Seeing Trump through the eyes of an Arab American
Despite having a substantial voting presence in America over the past half century, Arab Americans face a cynical choice when it comes to voting for president.
We can’t escape the vacuum of the negativity between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The choice is between Trump, whose flippant rhetoric on women and Muslims, is offensive. And Clinton, whose record in public office has actually defined America’s policies toward Arabs and Muslims. Are Arab-American voters missing the real issue?
I could react to Trump’s alleged hate rhetoric, but I’m more skeptical of Clinton’s intentions and the biased news media, which protects her.
Trump doesn’t hate Muslims. One of his closest business associates has been Muslim American Palestinian Farouk Shami. Trump flippantly says he wants to “ban all Muslims,” but what he has said is he wants to filter extremists out from among the thousands of Middle East refugees seeking to come into this country.
What’s strange is most American politicians have openly opposed allowing Syrian refugees from entering this country. Those who say they support Syrian refugees have done little to make it happen, like Clinton who was Secretary of State.
Is Trump anti-Muslim? You don’t become a racist overnight. In more than 60 years of public appearances, he has never shown any racist views against anyone, including Arabs or Muslims. But Clinton has supported policies that have undermined Arab and Muslim rights.
America has consistently abused Arab and Muslim rights. I served in the US military during the Vietnam War. After being honorably discharged, the government began a two-year secret investigation falsely accusing me of associating with terrorists, because I was Palestinian and critical of Israel. This happened to thousands of Arab Americans.
No matter what Arab Americans do, we are always vilified as outsiders and our patriotism is always challenged. So, why are Arabs so quick to believe anything the American media tells us about the Trump-Clinton fight? The American media has ignored Arab and Arab Muslim rights, and regularly vilifies us all as terrorists!
Most recently, the media convinced the American people that Saudi Arabia was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Saudi Arabia has done much to assist United States over the years. They supported us when oil prices rose. They hosted the US armed forces in confronting terrorists. Saudi Arabia is leading the fight against terrorism and extremism in the Middle East, supporting America against the violent extremism of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
Despite that, the US Congress slapped President Obama in the face when he vetoed JASTA, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. JASTA is an anti-Arab legislation, which excludes Saudi Arabia from legal protections that are given to nearly every other major foreign country.
JASTA isn’t about fighting terrorism. It’s about politics. American citizens can sue Saudi Arabia, but they can’t sue Israel, a foreign country whose military has killed several Americans.
America is defined by politics more than the rule of law, ethics, or morality. Politics also defines the US news media, where I’ve worked for more than 40 years.
As a Palestinian American, I can’t support Hillary Clinton. She has the same problems they claim Trump has. Both Trump and Hillary have issues with respecting women victimized by sexual abuse. Clinton has been accused of bullying the many women who accused her husband of assault.
She has a clear record on the Middle East, one of “happy talk,” and it isn’t really good. Clinton didn’t speak against the unfairness of JASTA. She didn’t stand by the families of Americans killed by Israeli soldiers, like the parents of Rachel Corrie.
Trump has some issues, but more than any candidate running for president, he has something the rest don’t. Uncertainty. He has no track record in politics. He is the ultimate “Outsider.” He will represent true “Change.”
The only way Arab Americans, Arab Muslims in America and the people of the Middle East will get “Change” is to recognize that the American political system is not the model of freedom, morality or civil rights. Instead, we should recognize that if Arabs and Muslims are going to be treated fairly in the US, the American political system and the news media need to “Change.”
Will a President Trump be worse than any of the past presidents who have failed to bring justice to Arabs, Muslims and the Middle East?
We really don’t know because he has never been in politics. We do know that Hillary Clinton is a part of the same system that has abused Arab rights and continues to mistreat us.
Maybe you’re happy with how America is running today and don’t mind the rising anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism. Maybe you don’t mind when politicians smile in your face and then deny equal rights to Arabs and Muslim Arabs. Maybe you don’t mind a nation that treats all Arabs and Muslims like we are terrorists.
When it comes to voting for president, I have only one cynical concern: Which candidate will bring “Change?”
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning American Palestinian writer based in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]