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Arab American outrage mounts over Biden’s support for Israel amid Gaza carnage

Feb 15,2024 - Last updated at Feb 15,2024

Angered over the Biden administration’s supine support of Israel’s war on Gaza, Arab American community leaders in the swing state of Michigan postponed this week’s virtual discussion with US Vice President Kamala Harris. Last week, her office held an exchange on Gaza and a dozen community leaders were set to listen to Harris’ own take on administration policy on Monday.

She has either been heckled or boycotted by Arab and non-Arab citizens focused on Gaza during her ongoing campaign tour. A CNN poll conducted last December found that only one-third of US respondents overall supported the administration’s policy on Gaza.

Arab Americans are furious and feel they have been excluded from Biden administration consideration in Gaza policymaking.

Since Hamas sudenly attacked Israel on October 7, Biden has repeatedly stated that Israel has the “right to defend itself” without placing limits on the Israeli offensive which has killed, maimed, and disappeared 100,000 Gazans according to the UN.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia has reported that one in every 100 people in Gaza was killed in the first 100 days of the war, a rate greater than any other armed conflict this century. 

“The ongoing war stands out as unprecedented in the scale of death, destruction, and suffering, with repercussions that will echo for generations to come,” the Commission stated.

President Joe Biden has not been moved by the deaths and devastation wreaked on Gaza and has continued transporting weapons to Israel and providing Israel with political cover.

He seeks to allocate $14 billion in military aid to Israel on top of the $3.8 billion donated annually.

“The president’s refusal to change course or even to publicly acknowledge his mistakes is a grave insult to people here in Michigan, to Michigan Democrats in particular,” Abbas Alawieh, spokesman of “Listen to Michigan”, told CNN last week. This campaign urges Democrats to vote “uuncommitted” in the state’s February 27th presidential primary in response to refusal to demand an Israeli ceasefire and end to the war.

He objected to the “hypocrisy of telling us privately that the administration has made mistakes while continuing to fail to hold [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu accountable publicly”.

He said this amounts to “a blatant display of moral bankruptcy that will have political consequences here in Michigan”.

Arab community leaders earlier shunned a meeting with Biden campaign staff but on February 8th held a two-hour political discussion with the US Agency for International Development Director Samantha Power, national security deputy adviser Jon Finer, and the of Public Engagement Steven Benjamin.

CBS news quoted Ibrahim Aiyash, the second-ranking Democrat in the Michigan House of Representatives, as saying, “I relayed the emotions and the concerns of our community, and we gave them tangible steps. We want to see a permanent cease-fire. We want to be able to see restrictions and conditions on any military aid that is sent to Israel. And we want to see the United States take a serious commitment towards rebuilding Gaza.” He warned, “There will not be engagement beyond this if we do not see any tangible changes after this discussion.” Hence, the postponement of the Harris virtual session. 

Votes by Arab and Muslim voters in the Detroit suburbs of Dearborn and Hamtramck could swing the swing state of Michigan either way. Donald Trump secured Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2016 but Biden won in 2020 by a 154,000 votes in Dearbornn and Hamtramck alone.

More than half of Dearborn’s 110,000 residents are of Middle Eastern or North African origin. Many immigrated from south Lebanon villages during Israel’s occupation of the area.

By voting “uncommitted” in the Michigan Democratic primary, the denizens of Dearborn and Hamtramck will send a message to Biden that he cannot continue on this dead-end road until Gaza is destroyed.

One resident said that Biden’s backers’s attempts to to scare them with Trump would not work.

Writing on February 10th on mondoweiss.net, US Arab American cardiologist Tareq Haddad based in Virginia said he had declined an invitation to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken before his recent regional tour.

Haddad asked, “What could I say in three minutes to someone who is aiding and abetting Israel’s assault, which has killed 85 members of my family so far?” He refused to provide a “photo opportunity” for Blinken while Biden had cut funding to UNRWA which cares for 5.7 million Palestinian refugees in the region.

Others from his community also “boycotted” the meeting, Haddad added, after describing the tragic and terrible deaths of his relatives.

The Arab American Institute said there are about 3.5 million Arab Americans in the United States, the majority of whom are Christians.

The Arab American communities are located in populace California, Michigan, New York, Florida, and New Jersey as well as Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Michigan and Pennsylvania are regarded as swing states which could contribute to the Electoral College vote.

The reports that since the war began, Arab American support for the Democratic Party has fallen to 17 per cent from 59 per cent in 2020.

The plunge among Muslim Americans is to 10 per cent from 70 per cent in 2020 at the end of 2023.

While this does not mean Arab and Muslim Americans would back Trump. Instead, they could boycott the vote or cast their ballots for a third-party candidate.

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