Washington – For over 30 years, Arabs-Americans minority have become an important voting group in the United States elections. Each presidential candidate aspired to gain their support, especially since the largest Arab political organization Arab American Institute (AAI) was formed in 1985.
James Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute, a Washington, D.C.–based organization which serves as a political and policy research arm of the Arab-American community.
Zogby, one of the most prominent Arab-American politicians, is the son of a Lebanese immigrant who came to the U.S. after World War I, and then became a citizen.
Today, amidst the presidential electoral process, AAI supports the Democratic Party. Zogby told Asharq Al-Awsat that the majority of Arab votes will go to Hillary Clinton.
Asharq Al-Awsat interviewed Zogby for his views about the elections and the position of the Arab-Americans on the event.
First, Zogby said that there are about three and a half million Arab-Americans, all of which are healthy and well-educated. He added that there are Arab-Americans in all fields, including celebrities, actors, singers and Hollywood stars, doctors, lawyers, university professors, and some of them serve in the army as well.
Zogby expressed his pride in achieving the American dream. He explained that early immigrants were called names and harassed. In 1943, his father gained the U.S. citizenship.
He confirmed that many of the Arabs came after World War II legally to the U.S. in 2001, all Arab immigrants entered legally to the country, and after the Arab spring, 120 thousand people entered with multiple-entry visas.
When asked about the history of the AAI, Zogby said that the institution began its political career in 1985 with the election campaign of Jesse Jackson. By then, it wasn’t unified, but the institution achieved unity among all Arabs in all states. Arabs achieved a lot in American political life, some of them work as ministers in the federal government, while others are in the House of Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Zogby informed Asharq Al-Awsat that most of Arabs supported the Democratic Party over the Republican Party. Initially, 39% supported the Democrats, while 35% supported the Republicans, and the rest supported an independent or other parties.
Concerning the current presidential elections, Zogby believes that most Arab-Americans will continue to support the Democratic Party because Republicans have not been able to attract Arab-Americans votes.
He added that some of the Arab-Americans are with the Republican party, but they do not support Donald Trump. He said that most supported Bernie Sanders.
When asked why Sanders in specific, Zogby said that Arab-Americans are affected by what his sayings and his electoral program. He added that they know that Sanders is honest, in addition to his support to the Palestinian cause. Despite being a Jew, Sanders doesn’t follow the Israeli lobby AIPAC.
President of AAI said that many were less enthusiastic to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Yet, he can’t say for sure that Arab-Americans won’t vote for Trump. What Zobgy can confirm is that they lost their trust in the Republican Party, especially that the party is divided.
According to Zogby, the image known of the Republican Party and the historical leaders like Reagan, or Lincoln, and others is far more different that the current one.
When asked about current leaders, Zogby said that they were late to change what happened and Trump came from outside the political life to lead a party and be their presidency candidate.
He added that they party is in a real trouble now and many will not vote for him, especially with his slogans against Muslims and African Americans.
Zogby, however said that as Democrat he is supposed to be happy, but on the contrary he is sad for America and the Republican Party.
When asked whether the current events in the Middle East affected the Arab-Americans, Zogby stressed that the Arab-American community was affected, especially at the beginning of the Arab Spring when everyone was very enthusiastic. Yet, he continued, that things have changed and it is a general case of fear and uncertainty of the future of the region.
He explained that situation in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood winning elections, Syrian war, Libya, situation in Yemen, and ISIS rising raised fears of the future of the Middle East.
Zogby added that as Arabs, they were proud of the Arab spring, but the new comers after the revolution affected the community. He went on to say that they are trying to solve this issue and create a positive environment based on equality and freedom for all.
When asked about the truth of their opinion of what is happening in the Middle East, Zogby said that AAI tries to solve the problems of those immigrants who suffered in their countries.
He added that AAI want to achieve a better life in education, health and employment. He confirmed that the Palestinian cause is the first cause and they continue to raise their voice everywhere including the Congress and the White House, to defend it and talk about the violations against the Palestinians, such as human rights issues.
When asked if any Arab state pressured for support, Zobgy said that since the beginning he said that no one will win at the Syrian crisis and they should learn from the Lebanese civil war. He added that he supports democracy for the Syrian people.
Zogby expressed his worries regarding the Russian, Iranian, and terrorist militias’ interference in Syria.
In response to his position regarding Iran, Zogby said that he supports the Iranian people and doesn’t support the government’s interference in foreign affairs.
He also told Asharq Al-Awsat about their work with the Iranian-Americans for several humanitarian issues and human rights matters.
When asked about his views on Iran’s nuclear weapons, Zogby said that the American administration made a mistake. He added that Iran’s nuclear weapons is worrisome and questioned its purposes.
Zogby said that initially he supported negotiations with Iran within a political and diplomatic framework against Israel. But it became clear, according to Zogby, that Iranian government does not want to improve its behavior. He demanded the negotiations be ended.
He added that he opposes any kind of weapons of mass destruction.