An Arab American Democrat Calls For a Stand on Common Ground

By James Zogby

Published October 22, 2004, issue of October 22, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Eleven years ago we stood together on the White House lawn to witness a historic moment. I, like many of you, will never forget the exhilaration of that day. I remember how both our communities reacted when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat grasped each other’s extended hand.

We turned to each other both in celebration and relief. We did so not simply because of their handshake or even because of their agreement, the details of which many of us had not yet fully read. We did so because we wanted the conflict to end, not only for the Palestinians and Israelis, but also for ourselves.

Now, of course, the Oslo era is over. The Middle East is once again a tragic battleground maimed by terror and oppression. What I believe remains, though submerged by our respective fears and anger, is the hope that we can once again be joined by a shared vision and brought together as a constituency for peace.

I, however, do not believe that we need to look to the Middle East for leaders there to take the first step.

This summer at the Democratic Convention, I rode on the bus to the Fleet Center with a group of Jewish leaders. We exchanged pleasantries and shared a few memories — but no more. During the convention our communities had our separate events, sometimes in the same venues.

What I thought then and believe now is that we, both of us, can do better. This year’s campaign to elect John Kerry president should have brought us together to change the direction of our country and to end the reckless and neglectful leadership of this ideologically driven Bush administration.

Polls are showing that both our communities strongly support Kerry. They also show that on many issues, including the Middle East, Arab Americans and American Jews share remarkably similar views. And yet, there are campaign strategists and some influential advocates who argue that politics between our two communities is a zero-sum game.

As a result, my community has been frustrated and left wanting. The impact? Polls show Kerry underperforming among Arab American voters in important battleground states.

I am writing now to ask you to join me in telling this “zero-sum” group that they are wrong and that we ought to prove them wrong. A winning Democratic campaign can reach out to both Arab Americans and American Jews.

Just as I know that expressions of concern for Israeli victims of terrorism and commitment of support for Israel’s security do not cost a candidate Arab American votes, I do not believe that compassion for Palestinian suffering and commitment to a Palestinian state will cost Jewish votes.

Similarly, reaching out to you in opposing the Bush administration’s religious right-wing agenda will play well in my community, and defending civil liberties and constitutional rights of immigrant Arabs and Muslims will play well in yours.

By focusing on the common ground we share, we can send a powerful message that we understand what is at stake for our communities, our nation and our world.

Your community, no doubt, holds powerful cards in this election. We, however, have a few to play, as well. If Kerry can win overwhelming majorities in both the Arab American and American Jewish communities, it would make a real difference in key battleground states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. And winning strong majorities in both of our communities would put Kerry in an extraordinarily strong position both to salvage our nation’s eroding position in the Middle East and to lead Israelis and Palestinians to a much needed peace.

With the help of both of us, Democrats and America can win. I invite your response.






Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.