Can Michigan save Palestine?

ALJAZEERA

POSITIVE
But thanks to Michigan, the pathway does exist, and it is now reasonable to conjecture that the road to East Jerusalem may run through Dearborn.
The focus must be on changing the direction of American policy, not wishing away American power.
Only that it is more probable to lead a change in US policy on Israel than the alternative.
The importance of Michigan to the Middle EastAnd this is where Michigan comes in.
Michigan is one of the last standing bricks of the erstwhile “blue wall” in the Midwest.
In this context, 13.3 percent of Democrats (more than 100,000 people) in Michigan voting “uncommitted” is ominous.
Until now, it was easy for Biden and mainstream Democrats to ignore Arab and Muslim opinion on Palestine.
In this rendering, Michigan could serve as the anchor of US policy in the region the way Florida does for Cuban policy.
Indeed, it is this feature of US politics that represents the most likely pitfall for Plan Michigan.
By channelling their demographic power to change the equation on the Palestine question in US politics, Muslims and Arabs in Michigan may have taken the first step to pushing the US, the only great power with leverage over Israel, to actually deploy it for a sovereign Palestine.

Anyone who has even the slightest amount of sympathy for the Palestinian people, who are facing a national catastrophe on par with the Nakba of 1948, must admit that these are dire times.

It’s perfectly justified to be depressed. As victims of Israel’s war in Gaza, which many experts believe to be genocidal, the Palestinians face the mightiest armed forces in the region, bolstered by billions of dollars in military aid and unrestricted diplomatic access from the world’s most powerful nation.

As usual, Washington has thwarted attempts by other countries to force an immediate and lasting truce in Gaza. Even worse, it doesn’t seem like the Palestinians’ primary demand for self-determination has much of a chance of success.

However, there is a ray of hope. A possible route to better times for the Palestinian people is indicated by recent developments in US politics. Yes, it is definitely not a likely or even a probable course of events. A lot of things need to work out, not the least of which is the Democratic party changing its current dysfunctional leadership.

But the road to East Jerusalem does exist, thanks to Michigan, and it is now conceivable to speculate that it passes through Dearborn.

American domestic politics.

It is certain that the achievement of Palestinian self-determination requires the support of significant regional and international players, regardless of the exact shape that it takes.

In actuality, the US continues to be the dominant nation in the region, if not the entire globe, despite the abundance of writing about the decline of US power and the return of multipolarity.

Thus, holding out hope that China’s or any other superpower’s ascent will lead to a breakthrough on the Palestinian issue is a futile tactic. Rather than hoping to curtail American power, the priority has to be on reorienting American policy.

In particular, the Palestinian cause stands the best chance of becoming a top priority in the foreign policy of a US president. Thus, what steps do pro-Palestinian activists take to bring this to pass?

The Republican Party is a dead end because of fundamental political and demographic issues. Although it has lost some of its luster over the past 20 years, neo-conservatism—which views Israel as an essential ally and frequently elevates Israeli interests to parity with American ones—remains the dominant ideology among America’s right-wing foreign policy elites.

Also, among the GOP’s most ardent supporters of Israel and one of its strongest voter constituencies are Christian evangelicals. Lastly, the majority of Republican voters are older and white, whereas the youth and people of color are the biggest supporters of Palestinians. All of it adds up to predictable outcomes, like the recent Republican poll that showed 56% of Republicans supported recognizing Israel and only 2% supported the Palestinians.

Despite President Joe Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and mass atrocities in Gaza, the Democrats continue to represent the only realistic hope for the Palestinian cause in this situation.

Democratic lawmakers like Representative Rashida Tlaib are the only ones in the US Congress and other institutions who support the Palestinian cause. Even moderate leftists like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez belong to a political species whose existence in the Republican Party would be unthinkable.

I want to be clear that I do not think the Democratic Party will save the Palestinian people. Just that compared to the other option, it is more likely to bring about a shift in US policy toward Israel.

The significance of Michigan to the Middle East.

Michigan enters the picture at this point. Almighty coincidence has produced a high concentration of Arabs and Muslims in a state crucial to presidential elections. Michigan is among the remaining remnants of the former “blue wall” in the Midwest.

Without Michigan’s 15 electoral college votes, it is practically impossible for a Democrat to win the presidency under the current US political landscape.

For this reason, the outcomes of the most recent primary ought to make the Biden 2024 campaign shudder in unison. Primaries are typically a crowning event rather than merely a formality for incumbents running for office. A concerning development in this regard is that 13.3% of Democrats in Michigan—more than 100,000 individuals—voted as “uncommitted.”.

