Blinken holds meeting with Arab-American groups over anger with Biden

Meeting comes amid rise in Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment in the US

Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel last week in a show of US support. AFP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a listening session with representatives of Palestinian and Arab-American groups on Monday, during which they discussed rising anger with President Joe Biden over his handling of the Israel-Gaza war, a source told The National.

Mr Blinken and members of his team held the meeting at the request of a Muslim-American civic engagement group, according to the source, who asked to remain anonymous because the meeting was off the record.

“The administration, I think, heard loud and clear from all of us that Palestinians are being dehumanised and about us not feeling seen or heard,” the source said.

“And I think they took to heart that this may cost Biden the election.”

Arab Americans came out in unprecedented numbers to support Mr Biden, a Democrat, during his campaign against Donald Trump in 2020.

Mr Biden has stood staunchly beside Israel in its response to the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed about 1,400 people.

He flew to Israel and expressed the America's staunch support as it retaliates against Hamas. Daily air strikes on the Gaza Strip have so far killed more than 5,000 Palestinians, according to local tallies.

The US President has pledged more military aid to Israel and his administration has vetoed two resolutions on the UN Security Council calling for a ceasefire.

Arab-American groups say the administration's position has dehumanised Palestinians and triggered a rise in Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment.

On October 13, a Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death in his home in Chicago and his mother was critically injured by the family's landlord, who allegedly attacked them over the war and because they were Muslim.

There have also been several reports of attacks against Jewish people in the US.

The loss of support of Arab Americans could be critical for Mr Biden, who is running for re-election next year and is likely to face Mr Trump again.

Mr Trump is a Republican who made frequent derogatory comments Muslims during his campaign. While in office, he passed several travel bans that prevented citizens from Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

The stakes are particularly high in so-called swing states such as Michigan, home to more than 200,000 Arab Americans, and a state that Mr Biden only narrowly won.

“Several people who were there made it very clear with polling and other data that Mr Biden's support is at an all-time low with the Arab-American community right now,” the source said.

“And that this is kind of his [George W] Bush moment.”

Updated: October 24, 2023, 7:40 AM