A victory with the taste of defeat
| Friday, 08.05.2016, 03:54 AM

Bazzi and Dabaja campaign volunteers at Dearborn High - Photo by The AANews

The Aug. 2 primaries in Dearborn painted two opposing political pictures for the Arab American community.

The first was bright and encouraging — Abdullah Hammoud, a 25-year-old Arab American Muslim, won the Democratic primary for state rep., defeating five candidates.

The other picture, however, was a dark and disappointing reality. The Arab community experienced an unprecedented division over the 19th District judge's race between City Council President Susan Dabaja and attorney Abbie Bazzi, which resulted in a comfortable victory for attorney Gene Hunt.

Although this split in the community was expected, it proved damaging. 

Dabaja announced her candidacy in March, three months after Bazzi's announcement in January. Dabaja's decision to challenge a fellow Arab American when she already has a influential position in the city was divisive in nature.

Throughout her campaign, Dabaja and her backers seemed adamant to further divide the community. 

They spewed incitement, personal insults and vulgarities to demonize those who disagree with Dabaja.

We warned against this in a previous editorial and  urged civility.

The City Council president did make it to the general election. But squeezing through the primaries would be meaningless if she fails to rebuild the bridges she unwisely burned with a significant segment of the community. 

Despite all the celebrations on Tuesday, Dabaja discovered that she cannot win in November without the votes of her perceived foes. The community's unity is required for the success of its candidates, as evidenced by Abdullah Hammoud's victory.

The Dabaja campaign's alienating tactics were highlighted by her supporters' attacks on The Arab American News and its publisher, Osama Siblani.  

The newspaper openly endorsed Bazzi, but we never insulted either Dabaja, her family or any of her supporters. We raised concerns about factual matters relating to her husband's federal conviction in 2008. The First Amendment of the Constitution gives us the right to question any politician. Throughout our 32-year history, we have discussed taboo subjects and criticized officials at all levels.

The verbal assaults against us were not in the realm of civil disagreements or criticism. They were libelous accusations and vicious lies that went beyond any standards of decency or common sense.

The daily name-calling tirades on social media against Siblani and The AANews staff were led by known Dabaja supporters, some of whom are directly connected to her campaign or related to her.

She cannot absolve herself of the moral or political responsibility for this orchestrated campaign.

In her victory speech on Tuesday night, Dabaja showed an astounding amount of recklessness that may end up hurting her chances in November. 

Instead of sending a unifying message of healing, she continued down the path of turning the political process into a personal dispute. 

"Shame on you," she said to the people who allegedly told her "not to run."

The truth is, no one has the power to dictate to any citizen not seek public office.  This is a personal choice protected by the Constitution.

Dabaja was advised by leaders in the Arab  community to hold off her aspirations for the judgeship to preserve the strength of the Arab vote, especially given that she has more than a year left in her City Council term, and Bazzi was a well-qualified candidate.

Their concerns proved true, as the divided Arab vote handed Hunt, who won almost as many votes as Dabaja and Bazzi combined, a comfortable victory.

But just as Dabaja had an unquestionable right to run, we had the right to ask legitimate questions about her fitness for the job. 

Bottom line, the newspaper's staff was unfairly smeared with the most vicious lies that did not even spare our families. But we were true to our professional ideals. We did not say a single foul word against anyone. We didn't make up lies about those who attacked us. We hardly even responded to them. Rising above for us was not a mere hashtag. We truly did it. 

If Dabaja wants to rise above, as she claims, a good place to start would be to denounce the loud voices slandering others in her name and distance her campaign from their filth. 

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