The Mystery Of The Arab-American Vote
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The Mystery Of The Arab-American Vote

Associate Editor

Every big-city Jewish and mainstream newspaper has steadily charted the Jewish vote in this presidential election, wondering at every step along the way if any Jew not voting for Sen. Barack Obama might secretly be motivated by his inner racist or Zionist doubt. Democratic supporters and Jewish leaders have reassured Jews, as best they could, that they know Obama, and he’s really a “great friend of Israel.”

Current polling suggests that most Jews are convinced, with almost 60 percent supporting Obama.
But how are Arab-Americans dealing with all that’s known about Obama? Few major newspapers, Jewish or otherwise, have looked into that. According to a headline in The Detroit Free Press (Oct. 10), “Arab Americans Favor Obama By Wide Margin,” with Arab-American Muslims supporting
Obama over McCain 84-4 percent. But when Arab-American Christians are included, Obama’s support drops to 54-33, even worse than Obama is doing among Jews. Obama is seriously “underperforming” among Arab-American Christians, says Zogby International, the pollsters. And when third-party candidates are added to the option, Obama’s support among Arab-Americans drops to 46 percent, a full 14 points worse than he’s doing among Jews. And yet, there are no articles that we’ve seen questioning whether Arab-Americans are racist, or that they are asking for promises and reassurance all their own.

According to the Arab-American Institute, sponsors of the poll, Arab-Americans make up 5 percent of the Michigan vote, and 2 percent of both the Ohio and Pennsylvania vote. There are 255,000 Arab-Americans in Florida, more than enough there, as in Ohio, to have made the difference in recent elections.
It’s widely known that Sen. Joe Lieberman is campaigning for McCain in Florida, and Ed Koch is campaigning there for Obama, but who’s campaigning for the Arab-American vote and what are they telling Arab-Americans?

According to the Palestine News Network (Oct. 10), at an AAI event in Arlington, Va., Republican Mark Ellmore (challenging Democratic Rep. Jim Moran’s seat in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District) told the crowd — in Arabic — that his wife is Palestinian and “my son is an Arab-American, [a] Palestinian-American serving in the United States Air Force.”

Ellmore added, to applause and cheers, “We need to get back to the pre-‘67 borders for the Palestinian people … Arabs don’t hate Jews, they hate Zionism.”

Despite all the reports of Jewish racism in this campaign, there have been no reports of any Jewish campaigner, from either party, similarly using the word “hate” to so matter-of-factly refer to anyone.
Nevertheless, Ellmore says, “I stand with John McCain lockstep when it comes to American security,” reported the Washington Post earlier in the campaign, while not reporting this Republican candidate’s anti-Zionist attitude.

Meanwhile, Moran, the Democrat, said at the same AAI event, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is at the heart of how so many people think of America, [it] defines America’s values.” The answer, said Moran, is divide Jerusalem and let “the Golan Heights be controlled by Syria. We can resolve this crisis, we can do that, [with] a president [Obama] that’s determined to do that.”

Back in 2006, the last time Moran ran, a blogger covering that race, reported, “Moran, depending on his audience, is sometimes pro-Israel.”

Well, now, which is it?
That Virginia district is surely not the only district in which this is going on, but even the best-informed Jews wouldn’t know it by reading the papers. The Alexandria Times profiled Ellmore and didn’t say a word about his belief that Syria should get the Golan. The political tide within the Arab-American community is rarely reported, outside blogs, occasional polls and the Arab media. Politicians can freely say one thing to Arab-Americans and simply cross the street to suddenly morph into a “great friend of Israel.” You’d never know, would you?

During the primaries, The Los Angeles Times (April 10) headlined a lengthy article, “Allies Of Palestinians See A Friend In Barack Obama.” Unlike most Jews, who couldn’t tell you one sentence about what candidates are saying to Arab-American audiences, the L.A. Times reported that Arab-Americans knew full well the support for Israel that Obama has promised AIPAC, for example, but their personal experiences with Obama “have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say. Their belief is not drawn from Obama’s speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago….”

Surely one can be receptive to both Israel and Palestine, and can say good and true things to both in private, but Israel and Palestine are not Finland and Denmark; there are limits to how receptive one can simultaneously be. Obama has chosen to publicly align with the Zionists, but the question is why Arab-Americans know so much more about what candidates are saying to us than we know about what the candidates are saying to them?

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