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I’m an Arab and I’m with her

I write these lines in the dying hours of the US Presidential election. It is fair to say that this election has led to a form of global fatigue. In the Arab world, that sentiment is now running deep, and is coupled with a sense of resignation. Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East captured this well in their latest cover, entitled “President Whoever”! Yet I believe this election remains of grave importance for the world and our region.

As an Arab, I support Hillary Clinton. I do this by choice and necessity. Hillary is a formidable candidate that I see as the best possible choice in terms of consequences for the region and the world. However, her outspoken and exaggerated support for Israel, and her lack of statements of support for Palestinian rights during the campaign, make her a difficult candidate to support. But no matter what, she presents a far better choice than Donald Trump.

Strangely, this view does not seem to be widely held in the Arab world. A number of fellow Arabs are supporting Donald Trump through some convoluted process of mental gymnastics. There seems to be a view taking shape in the region whereby Trump, despite his open racism against Muslims and Arabs, is seen as a disruptor of American “politics as usual.” That’s regarded as a good thing, considering that American foreign policy has so far been disastrous in the Middle East.  This support for Trump is premised on a rationale similar to that bizarre formula he uses to attract African American voters: “What do you have to lose?”  I reject this method of reasoning.

By and large, Arab ambivalence towards Trump and this race is based on a deep dislike, at times outright hatred, for Hillary Clinton. Hillary is seen as a huge supporter of Israel, a hawk whose policies resulted in the collapse of Libya and Syria, a supporter of the Iraq war in 2003, and worse. As Clinton put it at the end of the first debate: “I think by the end of the night I will be blamed for everything!”

Many Arabs fear that the Washington establishment is pushing and praying for a Hillary victory because she will embark on many more military adventures in the region. This fear is real. Almost all American interventions in the Arab world have been perceived to be on the wrong side of history and justice! American interventions have served Israeli interests and regional dictatorships, or both at the same time.  Americans should never believe the lie, repeated mindlessly by politicians and mainstream media, that America has sided with the forces of democracy and freedom; at least not in the Arab world. That was never the case.

However, any attempt to paint Hillary as a neocon interventionist is misguided and unfair. In fact, the neocon US establishment has been battling Hillary relentlessly since 1992, doing everything they could to disqualify her, or even imprison her! If she is so much the neocon standard bearer, it doesn’t stand to reason that she would be the subject of so much vitriol and plotting by that very establishment.

The defense of Hillary, from an Arab perspective, can be focused on debunking the following lies:

1. “Hillary would be the most pro-Israel President Ever”

There’s a sad reality at work here. The overall influence of Israel on American politics is so pervasive, there is simply no possibility of having any President without him or her being completely aligned with Israel to the detriment of basic Palestinian rights. It’s as simple as that. Other than Bernie Sanders, there has not been a serious candidate for US president in the last 50 years who was not completely committed to Israel, right or wrong.

The only factor that could ever change that is a reinvigorated and active Arab lobby. Neither Hillary nor anyone else can change that.

Bottom line, nothing is likely to change on this account in a Hillary presidency. Having said that, there are tiny glimmers of hope. There are several statements from Hillary’s time as First Lady that show a real sense of understanding of the injustice done to Palestinians.

These statements were tempered by realpolitik as soon as Hillary entered active politics, as the weight of the pro-Israel US establishment came down on her as it does against any active politician in Congress or the Executive.

Another glimmer of hope here is the future First Gentleman: Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush are the only Presidents since 1980 to exercise any form of real pressure on Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. Bill Clinton’s push in the Camp David talks in 2000 was essentially the last time an American President tried to use the authority of the Oval Office to try and compel a lasting peace. He may have failed but you cannot fault him for pushing as hard as he could and not being content to let the stalemate drag on indefinitely, as Bush Jr. and Obama have done. There is a real chance that Hillary would follow in her husband’s footsteps and work to break the futile impasse between Israel and Palestine, and force the intransigent Likud government to come to the negotiating table.

 

2. Hillary has been playing games in Syria and this resulted in the creation of ISIS”

Not sure where to start really with debunking this issue. Let’s start with a simple timeline. Hillary Clinton started winding down her time as Secretary of State in the summer of 2012, and left her post entirely in January 2013. The Syrian civil war was very much in its early stages by the time Secretary Clinton left her post. By all accounts, the rise of ISIS only really began in 2013.  Other unsavory groups like Al Nusra (a Qaeda branch of all things!) also started to establish their presence and control of the Syrian revolution (or whatever one calls it at this stage) well after Hillary faded into the sunset of her diplomatic career.

