Sanders’s outreach to Arab Americans on Islamophobia helped deliver Michigan surprise

US Politics
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One of the great storylines from last night’s surprise victory for Bernie Sanders in Michigan is that he won the Arab-American vote– and the mainstream media are stunned that Arab Americans would vote for a Jew. Sanders won heavily-Arab-American Dearborn, by 7100 votes to Hillary Clinton’s 4700 votes. That’s a 59 to 39 percent Sanders stronghold inside Wayne County, which was a Clinton stronghold. Wrote law professor Khaled Beydoun:

The Detroit Free Press’s Niraj Warikoo reports that Sanders’s victory was fueled by young Arab and Muslim voters, and that he put out an Arabic ad at a time when Hillary Clinton wasn’t working that community.

On Monday afternoon, Sanders spoke to a packed theater that included many Arab-American Muslims, including several women wearing hijab, the Islamic headscarf, who sat behind him as he addressed the crowd. He was introduced by Detroit native U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress. Sanders met before the speech with the publisher of the Arab-American News, which endorsed him last week.

The narrative of Arab-American Muslims in Dearborn supporting a Jewish candidate was one that struck many on social media as a symbol of unity at a time of division on the campaign trail.

Here’s that ad:

It quotes Sanders, thrillingly:

And if we stand for anything we have got to stand together and end all forms of racism, and I will lead that effort as president of the United States.

The Arab American News endorsed Sanders last week and cited his vigorous denunciation of Islamophobia.

Sanders stands for racial justice and has unequivocally condemned Islamophobia.

Beydoun made a similar point on Twitter:

And notice the Arab newspaper’s brisk and refreshing acknowledgment of Sanders’s Jewishness and of America’s unfair policy on Israel’s human rights abuses. It’s impossible to imagine this language in a non-Arab publication.

On foreign policy, Sanders has shown the most even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Although his views on this issue do not rise to the aspirations of Arab Americans who would like to see Washington take a clear stance against Israel’s human rights abuses and occupation of Palestinian land, Sanders’ call for ending the blockade on Gaza is a step in the right direction. His condemnation of Israeli attacks that kill Palestinian civilians is unprecedented by any major presidential candidate.

Sanders is a Jewish American. This newspaper and the community at large do not have a bias against anyone’s ethnic or religious affiliation. Ideas are what matters.

Bear in mind, Sanders won the state by little more than 18,000 votes out of more than 1 million cast. Much of that margin was surely Arab-American.

Jeremy Scahill noted the obvious foreign policy angle:

Much of the commentary on the Sanders victory in the Arab-American community has noted the media’s surprise at it. IBTimes:

Political commentators and media outlets were quick to pounce on a “fascinating” statistic from Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Michigan primary on Tuesday night: Democrats in Dearborn, a city whose population is 40 percent Arab, voted overwhelmingly for Sanders over rival Hillary Clinton (59 percent to 39 percent). The subtext of pointing out this particular statistic is clear. How, the media wondered, could a predominantly Muslim group support a Jewish candidate?

Many noticed NY radio host Brian Lehrer’s tweet from last night, because it assumed Arab Americans would not vote for a Jewish candidate (Lehrer is Jewish and almost never touches real criticism of Israel).

Ali Abunimah tweeted (and he’s been widely retweeted):

Ayesha Siddiqui said,

New York Times reporter Liam Stack, formerly in Cairo, said:

Teachable moment, for the mainstream media.

P.S. Donald Trump won Dearborn on the Republican side, 39 to 29 to 17 (Trump/John Kasich/Ted Cruz). But his vote total, 3153, is less than half of Sanders’s 7126 and less than Hillry Clinton’s 4730. It’s a good assumption Trump’s Islamophobia didn’t resonate with Arab Americans.

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42 Responses

  1. Emory Riddle
    March 9, 2016, 11:59 am

    Maybe he played them the video of his telling his Vermont constituents to shut-up when they questioned his support for the Israeli massacre of the Gazans in the summer of 2014 and did not buy his “Israel has the right to defend itself spiel”.

    This guy is the classic PEP (progressive except on Palestine). He is also being careful not to attack Hillary on her neocon foreign policy. He could go after her on this and add many supporters. But he does not. Probably protecting his senate seat from the Lobby putting up a well funded opponent against him and he does not want to lose his spot on senate committees.

    Forget this guy if you are a true liberal

    • Kathleen
      March 9, 2016, 5:40 pm

      He is light years better than neocon war hawk HIllary. Light years better. At least he still resembles a human with a conscience…

      • echinococcus
        March 9, 2016, 10:51 pm

        Not a single piece of evidence in his record that he is any better, re imperialism and war of aggression, than any other D&R candidate. We have the entire voting record and all his speeches in support of US aggression, thank you.
        This Michigan campaign is the height of hypocrisy.

