Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Arab-Americans, Including Important So. Cal. Arab-American Newspaper, Endorse Sanders


Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. ​Not a Sanders fan. (Manufactured image, but speaks the truth; source)

This may not seem like a big deal, but it could very well turn out to matter in California, home to a large Arab-American community, just as it may have helped turned the tide in Michigan.

Scholar Juan Cole has the story (my emphasis):
Arab-Americans, including ‘Watan’ Newspaper, Endorse Bernie Sanders

Many Arab-Americans want the Jewish candidate to be president. The prominent Arabic-language newspaper for that community in Southern California, Watan (“A Nation”), has endorsed Bernie Sanders.

This outcome is not as strange as it might appear. Arab-Americans (who include Christians and Muslims) had been split between the Democratic and Republican Parties until roughly 2003, when the Bush administration decided to invade and occupy a major Arab country. Then in 2006, the Republican Party decided to demonize Muslims by taking the religion of Islam with ‘fascism’ and ‘terrorism.’

The Muslim-Americans were stampeded into the Democratic Party, as were most Arab-Americans. It was an uneasy fit, since most Americans of both heritages are critics of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, whereas the Democratic Party has long been much more knee-jerk pro-Israel than the Realist Republicans (George H. W. Bush had a major tiff with Israel; Bill Clinton may as well have been an Israeli).

But with the rise of the Evangelicals in the GOP, who are revealed by opinion polls to be the most negative toward Muslims of all American populations, and the strategy of the party of appealing to ‘Angry White Men’ by denouncing immigrants and Muslims and Latinos, most Arab Americans and Muslim Americans felt they had no choice but to go Democratic.
About the impact of the Arab-American community on elections:
Muslim Americans number only a few million; self-identified Arab-Americans are at least 5 million (it would be several times more except that many Lebanese, the largest such group, don’t think of themselves as Arab if they are Christian, and they intermarried with US Catholics and so are often only one part Lebanese). But they have an outsized impact on US elections. They have communities of several hundred thousand each in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida. The margins of victory for the two parties in several of those states is often very thin. So several tens of thousands of Arab or Muslim voters could actually help determine the outcome, both in the state and nationally!
Though Cole doesn't mention it, the Arab-American community in California is also large. From the website Arab America:
The California Arab American Community

The State of California has the largest number of Arab Americans in any state, with the Los Angeles area constituting the largest cluster in the state. Each year, new immigrants from the Arab world choose California as their new home more than any other state. Large communities of Arab Americans reside in San Diego and the San Francisco Bay as well.

Diversity in the Arab-American Population

There are 22 Arab countries, including Palestine, which are members of the Arab League and share a common history, language and culture-the immigrants who migrated to America are from a select group of Arab countries.


Arab Americans in California represent many different nationalities including Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Palestinian, Moroccan, as well as Arabs from Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The largest immigration of Arabs to California came from Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq.

Arab Americans are not officially recognized as a federal minority group and because of this, reporting numbers are almost never exact. Reports of the population of Arab Americans are estimated to 715,000 in California.
For the first time in a long while, a candidate for the presidency is not trying to appeal to voters as being reflexively pro-Israel. I find his comments on Israel and Palestine to be both credible and sincere. From the New York Times coverage of the Brooklyn debate:
Criticizing Israel, Bernie Sanders Highlights Split Among Jewish Democrats

It was the sort of question — Does Israel have a right to defend itself as it sees fit? — that had often caused candidates, especially those with designs on winning a primary in New York, to produce paeans to the strength of the Israeli-American relationship and a stream of pro-Israel orthodoxy.

But Senator Bernie Sanders dug in.

“There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time,” Mr. Sanders said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, amid cheers from the crowd at Thursday’s Democratic debate in Brooklyn. He added: “All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.”

Jewish Democrats, like the rest of the party, have been struggling for years over the appropriate level of criticism when it comes to Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. But that debate burst onto a big national stage this week thanks to Mr. Sanders, the most successful Jewish presidential candidate in history.
About the Palestinians, this is also refreshingly new:
Mr. Sanders’s response on Thursday was to a question about his past statement that Israel had used disproportionate force in responding to Hamas’s rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli towns. One of the moderators, Wolf Blitzer of CNN, asked whether Israel had a right to defend itself.

Mr. Sanders said Israel had “every right in the world to destroy terrorism.”

“But,” he said, “we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.”
At this point, it's almost certain, at least to me, that Sanders will campaign to the end, if only to make sure everyone who can vote in the primary gets a chance to vote. He can certainly afford to continue, and I'm sure he understands that his legions of supporters would feel betrayed if he left the race early. I'll be very interested, therefore, in seeing what the vote in California looks like.

(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. If you'd like to help out, go here. If you'd like to "phone-bank for Bernie," go here. You can volunteer in other ways by going here. And thanks!)


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