The Global View (3)

Views on the election and the convention from the English-language Arab media.


In an election
which may be won or lost on foreign policy, Americans are
told that the world — particularly the Arab world — is
watching this presidential contest more closely than any
other. Here are some of views on Kerry’s
candidacy and the Democratic Convention from the English-language Arabic media.

If you’re looking for unconventional convention coverage,
Aljazeera‘s website is definitely not the place to
go. The site’s news and feature stories don’t differ much
from those found in mainstream U.S. publications. Take this

Aljazeera piece on Senator Edward Kennedy:

“Making a passionate plea for traditional
Democratic values protecting the poor and the afflicted,
Kennedy drew a sharp contrast between his party and a Bush
administration he said had burned its bridges with the rest
of the world.

‘Interdependence defines our world. For all
our might, for all our wealth, we know we are only as strong
as the bonds we share with others,’ he told the crowd.

Kennedy has for months been speaking out for
Kerry, defending the Democratic candidate’s vote in Congress
for the Iraq invasion when he had voted against.

‘I am personally convinced
that if John Kerry was president of the United States during
that time we never would have had an Iraq war. We never
would have gone to war,’ Kennedy said on Sunday.”

As much as Bush’s invasion of Iraq and
unequivocal support of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon’s has enraged many Arabs and Arab-Americans, there is
not much optimism that a Kerry victory would bring about a
dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy. Kerry has publicly
rejected an immediate pullout from Iraq and has said that
more U.S. troops maybe sent there in the near future. As
Aljazeera‘s chief correspondent Mohammed Alami, who
is covering the convention, told the

Christian Science Monitor
:

“The margin of allowed movement on the
Middle East is so small…Kerry might not have gone into Iraq,
but the US is there now, and that’s unlikely to change
whoever wins. On this issue I just don’t think there is much
Kerry can do.”

Neither is there much
optimism about Kerry’s ability to restart the
Israeli-Palestinian talks, given his endorsement of Bush’s
support of Sharon’s controversial construction of the wall
running along and into the West Bank. Earlier in his
campaign, Kerry got into hot water with some conservative
Jewish groups by criticizing the wall and suggesting that
President Jimmy Carter — considered in some circles as
insufficiently pro-Israeli — be sent as an envoy to the
region to restart the peace talks. Since then, Kerry has
made sure not to give anyone further cause to question his
commitment to Israel. (Click

here
to read this week’s Daily Mojo on the subject).

Jimmy Carter’s speech at the opening night of the Democratic
Convention was one of the few to focus heavily on foreign
policy, sharply criticizing Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and the
deterioration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the
Qatar-based

Gulf Times
reported:

“Carter came out swinging at the Democratic
convention on Monday, blasting George W Bush for an
‘unbroken series of mistakes’ he said had squandered the
world’s goodwill for the United States.

The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its
friends, and inadvertently gratified its enemies by
proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of
‘pre-emptive war,’ Carter said.

‘With our allies disunited, the world
resenting us, and the Middle East ablaze, we need John Kerry
to restore life to the global war against terrorism,’ he
said.”

In an editorial in the
Jordan Times
, former Jordanian diplomat Hasan Abu Nimah
argued that looking to the outcome of U.S. elections as
a solution to the region’s problems was misguided; that
there is not much difference in how Democratic and Republican
presidents approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and
that until Arab countries form a more united foreign policy
and institute democratic reforms, U.S. foreign policy in the
region — to the detriment of Arab countries — will remain
unchanged. As Nimah writes:

“Individually and collectively, most Arab
states who, instead of Washington, should hold the keys of
change are either incapable or unwilling to seize the
initiative. The incapable are those struggling to protect
their fragile political structures from collapse… The
unwilling, on the other hand, are those whose situation is
not as precarious yet, and for that reason they would never
want to risk slipping into the dangerous territory of the
precarious by unnecessarily involving themselves with
“secondary” issues.

…No
solutions for the problems of the region, the Arab-Israeli
conflict in particular, will ever come from the United
States. For decades, fragmented and arbitrary Arab policies
have made it very easy for the United States to maintain its
full support for Israel without fearing any negative
consequences, as a result, from the Arab side. If the US
could guarantee both the internal benefits of its support
for Israel and the full benefits of securing its strategic
and economic interests in the Arab region, why, and for
what, would Washington sacrifice any of the two advantages?”

The Egyptian

Al-Ahram
draws attention to an interesting Zogby poll
commissioned by the Arab American Institute which revealed a
shift in party loyalties of Arab-Americans in the swing
states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. 51
percent of those polled favored Kerry, 24 percent Bush, and
13 percent Raph Nader, who is of Lebanese descent. Kerry’s
lead marks a blow for Bush, who was the favored candidate of
Arab-Americans in 2000. And conventional wisdom to the
contrary, the economy — not Iraq or the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict — was named the top issue of concern by
Arab-American voters. As Al-Ahram sums up the poll’s
findings:

“The economy was described as ‘very
important’ by 81 per cent of those polled, followed by
terrorism/national security — 74 per cent — health care
and Iraq.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict
was regarded as ‘very important’ by 58 per cent, and only
nine per cent of those polled approved of Bush’s policy on
the issue — an unprecedented low. Zogby [James Zogby is the
president of the Arab American Institute and] noted that
although 50 per cent of Arab Americans said they had no
confidence that either Bush or Kerry would fairly deal with
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a clear majority still
planned to vote for Kerry.”

Lebanon’s
Daily Star
trailed the some of the
43 Arab-American delegates at the Democratic Convention
,
who expressed their concern not only over the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq, but also
U.S. foreign policy towards Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama was commanded for his
keynote address in which he criticized the curtailing of
civil liberties since 9/11 by saying: “If there’s an
Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an
attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.”
The Daily Star reports on the changes
one delegate has experienced in how the party approaches
Arab-American voters:

“Maya Berry
remembers a time when, as an Arab-American delegate to the
1992 Democratic convention, she held aloft a placard that
read – ‘Palestinian Self-Determination’ – and was trailed by
security guards bearing walkie-talkies for her troubles.
That incident came at a time when Arab-Americans were
struggling to get onto the political map.

“Our issues are the national issues when it
comes to the presidential race for the first time ever,”
says Berry. ‘Now everybody’s talking about Iraq, everybody’s
talking about the Patriot Act, everybody’s talking about the
Palestinian-Israeli problem.’ ”