Help Me, Help You--Biden Campaign Readjusts its Course: a New 'Plan for Partnership with Arab Americans'
By John Mason, Contributing Writer/Arab America
Just a week or so ago, Palestinian American political activist, Linda Sarsour, was disavowed from the Democratic national campaign. Nevertheless, she continues to support Biden. In the meantime, the campaign, almost as if to vindicate Sarsour, issued the Biden ‘Plan for Partnership’ with Arab Americans, which demonstrates clear support of Arab Americans, non-Arab Muslim Americans, and both American and non-American Palestinians. The Plan is clearly a step in the right direction.
Biden Campaign Press Release now fully embraces Arab Americans
This past weekend, the Biden campaign came forth directly to address the contributions of Arab Americans to “the fabric of our nation.” In ‘Joe Biden and the Arab American Community: A plan for Partnership,’ the presidential campaign takes up the cause of anti-Arab bigotry and the Trump administration ban on Muslim immigration. Biden pledges to include an array of Arab Americans across a Biden-Harris Administration. The campaign takes the opportunity to address specifically Arab American issues, in the context of the politically salient question of “restoring our values as a Nation of Immigrants.”
Thus, as the press release notes, “On day one, Joe Biden will rescind the un-American Muslim travel and refugee bans and will cease the immoral family separation policy. 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.” At the same time, the Biden campaign promises to raise the U.S. annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, benefiting all nationalities.
Specific Campaign language in support of Palestinians
Outright endorsement of the Palestinian cause by an American politician is rare, and one might guess that the Biden campaign has some caveats about its complete support. Thus, in the words of the campaign,
“Joe Biden believes in the worth and value of every Palestinian and every Israeli. He will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy. 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. Biden opposes any unilateral steps by either side that undermine a two-state solution. He opposes annexation and settlement expansion and will continue to oppose both as President. As President, Biden 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.”
Of course, Biden’s administration like most administrations would never be found saying something positive about the Palestinians without saying something equally favorable to the Israelis. In this case, at least, a half a loaf of bread is better than none. So, it appears that the Palestinians have not been hung out to dry—they are at least being told the right words, even though they haven’t been consulted lately, at least not in the past few decades or so.
Other Campaign spinoffs that help Arabs and other Muslims
Biden’s “Plan for Partnership” with Arab Americans includes specific language to improve hate crime reporting, data collection, and victim assistance. The Act is called the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, cosponsored by a vice presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris. That act is also linked to another, End Racial and Religious Profiling. Khalid Jabara’s case is based on his murder in Tulsa on August 12, 2016, by Stanley Vernon Majors, who began his rampage by shouting at his neighbors that they were “dirty Arabs,” “Mooslims,” and “dirty Lebanese,” and ended it by killing them.
The Biden campaign also targets Israel as an example of a democracy that is trying to criminalize free speech, notably “against Israel’s decision to deny entry to American lawmakers because they favor boycotting Israel.” It is noted that Biden does not support the boycott, divestment and sanctioning of Israel—just the right to speak freely against it. An additional benefit to Arab Americans from the Biden campaign is that it intends to propose once again to the U.S. Census Bureau that a new category of ‘Middle East North Africa’ (MENA) be created. This would allow Arab Americans to be more fairly counted and their needs to be more accurately assessed.
Biden has also promised Arab Americans that in dealing with Middle Eastern authoritarian leaders, he will “take into greater consideration human rights and democratic principles.” This would preclude, for example, an American leader (Trump) calling Egypt’s president, “my favorite dictator.” Biden has also pledged to help Lebanon rebuild following its horrific explosion, to review the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, and support Syrian civil society partners in defeating ISIS.
This “Plan for Partnerships” represents a big step in correcting for the campaign’s earlier neglect of Arab Americans. It also addresses more broadly issues of Palestinians, Muslims, and human and civil rights more broadly.
You can read the Plan for Partnership is it’s entirety here.
“Joe Biden and the Arab American Community” A Plan for Partnership,” Battle for the Soul of the Nation, Biden campaign news brief, 8/29/2020
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 and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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