemitic or that I am a terrorist supporter, all of these lies because they probably hear them.

“And at the end of the poll when we repolled everyone, I actually beat this guy, the considered front runner who has the name recognition. I beat him by 11 points. That shows you that my message resonates with people if they hear it, if we can reach them. And the attacks against me for my Palestine work … don’t lose me very much support because of this district.”

The 10th District is officially 78 percent White. But because Arabs are not included in the US Census there is no way to estimate the size of the Arab and Muslim community in the district.

The district, Arraf said, has a sizeable Chaldean voter population.

 

 

“But there is a very strong Arab presence here. Arabic has become now, according to a recent article that I have seen, the second most common language spoken after English in the house. And we have at least in one of the cities here almost a third of the population is Chaldean. So, Chaldean(s) and Arabs make up a sizable portion of this district. Not like Dearborn but it could get there and we are definitely expanding when we are sharing the culture, and we have a lot more Mediterranean places popping up,” Arraf said.

“But one thing that I see and I talk about a lot, is, then why are we not, why isn’t anyone talking about the power of the Arab or Middle Eastern vote? Every election cycle we hear about the power of the African American vote and the Jewish vote and the Latino vote. At least in Michigan, make them give us (Arabs and Middle Eastern people) some consideration by showing that we get out there and we vote. And that has been the struggle, part of the struggle with this race, at least, knowing that there are a lot of Arabs and Chaldeans in this district but they might not get out there and vote. And that is something that we have to work on.”

Lower taxes, better healthcare and wanting human rights are not partisan issues, Arraf argued. “My message is universal and voters who are not blindly pro-Israel can see that,” she said.

Arraf acknowledged that the Arab community is “very generous” when it comes to doing humanitarian work, but they are still far from the political level of the pro-Israel community which funds millions for their own causes.

 

 

“With regard to the Chaldean community and the Arab American community as a whole, I know that we are successful in business and in many different areas of life, but we are not represented in politics. We need more of our voices in order to be more integrated into this society, in order to have people that understand our issues and who can fight for our issues,” Arraf said.

“There is this misconception that Republicans are better for business. I am a supporter of small businesses that many Chaldeans and Arab Americans have here. A big proponent of not only incentivizing small businesses and especially when we are talking about minority communities starting small businesses. But also in leveling the playing field because we have so many mega-corporations here and monopolies that are squeezing out our small businesses and we need to fight that and I will.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


Ethiopia says completes third filling of mega-dam reservoir

Ethiopia says completes third filling of mega-dam reservoir
Updated 6 sec ago

Ethiopia says completes third filling of mega-dam reservoir

Ethiopia says completes third filling of mega-dam reservoir
ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia has completed the third filling of its mega-dam reservoir on the Blue Nile, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Friday, a development that could raise further tensions with downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan.
“Today what you see behind me, the third filling is completed,” Abiy said in images shown on state television from the dam site.

UN’s Guterres expresses ‘clear commitment’ to North Korea denuclearization

UN’s Guterres expresses ‘clear commitment’ to North Korea denuclearization
Updated 26 sec ago

UN’s Guterres expresses ‘clear commitment’ to North Korea denuclearization

UN’s Guterres expresses ‘clear commitment’ to North Korea denuclearization
  • UN leader: The goal is a ‘fundamental objective to bring peace, security and stability to the whole region’

SEOUL: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday expressed his “clear commitment” to North Korea’s denuclearization during his visit to Seoul, weeks after Pyongyang said it was “ready to mobilize” its nuclear deterrent.
Guterres arrived in Seoul on Thursday following a trip to Japan, where he gave a speech to mark the 77th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear bomb attack in Hiroshima. He has also been to Mongolia.
“I would like to reaffirm our clear commitment to the full, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, of the DPRK,” he said at his meeting with South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol, using North Korea’s official name.
The goal is a “fundamental objective to bring peace, security and stability to the whole region,” Guterres told Yoon, according to footage broadcast by local media.
Guterres’s comments come as Washington and Seoul officials have repeatedly warned that the North is preparing to carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test.
On Thursday, Pyongyang blamed Seoul for a COVID-19 outbreak in the North and threatened to “wipe out” Seoul’s authorities.
Pyongyang has conducted a record-breaking blitz of weapons tests so far this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.
Last month, the North’s leader Kim Jong Un said his country was “ready to mobilize” its nuclear deterrent in any future military conflict with the United States and Seoul.
Guterres delivered a stark warning against the horrors of atomic weapons in New York at a key nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference last week, which he reiterated in Japan on Monday.
“We are witnessing a radicalization in the geopolitical situation that makes the risk of a nuclear war again something we cannot completely forget,” he said at a press conference in Tokyo.


Fake jobs agency listing Mideast posts shut down by Philippine government

Fake jobs agency listing Mideast posts shut down by Philippine government
Updated 29 min ago

Fake jobs agency listing Mideast posts shut down by Philippine government

Fake jobs agency listing Mideast posts shut down by Philippine government
  • Kharem’s International advertised bogus positions
  • Unwitting victims duped into advance, placement fees

DUBAI: The Philippine migrant workers office on Friday said it shut down an illegal recruitment agency in Manila after discovering it had been listing non-existent jobs in the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

Kharem’s International, an unregistered and unlicensed company, had listed jobs for domestic workers, beauticians and on-call cleaners in the region, Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers Susan V. Ople said in a statement.

However, the agency’s bogus job offerings were only discovered after unwitting victims complained of being charged placement fees and other ‘advance’ payments.

