Jamal Abu Moh, a retired gas station manager in the northern Israeli town of Baka al-Gharbiya, who is one of many residents closely watching the upcoming US presidential election from afar, sounded like a US voter weighing his options in advance of Tuesday’s fateful Election Day: “It can’t be a worse choice than these two.”
The high degree of attention can be attributed to what has been an especially gripping campaign, but also to the concern residents have regarding how it will impact their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and what effect it will have on prospects for a peace agreement that could end the conflict between their people and their state.
While most of the Baka al-Gharbiya residents interviewed by The Jerusalem Post
on Sunday are rooting for Clinton – in part because Trump is perceived as an anti-Muslim bigot – Abu Moh is part of a substantial minority who say the world is a loser no matter which candidate wins.
“Neither of them are wanted by the American people,” he explains. “Clinton comes across as untrustworthy and Trump is a racist, in the full meaning of the word. He’s too brutal. He comes across as a gangster and a skirt chaser.
“Maybe for the Middle East he will be better than Clinton,” Abu Moh adds. “Hillary will continue the Obama policy of letting the Palestinian issue slide. Trump may do something, Hillary for sure won’t. She didn’t do anything when she was secretary of state. But the problem is that, since Trump is a racist, he may do things that harm Arabs.”
For sixteen-year-old Walaa Dacca, a high school student interviewed in her father’s Islamic fashion boutique on Baka al-Gharbiya’s noisy main street, the choice is clear. “Of course I would vote for Clinton. I don’t think any Muslim would want to vote for someone who hates them."
“I hate him for his [scandals] with women and because he really hates Muslims and loves himself, not in a good way,” she adds.
Further down the street of two-story stucco buildings that house cafes, billiard halls and shwarma restaurants, a store manager wearing a hijab, who identifies herself only as Raneen, said she wants to see women in more influential positions. “Women can change the world,” she says.
However, that view does not translate into identification with Clinton. “I don’t know much about Trump, but Clinton is not very good, she’s against the Palestinians, she’s not against the occupation,” Raneen says. “Her viewpoint is that Israel is defending itself, but the Palestinians are not defending themselves. She’s very extreme."
“We want America to help, but it does nothing,” she adds.
“As Arabs living in Israel, which defines itself as a Jewish state, many people feel there is racism. America could help us, but it doesn’t. It could stop the bloodshed in the territories, but it does nothing. And it did not intervene in Syria against Bashar Assad. When I see the children being killed there, I feel like it’s my daughters.”
Ziyad Jamhour, a pensioner, also complains of perceived American inaction. “I would want them to take action against the occupation. I want to see a Palestinian state. But they won’t do anything that Israel doesn’t want. They will do only what the Jewish lobby supports. Obama had intentions to do something, but he was not able to because of the lobby.”
In the Napoli Cafe, which is adorned with a picture of the Dome of the Rock, owner Assad Daka says, “Of course this election is going to impact on us. Israel is the 51st state.” He is backing Clinton.
“She is the one who can take care of the American economy and we are part of that economy. Only Clinton can do it. And we shouldn’t forget, there were good times when her husband was president,” he says.
“I’m not for right-wing politics, whether it is in Israel or the United States. Besides being a racist against blacks, Mexicans and Muslims, Trump doesn’t believe in democracy,” adds Daka, whose brother Walid is serving a life sentence for the murder of Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam in 1984. Daka says his brother did not commit the crime, and a picture of him adorns one of the walls of the café.
“I think Clinton will act against the occupation. Her party is interested in peace between the Palestinians and Israel,” he says.
Fawaz Muwasi, who works in the café, also hopes Clinton will win on Tuesday. “She has experience in politics,” he says.
Asked about Trump, he points to his head. “He’s crazy and sick when it comes to sex. He’s unbalanced. He’s a racist, he’s hot tempered and he’s dangerous.
I think he will cause a war here because he doesn’t understand the Palestinian issue. He identifies with the Jews and he will encourage Netanyahu to make more settlements. He’s the only one who agreed to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
He will cause a lot of problems, a real mess. I’m not on edge, but I am worried.”