Palestinian congressman doesn’t advertise the fact

on 34 Comments

Justin Amash, a Tea Party Republican candidate, won the 3rd CD in Michigan by a 60-37 margin according to Wikipedia, taking positions on political and economic issues that would bring a smile to the shade of Ayn Rand. The JTA says that he is of Palestinian and Syrian background, his Palestinian father having left I/P 54 years ago.The Forward says he is “The Palestinian in the House,” though it says John Sununu was the first of Palestinian ancestry to get into Congress.

Amash’s website says nothing about his ethnic background in its “About Justin” page, and Time Magazine said nothing on this point in putting Amash in its 40Under40 list.

When it came to Israel-Palestine he apparently bypassed AIPAC and went straight to Netanyahu. Hence this:

The United States has a long and strategically important history of strong foreign relations with Israel. As a member of Congress, I will work to continue and strengthen this relationship. I will also respect Israel’s sovereignty and will not support counterproductive efforts to impose agreements or conditions on Israel. Israel must manage its foreign relations and domestic policies as it deems to be in its own best interests as a sovereign nation.

This is what he had on his website:

Middle East “All parties benefit from an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I share former President George W. Bush’s vision of two independent states, Israel and Palestine—two peoples, living side by side in peace and security. Israel’s borders must be secure, recognized, and defensible, and it must be free to respond to hostilities that threaten its people. A future state of Palestine must be viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent. The use of incitement, violence, unnecessary force, or terror to achieve political goals must be abandoned.

He was cautioning the Palestinians, not the Israelis, of course. And you wonder how his father left. Amash says:

The parties should negotiate a just and mutually acceptable agreement on the status of borders and Palestinian refugees.

34 Responses

  1. bijou
    January 16, 2011, 1:09 pm

    Found some background here:

    …Born in 1980, Amash is the middle child of three sons of Attallah and Mimi Amash, an immigrant couple who grew wealthy in West Michigan despite humble origins.

    His father, Attallah, is the founder of Amash Imports Inc., now known as Michigan Industrial Tools Inc. The Wyoming firm is best known for importing hand tools sold through hardware stores, lumberyards, automotive centers and farm supply stores.

    Humble beginnings

    There was no wealth in the Amash household in 1956, when Attallah’s parents and their seven children arrived in Muskegon from Palestine.

    The family had been living in refugee camps after being thrown out of their home near Bethlehem by a young Israeli nation trying to re-establish itself in the Middle East.

    As the oldest son who had learned some English in a refugee camp, 17-year-old Attallah handled the family’s cash — all of $17 — as they got off the ship in New York City. No one ate on the family’s long train trip to Chicago.

    Attallah finally spent the money on bread and tomatoes once they had secured passage for Muskegon, where a local pastor had offered to sponsor the refugee family.

    Despite his family’s background, Justin Amash has resisted taking sides in Middle Eastern affairs. He supports the formation of two separate states, Israel and Palestine.

    “I’m an American, and I look it at from that perspective,” Amash says.

    The family has no contact with relatives in Palestine today. Attallah Amash says the conflict that drove his family out of Palestine is in the distant past.

    “I’ve been here 54 years,” he says. “I am here, and I want to be here forever.”

    America has been good to Amash’s family. By the 1960s, Attallah had started a small wholesale business supplying hardware stores with imported items — the forerunner of Amash Imports.

    During a 1970 trip to Damascus, Syria, he befriended a family who eventually would become his in-laws. In 1974, he married their daughter, Mimi.

    As the couple raised their three sons — John, Justin and Jeff — in Kentwood, the stories of Attallah’s humble beginnings became life lessons that emphasized opportunity, achievement and education….

    “I never had a chance to be educated,” Attallah Amash says. “I thought if I gave my children a chance to be educated, then no one could ever hurt them.”…

  2. annie
    January 16, 2011, 2:01 pm

    oh well. sounds like lots of people who run for public office. what’s to say? apparently he doesn’t feel attachment to the place his parents emigrated from or his ancestors, like many americans.

