Leaders of U.S. Arab-american Groups Are Supporting Ford in Next Week’s Presidential Election

Leaders of national organizations of Arab-Americans are supporting President Ford over Jimmy Carter in next Tuesday’s elections and believe their views generally reflect the attitude of their memberships, according to a survey conducted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Minor George, a Detroit building contractor and Michael Saah, of Washington, president and treasurer respectively of the National Association of Arab Americans, are both on the Ford Committee for Ethnic Affairs. The NAAA claims a membership of about two million of the estimated three million Americans of Arab descent.

On the other hand, the three Arab-American members of Congress are campaigning along party lines. Sen. James Abourezk (D.SD) and Rep. Toby Moffett (D.Conn.) both support Carter. Rep. James Abdnor (R.SD) backs Ford.

FORD BETTER ON MIDEAST ISSUES

Saah, a realtor and president of the Ramallah-American Federation of the United States, an organization of immigrants from what was once Palestine and descendants of Palestinian Arabs, told the JTA that he is supporting Ford because he is “impressed with how Ford handled the Middle East with Kissinger” and that he believes Ford “recognizes the injustices there.” He said he thought Carter “would be more susceptible than Ford to pressure from pressure groups–labor, Zionist organizations–who support the Israeli position.”

Saah and Richard C. Shadyak, immediate past president of the NAAA, stressed to the JTA that their organization does not take partisan political positions but that their organizational associates support Ford. Shadyak, an attorney from Annandale, Va., said “Many of the important leaders in the NAAA are supporting Ford because in terms of the Middle East issues he is the better of the two candidates.”

Shadyak was particularly impressed because Ford opposed transitional quarter funding for Israel and because of the “de facto recognition he is now giving the PLO in the current Lebanese situation.”

Dr. M.T. Mehdi, of New York, secretary general of the Action Committee on Arab American Relations, told a Los Angeles news conference yesterday that his group backed Ford because “We cannot entrust” the future of America to “a peanut farmer, brilliant as he may be.” But Mehdi stressed that the choice was “between the bad and the worst” because both Ford and Carter “support arms aid to Israel and arms sales to the Arabs.” Mehdi said he supported Sen. George McGovern (D.SD) against Nixon in 1972 “but this time we have a winner” in Ford.

Mehdi’s implication that Israel gets U.S. military supplies without cost while the Arabs must pay for them is incorrect. Through U.S. aid programs, Jordan and Lebanon have long been receiving U.S. military aid cost free. The last two aid programs allow the President to forgive “up to half” of the cost of materiel sent to Israel. Until recent years, Israel has paid for all of its U.S. military acquisitions. While Ford and Carter have both pledged continued military support of Israel, they have not specified credit and gift aspects.

The White House declined today to comment on Mehdi’s statement. An authoritative White House source who asked that his name not be used, told the JTA “We accept endorsements but we do not comment on them.”

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