        “Not me, us”, eh? Flowery nonsense words come too easy to Madison Avenue Sanders.

        Did the voting people confront the fact that Sanders supported and supports the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq (the one vote against being canceled by his support to the war budget and his previous carte blanche to Bush), the utter destruction of Libya, ditto of Syria, the rape of Yemen, and I’m skipping other Zionist-initiated wars that Sanders supported and supports?

      • Kathleen
        March 22, 2016, 11:52 am

        No vote on the 2002 Iraq war resolution. Willing to admit that Israel has disproportionately responded with out of control force to any aggression. Ok he does not go as far as saying that Israel often fuels the aggression. But there is a sizable distance between Clinton and Bernie on foreign policy.

      • echinococcus
        March 22, 2016, 3:19 pm


        I have to say that the let’s-vote-for-a-Dim-facts-will-take-care-of-themselves bunch starts getting on my nerves. It has been posted abundantly on this board that the specific Iraq vote was not the one used to justify the rape of Iraq, but the AUMF (which only needed a certification by Bush that the country was connected to 911 and the certification was provided.)

        That coward Sanders did vote it, leaving Barbara Lee alone.

        He voted no and made a fine speech at the Iraq vote… because it just didn’t count and he had his Vermont base ready to explode. He revenged himself later by voting the war budget!

        What I just can’t stand is the… propaganda tactics. Singling out one single Nay vote, even if you didn’t know that it didn’t count, when you know perfectly well that he has voted almost every war action and war budget.

        Willing to admit that Israel has disproportionately responded with out of control force to any aggression

        He was “admitting” that even while he was shouting “Shut up! Israel has a right to defend itself!” in blatant violation of international law. Is that the guy you want to run the US?

        But there is a sizable distance between Clinton and Bernie on foreign policy

        No distance for the things that count if we disregard, as we must, all the flowery speeches and look at the record. One is JStreet, the other one AIPAC. Some difference.

    • Qualtrough
      March 10, 2016, 12:06 am

      @Emory Riddle – Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      • Emory Riddle
        March 10, 2016, 10:40 am

        You keep settling for the lesser of two (or more) evils, we end up with endless evil.

        Favoring the Occupier and Oppressor over the Occupied and Oppressed is an absolute deal breaker for me

      • tony greenstein
        March 11, 2016, 5:50 pm

        The fact is that Sanders did oppose the Iraq war. He has also criticised what he has termed the excessive force used by the Israeli military and Netanyahu himself.

        Is he an anti-Zionist or a strong supporter of the Palestinians? No. Is he better than Clinton? Yes.

        He has succeeded in making the word socialism respectable again in the US. He has galvanised a radical constituency which will go beyond Sanders. He has challenged the US corporations and Walll Street who are the real determinants of foreign policy, inc. support 4 Israel.

        I don’t think Sanders is responsible for Yemen etc. I’d put that down to Saudi Arabia and Israel of course secretly.

      • echinococcus
        March 22, 2016, 3:24 pm


        “Socialism” here means diddlysquat. This here is about support to Palestinian resistance, not about hunting “antisemitism” or cheering for some “socialism” by a flatout socialdemocrat.
        For what people on this site are trying to support, the most obscurantist and narrowly rightist people and organizations have provided the best resistance in the last 15 years.
        The enemy is Zionism, here. Period. Not Wall Street or other stuff we may disagree about.

  2. joemowrey
    March 9, 2016, 12:57 pm

    “And if we stand for anything we have got to stand together and end all forms of racism, and I will lead that effort as president of the United States. ”

    Well, all forms of racism except Zionism. That one he’s okay with.

  3. ckg
    March 9, 2016, 1:51 pm

    It is also worth noting that the Wayne County city of Livonia, which is home to Michigan’s largest concentration of Palestinian-Americans, voted 56-42 for Sanders over Clinton yesterday.

  4. a blah chick
    March 9, 2016, 2:05 pm

    I must fess up that I voted for Sanders in the Michigan primary, his PEP not withstanding. I give him credit for coming out here and actually campaigning in the Arab community, Hillary didn’t do that. Plus I will do anything to force her to earn that coronation. She’s awful.

  5. David Doppler
    March 9, 2016, 2:06 pm

    What great reporting! And how the Arab American News straightforwardly unbiased approach contrasts with Tom Friedman’s heavy bias last night on PBS NewsHour.

