All posts by Sam Oudeh

Sami Oudeh is a Palestinian American graduate of the University of Kentucky. He is a sports nut and lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

After Bernie, what’s next?

A lot of Arab-Americans are disappointed that Bernie Sanders is all but out of the running for the nomination for president. Our community supported him because he listened to our concerns. He was the first major presidential candidate to bring up the rights of the Palestinian people as a major concern. He stood for social justice of all people. For these reasons, it is tough for Arab Americans, and all Bernie supporters, to stomach that he has a slim-to-none chance of winning.

I believe that Bernie’s biggest draw was not his economic or trade policies, but rather his authenticity. He truly has fought for everything he has believed in for over 50 years. He has a true passion for wanting to better the American people, and he works tirelessly to do it. Socially, he believes that all people should be treated equally under the law, and he practices what he preaches. I may not agree with every single policy he has put forth, but I really admired that the policies he introduced were genuine.

With Bernie Sanders just about out of the presidential race mathematically (barring an indictment of Hillary Clinton), a lot of Bernie supporters are looking to see who they would vote for in the general election: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. These two candidates are probably the two most disliked people to ever be vying for the presidency at the same time. Hillary Clinton is the embodiment of the political system. When you think powerful families, you think of the Bush family, Kennedy family, Rockefeller family, and the Clinton family. When people look at Hillary, they think of a person who has been planning to be president since she was young and will stop at nothing to do it, like Frank Underwood. On the other hand, there is Donald Trump. He is the anti-Hillary. He’s very rich, and won’t hesitate to tell you. He has also been known to deliver some controversial remarks toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, and just about every other minority group you could think of. With these two, many feel trapped. They feel like they have to choose between bad and worse.

If I had a nickel for every time I have heard someone say “America needs to get rid of the two-party system,” I would be a very rich man. Now, it is time to act on it. Why don’t we take a closer look at Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson? Many people do not know much about the Libertarian party. It is a party that places a premium on personal liberty with little governmental interference. In the American political spectrum, Libertarians are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

Fiscally, Gary Johnson believes in truly free markets. The government should not be intervening in the economy as much as they do, but that doesn’t mean that the government should not be punishing large corporations for illegal behavior. He also believes in term limits for Congress. This can help limit the power of super PACs. When congressman are subject to a term limit, they can focus on serving the people rather than getting elected and staying in their seat.

Socially, Gary Johnson believes in personal freedom for all. He believes that closing the borders are idiotic and stupid.  In his view, illegal immigrants should be put on a path to legalization. He also believes in protecting the constitutional rights of all people of all races and religions. The Libertarian philosophy is that everyone is free to do and believe what they want as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others.

For Arab-Americans, Gary Johnson is a good candidate. He stands for social justice, opposes giving any money to Israel (which seems to be increasing every year), and believes that America should not be in the business of meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, namely because we have done more harm than good there. For all upset Bernie supporters, I urge you to look at Gary Johnson as a serious candidate. For the people thinking “My vote will be wasted, he will never win,” don’t be so sure that he cannot make an impact. If he gets over 15% of the vote in polls, he is invited to the debates. He is currently polling around 10% nationally. Ask Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders how debates have helped their popularity. Now is the chance to look into a third party. Let’s not limit ourselves.

The Case for Trump from a Palestinian

I must preface this with the statement that I am not a Donald Trump supporter. I am writing this article to simply make an argument why Donald Trump would be the best candidate for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, from a Palestinian point of view.

Looking at the remaining Republican candidates in this presidential race, Donald Trump is the best one for Palestinians. If you were bored last week, you may have watched what seemed like the 150th Republican presidential debate. Most of these debates have the same outcome. Trump, Cruz and Rubio sling mud at each other while Ben Carson stands there invisible and John Kasich says the only rational thoughts on the stage while being ignored by everyone.

