Hey, Pundits Covering Bernie: Cool It With the Stereotypes That Muslims and Arabs Are Anti-Semitic

Pundits express shock that a Jewish candidate could win Dearborn, invoking the myth of an age-old enmity.

Lawrence O'Donnell on the left, Chuck Todd on the right.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Mainstream media pundits appeared flabbergasted when Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly won (64-36) Dearborn, Michigan – the city with the largest concentration of Arab-Americans and Muslims in the country – because the presidential hopeful is Jewish.

The Week ran a headline which breathlessly declared, “Dearborn, top Arab-American U.S. city, just voted for Donald Trump, Jewish candidate Bernie Sanders.”

Many reporters appeared deeply shocked.

The International Business Times noted, “As the results rolled in, television pundits like Lawrence O’Donnell and Chuck Todd marveled on MSNBC that Sanders was doing so well in Dearborn ‘despite’ the large Arab-American population there.”

While the mainstream media invoked the mythical age-old enmity with Muslims and Arabs on one side and Jews on the other, people who are actually from Dearborn took offense at this stereotype.

“The media narrative in America is one that conflates Arabs and Muslims as anti-Semitic and conflates Zionism with Jews,” Mohamad Naim, who lives in Dearborn and is a math teacher in Detroit, told AlterNet. “But you must not do that.”

Dearborn went to Sanders, who runs advertisements in Arabic, because “Arabs and Muslims are disgusted with continuous war overseas, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya," said Naim. "Hillary Clinton endorsed the war in Libya, and Obama was heavily influenced by her. Since it’s our people dying abroad, we want someone who understands that enforced regime change does not bring a positive change. We want a president who is not overtaken by corporations and driven by wars overseas.”

“Millenials are overwhelmingly supporting Sanders,” said Naim, and there is no reason that young people in Dearborn should somehow be excluded from that trend.

Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee who is from Dearborn, told AlterNet he agrees. “The community is not going to discount Sanders because he’s Jewish. The media thinks we’re anti-Semitic, but that narrative is disturbing and completely not true.”

“We've worked with the Jewish community on issues from hate crimes to economy to health care,” Ayoub continued. “And what Bernie Sanders did was actually reach out and talk about issues. He held a rally in Dearborn. He talked about income inequality and jobs. We are often pigeonholed, but Arab and Muslim-American voters vote on the issues like anyone else."

Dearborn community member Kamelya Youssef told AlterNet that, unlike numerous media pundits, she was not at all surprised that Sanders won in her city. "He spoke to youth regarding student loans and corporate sponsorship, and they care about domestic and foreign issues," she said. "He's the one they found most common ground with."

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

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