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The Palestinian in the House

While we’ve been busy keeping track of how well Jewish candidates did in the November mid-term elections, James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, is counting representatives of Arab descent.

His list includes Justin Amash, the new Republican to represent Michigan’s 3rd congressional district. Amash’s father immigrated from Palestine 54 years ago and settled in Muskegon, Mich, which according to some makes Justin Amash the first Palestinian-American congressman. But according to Zogby — himself of Lebanese descent, and brother of pollster John Zogby — former senator John Sununu, whose ancestry goes back to Palestine and Lebanon, was the first.

Amash is a Tea Partier and a Christian who so far has shown little interest in foreign policy and even less in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His platform on U.S.-Israel relations, posted on his campaign website could easily pass the AIPAC test, as it does not stray from the mainstream Republican-Democratic consensus on the two-state solution, security for Israel and opposition to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Amash told the Grand Rapids Press that he does not want to take sides in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. “I’m an American, and I look it at from that perspective,” he said.

In his politics, Amash is defined as “libertarian-leaning” and his role models are U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and his son, newly-elected Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. For some pro-Israel activists this automatically raises concerns regarding his views on foreign aid, but so far Amash did not state his position on this issue.

Amash is not the only Arab-American to join Congress. Zogby also mentions Richard Hanna of New York’s 24th congressional district, who is also a Republican, and incumbent Democrat Nick Rahall who won a tough reelection battle in West Virginia.

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