  6. Annie Robbins
    March 9, 2016, 2:12 pm

    i assumed arab americans supported sanders largley for the same reasons i do

    Younger Arab-Americans at Salina, though, said they were concerned that Clinton was a hawk who supported the invasion of Iraq and also is supporting war in Yemen. Many in the south end of Dearborn, where the Salina precinct is located, are of Yemeni descent.

    anyone who cares about the ME, cares about clintons hatchet job on libya which is now overrun w/isis, her intent to place a non fly zone over syria, her obvious neocon affiliations and FP influence. who could vote for someone with a history like that.

    • Blownaway
      March 9, 2016, 2:47 pm

      I would never vote for neocon Rubio why would I vote for neocon Hillary? From Haaretz today headline Rubio would recognize Golan annexation further down “Rubio also reitrated his stance that the conditions do not exist for the creation of “some sort of Palestinian statehood” even if peace talks resume between Israel and the Palestinians.

      “Peace, yes. An agreement and some sort of Palestinian statehood with the situation right now? I do not believe the conditions exist for that,” Rubio told the Orthodox Jewish magazine.

      “I do not believe that as things stand today the conditions exist for a permanent resolution to this issue of a Palestinian homeland, and the fact of the matter is, if such a territory were to be created today it would be probably used to launch attacks against Israel the way Gaza is used,” he asserted.

      Rubio’s position seems to be in sync with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

      • ritzl
        March 9, 2016, 4:48 pm

        Blatant, total metaphysical obeiescence is such an ugly thing to behold.

        Stalker mentality.

    • joemowrey
      March 9, 2016, 6:58 pm

      Like Clinton, Sanders also supports the war in Yemen. He just thinks the Saudis should do more of than killing.

      And though his much-touted vote against the invasion of Iraq is being used to paint him as some kind of anti-war peacenik, he has blood on his hands with that issue too.

      Plus, Sanders will continue the U.S. drone program which pretty much exclusively kills muslims. He’ll just make it a “kinder, gentler” illegal assassination program.

      There will be no significant reduction in U.S. imperial rampages around the globe under a Sanders presidency. Those who think so are projecting their own aspirations on to Sanders, much as was done when Obama ran for president.

    • echinococcus
      March 9, 2016, 10:54 pm

      When exactly did Sanders oppose the invasion of Iraq (he had already voted for the AUMF and he later voted for its budget) and Yemen (he is the main rah-rah supporter of the Saudi cats-paw aggression on Yemen)?
      What a load of &^%$.

  7. ckg
    March 9, 2016, 3:48 pm

    At his Dearborn rally this week, Sanders said about the I/P conflict,

    “All I can tell you is I will make every single effort to bring rational people on both sides together so that hopefully we can have a level playing field, the United States treating everybody in that region equally.”

    It wasn’t very specific, but I have a hard time imagining Clinton uttering the same words.

  8. Steve Grover
    March 9, 2016, 4:24 pm

    Why is this news? Arab American residents of Dearborn have support Carl Levin. Arab Americans who live in the 9th Congressional District in Illinois have supported Jan Schakowsky.

    • zaid
      March 9, 2016, 8:03 pm

      And the majority of Israelis want to expel Arabs and refuse mix marriages with Muslims and Christians.

    • Annie Robbins
      March 9, 2016, 11:35 pm

      Why is this news?

      it was news because the msm made it news. i saw some of the tweets. saying things like ‘these arabs in michigan are voting for a jewish guy!!!’ really, they were saying it. and the msm.

  9. Boomer
    March 9, 2016, 7:50 pm

    I don’t expect much change from Sanders or any of the others, regarding Israel/Palestine. Trump may be a wild card on that, but he is on so many things. Still, if a new President wants to do the right thing for America regarding Israel/Palestine, it’s clear what needs to be done.

    Chas Freeman has a good recap of the U.S. role in the region more broadly. With regard to Israel, he observes (in part):

    “. . . the longest-running of these hostilities [is] the struggle by Zionist settlers to displace Christian and Muslim Arabs from the Holy Land and to establish a Greater Israel [Eretz Israel] with indefinitely expandable borders. This is shaping up as a tragedy with no catharsis. Israel’s cruelties to Palestinian Arabs provide daily reminders of two centuries of humiliating Muslim impotence in the face of Euro-American intrusions into the realm of Islam [Dar al Islam]. Israel’s policies have been a major driver of radicalization in Arab politics and in the popularization of terrorism as a tool of resistance to oppression and ethnic cleansing wherever it occurs in the region.