However, this debate was a little different because the Palestinian/Israeli conflict came up for the first time. John Kasich and Ben Carson basically said the same thing, the general “Israel is our ally and we should support them” line. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio had a mini-contest over who loves Israel more. It started as Cruz said that the United States should support Israel unapologetically and unequivocally no matter what they want to do, because the Palestinian people strap bombs to their chests and blow up Israelis. Rubio took it a step further and said that Palestinians teach their kids to kill Jews in grade school. When it came time for Trump to speak, he said something that we have never heard a presidential candidate say: The United States should be neutral in negotiations with the Palestinians and Israelis. It is no secret that Donald Trump loves Israel, but even muttering these words drew harsh criticism as Rubio and Cruz called him anti-Israel for his stance. Trump said that in order to start negotiations, it is not beneficial to demonize one side and favor the other, because peace will not be achievable that way.

Donald Trump possesses one quality that can benefit the Palestinians in negotiating peace with Israel: his monstrous ego. Donald Trump has made abhorrent comments about every minority group in this country, but we have to give credit where credit is due. He is a successful businessman, and he knows how to negotiate. There is nothing that would feed Donald Trump’s ego more than negotiating a successful deal between Palestine and Israel. He can envision the headlines now: “Donald Trump, the greatest negotiator ever brings peace to the Middle East.”

There is very little known about Bernie Sanders and his views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, other than that he believes they should be treated equally.  On the other hand, we have plenty of material on Hillary Clinton. If you want to believe that Hillary is the best candidate for the Palestinians, read this article. Do I believe that peace is achievable with Bernie or Hillary? Possible with Bernie, but definitely not with Hillary.

Donald Trump may say crazy things, perhaps to the point where we get desensitized to it, but at least he’s honest. It is evident that he believes what he says. I also have to commend Bernie Sanders for the exact same thing. Donald Trump has a brain and he sees what is going on. While he reiterated he is a staunch supporter of Israel, he isn’t dumb. He knows the conflict and is too stubborn to listen to others about it. For these reasons, I think that Donald Trump would be the best candidate for the Palestinian people and a path to peace.

Ten ways you might be an Arab

*This is Sam Oudeh’s follow-up to his viral post, Ten things you need to know about Arabs

We’ve all heard of the comedian Jeff Foxworthy and his famous “You might be a redneck” jokes. If you haven’t, I encourage you to look them up, because they are hilarious. Inspired by him, I have decided to create a “You might be an Arab” series of my own. Here are 10 ways in which you may be an Arab and not even realize it.

1. If you have more hair on your body than you have on your head… you might be an Arab

This is the beautiful Arab double whammy. Not only are we men (and some women) covered in hair, but the more we grow on our bodies, the more we lose on our heads. And they both seem to happen simultaneously.  By age 50, we’re normally cue balls on top wearing a permanent sweater.

2. If you say “ehhhhh” before every sentence… you might be an Arab

Next time someone asks you a question, try to notice the first thing that comes out of your mouth. If you say “ehhhhhhh” while you are trying to think, then you definitely possess some Arab qualities.

3. If your mother’s weapon of choice is a shoe… you might be an Arab

We’ve all been there. You’re arguing with your mother and you go a bit too far. Next thing you know, a shoe is flying across the room and smacks you square in the face. Your first thought is “wow, that hurt,” but your secondary thought is “My mom should be an NFL quarterback.”

4. If your cookie boxes are full of items that aren’t cookies… you might be an Arab

In your house, cookie boxes are used for EVERYTHING. You’ll find sewing equipment, frozen vegetables, spices and just about anything else that isn’t cookies in the boxes with pictures of delicious cookies on them.

5. If you curse at yourself when you are mad at someone else… you might be an Arab

If you’re a father yelling at your son, what’s the first thing you mutter when you start getting mad? Does it sound something like “Yelaan abouk! (Damn your father)!” Arabs are notorious for cursing at themselves, so watch what you say the next time you get angry, and you might just be an Arab.

6. If talking politics turns into physical violence… you might be an Arab

Arabs love talking politics, as long as no one disagrees with them. The rule when Arabs talk politics is that everyone agrees. If they don’t, then expect chairs, tables or any other furniture to be raised up and thrown.