The other cause of the frenzy around Clinton and her supposed support of ISIS is the endless stream of boredom and silliness that is Assange’s WikiLeaks. First, a word about these types of leaks: I cannot imagine how any government, let alone global diplomacy, can function if every email or conversation is published or aired to the whole world. Government officials must have some private space in which they can work, reflect and brainstorm without it being diffused all over web. It’s an exercise in futility to adopt a standard whereby all acts of government or foreign affairs must be conducted in full public view. A global and 24-hour theatrical performance where everyone on planet earth can sit and watch as a reality TV show. It just doesn’t work.

Assange is getting his knickers in a twist about leaked conversations in which Hillary seems to acknowledge that many regional powers have financed ISIS and co, and that the war in Syria is supported by Israel. The fact that certain regional forces have facilitated the rise of ISIS is the biggest tragedy of our time. But the fact that the Secretary of State would discuss that or opine on it is not as cataclysmic as Assange wants you to believe. Yes, the biggest failing of the US in the Syrian tragedy is that Obama did not step in and stop so many parties who overtly supported ISIS and other extremist groups for short term political gains. But this lack of action is an issue that lies at Obama’s door and not Hillary’s, as her interaction with the issue was very early on. Also, this reluctance of the US to deal with troublesome regional forces is not an issue that one Secretary of State created. This is a deep seated issue that runs through the entire apparatus of the US government, and that has sadly been going on since the end of World War 2.

But more importantly, the leaks actually show that Hillary wanted to put pressure on those in the region that may support ISIS. She doesn’t condone their actions. In fact, it is the opposite!

3. “Hillary caused all the carnage in Libya”

This lie defies the facts and is an act of selective memory on a mass scale. In 2011, when the amazing crowds in Tunis and Cairo inspired Arabs and the world, so many thought we were witnessing the beginning of an extraordinary renaissance in the region. So when the universally reviled Ghadafi regime seemed on the brink of succumbing to another popular revolt, it is fair to say that the vast majority of Arabs were supportive of the intervention by France, the US and others to support the revolution. Almost all Arabs cheered and celebrated when Ghadafi’s regime fell.

But now, in a major act of mental acrobatics and in light of the mess that eventually prevailed in Libya, many Arabs are asking us to blame the whole Libya quagmire on Hillary!  This is intellectually dishonest to say the least.

Furthermore, it is a commonly accepted view that the intervention in Libya was largely driven by Sarkozy and the French government. The US only joined in after the momentum had been established in favor of military intervention.

In short, many Arabs are essentially blaming Hillary for the entire record of US policy in the Middle East over the last 50 years. While it is understandable that there would be such a level of cynicism, it’s also not fair to do so, especially in a year in which the alternative is so unpalatable.

It is my view that Hillary will be a good President in terms of her overall foreign policy and the region. Regarding Israel, it is anyone’s guess whether she maintains the status quo, or takes on a more active role like her husband to force peace negotiations. In contrast, Trump has declared that, on his first day in office, he will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

However, when it comes to other major regional issues, I think Hillary will be a more firm and involved President than Obama. The sad reality is that Obama failed to show strength and leadership in the region at the precise moment it needed it most. America’s sins are numerous in the region, culminating in the horrific Iraq war of 2003 that has arguably led to all the mess we are in today. However, when it came to the Arab spring and its aftermath, what was needed was an engaged America that would have stood more firmly on the right side of history. What we got was an American president that acted timidly and with cerebral paralysis. Hillary will be different. She will engage and work to fix issues. Standing by the sidelines is not an option.

There are many specific issues on which Hillary will be infinitely better than her opponent. She is committed to lowering regional tension and making a success for all of the deal with Iran, while Trump is apparently committed to dismantling the deal as soon as he assumes power. Trump’s son says that dismantling that deal is what got his father to enter the race! And yet there are no specifics at all as to how Trump will achieve that and what his alternative plan is.

