Posted on June 27, 2012 in Countdown


Um, Is It Ok If We Vote, Too?

Last week, a group called “I Vote Israel” released a new video. The video aims to encourage American-Israeli dual citizens living in Israel to vote in American elections. It does so by using scare tactics, like pointing to the “threat” of growing Arab American political participation, noting their role in helping Congressman Pascrell defeat “long-time supporter of Israel” Steve Rothman. Where do we start? Let’s see… First of all, Arab Americans didn’t support Pascrell because of Israel, they supported him because he built a relationship with the Arab American community and took outreach efforts to them seriously. Second, what America is this that you think you belong to where it’s ok to fear-monger about another ethnic community being part of the political process? Could anything be more un-American? Thirdly, we know we all care about other countries where we have family and friends, but when it comes time to vote in an American election, shouldn’t the slogan be “I Vote America”? Well, if you want to fight back against those trying to suppress our community’s political participation, be sure to support AAI’s “Yalla Vote” campaign.

Peter King Hearings: Who are these people?!

We didn’t think it was possible, but the last round of Peter King radicalization hearings proved to be exponentially more absurd than the last four. This was, of course, a hearing about the hearing, so we should have known better. We couldn’t, however, have been prepared for Asra Nomani’s testimony (and you thought Zuhdi Jasser was bad!). Pointing to an incoherent graph of squiggly lines and red dots, Nomani, a journalist by trade, was trying to make the case that Muslims have “departed from our very clear sense of holding ourselves accountable,” and that they somehow have girded themselves in to this mental cage of emotional denial. "Shame is such a critical part of our culture,” she added. The imagery of the emotional circle of denial reminded us of that Phone-booth scene from "Anchorman." Thank goodness Nomani isn’t involved in counter-terrorism training for the military or law enforcement officials. Imagine the crazy stuff she would have taught about the Muslim emotional disposition, oh wait, she is. When pressed on her credentials, Nomani revealed that she is a contract trainer for the Department of Defense. Well, that explains a lot. There was one thoughtful, intelligent exception to the cast of characters invited to testify at the hearing, and that was Faiza Patel. We’re glad she brought some sense to the hearings.

Immigration Debate Not a Task for the Courts

Though three of the four intrusive provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070, were struck down in a recent Supreme Court decision, one provision remains constitutional: the so-called “papers please provision” which requires law enforcement agents to check on the immigration status of those they stop or detain. Overall, the ruling was a win for the Obama administration which has been in a legal battle with Arizona, arguing that the federal government, not the states, has the exclusive right to create and enforce immigration laws. But Jan Brewer, Arizona’s Republican governor isn’t counting her losses. In what is either an effort to confuse the rest of us or a sign of misunderstanding on her part, she also claimed victory on the legal front saying, “Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for the rule of law.” Well, yeah, it was a “court ruling,” so we already know, by definition, that it was a victory for the rule of law (how to interpret the law is all that’s in dispute). But Brewer isn’t confused; she’s just excited about the provision that wasn’t struck down. With immigration as one of the key issues of this presidential contest, the country will demand more comprehensive and permanent approach to reform than what can be delivered by courts. The Key to achieving comprehensive immigration reform is in a national discussion that leads to big and bold legislative steps. We’re still waiting for those.

Egypt Has a President

On Sunday, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammad Morsi was elected as Egypt’s first civilian President, an important step in the Egyptian transition to democracy. We watched the results (not all of us, only those who remained awake through the lengthy announcement) with a bizarre mix of excitement, sadness, optimism, and despair; and apparently, so did most of the American political establishment. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney “congratulate[d] the Egyptian people for this milestone in their transition to democracy.” Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) sponsored a House resolution to protect “Religious Minorities in the Arab World,” with a focus on the Copts in Egypt. And of course, Countdown-favorite Allen West (R-FL) called the election an “Islamic nightmare.” On a side note, if Islamic nightmares keep you up at night, skip the insomnia medication and go for alternative and more natural healing methods, like a prejudice-expunging meditation session or something.

Syria’s War Evolves

Syria’s Assad is no longer pretending to be dealing with a few terrorists and has acknowledged that the country is in a “real state of war,” now directing his new cabinet to crush the uprising. Meanwhile, Syria shot down a Turkish military jet that appeared to have strayed into its airspace, eliciting military threats and a warning from Turkey’s PM about the country’s wrath. With crisis escalating, the U.S. is no longer sitting it out. Last week, the New York Times reported that the CIA, fresh from their supporting role in the NYPD’s racial profiling program, has been helping to steer arms to members of the Syrian opposition in Turkey. It’s the latest indication that the Obama Administration is shifting from a focus on rhetorical and humanitarian assistance to a greater involvement in the armed uprising against the Syrian regime. We’d love to see Assad go, and now that the CIA is on it, what could possibly go wrong?

The Debate

You’ll be waiting months before you get to see an Obama vs. Romney debate, but that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying other debates in the meantime.  Last week, Jim Zogby joined Jack Shaheen to take on Josef Olmert and Kenneth Marcus in Ralph Nader’s “Debating Taboos” series. The debate, introduced by Ralph Nader and moderated by Patrick Sloyan, took place at Busboys and Poets in Washington, and dealt with the question of whether there is a double-standard in our discourse’s tolerance of anti-Semitism that is directed at Arab Americans compared to that which is directed at American Jews. We could tell you all about it, but we think you’d enjoy it more if you watched it yourself and were surprised on your own by the feisty parts (watch part 1part 2, and part 3).



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