Biden continues to offer Arab Americans mere breadcrumbs

Biden continues to offer Arab Americans mere breadcrumbs

Under the banner #AbandonBiden, Arab and Muslim Americans are refusing to vote for Biden. (Reuters)
Under the banner #AbandonBiden, Arab and Muslim Americans are refusing to vote for Biden. (Reuters)
Short Url

Thursday’s announcement by the US Census Bureau that it will, for the first time, include a limited category for Americans from the Middle East or North Africa is clearly a political and desperate ploy by President Joe Biden to counter the growing opposition to his reelection bid among Arab and Muslim voters.
Under the banner #AbandonBiden, Arab and Muslim Americans are refusing to vote for Biden during the Democratic primary elections, instead selecting “uncommitted” or writing in “Gaza Strip” as a way to protest the Biden administration’s funding and arming of Israel’s post-Oct. 7 military assault on the Gaza Strip, which has taken more than 32,000 lives.
The US Census Bureau announcement follows the pattern of Biden responding in partial and fractured ways in an attempt to satisfy Arab and Muslim voters and get them to return to the fold. I do not think it will work.
Census forms will, from the next survey in 2030, mention four of the 22 Arab countries by name: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. But the new MENA banner will also cover Israel and Iran.
All other Arab Americans, including the two largest Arab populations in America (Palestinians and Jordanians) and the fastest-growing population (Yemenis), will be required to continue to write their nationalities on a separate blank line.
Arabs have been allowed to write in their nationalities for years, but only a small segment of the community has done so, due to them feeling politically excluded.
Instead of pushing for an “Arab” category, many Arab American groups opted to compromise, hoping that the “MENA” section would list all 22 Arab nationalities. But that is not the case and many leaders have told Arab News they are disappointed.
Inclusion in the census is critical to countering the stereotypes in America that have fueled racism and held the community back on almost every level. Once identified in the census, ethnic and national groups can qualify for federal funding to promote their identities and culture. Such a move would also allow the funding of advertising to strengthen the weak Arab American news media.
More importantly, once identified in the census, national groups like Palestinians would receive political continuity protections, meaning that the political powers would be prohibited from redrawing congressional districts to divide large, cohesive Arab populations.
Several years ago, Democrats in Illinois did just that, dividing the 3rd Congressional District, which had one of the country’s largest concentrations of Palestinian American voters. This district elected pro-Palestinian champion Marie Newman to Congress in November 2020. A year later, Democrats seeking to silence Newman’s pro-Palestine voice redrew the district, diluting the Palestinian American voter strength.
Newman attempted to win the 6th Congressional District in 2022 but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Sean Casten, who Arab American leaders have described as “unresponsive” to the community’s needs and concerns. Casten opposed calls for a Gaza ceasefire resolution and has accepted pro-Israel political action committee contributions to his campaign fund.

Biden’s half measures will only further aggravate the Arab American community’s opposition to his reelection.

Ray Hanania

By limiting the MENA listing to only four Arab nationalities while also including Israel and Iran, the US Census Bureau is attempting to make everyone happy. It will not work.
Similarly, instead of supporting the adoption of a humanitarian ceasefire resolution in the UN Security Council, Biden’s ambassador to the organization Linda Thomas-Greenfield abstained on last week’s vote, allowing it to pass with a weak mandate. On three previous occasions, Thomas-Greenfield vetoed similar resolutions to satisfy the pro-Israel community in the US, which has a much stronger voice than Arab Americans.
Biden’s half measures will only further aggravate the Arab American community’s opposition to his reelection. Activists have repeatedly told me that “four years of negative rhetoric” under Donald Trump, who will face off with Biden in November, is far more appealing than four months of Biden’s funding and arming of Israel’s carnage in the Gaza Strip.
Trump insulted Arabs and Muslims with his words and restrictive policies. But Biden’s policies have failed to prevent thousands of deaths and helped to create even greater uncertainty for Palestinian statehood.
Biden should find the courage to do what is right. Arab Americans have been calling for inclusion in the census since the early 1980s. They have been actively engaged in every aspect of American society, not just in politics, and have defended America by serving in all the country’s conflicts since the Civil War.
Arab Americans are fully American and, one day, they will be treated as such and be given the same rights and benefits as all other Americans, as well as a more engaged place in US politics. But that will not happen by accepting half measures or Biden’s breadcrumbs.
The #AbandonBiden movement is ensuring that our voices will be heard in the upcoming presidential election, telling Democrats — the political party that has long claimed to be more supportive of Arabs than the Republicans — that Arab Americans cannot be taken for granted.
The #AbandonBiden group is not advocating for Trump’s reelection. They plan to gather in the fall to consider alternative candidates to endorse. But Democrats like Biden cannot claim to support Arab American interests while offering diluted rights to the community. They need to be shown the power of the Arab American vote.
One day, Arabs in America will be formally identified as what they are: Arab. This will not be achieved through incomplete gestures or diluted references that seek to satisfy other powerful political lobbying groups.
We have earned and we deserve respect.

  • Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at X: @RayHanania
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view