Arab and Muslim Americans and their allies are criticizing President Joe Biden’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas and calling on him to do more to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza or risk losing their support in the 2024 election to lose.
Many Arab Americans accuse Biden of failing to push for a humanitarian ceasefire even as Palestinians are being killed fleeing Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip, more than a dozen academics, activists, community members and administration officials said.
Their growing frustration could impact Democrat Biden’s re-election, which opinion polls show is likely to be a rematch with the Republican front-runner, former President Donald Trump.
In hotly contested Michigan, Arab Americans make up 5% of the vote. In the other battleground states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, they are between 1.7% and 2%, said Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.
Biden won Michigan with 50.6% of the vote in 2020, compared to 47.8% for Trump, and Pennsylvania with 50.01% to Trump’s 48.84%, a difference of less than 81,000 votes.
Arab and Muslim Americans are unlikely to support Trump but could sit out the election and not vote for Biden, some activists said.
“I think it will cost him Michigan,” said Laila El-Haddad, a Maryland-based author and social activist from Gaza.
While Arab Americans condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on civilians in Israel that killed 1,400 people, they said the Israeli response was disproportionate and Biden’s failure to condemn the bombing leaves many hanging on his promise of a “human rights-centered” Foreign policy doubts.
CLAIM FOR POLICY CHANGES
Abdullah Hammoud, the first Arab-American mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Muslim per capita population in the U.S., lamented Biden’s failure to condemn Israeli threats to cut off water, electricity and food to over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza .
“Nothing could have prepared us for the complete erasure of our voices and the radio silence of those we elected to protect and represent us,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Our family members trapped in Gaza were ignored, our calls for a ceasefire were drowned out by the drums of war.”
Linda Sarsour, a former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, told hundreds of attendees at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) event on Saturday that Muslim Americans should make any political donations contingent on a change in policy.
Many are pressuring Biden to urge Israel to temporarily halt its attacks on the Gaza Strip, which have killed thousands of Palestinians.
The Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip is “now on the verge of genocide against the entire Palestinian population,” said CAIR, the largest Muslim civil rights group in the United States, adding that government officials “will be complicit in the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip” if they do do not intervene.
Biden’s push for more than $14 billion in new US aid to Israel is also causing a stir.
“If you look at their rhetoric, it’s unbelievable, and now they’re trying to pump billions and billions of dollars militarily into Israel, with around $100 million in humanitarian aid for the Palestinians,” said Sa’ed Atshan, a Palestinian-American Quaker who teaches peace and conflict studies at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
Even Biden’s former boss, President Barack Obama, usually a staunch supporter of Biden’s policies, offered some pointed public advice on Monday, urging the U.S. to continue to lead the world “in accelerating critical aid and supplies to an increasingly desperate population.” in the Gaza Strip.”
WHITE HOUSE RESPONSES TO CRITICISM
Biden has appointed more Arab Americans and Muslims to political office than any other predecessor, as well as the first two Muslim federal judges, but that diversity has not influenced the self-described “Zionist” president’s policies.
Some Arab American and Muslim candidates fear backlash and reprisals and worry about family members in the region, an Arab American White House official said.
“There are very vocal people in the administration who have concerns,” the official said. U.S. officials with family members in the region are doubly burdened by the “ambassador role” they play as they field excited messages from relatives and others angered by Biden’s Israel strategy.
The White House said it was aware of criticism of its policies and responded by meeting with administration officials and community members. Since taking office, Biden has given powerful speeches about the need to confront Islamophobia and hatred of all kinds, it said.
Biden’s chief of staff Jeff Zients and adviser Anita Dunn are meeting with staff and community members and urging Cabinet secretaries to do the same, White House officials said.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan and his chief deputy Jon Finer met with Arab and Muslim-American community leaders on Oct. 13, and White House officials hosted 30 Palestinian-American youth on Friday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the personal difficulties faced by some staffers in a letter Thursday and met with Palestinian and Arab American community leaders and Jewish American groups on Monday.
Josh Paul, an 11-year veteran of the State Department and director of congressional and public affairs for the Office of Political-Military Affairs, resigned from his job last week. Senior officials refused to respond to his concerns about “blindly supplying Israel with lethal weapons while the people of Gaza face extinction,” he said in a post on LinkedIn.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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