    • yonira
      January 16, 2011, 2:25 pm

      Why Annie, because he doesn’t announce his hatred for the “Zionist Entity”? Just because someone doesn’t believe what you believe, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel an attachment to the place their parents and/or ancestors are from.

      That is such a petty thing to say. Basically since he believes in a 2 state solution he doesn’t feel an attachment to his ancestors. Great deduction.

      • bijou
        January 16, 2011, 3:42 pm

        That was a low smear, yonira and totally uncalled for and out of context. In response to a totally benign comment that was merely stating the obvious. Stop bullying annie.

      • yonira
        January 16, 2011, 3:52 pm

        Read the post and then Annie’s comment, it was far from a smear. Where did it say he didn’t feel an attachment to Palestine? It simply said he believed in a 2 state solution and in Israel’s security. Annie is the one who took that benign statement and turned it into his lack of an attachment to his ancestors.

      • bijou
        January 16, 2011, 7:11 pm

        It was the first 1.5 sentences of your comment that were the smear, not the rest. I agree that we can’t deduce anything really about his inner emotional attachments to anything one way or another. Although the likelihood is that if he is willing to run for public office in the first place (and if he then gets elected in the second place), Palestine has not been front and center in his life activity. But that is different than saying that for Annie the litmus test of attachment to Palestine is announcing hated for “The Zionist Entity.”

      • annie
        January 16, 2011, 7:47 pm

        because he doesn’t announce his hatred for the “Zionist Entity”?

        yonira get a grip. my comment had nothing to do w/israel whatsoever. it had to do w/reading his ‘about me’ page on his website and bijou’s blockquote. people can say whatever they want on those pages. he didn’t talk about his religion or ethnicity so that’s probably a reflection of who he is. what’s wrong w/that. i’m not criticizing him for it. i don’t run around demanding people be attached to some hyphenated version of american identity. people self identify and i respect his choice. listen to his words

        “I’m an American, and I look it at from that perspective,” Amash says.

        The family has no contact with relatives in Palestine today. Attallah Amash says the conflict that drove his family out of Palestine is in the distant past.

        “I’ve been here 54 years,” he says. “I am here, and I want to be here forever.”

        if his parents raised him sans any contact w/with his relatives from palestine it is not unnatural for him to be unattached. is it?

        where does the “zionist entity” even come into this?

      • pineywoodslim
        January 16, 2011, 3:45 pm

        All she said was that he seemed typical of most Americans in lacking much attachment for their ancestral home. The exact same could be said of my Irish born grandparents and, with some obvious exceptions, most Americans.

        It boggles my mind that you consider such a statement “petty”.

        Let me ask you this, what would your reaction be to a 1st generation Jewish immigrant from Israel to the US who expressed absolutely no interest in Israel?

      • yonira
        January 16, 2011, 4:23 pm

        We don’t know he has zero interest in Palestine though Slim, that is my problem w/ Annie’s comment. Being a first generation Arab American I am sure his ancestry matters to him. Perhaps his Christianity was more influential in his upbringing than his Arab descent, but we just don’t know this.

        He wrote a position paper on on US/Israel relations

        link to

      • Citizen
        January 16, 2011, 6:34 pm

        That paper is a pure platitude. It’s a perfect cover for a Palestininan in America who is ambitious. I’m sure neither he nor his family have forgotten what happened to them overseas, and who did it.

      • bijou
        January 16, 2011, 7:04 pm

        Are you saying that Christian identity is not compatible with Arab identity???

        Whoah…. think again.

      • annie
        January 16, 2011, 7:35 pm

        All she said was that he seemed typical of most Americans in lacking much attachment for their ancestral home.

        actually i said ‘lots of people’ and ‘many americans’. i didn’t say or mean most. and i could be wrong. maybe he does feel an attachment and is just not disclosing it for any number of reasons.

        i feel no attachment to the countries my ancestors came from. none that i know of anyway. is that so unusual? i wasn’t raised to feel an attachment but then i am several generations american. i cannot even fathom being attached to the place my ancestors came from 2 thousand years ago. to me this is insane. sorry, that’s just my opinion.

