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Good riddance to Dick DeVos

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Dick DeVos, Michigan's Republican candidate for governor, cancelled an appearance with AAPAC (Arab American Public Affairs Council) members scheduled for last Wednesday citing family issues. He apologized for the cancellation and called it a misunderstanding. The news of this cancellation attracted attention and it was perceived as an insult to the Arab American community. But such insults are not new to the Arab American voter, as most local politicians have become adept at pacifying this voter segment without ever giving them any substance.

The local media reported that the DeVos campaign had concerns about pro-Hizbullah comments made by AAPAC's President and Publisher of "The Arab American News," Osama Siblani, during the latest Israeli-Lebanese war. Some of these comments were highlighted in an article published by the "Detroit Jewish News." Its editor mounted an attack on Siblani, Abed Hammoud and AAPAC for arguing that Hamas and Hizbullah were freedom fighters. He urged local politicians and candidates "not to attend AAPAC events or accept contributions from the group because of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and arguably anti-Semitic comments by its leaders."
The DeVos campaign complied with the Jewish request and cancelled the meeting. In an article on Septemeber 7th, the "Detroit Jewish News" claimed full credit for the victory over AAPAC. The article quoted Greg McNeilly, campaign manager of DeVos for Governor, as saying: "DeVos supporters initially made campaign leaders aware of the activities and statements of AAPAC leaders, and then saw Sklar's JN column. After independently verifying the statements, McNeilly said they told AAPAC that "they are not willing to come and have that connection."
But on Monday, September 11, Dick DeVos met with a handful of community leaders, including Osama Siblani, Abed Hammoud, and Imad Hamad, and apologized to them for what he called "mistakes" committed by his campaign. Our green candidate will soon learn that such political blunders are career breakers. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is stepping down next year because of his mishandling of the Israeli-Lebanese war and simply acting as George Bush's poodle. Apparently, Dick DeVos wants to avoid sinking in the Middle East's political quick sand. But the story has already developed legs of its own and it promises to develop further, and possibly gain national attention.

The DeVos campaign has not disavowed the Jewish claim of victory. This defeat for Arab Americans facilitated by DeVos is a major problem for a candidate who is trying to sell himself as a bridge-builder and a catalyst for harmony and peace. Just like Bush's poodle, DeVos appears to be the Jewish community's poodle. And on this occasion I would like to thank Mr. Dick DeVos for creating such a mess out of a simple campaign stop, which he requested in the first place. He saved us the embarrassment and the awkwardness of being cordial to him and to his Republican Party. He may have also provided our community with a real incentive to go out and vote in this election.

We know where Dick DeVos stands on the most important issue to our community; namely the Arab-Israeli conflict. He stands with his boss, George Bush, squarely on the side of Israel. A vote for Republicans is a vote for war and a vote for Democrats is a vote against the war. President Bush has already framed the debate of this mid term election and you can either vote for "staying the course" of war or you can vote for searching for peace. Republican candidates in Michigan including DeVos and Senate candidate Michael Bouchard have fallen in line and have chosen to be the yes men of Bush.

If DeVos had taken the time to understand the context of Siblani's and most Arab American leaders' comments in support of Hizbullah he may have understood how the leaders of this community served America's interests first and foremost. Their comments reflected the prevailing sentiment of 90 percent of the Lebanese population. They were not a blanket statement of support to Hizbullah and its past actions. They were in support of defending Lebanon's sovereignty from a barbaric indiscriminate attack waged by Israel. They certainly did not support Hizbullah's attack on the U.S. Marines in 1983, and on a visit to Lebanon last year, Siblani urged pro-Hizbullah supporters not to chant "death to America" in their protests. Siblani and all Arab American leaders do not support the enemies of America even if they are Hizbullah. But they believe, like most Americans do, in the inalienable right of the Lebanese people to defend themselves against the merciless aggression of a foreign state.
Good riddance to DeVos and to his warmongering party. This episode revealed to Michiganders the kind of incompetence that the Republican Party has become famous for. His campaign ads claim that he is an experienced chief executive. The way he has mismanaged this simple campaign meeting speaks volumes of his abysmal skills. Just like his boss George Bush, Dick DeVos is a man born with a silver foot in his mouth. His speeches echo the familiar themes of Bush's campaign of 2000. Bush claimed to be a uniter, just like DeVos is claiming, but ended up being the greatest divider since Richard Nixon. DeVos has already created a wedge between Arabs and Jews in Michigan.

Bush claimed to approach foreign policy with "humility" and not to commit our troops to "nation-building" mistakes. He turned out to be the most insensitive arrogant American President the world has ever seen. I suspect DeVos will act the same way if he becomes the next governor of Michigan.

By listening to the "Detroit Jewish News," DeVos proved to be even dumber than his boss, George Bush. He has already resorted to the politics of exclusion and applied sanctions against Arab Americans before taking office. His boss did not do that till after he took the oath of office. He met with Arab American leaders several times on the campaign trail and was able to pacify them by acting "nice" without ever giving them any substance.

Wayne County will decide who the next governor of Michigan will be just like it did four years ago when it gave Jennifer Granholm a lead of 200,000 votes over her Republican opponent. On Election Day, November 7, at least 100,000 Arab American voters will go to the polls in Wayne County and cast their votes. They may not cast the deciding vote but they will vote for somebody to be the next governor of Michigan. That is a fact that Dick DeVos and his Jewish appeasers can not help. They can not deny them the right to vote. They will most likely vote for somebody who did not insult them. Thank you to the "Detroit Jewish News" for making this choice clear to most of us.

Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of "The War on Terror and Democracy"- available at He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and his weekly column appears in the Arab American News. He can be reached
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Neal AbuNab is a Michigan-based author of "The War on Terror and Democracy"- available on He is a commentator on Arab and Muslim affairs and he can be reached at:
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