10 Commitments of Biden-Harris to Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims Around the World
By: John Mason/Arab America Contributing Writer
With the Biden-Harris victory, Arab Americans, Palestinians, and Muslims around the world can be proud to be seen in a totally new perspective in this post-Trump era, مَا شَاءَ ٱللَّٰ. The Biden-Harris campaign has been very sensitive to issues confronting Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims worldwide. Our new leaders have been more prepared with a plan to address Arab, Palestinian and Muslim issues than any other newly-elected administration. Here we present the Biden-Harris commitment to this important constituency.
The Biden-Harris “Arab American Community: A Plan for Partnership”
The Biden-Harris campaign heavily courted Arab Americans and non-Arab Muslims right up to election day. That effort paid off, at least based on preliminary voting estimates, with both constituencies significantly supporting the elected ticket. Jobs, health care, and race relations were major reported factors in gaining their vote. In response to their support, the Biden-Harris partnership issued a plan: “Arab American Community-A Plan for Partnership.” This plan is a recognition by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris of Arab American contributions to “the fabric of our nation.” It stresses the fight against anti-Arab bigotry and pledges to place Arab Americans in positions across his administration.
It’s important to note that not all Arab Americans supported Biden during the presidential primary and that many were behind Bernie Sanders principally because of his strong, unequivocal support for the Palestinian issue. They nevertheless supported Biden in the general election, at least in part to rid the presidency of Mr. Trump. One critique of this Arab American group was that Biden’s plan does not include concrete solutions to undo Israeli human rights and international law violations, including specific ways in which to make Israel more accountable for those violations.
Nevertheless, the Biden-Harris partnership with Arab Americans specifically embraces the several tenets that the new team wants to implement, as soon as is feasible. More specifically, following are the commitments, mostly in the language of the partnership package itself, to Arab Americans, Palestinians, and non-Arab Muslims around the world.
1. Rescind the un-American Muslim travel and refugee bans
Biden will reestablish the United States as a welcoming destination for those seeking to pursue the American dream, including immigrants from the Arab world. Prohibiting the populations of entire countries from coming to the United States is morally wrong, does not make our nation more secure, and is yet another abuse of power by the Trump Administration. This commitment is part of the initiative, ‘Restoring our Values as a Nation of Immigrants.’
2. Offering hope and safe haven to refugees is part of who we are as a country
Biden will prioritize setting the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, far above the heavily reduced level set by Trump. He will work with Congress to create a minimum admissions number of at least 95,000 refugees annually. Biden will protect Dreamers and their families and order an immediate review of Temporary Protected Status for vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their countries ripped apart by violence or disaster. He will also put real political capital into passing legislative immigration reform that provides a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants enriching our communities, including Arab American Dreamers.
3. Defending the Civil Rights of All Americans
A Biden-Harris administration will confront discriminatory policies that single out Arab Americans and cast entire communities under suspicion. Additionally, the new administration will work to protect communities that are under siege from the growing threat of violence from white supremacists and incitement to violence by far-right extremists. Biden will end the Trump Administration’s Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Program, and, before developing new prevention programs, he will conduct a thorough review of past programs and regularly consult with leaders from historically targeted communities, including Arab Americans, to ensure that civil rights are protected.
He will ensure that programs are properly oriented towards actual threats based on data. This will include creating a dialogue with Arab American community leaders on issues of surveillance, policing, and counterterrorism, in tandem with other communities historically affected by securitized relationships with the U.S. government. Joe Biden will instruct the Department of Homeland Security to undertake a review of “watchlist” and “no-fly list” processes to ensure that they do not have an adverse impact on individuals or groups based on national origin, race, religion or ethnicity, and improve the process to remove names, when justified, from these lists.
