Arab-American protesters mark Biden visit to Dearborn, Michigan

President toured Ford electric car plant while protesters demonstrated against his handling of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Joe Biden heads to Dearborn, Michigan, as pro-Palestine demonstrators gather

Joe Biden heads to Dearborn, Michigan, as pro-Palestine demonstrators gather
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US President Joe Biden visited Dearborn, Michigan, on Tuesday amid rising anger over his handling of the crisis in Israel and Palestine.

The purpose of Mr Biden’s visit was to tour a Ford electric car plant, where he presented his $174 billion electric vehicle plan.

But The Detroit Free Press reported three protests had been planned, one at a mosque near the Ford plant, to demonstrate against Mr Biden's support of Israel.

Following the president's remarks, protesters began to march down the city's Michigan Avenue after meeting at the Dearborn Police Station.

Many within Mr Biden’s own Democratic party have said he is not doing enough to help end the hostilities, which have claimed hundreds of lives.

On Sunday, dozens of Democratic and independent senators urged the president to broker an immediate ceasefire between the two sides, joining a group of Jewish members of Congress who made a similar request last week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called for a ceasefire on Tuesday.

"Now, after more than a week of hostilities, it has become even more apparent that a ceasefire is necessary," Ms Pelosi said.

"There must be a serious effort on the part of both parties to end the violence and respect the rights of both the Israeli and Palestinian people."

On Monday, Mr Biden said he supports a ceasefire, but the violence has continued unabated.

Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American congresswoman from Michigan who has been critical of the administration's response to the crisis, met Mr Biden at the airport.

In his speech to the plant workers, the president praised Ms Tlaib.

"I pray that your grandmother and family are well. I promise you that I’m going to do everything I can to see that they are in the West Bank," he said. "You’re a fighter and God, thank you for being a fighter."

Detroit and its surrounding suburbs, which include Dearborn, are home to the largest numbers of Arab Americans in the US.

“It bothers me,” said Adam Abusallah, a Palestinian American and one of the organisers of the protests. “But I won’t lie to you and tell you I’m surprised. The fact that he didn’t even condemn the murder of Palestinian children shows you where he stands.”

Arab Americans make up about five per cent of Michigan’s voters. The community is not a homogenous voting bloc, but tends to lean heavily Democrat.

Mr Abusallah said not only did he vote for the president, he campaigned for him. "We voted for him but we're going to hold him accountable. We're going to speak up," he told The National.

Some in the community say the president's lack of action so far may hurt him down the road.

Protesters march through neighborhoods near a Ford Motor Company plant in Dearborn, Michigan on May 18, 2021, where US President Joe Biden is touring, to protest the Biden's continued support for Benjamin Netanyahu's administration, and the on going Israeli army actions in Gaza, and the forced removal of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.  US President Joe Biden, having resisted joining other world leaders and much of his own Democratic party in calling for an immediate end to hostilities, told Netanyahu Monday night he backs a ceasefire, but stopped short of demanding a truce. / AFP / SETH HERALD
Protesters march through neighbourhoods near the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan. AFP

“Depending on how this conflict ends, I think this could hurt him politically,” said Hussein Dabajeh, a Lebanese American and grass roots political campaigner in Dearborn. “Not only him, but others as well. I know that senator Debbie Stabenow is going to be challenged next time around.”

As a presidential candidate, Mr Biden made several overtures to Arab Americans and sent his wife Jill Biden to campaign there.

Mr Dabejeh said that while he is disappointed the president has supported Israel so resolutely, he is also not surprised.

“We knew his stance on Israel before we helped get him elected. The way we looked at it was, we didn't only want to take a look at the Israel-Palestinian conflict while getting a president elected, because if anything, they’re both just as bad as each other,” he said, referring to Mr Biden and former president Donald Trump.

The latest round of violence Israel and the Palestinian territories has galvanised progressive Americans in ways that previous iterations of the conflict have not.

Tuesday’s protests in Dearborn were organised by the same group that organised the Black Lives Matter protests in the Detroit area last summer.

“We understand there is a connection, because the same way there is oppression on our black brothers and sisters, there is oppression going on in Palestine,” said Mr Abusallah.

The Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Centre will manufacture the electric Ford F-150 pickup.