      • yonira
        January 16, 2011, 7:45 pm

        Are you saying that Christian identity is not compatible with Arab identity???

        quit being dishonest bijou, that is not what I said.

      • annie
        January 16, 2011, 7:59 pm

        ramping up your argument w/rhetorical higher platitudes doesn’t help your case yonira. i didn’t say “zero interest” i said “apparently he doesn’t feel attachment “. that is not the same as “zero interest”.

        no different than any other politician running for office who doesn’t make their grandparents immigration status a part of their identity/persona or campaign. there are americans out there who are just not prone to attachment to their ethnicity outside of being just an american.

  3. Justice Please
    January 16, 2011, 3:55 pm

    Could he at least have gone to J-Street if he feels like staying inside the wider safety zone of Washington politics? Instead he goes directly to the leader of this nuclear armed semitheocracy who likes to wound and kill Americans. Shameful.

    • Justice Please
      January 16, 2011, 5:23 pm

      Not worded how I intended.

      Not the whole country likes to wound and kill, only most of the military and many colonists aka settlers, with most of the governments supporting them.

  4. Koshiro
    January 16, 2011, 5:03 pm

    Actually, with the exception of the “defensible” borders, which often are Israeli code-speak for wide-ranging annexations that would cripple any Palestinian state, his statements do not differ from supposedly more moderate politicians’. Then again, this is mainly because they are devoid of any content – easily agreeable feelgood bits about “mutually acceptable”, “just”, “secure” and so on. No concrete stances on anything.

    Then again, compared to say Huckabee it’s a moderate position I suppose.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    January 16, 2011, 5:43 pm

    RE: “When it came to Israel-Palestine he apparently bypassed AIPAC and went straight to Netanyahu.” – Blankfort
    NOTE: Mitt Romney meets with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel ~ by Jennifer Epstein, Politico, 01/11/14

    (excerpt) Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney met Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who aides say plans sessions with all the serious potential 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls.
    Netanyahu’s office said the two “discussed a series of issues, including advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, which will be based on security, and the challenge to the international community posed by the Iranian nuclear program.”…

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to

    • Citizen
      January 16, 2011, 6:38 pm

      Good to know all American politicians seeking higher office must first be vetted by Aipac and now Nettie too.

  6. Tuyzentfloot
    January 16, 2011, 6:03 pm

    I prefer to start from the reference point of someone with the ambition to have a meaningful career in congress. Even if the congressman is aware of the situation and (probably that’s a requirement)progressive enough to be bothered by oppression she/he will perceive the situation as a choice between burning your career by taking a -useless- principled stand versus compromising on the I/P issue and making a difference in other areas. That doesn’t mean this person isn’t bothered by that choice. Some won’t be bothered. If you’re palestinian it might feel terrible. But within this person’s perception it’s a necessary choice if you want to make a difference.

    link to 1:10minutes in the clip Tony Judt explains some of the logic.

    Jeffrey Blankfort’s article suggests that Justin Amash isn’t bothered.

  7. traintosiberia
    January 16, 2011, 8:08 pm

    Dont you wish like Amash if only these guys( Liberman,Weisel,Schummer,Illena Roth,max Boot,Kristol ,Kuthhammer,Saffire,Lantos, Feith,Podohoretz et al )forgot where and how their ancestors came from? USA would have been saved from a lot of grief .

  8. Saleema
    January 17, 2011, 12:04 am

    Money changes people in ways not imaginable.

    I know a family who lived off on food stamps for quite some time. Then luck hit them pretty hard and now they have a booming business employing 40 people.

    They are now Republicans and hate the fact that lazy people live off of their hard-earned money. They believe they deserve better tax breaks than others because they employ people.