7. If you hear Arabic music and your first reaction is to “twist the lightbulbs” (as evidenced by Amer Zahr’s “Dance Like an Arab“)… you might be an Arab

The beats are too awesome to sit still through. And “twisting the lightbulbs” is the go-to Arab dance move. If “El Tannoura” comes on and you instinctively start dancing, then mark yourself as an Arab.

8. If you smoke Double Apple flavored hookah… you might be an Arab

Double Apple flavored hookah doesn’t even taste like apples. It tastes like licorice. Ever since the beginning of time, double apple is the prototypical Arab flavor. If you’re at a hookah bar and you hear a heavy accent in someone’s voice, they’re probably smoking double apple.

9. If you go through a bottle of perfume/cologne each week… you might be an Arab

Smelling good is a top Arab priority. It is such a priority that no matter where you are, you make sure that everyone gets a whiff of that new scent you have on. They might think it’s too much, but you think it isn’t enough.

10. If “wallah” is the most prominent word in your vocabulary… you might be an Arab

“Wallah” is a very versatile word. You can use it like “wallah, she’s definitely into you,” or “wallah, I’m going to kill him.” The adaptability of this word definitely lends itself to overuse, and you definitely abuse it.

And there you go.  Test yourself according to these guidelines.  If you fit any one of them, you might be in our club.

Ten things you need to know about Arabs

Whoever coined the term “Ignorance is bliss” is an absolute idiot. Ignorance is not bliss. In fact, ignorance leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding leads to fear. Fear leads to bias and hate. So I am here to present to the American public the top 10 things that Arabs want non-Arabs to know about them. If you remember these, then Arabs will not look at you as a “Dumb American.”

1. Not all of us are Muslim

As an Arab Christian myself, I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard, “When did you convert?” I would be a very rich man. About 10% of the Arab population is Christian. Yes, we are a minority, but we are still there and have been Christians for 2,000 years. I’m not sure how good the average American is at geography, but Jesus is from the Middle East!

2. Falafel, Hummus, and Shawarma are Arabic foods, NOT Israeli foods.

A couple of months ago, I was talking with an American girl about Middle Eastern food. She told me that she loves falafel and she used to eat it a lot because she has Israeli friends. Please, do not ever say that to an Arab. Israel was created in 1948, and I can say with complete certainty that we have been eating hummus for much longer than that.

3. Arabs and Jews HAVE NOT been fighting for thousands of years

Arabs and Jews have been fighting since only 1948, when Israel was created. In fact, Jews left Europe to the Middle East because Arabs historically treated Jews better than Europeans did. Jews are Semitic people, and so are Arabs. We are actually closer to each other than Europeans.

4. ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and other Islamic militant groups DO NOT reflect the views of all Muslims

Yes, you see these guys on the news all the time. But they are huge minorities and not popular at all. The Middle East is much more secular than you would think. In an American equivalent, it would be like the Westboro Baptist Church serving as a reflection on all Christians.

5. Smoking hookah is nothing new

Hookah is the new thing. Hookah bars are everywhere near college campuses, and its popularity among our youth grows by the day. But from our perspective, you’re a little late to the party. I don’t remember the last time I went to a family function and there was no hookah lit up and ready to go. If you are fortunate enough to smoke hookah with an Arab, be prepared for the licorice-tasting goodness that is Double Apple flavor.

6. When I say that I am from Palestine, that doesn’t mean Pakistan, and it DEFINITELY doesn’t mean Israel

If you really want to make a Palestinian mad, just ask if he is from Israel. Your result will not end happily, I can assure you that. And it is Palestine. Not Pakistan. Please know that we aren’t the same thing.

7. There’s a right way to say “Iraq”

We aren’t asking for you to use the hard beginning and ending that the word “Iraq” has in it. Just remember, it is “E-rock” rather than “I-rack.”

8. Persians aren’t Arabs

Persians hate this too. We are completely different people. We come from completely different backgrounds. Yes, we have the same skin tone and are ridiculously hairy, but we are not the same. We speak Arabic, and Persians speak Farsi. They might sound the same, but they aren’t even close. And, to be honest, Persians have the better kabob (sorry Arabs).