4. Biden will work with Congress to pass two critical pieces of legislation, both co-sponsored by Senator Harris
The Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, which would improve national hate crime reporting and data collection, as well as victim assistance and support; and the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, which according to the Human Rights Campaign “would prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from targeting a person based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” Joe Biden will protect the constitutional right of our citizens to free speech. He also does not support efforts by any democracy to criminalize free speech and expression, which is why he spoke out against Israel’s decision to deny entry to American lawmakers because they favor boycotting Israel. However, Biden has been unequivocal in condemning calls in the United States to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel.
5. Advancing Equal Opportunity for all Americans
Joe Biden will oppose including citizenship questions on the U.S. Census, and support the creation of a new Middle East North Africa (MENA) category, which was recommended by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017, so that Arab Americans can be more fairly counted and their needs studied and considered alongside other minorities. The Trump Administration politicized the 2020 Census, putting marginalized communities at risk of a drastic undercount, and abandoned the addition of a MENA category on the Census. Biden will commission an independent study that will make recommendations on possible additional categories of socially disadvantaged groups, such as MENA, for purposes of ensuring equitable access to federal procurement opportunities.
6. Championing Democracy and Human Rights Globally
As President, Joe Biden would help the people of the Arab world address the challenges they face, whether they are rising up in protest, suffering from repression, or living through civil war. Although each country faces its own unique issues, the core complaints of poverty, corruption, and a scarcity of freedom are a common challenge. Human rights are at the core of the very idea of America, and the United States is safer when fundamental rights are protected worldwide. As President, Biden will take immediate steps to demonstrate that the United States is prepared to lead the world again, and to defend and advance human rights and the other democratic values that we hold dear.
A Biden Administration’s relationships with Middle Eastern states led by authoritarian leaders will take into greater consideration human rights and democratic principles. It undermines our moral standing globally, and endangers dissidents, when President Trump excuses Saudi abuses, panders to authoritarian leaders, or calls Egypt’s president “my favorite dictator.”
7. Biden will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy
Joe Biden believes in the worth and value of every Palestinian and every Israeli and will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.
8. He will oppose annexation and settlement expansion and will continue to oppose both as President
Biden will undo the Trump-designed annexation of over 30% of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory. Such annexation would only further Balkanize the Palestinian territory, Further settlement of the West Bank will be strenuously opposed.
9. His policies will be grounded in a commitment to a two-state solution, where Israel and the future viable state of Palestine will live together in peace, security, and mutual recognition.
While a two-state solution is looking more and more doubtful to many observers, the fact that it is still on the agenda of the President-elect reminds us all what is at stake in the continued stalemate over the fate of millions of stateless Palestinians.
10. Biden As President will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people
Consistent with U.S. law, including assistance to refugees, work to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem, and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington.
While these commitments are presented in the order they appear in the Plan for Partnership, this last one is perhaps one of the most important, in that it will immediately ensures the livelihood of Palestinians living under refugee status.
Other commitments made by the Biden-Harris team include dealings with specific Arab countries. One is to work with civil society and the citizens of Lebanon to assist them as they develop and implement an economic and political future for their country, free of corruption, and inclusive of all stakeholders. A Biden administration will continue to support Lebanese civil society to help strengthen the country. Donald Trump has given the government of Saudi Arabia a blank check to pursue a disastrous set of policies, including the ongoing war in Yemen, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and the crackdown on dissent at home, including the targeting of female activists. Biden will review the U.S. relationship with the government of Saudi Arabia and end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The Trump administration has repeatedly fallen short on U.S. policy in Syria. Biden would recommit to standing with civil society and pro-democracy partners on the ground. He will ensure the U.S. is leading the global coalition to defeat ISIS and use what leverage we have in the region to help shape a political settlement to give more Syrians a voice. Biden would press all actors to pursue political solutions, protect vulnerable Syrians, facilitate the work of non-governmental organizations, and help mobilize other countries to support Syria’s reconstruction. He would recommit the United States to lead on humanitarian issues.
“Joe Biden and the Arab American Community”: A Plan for Partnership”, Battle for the Nation, Biden-Harris Campaign, 11/2020 (Much of the language used in this account maintains the original text of the referenced Partnership document.)
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID, the UN, and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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