Over the weekend, I was alerted to the fact that John McCain had dropped a prominent Arab-American from its finance committe in Michigan, Ali Jawad. Jawad made comments about Hezb Allah which painted the Lebanese guerilla organization as less than evil, and as a result was dubbed a terrorist sympathizer by the ever moronic Debbie Schlussel, a Michigan-based blogger who specializes in badmouthing Arab-Americans, Muslims, blacks, “illegal immigrants” (read, Hispanics) and Barack Obama. Schlussel rushed to condemn the young men who were arrested for having purchased several hundred cell phones for re-sale in 2006 as “terrorists” and continued to blurber on along similar lines well after the two had been proven innocent. Her “citizen journalism” is of a moldy yellow, without scruples and of the lowest order. Her racialism is apparently influential enough to push the McCain campaign into tossing out “undesirable” personalities from its machine.
Though I tend to view Daily Kos in a negative way — it is usually too shrill for my taste — its posting on this topic is rather insightful. It is also interesting because it, unlike so many left-wing and Democratic evaluations of Arab-Americans, actually admits that the reason that Arab-Americans have often leaned towards Republicans over the years has been, along with other things, the result of rejection on the part of the Democratic Party, whose candidates and fundraisers at the highest and lowest levels have refused to take the support of Arab-Americans because they were not fashionable (see Senator James Abourezk’s infamous anecdote in which Senator Edward Kennedy flatly refused to take a contribution towards his presidential run from the S. Dakota Senator first through a staffer and then to his face because he did not want to be “associated” with “terrorism”). At the same time, though, in its discussion of how the racist attitudes of Democratic politicians made it possible for Republicans to mobilize considerable support among Detroit-area Arab-Americans, it omits the fact that Spencer Abraham is himself an Arab-American (his parents are of Lebanese origin), who in 1994 became one of five Arab-Americans to have served in the United States Senate and the first such Arab-American to do so from a state with a large Arab population. (The Kos posting is also good in that it plainly states that Schlussel “hates Arabs.” Many are loath to call a spade a spade, especially when it comes to anti-Arab and Muslim bigotry.)
Indeed, this is only one example of a practice in both major parties of holding Arab-Americans to a different standard. In 2006, an Arab-American by the name of Sami Merhi, who was running for freeholder, lost the support of his state Democratic Party because of comments he made about the September 11 attacks in 2002 (At a fundraiser for Bill Pascrell, Merhi stated that he did not see a comparison between Palestinian suicide bombers and the 9/11 attacks; Merhi’s godson died in the attacks.) What does terrorism — Palestinian or otherwise — have to do with being a freeholder? Not much. But because Merhi was an Arab-American, the subject was used as if it were at the top of the local agenda. We can similarly ask, what does Ali Jawad’s opinion of Hezb Allah have to with Republican Party finances in Michigan? Not much, unless there is something else that Mr. Jawad is guilty of. The view that this is a preemptive move to avoid future Democratic attacks after the primaries may be correct: we know that Hillary Clinton has no shame (or compassion) when dealing with Arabs or Muslims. If Senator Clinton sees that McCain is even vaguely friendly with an Arab, she will surely seize the opportunity to smear him for it. Is John McCain afraid of the Clinton bigotry machine, which succeeded in convincing many Americans that Senator Obama is a Muslim earlier this year?