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Ethnic Lobbying and Diaspora Politics in the U.S. The Case of the Pro-Palestinian Movement

By M.M. Dekker

Abstract

In this paper, it is argued that the key to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies perhaps not in Palestine, but in the United States of America. The US is the only superpower in the world that has enough leverage at its disposal to pressure Israel into accepting a two-state solution. Having influence over US foreign policy thus gives one a position of power when it comes to the conflict in the Middle East. Jewish Americans have understood this well and the Israel lobby has grown very powerful over the years. This lobby has effectively prevented the US government from using the leverage it has over Israel. However, contrary to what one might expect, we hear very little about those in the US who lobby on behalf of the Palestinians and who advocate a more critical attitude towards Israel. If the political ‘battlefield’ has indeed shifted to the US, if the final fate of the Palestinians is in the hands of America, then why does one not see them ‘fighting their fight’ on Capitol Hill, trying to convince the US government to make use of the leverage they have? This paper sets out to learn more about the unknown ‘other’ in this dual battle: to study what pro-Palestinian efforts are being undertaken in the US and how this movement fits in the larger trend of ethnic lobbying and diaspora politics in the US. Are domestic ethnic groups, and Arab Americans specifically, able to affect US foreign policy? It turns out that the Arab American lobby deserves much more attention than it has received up to now. Though the community has not been able to impact foreign policy directly, in a very ‘visible’ way, they have become more and more influential over the years. In this paper it is argued that currently the lobby finds itself at a pivotal moment in its history. Though US foreign policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been more favourable to Israel, and it will probably always remain that way, the current official government policy aims are that a Palestinian state should be created. This is a remarkable development, since forty ago, in the 1970s, the US government did not even regard the Palestinians as a separate people, merely as ‘Arabs’, and certainly not as warranting the creation of a state. The present situation, in which the policy preferences of the Arab Americans coincide with official US government policy, provides historically unparalleled opportunities for Arab Americans to have an impact on US foreign policy. In addition, it will be argued that the election of Barack Obama raises Arab American momentum to an even higher level. Obama’s openness to ethnic group influence, including Arab Americans and more liberal Jewish American groups, provides an unique opportunity for Arab Americans to affect US foreign policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the coming years

Topics: Letteren, Arab lobby, Arab Americans, lobbying, ethnic lobbying, multicultural foreign policy, ethnic groups, diaspora politics, United States of America, anti-Arab prejudice, electoral power, Israel lobby, Jewish lobby, Obama, Palestine, Israel, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East, two-state solution, access
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/44750
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