Arab Americans come around to supporting Clinton

Sunday 31/07/2016
Michigan delegate Melissa Arab protests during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, on July 25th.

Philadelphia - As the Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clin­ton for president at its convention in Philadel­phia, Arab and Muslim Americans faced the dilemma of whether to support a nominee they voted against in primaries a few months earlier.
Arab Americans were vocal and visible inside and outside the venue for the four-day Democratic Na­tional Convention. There were pro- Palestine banners, kaffiyehs and a robust presence in the arena and the protests outside.
In light of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States, the Arab-American and Mus­lim communities have a lot at stake in the November election.
Their votes are expected to play significant roles in states such as Michigan, Virginia and Florida where there are large Arab and Mus­lim populations and likely to be ma­jor battlegrounds between Clinton and Trump.
James Zogby, head of the Wash­ington-based Arab American Insti­tute and an adviser to Bernie Sand­ers, said he was disappointed the more pro-Palestinian Clinton rival had failed to win the presidential nomination but he had no doubt that “even on a very bad day, Hillary is thousands of times better than Trump”.
“I might disagree with the Hillary campaign on key issues, Donald Trump is like cancer in the Ameri­can body politic and he will destroy it,” Zogby said. Trump, he said, “has already inflicted plenty of damage, unleashed hate and validated a big­oted rhetoric that was not in the public before”. Zogby sees in him a “dangerous showman feeding the beast to win votes”.
Voting for Clinton as the anti- Trump candidate is an argument that resonates among many Arab and Muslim activists, some of whom still support Sanders and have disagreements with Clinton on issues ranging from the Israeli occu­pation to social justice.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and who helped drive community support for Sanders, said: “It is irresponsible to vote for a third-party candidate if you live in a swing state” — where Clinton and Trump are in close competition.
Sarsour said defeating Trump is the ultimate priority in this election. “If you don’t live in a swing state, vote for whoever you want, but if you are in a swing state, you have a responsibility not to put us under a fascist demagogue,” she said.
Zogby said the fight for a more progressive Democratic Party has just begun. While acknowledging that the Democratic National Com­mittee platform “did not move the needle much on Israel and Pales­tine, it is more progressive and bet­ter than the previous ones”.
Zogby, who was on the platform committee as a Sanders delegate, said: “This is the first time that Pal­estinians are talked about on their own, as opposed to [in terms of] what Israel needs and requires.”
He added that for the first time there is “talk about dignity and the needs of the Palestinians — this is a big deal and the constituency is changing, especially among the young base of the party”.
Zogby said he was able to insert language in the platform in support of Jordan and Lebanon on issues related to refugees and state insti­tutions. He lamented that support for the boycott movement against Israel was not included in the plat­form but, he said, “our job is to fol­low up”.
Sarsour said she was disappointed that the term “Israeli occupation” was not included in the platform and warned that the Democratic Party “is failing in keeping up with the base to move forward”.
Some Syrian-American activists in Philadelphia have been passion­ate supporters of Clinton all along. Kenan Rahmani said the former secretary of State is a voice that con­demned the Syria President Bashar regime’s brutality from the begin­ning of the uprising in 2011.