    “Resentment of Jewish colonialism, and American support for it, is now an elemental feature of Arab and Persian politics, with much resonance among Muslims all over the world. U.S. identification with Israel and its policies has made the United States the target of Israel’s burgeoning enemies. Peace in the Holy Land now would not soon erase these resentments, which have become deeply entrenched.

    “If Americans could muster the political will, we could easily administer the requisite tough love to Israel through selective suspensions of the unconditional UN vetoes, aid, and tax subsidies that make counterproductive behavior by the Jewish state cost-free. If we are politically unable to cease the enablement and creation of moral hazard for Israel, we should consider how best to minimize the damage to ourselves as Israel self-destructs. We should not support or appear to support Israeli policies we consider misguided.”

  10. kalithea
    March 9, 2016, 10:14 pm

    I’m still convinced the U.S. political system is Zionist rigged. But there’s something a little different with Sanders. He just doesn’t seem like the type to grovel before the Zionist alter, Aipac.

    Obviously if there were an anti-Zionist in the crop I wouldn’t give Sanders the time of day; because I’d prefer someone who has the balls to confront Aipac; but enough with the dreaming; I’ll settle for the guy who I think won’t grovel. I kind of suspect that Bernie’s to Jews what Obama was to blacks – there’ll be no special favors for the tribe and hopefully Zionists will have to stand in line for an audience like everyone else.

    Enough of that. Here’s what’s happening – Tulsi’s already been re-energizing his campaign with an assertive feminine flavor and that’s good for rough-around-the- edges Bernie (albeit she’s expressed Islamophobic opinion in the past).

    Here’s the bad news for Hillary: Bernie’s winning mostly viable states that Democrats have a chance to win in November; while Hillary’s winning states like Texas and South Carolina that’ll never go Democrat. So Bernie’s inching along – more power to him; he’s the little engine that could in this race. Unlike Hillary he’s genuine when he gets scrappy. But I won’t mince words: he needs to kick Hillary’s ass from now on.

    You know, I’ve stated here that I’d like to see Cruz win on the other side and Sanders on the Democrat side – because if that happens – Sanders will run the table. If it ends up Trump vs. Sanders, Trump will try to savage Sanders labelling him a Marxist; but there’s something about in the truth that will destroy Trump in a match up like that. Trump will look way more fake standing next to Bernie Sanders. Trump’s shallow gaudiness will translate poorly next to Bernie’s authenticity. That’ll be a spectacle worth paying for.

    • echinococcus
      March 9, 2016, 11:45 pm


      Just remind me, please: when did you dispose of the repeated objection that Sanders does not grovel to AIPAC because he belongs to the Labor flavor of Zionism? You know, the fake left that started the usurping Zionist entity, the landgrab, the genocide and all the wars until 1982. The ones currently calling themselves Zionist Bloc and J-Street. That’s where your Bernie came of age: in a Labor kibbutz. That’s where he is still, with each step of his political positions re Palestine.

      • kalithea
        March 10, 2016, 12:48 pm

        I agree with you on a whole lot, but unlike the majority of the Democrats I don’t see him as an Aipac hack; I haven’t found footage of him even addressing Aipac. It’s encouraging that he is against special interest influence. I know he’s a Zionist and obviously that makes me mistrust him; but if you look at the roundup of candidates on the right and Hillary who is as right-wing on foreign policy and especially Israel as Trump, Cruz or Rubio, then what else is there?

        Think about it: there’s nowhere else to turn. I stated the system is rigged.

        Let me rephrase: the least disastrous outcome for Palestinians would be a Sanders presidency. Some think Trump would be better, but I really don’t trust Trump; he’s said hateful things about Muslims and I think he might try to force an unjust deal on Palestinians triggering even greater conflict and bloodshed.

        That’s not to say that Bernie shouldn’t be challenged vigorously on the issue of the Occupation and Zionism and the grave injustice bred by these.

        I get where you’re coming from, really. But realistically, what other option is there? Voting Green will result in a Republican win; because there are just not enough liberals who care as much as us about the Palestinian cause and would vote Green. It’s all rigged; it’s sickening.

        Don’t expect justice to come from any U.S. Administration. Justice will come from activism against Zionist occupation; it’ll come when people everywhere band together to defeat the injustice that Zionism breeds, like Apartheid was defeated in South Africa. I’m just not seeing how any corrupt Zionist influenced political system will positively influence the cause.

        The goal as far as politics is concerned would be to push for the lessor evil; and this implies that none will advance the cause, but the best of the worst will at least not irreparably hurt the cause, and believe me; with such a rigged political system, that’s all you can hope for. There’s nothing else politically speaking; therefore, I hope you can resign yourself to this reality. Again, the goal in supporting Sanders is to prevent those who will cause irreparable damage from accessing the Presidency.

