Lieberman and the Failure of Arab- American Politics

There are about 6 million Muslims in the United States, although most are not Arab. And, there are about 2 million Christian Arabs in the United States. Together, this constituency could become an effective voice in influencing American politics, but it has not.

And yet, Arabs in the United States and the Arab World will react with smugness over the decision by Democratic Party Presidential nominee Al Gore to name Joseph Lieberman, the first American Jew nominated to a national executive office, as his vice presidential running mate.

They will use the Lieberman appointment to underscore the conclusions they have long held, and that have been wrong.

This is a subject for another column, but the fact is that Lieberman's nominationa nd his possible election as Vice President will in fact undermine Israeli interests by putting more public pressure on American Jews to put the interests of the United States ahead of those of Israel. Lieberman will be under constant scrutiny to explain every pronouncement on Israel: Is he doing it because he is an Orthodox Jew? Or is he really an American with America's interests at heart?

It's a challenge I look forward to witnessing, and I think the pro-Israel lobby fears.

But let's return to the political realities.

The question often comes up: How is it that 6 million American Jews manage so much influence over American politics, yet the larger Arab Christian and Muslim community languishes on the sidelines?

One simple answer: Coalitions. American Jews, by themselves, are not powerful. But, they do enhance their advocacy by building coalitions with other ethnic groups and political voting blocks by setting aside their own interests in certain areas while demanding support in others.

Another answer is communications. American Jews understand the significant relationship between perception and reality. They also understand that investing in proper public relations techniques is productive and can change results.

In contrast, American Arabs cling to the old traditions of back-home politics and the negative stereotype of Arab media. You see, in the Arab World, the media is controlled. And where it is not controlled by a local government or dictator, it is influenced by threats.

Arabs in the Middle East do not respect their own media, in some cases, because they are intelligent enough to recognize that the news stories in the local newspapers and TV are often manipulated by government censors. And, in the old days, let's face it folks, the media was completely and utterly dominated by government demogogues who controlled those issues that were significant to the community as a whole.

So these Arab immigrants come to the United States and other Western countries with this stereotype of the media. It's controlled back home so why is it not logical to believe the media is controlled in the United States, by, say, people we disagree with?

It's a simple answer to a complex challenge. And, of course, it is wrong. Completely wrong.

Why do Arabs continue to argue, for example, that the "Jews control the media" in the United States? Because they are afraid to recognize the truth, that the rise of Jewish issues in the American media is in direct relationship to the Arab community's failure to become active and to apply principles of basic strategy.

In otherwords, "yah shabab," the media is anti-Arab because we don't know how to work with the media. We don't know how the media works. We don't understand how the media is influenced. And, we don't encourage our children to become reporters or journalists. We want them to pursue more respectable professions, such as becoming a doctor or a lawyer.

Our utter failure at influencing the American media is the direct cause of our complete failure to establish our Arab voice in American politics. American politics is influenced by media perceptions that are pressured more effectively by pro-Israeli interests.

The Arab voice is non-existent.

Even a country like Jordan, which polls show has strong positives among the American public, can't seem to get its message out to the American people. The Jordanian message should overwhelm the Israeli message, yet it doesn't because Jordan's representatives in the United States don't know the first thing about public relations or communications.

They do know a lot about old-fashioned Arab World politics, though. And their work here in the United States, from the consul general's office on down to the local Jordanian community organization, is utterly pathetic and ineffective.

But Jordan isn't the worst.

The Palestinians spend more time backstabbing each other than they do trying to forge a political consensus to counter the successful lobbying of the Israelis.

Let's face it, how can the Palestinians lose the Jerusalem issue? It is so naturally a justified position to take. Yet, most Americans believe the Israeli lie that Jerusalem must remain undivided and Israel is the best nation to protect Jerusalem's interests.

Nothing could be further from the truth. But, most of our national spokesmen are either short-sighted professors and academics whose agenda is to meet their academic publishing quotas, or they are related to President Yasir Arafat.

This pathetic rabble of incompetent professors and do-nothing in-laws represent the Palestinian interest. And they have done a great job of pulling the rug out from nearly every morally justified position we have over the years.

Egypt is in political retirement from International Politics, and who the heck knows what is happening in Syria where only the privilege can own a fax machine and the Internet is a toy of the Syrian government and elite.

Iraq is a disaster, wallowing in total human suffering, represented by the most incompetent "champions" if I can be excused for using even that word. More than 5,000 Iraqi babies die each month and after 10 years of "championing" the Iraqi cause, we haven't made a significant dent.

Let's be honest. Before we can address our own failures in this country, we need to recognize our failures and the causes for those failures.

The Arab American community could be the vanguard of a successful campaign to change-over the United States congress and direct White House foreign policy on the Middle East. But instead, it is too easy to make excuses for our failure, too easy to blame "the Jews," and too easy to sit back and ask Seidi what we should do.

By the way, would someone please wake Seidi up?

We have an important election coming up in the United States in November.

(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American author and writer. His columns are archived on the Internet at He can be reached by email at [email protected])

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Government And Politics, United States Of America
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