Thursday, July 24, 2008

Why the ‘Sand Niggers’ should vote for Obama

By Joseph El-Khoury

Out of all derogatory terms used for Arabs in the Anglo-Saxon world 'Sand Niggers' is the one that best describes their present situation at the ethnic group everyone loves to hate. For other colourful expressions I would refer you to the Urban Dictionary available on the web. Similar to the way Black people were perceived as lacking in morals, naturally violent, immune to any cultural sense, lazy and unreliable in a pre-civil rights movements America, anti-Arab prejudice is mainstream post 9/11.

As mentioned by various Arab media outlets, both candidates to the US presidency have made very little attempts to attract the vote of approximately 1.5millions Arab-Americans, who in some states (Michigan, Ohio) make a significant minority. These might even prove more crucial if the race is tight. While McCain seems at all uninterested in this community, Barack Obama went out of his way to distance himself from any display of Muslim support for his campaign, even asking young veiled women to step out from a camera shot during a rally. This is hardly surprising for the son of a Kenyan Muslim who spent his early years in Indonesia. His advisors know that while Christian America might forgive him for being Black, it will not allow him any flirtation with the ’Evil Religion’.

To be fair to Senator Obama and his opponent, the Arab-American community is neither homogeneous nor united. It is split down many religious, socio-economical and cultural fault lines that go beyond the generational gap common to every immigrant community. In general terms, Lebanese (also Syrian and Iraqi to a lesser extent) Americans of Christian extraction form a distinct sizeable group who maintain strong links to their motherland but are keen to show themselves as ‘faith cousins’ fully integrated to the American dream. Coptic Egyptians are a smaller but well organised group with a militant Christian streak. They are socially conservative on issues such as abortion, gay rights and the death penalty and feel comfortable in enlightened republican circles. Many Muslim Arabs of various origins are as socially conservative but find it harder to show their American credentials due to a heavier religious and cultural load. In some cases this extends to public expressions of faith (The veil) which for the insulated average American belong to the enemy. Their Arab identity is emphasised in relation to other Muslims but more recently the two groups have grown closer as a consequence of wholesale prejudice against them and the Islamisation of the Palestinian struggle. US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan only served to confirm their beliefs in a conspiracy targeting the existence of their religion.

The issue or Israel remains essential to understanding the relation between Arab-Americans and their adopted country. The US has been unwavering in its support for the Zionist entity since its creation in 1948 providing it consistently with the financial, technological, military means to dominate the Middle East and wreck the hopes of one Arab generation after the other. This is unlikely to change regardless of who takes over the White House come November. But two factors Arab voters should consider while casting their votes. The first factor is that An Obama administration will not be motivated by ideology in its position vis-a-vis Israel while remnants of the neo-conservative and evangelical Christian agenda will persist in a Bush-McCain transition. Pragmatic policies might still be detrimental to the Palestinians but are easier to debate and challenge than those backed by divine intervention. The second factor is that the election of a Liberal modern Black man to the highest office will be good for America, whatever foreign policy he adopts. This is a revolution in the making and as all astute immigrants know it is by joining hands with the locals for the common good that you gain acceptance. As the American poet Gil Scott-Heron cynically puts it: ‘The revolution will not be televised...’ but the election certainly will!


Anonymous said...

Three issues I would add:

1)on Obama's election Joseph wrote that "This is a revolution in the making and as all astute immigrants know it is by joining hands with the locals for the common good that you gain acceptance"

Yes, but it is interesting to note that amongst Obama toughest critics is another immigrant community: the Hispanics. Even though a majority of this community votes "democrat", racial "competition" in the US between hispanics and blacks will probably not create the "revolution" you talk about

2) Concerning Arab-Americans and Obama, I find that the Arab media (which I follow extensively) have the wrong image of the man; no he will not be the friend of the Arabs, no he will not let go of Israel, no his policy in Iraq will not be radically different from Bush's (US timeline for a pull out from iraq will depend on factors that Obama doesn't control).

The Arab media should just listen to what the man has been saying, and stop portraying him as they wish he will be.

3) Joseph wrote: "An Obama administration will not be motivated by ideology in its position vis-a-vis Israel"

Maybe, but it will be motivated by electoral calculations (presidential, senatorial etc...) and Obama can't just dismiss the New York Jewish vote...and that is a much stronger ideology for politicians (of which Obama is part)than pseudo-religious dogmas



Arab Democracy said...

Dear JB

Thank your for your comment

I agree broadly with your 3 points and that is why I think Arab-Americans should consider internal US factors when casting their votes. The Israel issue is a non-starter.

Electing a Black American has deep historical signifcance. And in a way it might pave the way for the First Hispanic President next. So despite the rivalry I am sure this community thatis growing in strength will still appreciate the symbolism of such a step.

