Ed Koch Thinks He Knows What Motivates Arab-American Voters

October 13, 2011 3:06 pm ET — MJ Rosenberg

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, the Democrat who endorsed Republican Bob Turner in New York's 9th Congressional District special election to "send a message to Obama to take a stronger position in support of Israel," is now back to supporting the president's reelection campaign. Koch is now satisfied with Obama's pro-Israel bona fides, no doubt impressed by the lengths Obama is going to defeat Palestinian statehood at the United Nations to avoid any daylight between his policies and Binyamin Netanyahu's. He is confident that Obama will now garner the 78 percent Jewish support in 2012 that he did in 2008.

In fact, he thinks he can do better than that. Koch told MSNBC's Rev. Al Sharpton last night that Obama could win 90 percent of the Jewish vote and 90 percent of the Arab-American vote as well:

KOCH: I said in view of what Iran has just done, uncovered by American security people, that they were going to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador here in Washington and blow up both the Saudi Arabian embassy and the Israeli embassy, the United States in my judgment should say to Iran that any attack upon Saudi Arabia or Israel will be deemed by us as an attack upon the United States, and we will retaliate immediately. If he did that, instead of getting 78 percent of the Jewish vote and hopefully 78 percent of the Arab vote, he'll get 90 percent in both cases.


Koch clearly knows even less about Arab-Americans than he does about Jewish Americans. The 78 percent of Jews who voted for Obama in 2008 voted for him not because of his position on Israel but because he is a Democrat and a progressive, as are most Jews. As the American Jewish Committee poll demonstrated just prior to the 2008 election, only 3 percent of Jewish voters cited Israel as the key issue upon which they based their votes. Ninety percent cited U.S. issues and 6 percent were "not sure." So, obviously, bellicose remarks about Iran would not boost his numbers among Jews this year, although an improving economy almost certainly would.

As for Arab-Americans, Koch is even farther off-base. He says that an announcement by the president that "any attack" on Saudi Arabia will be "deemed by us as an attack upon the United States" will cause Arab-Americans to flock to Obama's banner. Why would that be? Obviously, Koch believes that Saudi Arabia is for Arab-Americans something equivalent to what Israel is for many Jews: a spiritual homeland, even a national one.

It isn't. Few Arab-Americans have any connection to Saudi Arabia at all (they most often come from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Jordan, Sudan, or many other countries in the region). True, Mecca and Medina are in Saudi Arabia, but that produces little, if any, support for the Saudi regime, which is viewed as both intolerant and reactionary. (Note also that being an Arab-American doesn't necessarily mean Muslim and being Muslim doesn't necessarily mean you would side with Saudi Arabia over Iran.)

Add to that Arab-American opposition to U.S. military interventions in the Middle East in general and Koch's prediction of winning support by promising to go to war on Riyadh's behalf is even more ridiculous.

It is clear the former mayor just doesn't know what he is talking about. He didn't when he called for Obama's defeat and he doesn't now that he has switched sides (for the time being anyway).

[h/t: Mediaite]