Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Blog
Arab Americans have come a long way as a political community over the past 30 years. Today, Arab Americans hold office and participate in many facets of the government and political life. This election cycle, the community asserted itself as a relevant and important constituency in a way that it had never done before. Examples include the numerous cases where Arab Americans played crucial roles in helping candidates win tough, nationally significant elections, and the record number of delegates sent to the Democratic and Republican national conventions, two of the most important venues in U.S. politics.
Despite our many accomplishments, however, some in the community have different perspectives on the status quo of Arab Americans political life. They maintain that internal divisions, a lack of organization, and low numbers keep Arab Americans politically inconsequential.
This week, AAI president Jim Zogby and Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, each wrote articles that appeared on “Open Zion,” a blog edited by Peter Beinart on The Daily Beast. They expressed very different views on the status quo of the Arab American community and the challenges of “normalizing” Arab American political perspectives. Jim’s article was posted in response to Mr. Ibish’s. An excerpt of both appears below. Take a look and let us know your thoughts.
Arab Americans Need Political Normalization
by Hussein Ibish
Following the recent election, and noting the growing influence of nontraditional power blocs such as Latinos, Arab Americans have again raised the question of how they can become politically empowered. There is only one answer: become politically "normal" Americans.
This seems simultaneously a provocative and absurdly facile response. Who wants to be "abnormal?" The initial reaction might be outrage: in what way are you suggesting we're not "normal Americans?" But for many Arab Americans, especially as a collectivity, becoming politically "normal"—successfully acculturated to and invested in the American political system—is easy to endorse in theory but exceptionally difficult to accomplish in practice.
View full article on "Open Zion"
We Already Are Politically "Normalized"
By Jim Zogby
There can be no doubt that the divided, paranoid, disengaged Arab Americans Hussein Ibish describes do exist. I've met a few. But they do not define the Arab-American community any more than the elephant's tail or leg define the elephant. My friend Hussein, whom I like very much, has been hanging around with the wrong crowd and is letting them get under his skin. He should get out more—there's a world to see, and a community to meet.
If, for example, he had visited communities across the U.S. this year, had been at the Democratic convention, and had worked in a few campaigns this past fall, he would have been able to write a different article about Arab Americans and their political involvement.
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