9. “Lebanese food” is Arabic food

If you have a Lebanese friend, you know exactly what I’m talking about. “Traditional Lebanese food” includes hummus, tabbouleh, and kibbeh nayyeh (yeah, it’s raw meat). But this food isn’t specifically Lebanese. We all eat that food. Don’t let them fool you when they say “Lebanese food,” because that is just a cover for Arabic food.

10. We love to party

Forget Vegas. If you want to go party, go to Dubai, Beirut, Sharm el Sheikh, or Amman. I promise that you will have the time of your life. Don’t believe me? If you have an Arab friend, just wait until they get married. Arab weddings might be the best parties that you will ever go to. If you don’t have an Arab friend, just crash an Arab wedding. There will be so many people there that they probably won’t notice you.

Israel’s new plan of self-defense

My fellow readers, I am very excited for the newest actions that will be taking place from the Israeli Defense Forces. Released in a statement today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Today, we begin our new step in the direction of self-defense. We are starting in a new ground operation in Dearborn, Michigan. As many of you know, Hamas has now moved its headquarters to Dearborn and they are hiding in plain sight in the midst of women and children. This pinpoint operation will aim to wipe out Hamas completely and put an end to their terrorizing reign.”

This may sound shocking to some, but this action by the IDF is necessary. Israel is only acting in self-defense. The city of Dearborn, Michigan is known for harboring Hamas terrorists, as they have launched over 3,000 rockets at Jewish synagogues around the United States. But the new Israeli project known as the “American Iron Dome” has been effective enough to down the missiles before harming any civilians. President Obama has also made a statement about the new Israeli offensive. He states, “As many of you know, Israel is our most trusted ally in the Middle East, and they have a fundamental right to self-defense. They should pursue that right to self-defense by any means necessary, and the United States of America will stand right behind them.”

President Obama has absolutely done the right thing. Israel’s security could not be more important and they have a right to take out the terrorists, especially on our own soil. Their pinpoint operations include Hamas bunkers such as Fordson High School, Shatila Bakery and Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. Hamas has done an excellent job of using the people of Michigan as human shields, and they have convinced them all to stay in their homes and face the war with a sense of martyrdom. So frankly, the people of Michigan had this coming to them. They harbored a known terrorist group, and followed every order. It is their fault that there are so many civilian casualties, because all Israel wants to do is knock out the vast storage of rockets in these strongholds. The UN has given Israel the coordinates to Masri Sweets and Mango’s Cafe and specifically told them not to hit those targets. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s favorite dessert happens to be the knafeh from Masri Sweets, and he loves the hookah at Mango’s Café. Israel has agreed not to hit those targets, as they believe that Masri Sweets is owned by President Sisi. Yes, the name can be misleading. But the most important thing to know is that Israel’s operation is one of precision, designed to take out key Hamas targets in an area that is hostile towards the Jewish people.

Israel has every right to defend itself, and they should do so. The civilian casualties are products of their environment. If the people of Dearborn didn’t lend themselves to being human shields, then Israel would have a much easier time executing their operations.

The Facebook Intifada

First, I want to start out saying that my heart and prayers are with every family in Palestine. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what they are going through in Gaza, and I hope that they can stay strong and know that they will get through these horrific times.

Yes, unlike some, I am optimistic about the status of Palestine right now. The unity between Fatah and Hamas is still intact, and the Palestinian people are now united as one in government. But the reason I am very optimistic during this assault on Gaza is because of the importance of social media. Injustice doesn’t last forever, and social media is the best way to exploit it. As a Palestinian, I’ve obviously known the terrors that we have endured throughout the years under Israeli occupation. But with social media so integrated in our society, I have started to see more and more non-Arabs take up this cause. It can be seen on the Instagram pages of actor Ryan Gosling, and rap artists Waka Flocka Flame, Swizz Beats and DJ Khaled (who is a Palestinian-American). I believe that this movement by non-Arabs will keep growing and the international community can put substantial pressure on Israel. Israel has showed no signs of letting up on the new Gaza offensive, and may even come in with ground troops. If they do that, then I believe a third intifada will start: the Facebook Intifada. I think that the more traction that the Palestinian movement gains in America, Israel’s injustices will be exploited more and more. Israel is even worried about social media so much that they pay young Israelis to go onto social media and spread Israeli propaganda. This is a sign that even Israel is worried about the movement that has begun.

