Arab American running for Congress in hopes of becoming a much-needed voice for Chicago area’s “Little Palestine”


PALOS HILLS, IL While Dearborn is known as the capital of Arab America, the Chicago area also boasts a large Arab American population, mostly of Palestinian descent.

Among the local Palestinian American residents is Rashad “Rush” Darwish, a former news anchor and small business owner, who is running for a congressional seat in Illinois’ Third District this coming March, in hopes of becoming a voice for the voiceless in his community.

“Here in Illinois District 3, thousands of people feel excluded, marginalized and disenfranchised,” Darwish said. “I am worried. But it’s time to fight for what’s important.”

The district includes the southwest side of Chicago as well as the cities of Lockport, Romeoville, Crest Hill and Homer Glen. Because of its large population of Palestinian Americans, the district is sometimes referred to as “Little Palestine,” Darwish, 42, who is originally from the West Bank village of Bittin near Ramallah, said.

According to the University of Chicago, there are as many as 120,000 Palestinian Americans in the Chicago area, making it the single largest population in North America.

Many local Arab Americans and low-income residents have been marginalized, Darwish said.

“There’s a huge gap between the haves and have-nots,” he said. “For me, I’ve spent the last 11 years as a community activist predominantly in the Arab and Muslim community, where we don’t have a voice.

“We are one of the largest Arab and Muslim communities in the country, yet we have zero representation in Washington, D.C.; and I believe close to zero in office as well.”

Thousands of people in his district are living near the poverty line, said Darwish, owner of a photo and video production business.

Hate crimes are also a recurring problem in the area.

I’ve spent the last 11 years as a community activist predominantly in the Arab and Muslim community, where we don’t have a voice … Many local Arab Americans and low-income residents have been marginalized. – Rashad “Rush” Darwish, Congressional candidate

If elected, Darwish said he hopes to increase sensitivity training for police officers to help the local community, which also includes a large number of Hispanic residents.

“The relationship with government and police is nowhere near where it needs to be,” he said. “For me this is a huge priority because I believe in equality; that’s where it all begins. Treat everybody equally.”

Darwish also served on newly elected Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s transition committee on transportation and infrastructure. He first became a supporter of the Democratic Party when former President Obama became popular and is strongly against president Trump and the Republican Party because of their lack of respect and inclusion of Arab and Muslim Americans.

The effects of Trump’s rhetoric have been deeply felt in his community, he said.

“There’s no doubt that Donald Trump being in office profoundly affected me, my family and my community,” Darwish said. “He represents everything that is not American…He is hell bent on creating a divide which is ‘us vs. them.’

“That’s why a slogan for our campaign is, ‘it’s not about them, it’s about us.’”

Darwish has also closely followed the success and tribulations of U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and seeks to join them on Capitol Hill in 2020.

“They are two brave, courageous women,” he said. “I want to stand with them; I want to go there and help them. Two is not enough; that’s where we start making the change.”

More information on Darwish’s campaign can be found at www.Rush4Congress.com.

NICK MEYER
THE ARAB AMERICAN NEWS
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