I mentionned that pragmatic policies can be as biased but are easier to influence. Obama will be surrounded by a team of advisors. I would rather have them in charge then the right-wing Christian crusaders (Cheney and friends).


Anonymous said...

"The US has been unwavering in its support for the Zionist entity since its creation in 1948 providing it consistently with the financial, technological, military means to dominate the Middle East and wreck the hopes of one Arab generation after the other."

While any reasonable person will acknowledge that Israel has dealt harshly with the Palestinians and ruined many lives, I cannot understand how this could wreck the "hopes" of an entire Arab generation. The hopes for what? If for a balanced policy, then yes. If the hopes for more just, equitable and economically successful Arab societies - then I simply can't understand how this is related to the Palestinian question. These are questions that Arab societies must tackle on their own - and take responsibilty for their own failings in this regard.

Secondly, the statement that the United States has "allowed" Israel to consistently dominate the Middle East is similarly absurd. Israel has the most successful economy (the GDP per capita of Gulf States is larger) and is the most technologically advanced society in the region, but realistically, this is a nation with a population of 7 million on a tiny piece of land with an overall GDP the size of Hungary's or Finland's. Placed within Europe, it would be a minor power at best. If it does dominate the region, its strength is more a testament to the weakness, division and economic ills of it's neighbors. Egypt, which also receives an immense amount of US aid, has a GDP per capita lower than that of El Salvador. Even, if a solution were reached to the Palestinian conflict tomorrow, this gap between Israel's modern dynamic society and the moribund Arab economies (again with the partial except of the Gulf States) would remain.

There is something that many Arab commentators of the United States don't seem to understand. As a whole, the US public is never going to favor the Arab world, or the Palestinian cause over Israel. Hopefully, of course, they will support a fairer approach to it than the Bush regime, but except for the extreme left (which has never had much influence in moderate America) Americans look at Israel and they can relate to it as a modern, developed state. Within Israel proper, they see a modern economy, religious toleration, a democracy, equality for women, an embrace of western culture. Yes, life under the occupation is brutal - but life in Iraq under American occupation is brutal and we keep our freedoms here. The removal of Palestinians in 1948? How do Arabs expect this to make much of an impact here - we reside on land stolen in a far more brutal fashion from a native population. America's embrace of Israel is not the result of its Jewish population (which is small and on the coasts), it goes deeper. Americans identify with it as a modern state and many Protestants, especially the evangelicals, see it as a biblically ordained event.

Arab societies, on the other hand, are seen as backwards, intolerant, fanatical, anti-American and violent. There is not much of a connection at all. Americans are repulsed by the use of terror, sharia punishments in Saudi Arabia, and what they see as the mistreatment of women and Christians. It is not a race issue per say - I am Hispanic-American and these beliefs are alive and well in a community whose members often have a similar skin tone.

I believe the Arab world should discard the hope that somehow the US will abandon Israel - it may balance more, but it simply won't anytime soon. At the same time by making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the largest political issue in the Arab world, does it not run the danger of focusing attention away from many of the issues that are truly keeping it underdeveloped - failed economies, despotism, religious intolerance, religious divisions between Shia and Sunni?

While the US should strive to dialogue with the Arab world, it's got to be a 2 way conversation. If the United States and the US public only sees an Arab willingness to put Israel aggression front and center and not deal with some of these other issues which truly color the American view of the Arab world, this fundamental misunderstanding of the Arab world and the natural attraction of Israel and the United States is not going to change any time soon.

Joseph said...

Thanks for your comment.

I have to say that I agree broadly with your view that Arabs should be held mostly responsible for the problems you mentioned and that have affected their development over the last decades. On the other hand the Israeli-Palestinian issue cannot be disconnected from the control the US retains over the region, through the proxy 'friendly' regimes. It would be like blaming South and Central America for its underdevelopment without acknowledging the role played by the US in maintaining corruption, nepotism and gross inequalities.

with reference to the image Americans have of the Israelis vs the ones they have of Arabs I have written on something similar from a number of angles that you can find below.


To trigger a broader discussion,we would be happy to republish your comment as a guest contributor but we would need at least a pen name and some description of your background.

If you are interested you can email me on


Anonymous said...

You arse clowns are kidding yourselves if you think you'll ever gain permanent acceptance here. If you want to run roughshod over a civilization, better to stick with the Brits or the French - they'll tolerate an infinite amount of you're BS. We are armed and intend to stay that way. Push it too far, and you're liable to wind up w/ some unpleasant consequences....

But I digress, it's within your very nature to "push it too far"...isn't it?

Arab Democracy said...

So you hate everyone and you have a gun. Original!

rick said...


Anonymous said...

who needs a negro in the white-house anyway

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