Social media has played a critical role in the Arab world. It helped tremendously with the communication of protests both in America and overseas. Just thinking about how it has changed the world is astounding. An event can be put on Facebook, and thousands of people will show up. We are lucky enough that we live in a country that doesn’t restrict the flow of information through social media, and it has provided a great benefit to our people. How would we have known about every event happening there like we do now? Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are every bit as good of a news source as anything else. People share interesting articles and information spreads quicker and farther than it ever would have before. Social media, in this case, is a great advantage.

I already said this, but I am going to say it again. Injustice never lasts. I believe that the most important thing for us to do is to help the movement gain more and more followers. When the people take up a cause, the possibilities are endless.

Soccer in America? I love it!

It doesn’t take a genius to see the popularity of the World Cup (and soccer overall) increasing in America, and it could not be any more awesome. In fact, the top four most watched soccer games in America’s history were the games that the US played in this year’s World Cup. Also, it is a pretty nice luxury that US team is better than it has been in recent memory.

By now, just about everyone has heard about Ann Coulter’s article bashing the game of soccer. If you haven’t heard about it, then I strongly urge you to read it, because it might be the funniest thing you’ll see all day. But to summarize her main points, she believes that not only is soccer un-American, but it will also help in dissolving the moral fiber of the United States.

Although Ann Coulter’s thoughts have absolutely no significance to me, it got me thinking about one main thing. My initial thought is that soccer is significant enough for a well-known political pundit to make a comment on its effect in American society. She takes every argument to an outrageous level, but some of them make sense at their core. For example, one of the points she makes is that a large number of immigrants from around the world watch soccer. She takes her argument a little further by saying, “One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.” Of course, that statement is absurd, but she has a point with the high popularity of soccer among immigrants or first-generation immigrants. It is definitely more popular among the more “ethnic” crowds than the “pure-blooded American” crowds, but I believe that is rubbing off more and more on the average Joe. Years ago, soccer was seen as more of a foreign sport. Now, we see it as an international sport that we can embrace as well. Soccer is globalization at its best, and it is awesome.

 

The first time I watched the World Cup was back in 2006, when Italy played in the final against France. I remember seeing the streets of Rome after Italy won and thinking to myself, “Man, I wish they did that in America.” Fast forward eight years, and it’s happening. There is at least one public projection screen showing the game in every major city now, and the streets are packed. Americans are catching on to what everyone in the world has known about for a very long time, and as an Arab-American, I feel proud that immigrants helped this grow in the United States. Get excited America. The growing interest in soccer is going to be awesome.

Why the Arab nations are not ready for democracy

Normally, I hate speaking or writing about Arab politics. The reason I hate it is because it normally ends with someone getting a shoe or table (depending on the person’s strength) thrown in his or her direction. Arabs are very prideful of their countries and want the best for them. The arguments start when opinions are stated as to what is the best way for their country to flourish without war or destruction. Many of us in the United States would like to see a democracy in our home countries, but that is a goal that isn’t attainable at the moment.

