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Palestinians shrug their shoulders as Americans eagerly anticipate election results

on 12 Comments

As Americans go to the polls Tuesday, many progressives are enthusiastically or reluctantly voting for Hillary Clinton as a rebuke to Donald Trump. However, U.S. elections have an outsized impact on the people of other countries around the world, and it is humbling and instructive to take a step back for a minute to consider how America and its presidential frontrunners are perceived elsewhere and why. We owe it to our fellow humans around the globe to keep up the fight for more humane U.S. policies–no matter who wins.

A November 1 poll by the Arab Center Washington DC, conducted in cooperation with the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, found that about 60 percent of adults living in eight countries (Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia) have been following our election process at least occasionally. Yes, that percentage is likely particularly high due to the tabloid/yellow journalism nature of this year’s slugfest. But it’s a perennial fact that young people in countries at the other end of our drones, military aid, etc., tend to be much more informed about foreign affairs than their peers in America.

(Image: Carlos Latuff)

(Image: Carlos Latuff)

“Personally, I don’t really want to follow the news, because it causes nothing but a feeling of misery. But I have to watch and listen because I’m part of the world,” explains Hanin Elholy, a writer from Gaza for We Are Not Numbers. “What happens in America especially affects the whole world in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular. In other words, our lives.”

Arabs’ interest in following our democratic political process, however, does not lead to a positive perception of our impact on the world, particularly their region. The majority of respondents in every Arab country represented in the poll viewed the impact of our foreign policy as more negative than positive. Respondents from Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia had the most positive view of our foreign policy, but still, even there, only slightly more than a third had a very or somewhat favorable opinion.

The respondents in Algeria and Palestine expressed the most negative views of U.S. foreign policy. And can you blame them? The reasons for Algerians’ antipathy are complex, but the source of Palestinians’ dim view is obvious: We have played a long and destructive role as Israel’s protector even as we claim to be the best broker of a just end to its occupation of Palestine. And sadly, although Palestinians have a more positive view of Clinton than Trump, more than half do not believe her win will bring a significant improvement if any at all. (Green candidate Jill Stein was not included in the choices.)

Hanin Elholy is typical: “If I had to choose, certainly I’d pick Hillary,” she says. “Yes, she has a biased agenda against Arabs and Muslims, particularly Palestinians. But at least she makes some attempt to appear democratic. On the other hand, Trump is attacking severely and overtly, even before becoming president! What would he do once he has the power?”

Other Palestinians don’t see much difference between the two candidates when it comes to the impact on the region and their lives. (For a good summary of the concerns about Clinton, watch this “Letter from Gaza to Hillary.”)

“It is so clear to me that no one can take that chair [the U.S. presidency] without the agreement of the Zionist movement,” says 26-year-old Nedaa Nedal Al-Abadlah, another writer from Gaza for We Are Not Numbers. “So for me, the American elections seem to be just a play or a show! No matter who wins, the result is the same.”

And then there are some, like 15-year-old Amera Abunada, a Palestinian writer now living in Turkey, who sees even more to fear from Clinton.

“I just feel like Americans aren’t choosing between the lesser of two evils, but the quieter of two evils,” she explains. “It’s like my pet parrot, Ava, and my cat, Dusty. Dusty will be knocking stuff over loudly, so we divert all of our energy to him so he stops. And meanwhile, Ava is in the background, quietly chewing away at our couch. One is causing minor harm because he’s crazy and doesn’t know what’s left from right, and the other is meaningfully destroying our furniture. That’s the way I see the U.S. election: A crazy, loud cat distracting everyone’s attention from a quieter, but evil, bird.”

Pam Bailey

Pam Bailey is founder of and international secretary for the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. She is based in Washington, DC, and travels to the Middle East frequently.

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12 Responses

  1. Citizen on November 7, 2016, 12:37 pm

    I agree with 15-year-old Amera Abunada.

    • eljay on November 7, 2016, 1:16 pm

      || Citizen: I agree with 15-year-old Amera Abunada. ||

      I like the comparison she draws, although I’m not so sure than an egomaniac like Trump would continue to cause only “minor harm” once elected. It seems to me that if one were to properly stroke his ego (and his bank account) he’d be just as willing as “evil bird” Clinton to meaningfully destroy things.

    • annie on November 7, 2016, 2:53 pm

      Amera is one smart kid.

      • Pam on November 7, 2016, 4:38 pm

        She is indeed. Amera is one of three triplets, and at 15, they are already amazingly talented writers–and astute observers. Look for their contributions on shortly!

  2. larspil on November 8, 2016, 8:10 am

    Do “Americans eagerly anticipate election results”? I thought they feared the result and wished the election didn’t take place at all :)

    • Citizen on November 8, 2016, 1:35 pm

      We Americans are really glad the campaigns are over as they have been humiliating to us, and not very informative–like some grade school kids yelling at each other on the playground. We will all sit up tonight with baited breath, to see which horror takes the highest seat in our land. We want to see what are next SCOTUS will be like, and also, who takes the senate, with those long terms.

      • Mooser on November 8, 2016, 2:16 pm

        I once had a girl in a canoe and I awaited her advances with baited breath. Then a fish jumped up and bit my tongue! What can I say, my breath is alluring when I cast it upon the waters.

      • Citizen on November 9, 2016, 9:44 pm

        Who or what, is the fish in your figurative language?

  3. WH on November 8, 2016, 2:30 pm

    Everyone is fixated on the candidates, but the composition of Congress will have a major effect on actual policies and legislation.

  4. Elizabeth Block on November 8, 2016, 4:09 pm

    I voted for Hillary because at least she’s a grownup. But I did NOT vote for Charles Schumer (for NY senator), because he’s a bloody Zionist, and I do mean bloody.

  5. milx on November 9, 2016, 2:24 am

    I wonder if you guys still feel blasé about the results. Say what you will about Hillary she would’ve at least applied nominal pressure on Israel to not settle the West Bank. With Trump in control you could be looking at some of those real ethnic cleansing crimes you’re always accusing Israel of committing. Like annexing the WB and exiling 3 million Palestinians. Who is going to stop them? Donald Trump? Theresa May? Future PM Marie Le Pen? God save all of us.

  6. Citizen on November 9, 2016, 9:47 pm

    It is possible Trump may revert to his original approach to tackling the I-P situation, when he said he would be neutral. Or that could be look at, already, as his Cairo Speech a la Obama. We will know soon enough. His original voiced approach mirrored the USA’s mask of “the honest broker.”

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