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Lecture Explores US Presidential Elections and their Outcome

January 21, 2013
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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 Science.


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 “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 elections’ 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 country’s center would vote less clearly for the Republican Party.

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 “allies” or " threats", and finally to fight “terrorism”.

Awad concluded by saying that as long as the Israeli narrative is superior and dominant on the American scene, alongside with the idea of “terrorism” 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.

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