Bernie Sanders Gives American Arabs Hope

By Ray Hanania

March 17, 2016 7 min read

Most Arabs are angry about the Israeli government's vicious and oppressive policies denying basic human rights to Christian and Muslim Palestinians living both inside Israel and under the Israeli military occupation.

But that anger, which fuels the much-justified criticism of Israel's government and its immoral policies, is not anti-Semitic, as many extremist pro-Israel fanatics assert. The recent voting patterns of American Arabs in this presidential election prove it.

For most American Arabs, Sen. Bernie Sanders — who is Jewish — is their number one choice for president The fact that he is Jewish is less important than the fact that he supports a progressive Middle East policy that is fair to Arabs.

American Arab voters are among the most perceptive voters in America's growing Middle Eastern community. They're far more perceptive than Muslim voters, most of whom are not Arab and respond to American politics with emotion rather than reason. Some of the American Arabs, though, are also supporting Donald Trump, who has embraced some extreme rhetoric on issues involving the immigration of Mexicans and Muslims to this country. But Trump's appeal comes from his unwavering stance against the insider establishment in Washington, D.C.

Sanders is an extreme liberal and progressive Democrat, while Trump is an extreme centrist Republican ironically criticized by other Republicans as being a Democrat.

Despite their differing political stances, Sanders and Trump share something in common when it comes to the bigger picture issues: They're both fighting insider, establishment politicians who uphold political correctness and tell the public what it wants to hear during elections — and then do the opposite once elected.

In a sense, America's establishment is disconnected from the needs of the mainstream voters and the issues of justice and fairness. American politicians constantly talk about human rights and justice, but in reality they embrace policies that undermine human rights. They support injustice when it suits their political agendas.

The Middle East is a perfect example of this establishment hypocrisy. Palestinians, who are generally Christian or Muslim, are brutalized and denied their rights by Israel. Yet, by some estimates, Israel receives around $4 billion in foreign aid support from the American political establishment. Using its powerful lobbies, Israel bullies and intimidates the American political establishment and targets any establishment politicians who try to confront these contradictions and hypocrisies.

Both Sanders and Trump have said they will change this twisted hypocrisy if elected as president in November. Sanders is very direct in supporting a two-state solution, where Israel and Palestine peacefully coexist and the Palestinians have a right to statehood. In 2015, he refused to attend a speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress, who has done everything possible to prevent peace, to expand land occupation and illegal Jewish-only settlements and curtail the rights of non-Jews.

That's significant.

Trump has repeatedly said he will be neutral on the issue of negotiations between Israel and Palestine, which is also a very significant statement that contradicts the one-sided bias of the pro-Israel politicians. It also opposes the politicians on the left who have claimed to support a Palestinian statehood but have always acted to block it at the behest of Israel.

Trump has said that anger and hatred exist on both sides, which makes a negotiated settlement difficult. But, he has said that he'd give solving the conflict "one hell of a shot" if elected president.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton is known to be pro-Israel all the way. Although she claims she supports Palestinian rights, she has consistently cast votes and acted to reinforce Israel's oppressive policies against the Palestinians.

Like many American politicians who have betrayed justice and abandoned Palestinian rights, Clinton has said she supports peace but has hesitated to act in order to not offend the powerful pro-Israel lobby. Clinton's policies reflect the polices of her husband, former President Bill Clinton who, like many past presidents, promised to work towards Middle East peace but in the end supported Israel's refusal to make significant compromises.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio (who withdrew his candidacy this week after embarrassingly failing to win his own state's primary against Trump) are both viciously pro-Israel. They have spoken out in support of Muslims and Islam, but their support is in the context of non-Arab issues (again, nearly 80 percent of Muslims are non-Arab). Their defense has been driven by a key distinction that separates the religious aspects of the Islamic religion from the political reality of the Middle East and Palestine.

Although he is giving Clinton a serious challenge in this year's election primaries, Sanders is being pushed aside by Clinton's massive support from the insider establishment and career politicians. Sanders is not likely to win the Democratic Party nomination, but he can certainly influence how the Democratic Party may approach issues like the Middle East.

Despite Trump's rhetoric on the broad issue of Muslims and the rise of Islamic extremism, next to Sanders, he would be the most progressive in helping to achieve Palestinian statehood. Trump has a strong shot at preventing anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian extremists from blocking his candidacy to eventually winning the GOP nomination.

American Arabs can play a role in electing a pro-peace president if they can see past their emotions.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist, managing editor of The Arab Daily News at, and writer at Al-Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit

Photo credit: Josh Evnin

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