But one also has to be a realist. There is no way to predict how Hillary would handle every issue and challenge that plague the Middle East. But one thing is clear: you need someone with an even and balanced temperament, someone who tries to understand the issues and who would react with measure to developments. That someone is Clinton. Trump is undoubtedly the most erratic candidate to ever run for the presidency. It’s highly dangerous, given all the ultra delicate issues facing the world and the region, to throw into the mix a person with a temperament as wild and uneven as his.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the need for us Arabs to register the strongest protest vote against the bigotry of Trump. If you’re an Arab American, you can do this at the ballot box. If not, you can do it by speaking out against the highly reprehensible positions of Trump. I’ve wondered for a while now why it is that I have such a strong reaction of anger against Trump and all that he represents. I believe it is rooted in me being an Arab.  We have had more than our fair share in the region of tyrants, corrupt businessmen and, generally speaking, the self obsessed. We can identify a truly crooked and arrogant man a mile off! We know firsthand how the promises of a one-man savior bandwagon always ends in tears. We also know far too well that the expression of sectarian and racially based views will always lead to bloody strife. That such statements are never just populist innuendo. I disagree strongly with all those self appointed experts who tell you things like “well he doesn’t really mean it, he’s just using it to be elected and he won’t act on it when in power.” We Arabs can tell you from bitter experience that they always do act on it. Hillary is absolutely right to remind us all of that brilliant quote of Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

And finally, the symbolic value of this election should not be lost on us Arabs. We must actually embrace it.  Yes, it matters that Hillary is a woman. And there is no greater message than for all of us to be inspired by the prospect of the first woman President of the US, especially in the context of our own battles for equal rights in so many countries in the region and when the woman in question is running against someone whose sexism is as blatant as his.

Hillary, if elected, will have a lot to prove to the region. I am not saying it’s guaranteed she will do right by us all. But I could not be more certain of the fact that she deserves a chance and she’s a million times better than her opponent. So let’s quit the fatalistic approach to life and politics that can make some indifferent to the prospect of a Trump presidency. Let us be for something far more positive. And yes we will hold Hillary as President to a tough standard, and we will hope that perhaps it takes a woman to right some of the terrible wrongs of US foreign policy in our region.

Photo: Mark Nozell/Flickr


3 thoughts on “I’m an Arab and I’m with her

  1. For an Arab citizen who does not even have the right to vote in US elections to take the effort and time to write an impassioned defense of an AIPAC-enslaved Zionist servant by telling us that this “sad reality” is the best we can get when it comes to Israel is truly mind boggling.

    The question that begs itself here is this: why should we accept this “sad reality”? What is forcing us to endorse Hillary over Trump? Is it because Trump is supposedly sooooo eeeeevil? But we non-American Arabs living in the Middle East don’t even vote in US elections. So why volunteer this degrading endorsement of the most enthusiastic blind supporter of the tormentors of our people? What do we stand to gain from this capitulation to Hillary and her nauseating grovelling to Israel and total disregard for the basic rights of the Palestinian people?

    As for Arab Americans who wil be voting on Tuesday, have we not had enough of the same old Zionist-bought and controlled politicians selling us down the drains for the last seven decades. Will Trump be as bad? I really don’t know. But what I do know is that he is not an employee of AIPAC or other special interests, and therefore will not be taking orders from these groups like we know this debased Israel-first candidate had neen doing for her entire adult life.

    But this is not the only problem with this article. Leaving Israel aside for a moment, the writer continues his apologist drivel by fabricating allegations that are incontestably false. In attempting to exonerate Clinton from responsibility for the orgy of decapitations unleashed on the Syrian people by the most barbaric breed of monsters to ever walk the earth, Mr. Omar states:

    “Other unsavory groups like Al Nusra (a Qaeda branch of all things!) also started to establish their presence and control of the Syrian revolution… well after Hillary faded into the sunset of her diplomatic career.”

    This is either an embarrassing error or a deliberate fabrication. Any 6 year old with command of Google will be able to discover that Hillary oversaw America’s foreign policy in the period between 2009 and 2013, while Al Nusra rose to prominence in December 2011. This means that this identical ISIS twin received its money, training and US weaponry from Hillary’s Wahabist allies in the Arabian Gulf right smack in the middle of her tenure at the State Department, and committed its worst atrocities under her watchful eyes while she was at the helm, and not during any imaginary “sunset” of her career.

    The writer is therefore invited to rectify this falsehood by respecting the abilities of his readers to type “rise of Nusra” in an online search engine to discover the truth for themselves, and spare us this absurd justification of the absolutely indefensible.

    Sincerely,

    Zaid O. Nabulsi

  2. Dear Mr. Nabulsi,

    Thanks a lot for your feedback and comment. While you clearly did not appreciate the article, I value all feedback, good and bad. I do that in the spirit of democracy and respect of the view of others, a spirit that is sadly completely lacking in your obvious preferred choice for the US Presidency, Mr. Trump.

