By Claude Salhani
The question arises with every presidential election: How will Arab Americans vote? Will they give their support to the Democrats or to the Republicans?
The answer is that there is no monolithic Arab-American political stance.
The Arab-American community in the United States is divided over the various issues that concern them and they look at how a candidate’s foreign policy would affect their communities in the lands of the ancestors. Their reactions and viewpoints are as diverse as the accents of speakers of Arabic from the countries that stretch from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.
Typically, they gauge which candidate is better equipped to serve their community. In that manner, Arab Americans are no different than any other group of immigrants in the United States to seek a better life for their children.
When it comes to voting for the next president of the United States, the Arab-American community can hardly be counted as a single bloc.
Indeed, it’s a mishmash of wants and needs. Traditionally, conservative Arabs tended to lean more towards Republicans who hold the same beliefs of strong family values, with the core of the family being the mother and father. They do not encourage same-sex marriages and frown on abortion.
More liberal Arab Americans look towards the Democrats as being more in line with their political beliefs but here, too, they face a choice. The Democratic Party has historically been closer to Israel.
When voting for president, Arab Americans tend to look at the candidates’ records and how they reacted to situations affecting their countries of origin. Example: How President Barack Obama failed to react in a positive manner at an earlier stage in the now 8-year-old civil war ripping Syria apart.
Obama did not have to order American boots on the ground. He had options. He could have used drones. He could have ordered the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, cruising in the eastern Mediterranean, to fire Tomahawk missiles at selected targets in Syria. The American president must have had a slew of other choices presented to him by military and political advisers. He chose inaction.
Granted, the Syrian-American vote will not change the US presidential landscape but ignoring the violence in Syria may have pushed a number of voters to the Republican side.
Then look at the way US President Donald Trump has treated the Palestinians and wonder if any American of Palestinian origin is likely to vote for Trump or the Republican Party ever again.
“What Trump has done to the Palestinians, in moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is the second-worst thing that has happened to the Palestinians since the Balfour Declaration (in 1917), said Khaled Saffuri, director of the National Interest Foundation in Washington.
Americans of Palestinian origin have a choice to make and in 2020 — support the Democratic Party, which attracts much of the Jewish vote and has been sympathetic to Israel, or give their support to Trump’s Republican Party after Trump demonstrated a clear bias for Israel much to the detriment of the Palestinians.
Given Trump’s stands on the Israeli-Palestinian debate one might wrongly assume the Arab-American vote would be solidly set against him and his hopes of winning a second term.
However, things are not clear cut. Arabs of Syrian origin voted for Trump because they were displeased with Obama’s indecision on the slaughter that was going on in Syria. Meanwhile, Iraqi Christians and Chaldeans who voted for Trump were disappointed by the disregard that Western powers had for the fate that awaited many of their coreligionists who had the misfortune of falling victim to the madness of the Islamic State.
It is hard to predict what the Arab-American vote will be in 2020 or how it is likely to affect the general outcome but the Arab-American community is, in general, not very pleased with this president’s decisions and indecision.