Let’s first look at Syria. The first thing that must be known about Syria is that it is not democratic, and everyone who thinks it is have some sort of denial. Bashar Al-Assad won the most recent election with 88.7% of the vote, which means the ballots are stuffed, or there is some other form of election rigging. Nobody wins 88.7% of the vote in any election fairly. Syria is the perfect example of why overthrowing a government and installing democracy is impossible. The idea of overthrowing the ruling elites in Syria and implementing a fully democratic government sounds great in theory, but there was no way that it was going to be done. When a government is overthrown, a power vacuum is created, and Arabs are far too dysfunctional to get together and create a democracy. Once a group seizes power, the first thing it does is try to hunt down those who oppose it. For example, let’s pretend that the Free Syrian Army overthrew Bashar. ISIS, who was a major player in the Syrian opposition, would then capitalize on the opportunity of ruling over a country. With ISIS in power in Syria, expect the minorities in Syria (who make up 25% of the country) to either be killed or flee the country. The first thing ISIS would do in power is go after Christians, Shiites, Alawites, and Druze. There would be absolutely no way to stop ISIS from attacking the power vacuum if Bashar was overthrown. My conclusion on Syria is that although it is not a democratic state, it is much better off with Bashar Al-Assad than any other party trying to take it from him. Having Bashar ruling the country works best for Syria right now.

Let’s look at another example: Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood saw a power vacuum after Mubarak was overthrown, and they capitalized on it. During that year, violence against anyone who didn’t support the Muslim Brotherhood skyrocketed. Churches were being burned, and supporters of the old regime were detained or killed. After a year, Egyptians ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power and a military government is back. Only time will tell how Sisi will do in Egypt, but a democracy isn’t attainable in Egypt right now. They are simply not ready for it.

I am 100% in support of democracy throughout the world, including in every Arab country, but I am also a realist. Right now, the goal for democracy in places like Syria, Iraq, and Egypt are simply unrealistic. I think efforts should be focused more on reforming present governments than overthrowing them. The road to democracy is a long one, and the Arab nations are not ready for it just yet.

Arab Americans: Liberals or Conservatives?

In America, we have a completely different view of what would be considered a “problem” or “issue” in society. For example, some general problems that an average Arab American in Dearborn faces are whether to get his Knafeh from Shatila Bakery or Masri Sweets. Our generation that lives here is spoiled in that way and for good reason. A large reason immigrants come to America is for a better life, and it is no different with us as Arabs. For many of us, the quality that we live is much higher here, and with that higher quality of life comes different problems. When my father tells me about growing up in Palestine, he speaks about how meat was a delicacy and how it was normal to eat meat about once a week. If we think about this now, it’s shocking. We eat meat all the time and rarely even give it a second thought. This is just one example of how different life is in America than it is living in the Middle East.

As I look around social media, I see more and more activism for American social and political issues. The reason I call them “American social and political issues” is because that these are hardly an afterthought in our native countries. One thing I’ve noticed about Arab Americans’ stances is that they are usually liberal, and it puzzles me. It puzzles me because a typical Arab household is much more old-fashioned than an American household. Even if we aren’t very religious, our parents still instill those values in us from birth. So when I look at an issue like gay marriage, it seems so odd to me that so many of us are in support of it. Family is so important in an Arab community. We have all heard from our parents, “When you get to that age, you’re going to get married and have a lot of kids.” The definition of family is defined very solidly in our culture as a man and woman, and it’s originally from religion. Christianity and Islam both clearly state that marriage is between a man and a woman. When a friend of mine moved here from Palestine, he was even very confused about the concept of gay marriage. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the thought of two men or two women marrying each other. Simply by looking at our values and culture, one would think that we possess a conservative ideology. Having all of this in my mind, I think to myself “Why do many of us take a more liberal stance?”

My proposed answer to that question is simpler than one would think: Palestine. When we look at how the Republican and Democrat parties view Palestine, it is obvious that Democrats are more inclined to working towards a just peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Republicans are also stereotyped as the old, southern, rich white guys. Arabs see all of this, and adopt more liberal thinking, mainly because they are more accepted in the Democratic Party. This is why I think that we take a more liberal stance on social issues. I don’t like to see things as black and white. I don’t think each one of us has to support one particular ideology for every single issue. I actually think that nobody should, because not everybody thinks exactly the same. This is now my challenge to the Arab American community: Rather than support an ideology or party, support each issue as a separate issue and don’t think about which party supports which side. I think that we would be surprised at how different we would look at each issue if it were not viewed as a “Republican stance” or “Democrat stance.”