By Ray Hanania
Huwaida Arraf is doing everything right in her bid to win the Democratic nomination for the newly created 10th Congressional District in Michigan. This district is almost equally divided between Republican and Democratic voters so, if Arraf can win August’s Democratic primary election, she would have a good chance of strengthening the Arab voice in Congress.
The district is also home to a large Chaldean community, Christians from the Middle East who do not consider themselves to be Arab but who share the same culture and speak the same language. They could help give Arraf the edge she needs to win the district for the Democrats.
If Arraf sees off the challenge of her four other Democratic contenders in the primary, her Republican rival in the November election will likely be John James, who won his party’s 2020 nomination for the US Senate in Michigan but lost to Gary Peters by fewer than 93,000 votes out of 5.4 million cast in a field of seven candidates.
The biggest hurdle the Democratic nominee faces is that this is a midterm election and, traditionally, these are dominated by the political party that is not in control of the White House. This time, Republicans are expected to have the advantage, but that might not be true in Michigan, which is showing increasing support for Democrats.
Donald Trump barely won the state in the 2016 presidential election, beating Hillary Clinton by just 0.23 percent, or about 10,000 votes out of nearly 6 million cast. In 2020, Joe Biden took Michigan ahead of Trump with a significantly larger margin of 2.8 percent, showing that the state appears to be leaning further toward the Democrats.
Under normal circumstances, this would put the Democratic candidate in a very strong position to win the congressional seat. But these are not normal circumstances.
If the 10th District race were about traditional issues, the focus would be on fighting crime, skyrocketing gasoline prices, the plunging economy, healthcare and improving education. But Arraf is a Palestinian American. She has become the target of a vicious campaign of defamation from a national coalition of pro-Israel and anti-Arab extremists, who have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into James’ campaign war chest. This mostly outside funding has given James a four-to-one edge over Arraf in terms of campaign finance, which means he can run a more robust election campaign.
Arraf has already been slammed by extremist Jewish leaders as being “anti-Semitic” and even a “terrorist” because of her long history of fighting for the civil rights of Palestinians inside Israel and the Occupied Territories. She is a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, which has sought to build worldwide support for Palestinian human rights. She also helped to organize the 2010 “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” to confront and challenge Israel’s illegal blockade on the 2 million civilians living in the Gaza Strip. Ten civilians were killed when the flotilla was attacked by the Israeli military.
She is a human rights defender and all voters, including the Chaldeans, could count on her to stand up for their rights. Arraf would be a strong representative for their needs, as well as all other constituencies in the district.
The slurs that she is anti-Semitic are contradicted by the fact her husband is Jewish. Such attacks are based on the false premise that criticism of the Israeli government is anti-Semitic. It is not. Israel’s government is a foreign government. It is not American. It has been accused of killing many Americans, including 34 soldiers on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967.
Like many Palestinians and Arabs, Arraf wants Israel to abide by international laws. She would because she is a civil rights attorney, something African American voters in the district can appreciate. James, who is African American, took over his family business.
Arraf’s message to voters is, first and foremost, about what concerns them: getting big money out of politics; providing healthcare for all that is not tied to employment or income; achieving clean air and water, making corporate polluters pay; tackling inflation by bringing manufacturing home; preventing price gouging and providing support for working families; and safeguarding communities by passing gun safety laws and investing in mental health.
As for Palestine, Arraf’s message is simple: freedom, human rights, dignity and equality for all. She says: “It’s being denied to the Palestinians by Israel’s government, which has occupied and colonized Palestinian land and is committing the crime of apartheid, as well as war crimes. US taxpayers should not be paying for this.”
That is a message that voters can easily identify with and that rises above the outside agitation and lies from the pro-Israel extremists, who use campaign funds to undermine the fight for rights in Palestine and the Middle East.