Lecture Explores US Presidential Elections and their Outcome

The Birzeit University Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of
International Studies presented a lecture on November 6,
2012 on the US presidential elections and how
they might impact the Palestinian cause.


The speakers were Lourd Habash
and Samir Awad, both professors in the
Department of Political


Habash opened the lecture
explaining the US political and electoral system, saying that this
understanding is critical to understanding the outcome of the vote. She explained
the federal system in which the ldquo;winner takes all and where there is no proportional
representation and no opportunity for a third party to enter into electoral
competition. She also noted the importance of checks and balances in the
American political system.

Habash also talked about
the two established American parties: the Democratic Party which is oriented to
liberal supporters of minorities and workers and calls for government
intervention to support these groups, and the conservative Republican Party which
supports the rich and elite classes and rejects government intervention. This, she
said, explains the importance of taxation in the electoral debate.

Finally, the political
science professor described the complex electoral college system and the
electionsrsquo; two stages, first the internal primaries and then the final public
election. She closed referring to the role of the Zionist lobby and its impact
on the electoral process in the form of generous donations and financial
support for the campaigns. She noted that Jewish American voters are
influential in part because eighty percent vote regularly, as compared to half
of all other Americans.

Awad commenced by noting that the
Palestinian cause is not considered an important issue in the US elections
debate and references to it are in fact used to attract Jewish voters. The
issue has relatively little impact on US elections despite its importance for Arabs
and Palestinians or the main platforms of the competing parties. Among the
parties, economics was the main theme of these elections and each candidate sought
to show off his economic accomplishments. The election results are based on votes cast and establish mandates for the Democratic Party in states such as California and New
York, he
predicted, while
other states in the countryrsquo;s center would vote less clearly for the Republican

Awad then stated that the US State
Department, which determines foreign policy, has three established interests: to
protect the flow of oil to
the US without interruption and at reasonable prices, to protect Israel as the sole US partner in the Middle East while categorizing the Arab
countries and countries in the region as ldquo;alliesrdquo; or threats, and finally to fight ldquo;terrorismrdquo;.

Awad concluded by saying
that as long as the Israeli narrative is superior and dominant on the American
scene, alongside with the idea of ldquo;terrorismrdquo; as a vague and constant threat,
Palestinians will remain losers in American politics. He pressed his audience
to work to change this by strengthening and promoting the Palestinian narrative
and confronting the Israeli narrative. Awad predicted that incumbent Democratic
candidate Barack Obama would win the elections.