    They also changed their Muslims names to non-Muslim sounding nicknames. The guy’s girlfriend had no idea who I was talking about when I used his real name.

    They are still Muslims but they make their Muslim employees work on Eid day, but give a Christmas bonus to everyone.

    • Potsherd2
      January 17, 2011, 10:29 am

      Sounds like a lot of immigrant Jews. Except I’ve never heard of a Jewish employer making their Jewish employees work on Yom Kippur.

  9. RoHa
    January 17, 2011, 6:33 am

    The headline is false. He isn’t Palestinian.

    He was born in America and brought up in America.

    “I’m an American”, he says.

    He is himself, not his ancestors.

    • bijou
      January 17, 2011, 9:43 am

      True. We would not call someone whose parents had immigrated from Chile a “Chilean” or whatever. But I think the point is that the experience of being made a refugee is so profoundly searing that it would have to find its way into some part of the identity of the next generation, even if born and raised here. And the question is, is he concealing that, or does he really not identify with any of it? Still you are right that he is an American of Palestinian ancestry, not a Palestinian.

      • Potsherd2
        January 17, 2011, 10:25 am

        Israel would call him a Palestinian and treat him as a 2nd-class human if he tried to enter the country, not as a Congressman.

      • RoHa
        January 17, 2011, 6:13 pm

        If that is what Israel would do, then clearly the rest of us should not do it.

      • Lydda Four Eight
        January 17, 2011, 2:44 pm

        West Michigan has a strong tribal mentality working against any outsider. A large number of the people are Dutch (Peter Hoekstra, Richard DeVos, Eric Prince) and Christian Reformed. Amash is neither of these, advertising that he is different and gasp! has family from the Middle East and prays at an Eastern church wouldn’t score him votes with the constituents.

      • kapok
        January 17, 2011, 3:54 pm

        lol, I recall Merkin towns separated into Fords and Chevies.

      • Lydda Four Eight
        January 17, 2011, 4:34 pm

        Btw, Ron Paul is a strong backer of Amash so if Amash shares Ron Paul’s views on Palestine and the Middle East, that’s better than Peter Hoekstra and others.

        This isn’t an Economic site, but I think the real news is that middle class people are voting for Libertarians, which Amash is, and these Libertarian Economic ideas are Darwinian as I understand them. Libertarianism ideology is replacing Republican ideology in some Christian circles/ churches. I see it as the backlash from the arrogance of the Christian Right, younger Christians don’t want to be associated with Falwell et al. It’s like people are flogging themselves (and projecting all their crazy out of control spending into newly tightened belts) for supporting Republican Wars and Christian Coalition bigotry by moving further to the right into Libertarianism. I think the rich are exploiting this and see an opportunity to cash out ideologically and literally on the political climate within this segment of the population.

      • RoHa
        January 17, 2011, 6:12 pm

        “And the question is, is he concealing that, or does he really not identify with any of it?”

        It doesn’t matter. As human being and an American, his moral duties are to promote justice and the well-being of the human race, and to support and inmprove American society. (And resolve any conflicts which arise between those goals.)

        His support for the Palestinians should be based on morality, not on considerations of what happened to his parents.

  10. Leper Colonialist
    January 17, 2011, 4:13 pm

    So, Rep Amash doesn’t advertise the fact that he’s of Palestinian extraction. I can’t imagine why.

    No doubt it’s pure political survival instinct kicking in – no doubt any stance on the Israeli-Palestine question is going to seriously piss someone off. And if this stance should be one that is “Israel-skeptical,” well, I doon’t have to draw you a picture. Look at the insane attempts to smear Miss USA, Rima Fakih [sp?] as a jihadist sympathiser and a blood relation [literally] to terrorists.

    On the other hand, I’m not much for the longing for the ancestral homeland thing on the part of many immigrants. If it’s a question of discreet choice for Amash, so be it. If it’s a question of political survival/political cowardice, that’s something else entirely.

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