    As a small side note, let me say that I’m quite intrigued by your complete disregard for major parts of my article that decry the type of politician Trump is. In fact, let us say with great clarity that Trump has made sexist, racist, violence-provoking statements that we all must denounce, particularly us Arabs who have long craved the ideals of justice, equality and fairness. So for starters, YES, Trump is indeed Sooooooo evil. His own statements testify abundantly to that.

    That big section of your argument on Israel and why even support someone who is like Hillary can be rather swiftly dealt with. I am commenting on a choice between two candidates in this year’s US election. I am not commenting on my preferred choice for the Nobel peace prize. There’s an election in the US and I choose to side with one or the other. As a global citizen. Even without having the right to vote. And within the parameters of that choice, I choose Hillary for her temperament, perseverance, character and more. I choose her any day over that erratic and imbalanced Trump that you seem to want to give a clear pass to on everything. Again, you choose to defend him despite the facts. If Trump is not employed by Aipac, then why is he saying that he will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on day 1 of his presidency and move the US embassy there. Something that Hillary has never committed to do. Isn’t that worthy of a comment from your good self? You write your note as someone who is the absolute paragon of Truth on Hillary and how she is the worst thing ever for Palestine. If you adopt such a high and mighty mantle, may I ask you to please comment on Trump’s Jerusalem remarks and his daily tweets saying that Obama and Hillary are not good for Israel and that he will be infinitely more pro Israel than her or any one else? Would you care comment on that or will we live in a parallel universe in which all statements and actions of Trump are fogiven and everything horrible under the sun is attributed to Hillary ? Also, any comment on Trump’s incessant remarks about banning Muslims from entering the US ? His strong suggestions that he will subject US Muslims to tests of loyalty akin to the way Nazis forced Jews to wear identifying signs in the 1930s? All of that gets an inexplicable clear pass from you while subjecting this author to all sorts of allusions, nudges and winks, aimed to questioning one’s Arab patriotic credentials.

    All these above statements of Trump, dare I say, are easily found through that ultra simple Google search you kindly refer me to.

    This is a choice. And Hillary is the choice over Trump by the vast majority of humanity.

    As for the remarks re Nusra/ISIS and the chronology of the their rise, I stick completely to my description of the above facts. You seem to come at this from a deeply held view about the Syrian quagmire. The prevailing academic and journalistic view is that the complete domination of the Syrian revolution (or whatever it is called as I say in the article) by Nusra and Isis did not come about in the first two years of the troubles. It is a widely held view that the Islamist control of the opposition reached its greatest heights not in 2011 or 2012. It’s actually 2013/2014 that’s generally marked as the period in which Nusra and Isis took charge more than ever. Having said that, there are still so many in the world that think there is a moderate Syrian opposition. I believe the latter is almost Non existent at this stage but, even at this juncture, there are many respected journalists and think tanks that hold that view. So your view that Syrian opposition forces were only essentially Nusra throughout is disputed by numerous sources.

    In terms of academic sources supporting my view that Jihadist control of the Syrian revolt took hold in 2013 and beyond, the sources are numerous. I would refer Mr Nabulsi to the excellent book “Syria Burning – A Short History of A Catastrophe” by Charles Glass. I am sure that Mr. Nabulsi would agree with me that Mr Glass is one of the most highly regarded and trustworthy journalists covering our region. In this book, Mr Glass chronicles the history of the civil war in Syria. He states that in 2012, “the conflict escalates to all-out civil war.” He then proceeds to state that, in 2013, “Jihadisfs increasingly dominate the opposition” and so on. If Mr Nabulsi would care to give me his postal address, I would happily send him a copy of this firsthand account of the Syrian conflict.

    Once again, Mr Nabulsi, I greatly respect your views. And it is my earnest hope that you would respect mine. Our Arab world continues to suffer due to our seeming inability to accept the other. This exclusionary form of thinking has led us to many catastrophes. And I would urge you to allow us both to demonstrate in this small corner of a commentary page the type of mutual respect that we should aim for in all political discourse.

    Respectfully yours,

    G.N.

  3. Mr. Omar,
    I would be interested in your position regarding one of the most important issues we are living through as Arabs in the Levant region and that is the Syrian issue. Mrs. Clinton has stated that she would seek a no-fly zone in Syria after “deliberating” with the people doing the flying, the Russians, whilst, Mr. Trump has stated that he would work with Russia on ending the war. What is your position on this point?

    Best regards

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