Support for the “uncommitted” project does not have to be widespread as long as it is deep, even though its success was much more muted in other states during the primaries on March 5 (also known as Super Tuesday). This was partially because of a lack of institutional and organizational support as well as variations in the population density of Muslims and Arabs. Biden’s chances of winning reelection in November appear to be doomed if the animosity among Michiganders who support Palestine continues into November.

In American democracy, parties and politicians will not heed the demands of their constituents unless they can legitimately fear losing an election. This is the ugly truth. Biden and other mainstream Democrats found it simple to disregard Arab and Muslim perspectives on Palestine up until this point. The thought proceeded: what will they do, cast a vote for Donald Trump?

But now, the threats made by young, Arab, and Muslim voters to abstain from voting this autumn are far more real and unlikely to be written off as empty rhetoric. In other words, they’ve proven they mean business.

The way forward.

Ideally, Biden would understand and take a sharp turn in his direction. This would involve setting up a workable plan for a medium-term resolution of the Palestinian issue while, in the short term, requiring Israel to abide by fundamental human rights and international law in order to receive US military, economic, and diplomatic support.

However, it seems improbable that Biden would make such a significant change in his later years for someone with his track record of strong support for Israel. Undoubtedly, it is improbable that an 80-year-old man would alter the worldview that has guided his foreign policy decisions as a senator, vice president, and current president for fifty years.

As of right now, therefore, the most likely outcome seems to be Biden sleepwalking into a loss in November, partly because of the massive defection of young voters and significant pockets of support, such as the Arab and Muslim vote, that helped secure his victory in 2020, but also mainly because of a hangover from the high inflation of 2021-23.

If that is the case, Muslims and Arabs will be hoping that the defeat will make the Democratic Party elite realize how important the Palestinian cause is, and that candidates running for the party’s (and nation’s) leadership positions will realize that they can no longer ignore the Palestinian cause moving forward.

the rebuttal from Trump.

Supporters of Biden frequently refute this reasoning by claiming that anything done to aid in Trump’s election would be against Palestinian interests. After all, during his first term, Trump was almost absurdly and comically pro-Israel. His son-in-law Jared Kushner handled all aspects of Middle East policy, sidelining the Palestinians in the infamous “Abraham Accords” and relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Never forget that the election of Trump will be disastrous for the Palestinian people and their cause. However, the Palestinian people and their supporters have every right to question: If Trump had been president after October 7, would there have been more, fewer, or about the same number of bombings, shootings, crushings, and starvations of Palestinians?

Above all, this counterargument misses the fact that political life is not just about elections every four years; looking at things more long term helps explain why voting against Biden could benefit the Palestinian cause. The reasoning is straightforward. The only way pro-Palestinian Americans like Arabs and Muslims could use their votes to effect real change would be if they cost the Democrats an election.

To put it another way, even though Trump would undoubtedly be worse for the Palestinians than Biden, the Democratic candidate in 2028 and going forward would realize on a profound and visceral level that they cannot continue to ignore Palestinian aspirations and act as Israel’s banker, attorney, and arms dealer. Party leaders would only be keeping up with their base if they did this, which already calls for a more impartial approach to the Middle East.

As Florida is for Cuban policy, Michigan could be the focal point of US policy in the area, according to this interpretation. There is a clear distinction between the two: the pro-Israel lobby and AIPAC, two of the most potent forces in US politics, would be up against the provisional Palestinian lobby, whereas the anti-Castro/communist lobby faces organized opposition.

In fact, Plan Michigan’s most likely derailment is this aspect of US politics. Taking on the AIPAC machine, which has a long history of heavy spending against perceived opponents of right-wing Israeli leaders and policies, will likely be far more expensive than any electoral gains that a candidate may experience for taking a more pro-Palestinian stance. Under these circumstances, even politicians who are privately sympathetic to the Palestinian cause may reasonably conclude that moderation outweighs bravery.

An initial action?

In addition to the genocide against the Palestinian people, the US foreign policy has suffered irreversibly from the Gaza War, and its standing as the architect of the so-called rules-based international order is drastically damaged.

For his part, Biden’s financial, military, and diplomatic backing of the destruction of Gaza will surely be the first thing people worldwide associate with him. That will be his legacy in history.

However, even if they win in November, neither Biden nor Trump will hold their current positions as leaders for very long. Muslims and Arabs in Michigan may have started the process of pressuring the US, the only major power with influence over Israel, to genuinely use it for a sovereign Palestine by using their demographic power to rewrite the political landscape on the Palestine issue.

The opinions presented in this piece are the author’s own and may not accurately represent the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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