Obama campaign releases blatantly anti-Arab video ad

US President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has just released a blatantly anti-Arab video ad on its official YouTube channel.

The Hill reported:

An Obama campaign Web ad released Tuesday looks to tie Mitt Romney to the controversial assertions held by real estate mogul and reality show host Donald Trump, who has become one of the Romney campaign’s most visible surrogates.

The ad, called “Two Republican Nominees,” aims to do so by contrasting presumptive 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney negatively when compared to the supposedly more moderate Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee Obama defeated in 2008.

Blatant anti-Arab racism

But The Hill fails to note the blatant anti-Arab racism in the ad. It features a clip of an 11 October 2008 exchange at a Minnesota town-hall style campaign event between McCain and a woman in the audience. The exchange can be seen starting 15 seconds into the ad:

WOMAN: “I have heard about him [Obama]. He’s an Arab.

MCCAIN: “No ma’am, no ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen, whom I just happen to have disagreements with.”

If the bigotry contained in the exchange is not obvious, try replacing the word “Arab” with “Jew” and then imagine what the response would have been to how McCain handled it then, and to Obama using it now.

Few speak out

The exchange caused outrage among Arab Americans during the 2008 campaign, but very few other public figures, especially not Obama, spoke up against this kind of racism – which also routinely conflates Arabs and Muslims.

One of the few who did was former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell who told NBC’s Meet The Press on 19 October 2008:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian.  He’s always been a Christian.  But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

Powell, a former general who is poorly remembered by many Arabs for his role in the first Gulf War and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, recalled that Muslims had died serving in US wars and he had been moved by a picture he saw in a magazine:

of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave.  And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards – Purple Heart, Bronze Star – showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American.

Of course many people might reject the notion that Muslim Americans and Arab Americans should only be honored and included to the extent that they participate in or endorse American militarism.

But what was remarkable in 2008, and is remarkable now is that it took a senior Bush administration official to say what few others were prepared to say. And even worse, the Obama campaign apparently seeks to benefit from this very same racism now.

More bigotry this campaign season?

It looks like the 2012 campaign is heating up to be as characterized by bigotry and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria as 2008 and 2010. But no one can claim the bigotry is coming only from one side.

Note: The Electronic Intifada does not endorse any political candidates. Like other news publications we blog and report on US politics and elections to the extent that they are relevant to the issues we cover and the readers we serve.

Update: Actor Ben Affleck spoke out at McCain bigotry Obama now praising

In 2008, actor Ben Affleck was one of the few celebrities who spoke out against McCain’s bigoted response, that Obama is now lauding.

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Comments

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This ad is a dumb ad, but it is not "blatantly anti-arab" ad by the Obama administration. There weren't that many times that McCain stood up for Obama on tape--and this is quoting McCain to contrast him against Romney's acceptance of Trump and the birthers. I did not see this ad as an endorsement of what McCain said, just that he said something (and there weren't that many quotes from McCain to that effect). There is a need to fight this growing permission for anti-Arab hate-mongering that is becoming ubiquitous in both parties across the US. However, Colin Powell helped build of George Bush Jr.`s rationale for supporting Israel against Palestine, attacking Iraq and for killing Arabs. The fact that he is proud that among people on the ground who were doing this there were a `few good Arabs` is not something that I would call laudable. Let`s set the threshold for support a lot higher.

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Only a very small minority of Muslims are Arabs. Educated Americans know this. This ad counters claims of right-wing extremists that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, an idea that many uneducated Americans believe is true. That idea must be smashed since it could prevent the re-election of the President. A Romney Presidency would be disastrous not only for the U.S. but for the Arabs in the Middle East whose people have already suffered enough.

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Dear grampa Dave on Wed, 05/30/2012 - 08:45. "Educated Americans know this". No, they don't. In 2007 there were still 33% Americans who thought that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. And 64% thinks that aliens have contact with human beings. Etcetera. That's how educated Americans are.

You will probably deny that grass is green, since there are many species of grass from yellow to brown to green and perhaps even white. Yet everybody in his right mind will answer 'green' when asked what the colour of grass is. Do you know what I mean? We all know what the woman meant. Instead of denying the racism, for whatever reason, why not put your energy in opposing it. Ardently.

Watch: Reel Arabs - how Hollywood vilifies a people http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...
Stop kidding yourself.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.