Legitimate overseas job offers, as well as the registered and authorized recruitment agencies that handle them, can be verified with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, or POEA, a government agency responsible for the management of work programs in the country.

Emmanuel S. Geslani, an expert on the Philippine government’s overseas employment program, said the practice of unscrupulous recruitment agencies sending Filipino workers abroad to take up non-existent jobs has been prevalent, and there must be tighter enforcement measures to close these firms.

“Of course it also has to do with the breakdown of the departure process at airports,” Geslani told Arab News, as recruitment agencies work in cahoots with some dishonest Philippine immigration officials so victims could leave the country.

“A worker without a properly processed documentation, such as an OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate), cannot just depart from an airport. Even those leaving for Dubai, for example, on the pretext of being tourists can be closely checked as immigration officers have opportunities to interview them, and even authority to hold their departure,” Geslani said.

Meanwhile, six alleged illegal recruiters were also apprehended earlier after offering non-existent overseas jobs to 235 victims.

One suspect, Vegloure Ragotero, was accosted and apprehended by 109 of her victims after they chanced upon her while they were on their way to file a complaint at the POEA main office.

Charges of large-scale illegal recruitment, a non-bailable offense under Republic Act No. 10022, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, are being prepared against Ragotero and other suspects.


Two more ships depart from Ukraine – Turkey’s defense ministry

Two more ships depart from Ukraine – Turkey’s defense ministry
Updated 12 August 2022

Two more ships depart from Ukraine – Turkey’s defense ministry

Two more ships depart from Ukraine – Turkey’s defense ministry
  • Belize-flagged Sormovsky left Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port, carrying 3,050 tons of wheat
  • Marshall Island-flagged Star Laura departed from Pivdennyi, carrying 60,000 tons of corn

ISTANBUL: Two more ships left from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Friday, Turkey’s defense ministry said, bringing the total number of ships to depart the country under a UN-brokered deal to 14 and marking the first export of wheat.
Belize-flagged Sormovsky left Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port, carrying 3,050 tons of wheat to Turkey’s northwestern Tekirdag province, it said. Also, Marshall Island-flagged Star Laura departed from Pivdennyi and headed to Iran, carrying 60,000 tons of corn.


With gas pumps all but dry, Sri Lankans pedal through crisis

With gas pumps all but dry, Sri Lankans pedal through crisis
Updated 12 August 2022

With gas pumps all but dry, Sri Lankans pedal through crisis

With gas pumps all but dry, Sri Lankans pedal through crisis
  • Deep in economic disaster, country struggles with acute fuel shortages
  • As demand for two-wheelers soars, so does the bicycle black market

COLOMBO: Working in Colombo, Hashan Gunasekera has not gone home to see his family in Kandy since mid-April, as he has already given up on searching for gasoline to fuel his car.

A video production manager, Gunasekera, 32, used to drive three hours every week to spend Saturdays and Sundays at home, but for the past few months, he has not been able to drive, as his country — in the middle of the worst economic turmoil in memory — has run out of petrol.

Like many other middle-class Sri Lankans in the capital, he was forced to switch to a bicycle for his daily commutes.

“I have given up going home now,” Gunasekera told Arab News. “There is no use in even trying.”

The most basic bicycle he bought to reach his Colombo office cost him over 37,000 Sri Lankan rupees ($100) in June, but it had no gears and soon Gunasekera had to buy a new, slightly better one, which sold for 88,000 rupees — some three times more than before the crisis.

“A bike like this would have cost about 25,000 to 30,000 rupees last year,” he said.

Despite the soaring prices, the number of bikes on Colombo’s streets has increased manifold.

“The current market demand has greatly increased,” Sangeeth Suriyage, who runs Suriyage Bike Shop in Colombo, told Arab News, estimating that it may be even five times higher than last year.

“The market is able to meet a fair percentage of that demand," he said, adding that the supply-demand imbalance has fueled informal sales, with bicycles sold for at least double the current market price. “There is a thriving black market operating through people that buy and resell at exorbitant costs.”

Desperate Colombo residents in need of an accessible mode of transport are still willing to fork out the extra expense.

Marini, an English teacher based in Colombo, said she spent 188,000 rupees for a bike for her nephew to be able to go to school. 

“This was really expensive,” she said. “But given the current situation I considered it an investment.”

But the price is not the only problem. Bicycles are now joining the list of items the country is running out of.

At a shop in Borella, the largest suburb in Colombo, bikes sold like hot cakes last month, but now demand has outstripped supply, with import restrictions slapped on almost all commodities as the country’s foreign exchange reserves have dried.

“We are running out of bicycles,” one of the Borella shop’s sellers told Arab News. “After fuel was completely stopped for the past month and a half or so, crowds are coming to (buy) bicycles for adults. Before this, people came to buy bicycles for children, mostly.”

While the island nation of 22 million is seeking a $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund to put its economy and public finances back on track, it is unlikely that the situation will get back to normal soon.

Some, like Hakiem Haniff, a 28-year-old marketeer who lives on the outskirts of Colombo, are trying to see positive aspects of having no choice but to take more exercise when transport options are limited.

But if it were to be long-term, he would like to see cycling infrastructure introduced in the city, which authorities promised earlier this year would be rolled out in Sri Lanka’s capital.

“If they want to take this thing seriously, they really need to invest in infrastructure so that more people will start cycling,” he said. “There’re no cycling lanes and it can be pretty crazy.”