        And this is not to say that should Sanders pull this off I would not be critical of him every day he fails to rectify this injustice or fails to move to a harder position against Israel. Believe me, if by some miracle he becomes President; I will be among his harshest critics if he fails to advance or ignores the cause for justice for Palestinians.

      • Annie Robbins
        March 10, 2016, 2:44 pm

        kalithea, you’re wasting your breath. i wouldn’t even bother. echin’s archives attest that he is obsessed w/trashing sanders, i don’t see that letting up. btw, did you see

        “Clinton’s date to pander at AIPAC leaves an opening for Sanders, you’d think” – See more at:

        hillary is addressing aipac and they say they’ve invited all the candidates. so we’ll know soon enough if sanders chomps on that bit.

      • Sibiriak
        March 11, 2016, 1:34 am


        Well-argued post. And btw, from the latest debate:

        John Kasich suggested indefinite occupation will be the status quo in Israel for Palestinians.”I don’t believe there is any permanent peace solution,” he said.

        Rubio more moderately suggested only 30 years needed to pass first.

      • echinococcus
        March 11, 2016, 8:06 am

        But Kallithea, of course he is not an AIPAC hack. That’s what I keep repeating. He is a J-Street hack and an accomplice of the Labor Zionists. I’d have said that is just as bad, only it isn’t: a Labor win would be much worse for the Palestinian resistance.

        “Voting Green will result in a Republican win” –that is also just as bad as a Democrat win. No difference in anything that counts.

      • kalithea
        March 12, 2016, 1:27 am
  11. dx
    March 9, 2016, 11:56 pm

    Americans actually lived up to the ideals expressed in our Constitution and in our laws–and other Americans are surprised! (“created equal,” etc. etc)

  12. Boo
    March 10, 2016, 12:35 pm

    I’m well aware that Sanders’ position on I/P issues is far from perfect, yet I voted for him in the primary and hope to be able to help elect him in November. “Politics is the art of the possible”. I reject the argument above that by settling (in the short term) for the lesser of two evils, I’m “ending up with endless evil”. Being Hawaiian, I know that an island is eroded by the waves one grain of sand at a time — but eventually it will disappear for good beneath the sea.

    It strikes me as illogical to expect Americans — or any constituency — to be single-issue voters. Fundamental reform of a campaign/political system whose participants are deeply beholden to superPACS like AIPAC, and uber-rich donors like Shel Adelson, is essential to breaking the current stranglehold on I/P issues — as well as many other domestic and foreign policy issues where wealthy troglodytes currently hold the upper hand. I believe Sanders offers the best chance to initiate this reform, and thus the best hope in the 2016 election. Staying home because none of the candidates is perfect on I/P is emphatically not an option for me. And since I see no better alternative, he’s the fella I’m supporting this time around.

  13. rugal_b
    March 10, 2016, 2:29 pm

    From my knowledge, Arab Americans are highly rational and sensible with their voting choice and the candidates who are able to gain their trusts can, in practical terms, be considered as good enough for the rest of the population. I am glad Bernie passed this particular test on his credibility as a president.

    I think the most problematic community right now with regards to voting for the most capable candidate are the whites.As a community, white people have always been the detriment to the democratic process, due to the various internal factors such as low education levels, poor average intelligence, regressive culture, and general lack of appreciation of the democratic philosophy. Combined with their relatively large numbers, they are often the root cause of America electing totally inept and unqualified characters in positions of power.

    • Mooser
      March 10, 2016, 6:40 pm

      “I think the most problematic community right now…”

      And then his face, at first just ghostly, turned a whiter shade of… oh, does this keyboard work?
      “rugal b” you’ve got to present this in a more positive light in order to arouse the “social justice” advocates!

      See, if those “the whites” are so bad off (“due to the various internal factors such as low education levels, poor average intelligence, regressive culture, and general lack of appreciation of the democratic philosophy”)
      your reaction should be one of sympathy, compassion, and concern. Instead, you seem to favor ‘kicking them while they’re down’! Is that fair? Is that nice?
      You, sir, need to let people know you are coming from a concerned place. It’s the least you could do.

  14. Tom Callaghan
    March 10, 2016, 5:12 pm

    Good for Bernie. He’s a mensch.

    I just “endorsed” him on my own site about an hour ago.

  15. kalithea
    March 11, 2016, 8:45 pm

    Shhhhh…don’t tell anyone you don’t trust, but the revolution will be televised…finally.

    (scroll down to photo – Karina – amazingkarina tweet)

    The whole nation should follow Chicago.

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