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Crucial Choices for Arab American Voters
Arab American have a crucial choice ahead of them but many are not taking it seriously
By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz
Arab Americans are unanimous in their love for hummus and tabouli but not in their choice of presidential candidates. According to the Arab American Institute 60 % percent of Arab Americans are likely to vote for Clinton and 26% will vote for Trump. In a conversation over lunch with a group of Lebanese friends in the Washington area I was struck by the intensity of their distrust of Hillary Clinton. Her views on the Arab-Israeli conflict discourage some from voting and push others toward Trump or to a third party candidate.
I am one of those Arab Americans who did not hesitate to vote for Clinton. Despite her discouraging views on Palestine, her interventionist stance on Syria, and her unnecessary threats to Iran I still hope that Hillary Clinton will be elected as our next president. She is a seasoned, moderate politician. She is inclined to work across party lines to move the wheel of governance in Washington forward. She is capable of leading our country with sound diplomacy , albeit in need of astute, balanced counsel on the Middle East.
Donald Trump disappoints me as a personality and as a politician. He is a product of a growing movement of intolerance in America, a country established on the principles of cultivation and respect of diversity.
Regrettably, Arab Americans have not forcefully rejected Donald Trump for his racist views on Muslims. The Arab American community does not seem to be sufficiently alarmed by the emerging political paranoia in their host country. Further, Arab Americans are not engaged in organized opposition to Trump and other politicians who resent immigrants, distrust Islam, deny climate threats, frown on diversity of sexual orientations and push for isolation from the international community.
Arab Americans are demographically and ideologically diverse. About half of the Arabs who live in America are Christians; many are Republicans. Despite this diversity, Arab Americans could become more united in their opposition to Trump and his xenophobia. A President Trump would ban all Muslims coming from “countries of terrorism.” This position is insulting to America and all its minorities.
Over a hundred thousand Arab American voters in Greater Detroit could decide the crucial Michigan elections. The significance of the Arab vote in Michigan has already been demonstrated. This voting block helped Bernie Sanders win the Democratic primary. Bernie, unlike Hillary, is vocal on Palestine’s rights to statehood. Will the Arab Americans of Detroit who cast their votes for Sanders in the primary come home to Clinton? The Detroit-based Arab American News “is uncertain if Arab American voters in Michigan will turn out to support Clinton. While her campaign has made numerous attempts to reach out to the community, the enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate is not as strong as it was when Obama ran for office.”
The split of opinions among Arab American voters mirrors the ambiguous positions in the Arab world on US elections. According to the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States lean towards Clinton as “she has a much better, clearer idea about foreign policy and Saudi Arabia.” On the other hand, President Sisi of Egypt has expressed praise for Trump, and he considers Trump’s hostile views on Islam simply “electioneering” rhetoric.
This is not the time to discuss the impact of US presidential elections on the Middle East. But it may be the time to urge the Arab Americans to vote. Here is the message for the 26 percent who are considering voting for Trump: each of such votes will move America towards becoming an authoritarian state, a state that may resemble the one they or their forebears abandoned.
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