By JULIA KASSEM, Staff Columnist
Julia Kassem is a staff columnist for the Michigan Journal. Julia’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the Journal.
For Arab American voters seeking refuge from the inflammatory rhetoric and xenophobic fervor of the recent debates, many have their eyes and votes set on the Democratic candidates. Between Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’ Malley, all three have supported taking in refugees, as well as have condemned the implied denunciation of Arabs and Muslims. In tandem to their ideological platform, all three belong to the party favored by over half of Arab Americans.
However, foreign policy continues to be a deal breaker for many Arab American voters disillusioned with chronic war overseas. Clinton, having demonstrated a relatively hawkish approach to foreign policy and ardent support of Israel. Her main opponent, Sanders, seems to draw an alternative appeal with promises to “end the quagmire of perpetual warfare in the Middle East.”
Clinton, notorious for supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq stands in contrast to Sanders who publicly opposed the invasion in 2002 in tandem with desires for more peace and less involvement in the Middle East. Although Clinton opportunistically rendered her past vote as a mistake, the former Secretary of State’s eager support of the 2011 NATO bombings, Israel, and constant calls for sanctions against Iran implicate a foreign policy that leans hawkish through its inconsistency.
Though Sanders demonstrates a little more consistency having been a proponent of less government intervention in the Middle East, many of his attitudes surrounding his views on foreign policy need to be further questioned and reexamined. Economist Paul Krugman’s criticism of Sander’s financial reform proposition shares one thing in common with Clinton’s denunciation of Bernie’s lax attitude towards gun control or criticism of his approach to the Middle East: that he lacks comprehensive plans and, consequently, is remarkably deregulatory in the process.
And perhaps clarity on this issue begs to be asked. While Sanders supports the Iran deal, he continues to hold the conviction that their nuclear program is a significant threat. While Sanders calls for an end to the “endless war” in the Middle East, he hails Jordan’s King Abdallah as a “hero” in the siege against ISIS. Though he says that American troops should not be dying to save Saudi Arabia, Sanders nonetheless supports the efforts of the repressive regimes of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in furthering their involvement in the conflict. His suspicions and reservations against Iran as a dangerous proxy power are not at all duplicated against Saudi Arabia, its antithetical proxy hegemony in the Middle East.
Probably the most notorious of Sander’s surprising foreign policy views is his support of Israel. While he has equivocated remarking about the “complicated” issue, opting to rehash the “two state solution” argument as both Clinton and O’Malley have put forward, it is concerning that Sanders overly favors the state characterized by illegal occupation, apartheid, and disproportionate use of force—policies indicative of values Sanders allegedly vehemently opposes. He has repeatedly defended Israel’s right to exist, and even defended Israel’s war in summer of 2014, resulting in a heated confrontation between the candidate and an audience at a town hall discussion.
Sanders allegedly spent some time on an Israeli Kibbutz in the 1960s, showing how the candidate’s ardent support of Israel goes pretty far back. And to this election cycle, his repeated support of Tel Aviv stands stronger than his casual remarks that suggested maybe Israel took it too far, and his support is further demonstrated through his commitment to help uphold Israel’s “right to defend itself” despite reservations against Netanyahu.
Though Sanders is prided for his political and ideological consistency, perhaps his views all too often lack in clarity and conviction. Nonetheless, Sanders remains a candidate every bit as responsive and receptive to the public as he is authentic and ardent in his word. Perhaps even just the right question, can answer the rhetorical question Boston’s Students for Justice in Palestine raised upon a banner: “Can You Feel The Bern for Palestine?”