Biden's handling of Israel-Gaza war angers Arab Americans and may cost him 2024 election

Arab and Muslim-American vote critical in several highly contested states, including Michigan

People in Dearborn, Michigan, which has large Arab and Muslim-American communities, hold a protest in support of Palestinians. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

US President Joe Biden is in danger of alienating Arab and Muslim-American communities over his response to the Israel-Gaza war – and it could cost him re-election in 2024.

Arab and Muslim Americans are not going to “vote blue no matter who”, said Zeina Ashrawi, a Palestinian American living in Virginia, referring to the colour associated with Mr Biden's Democratic Party.

The President’s handling of the Israel-Gaza war has left Arab Americans feeling betrayed and many are considering not voting at all, she told The National.

“Arab Americans feel disenfranchised, we feel ignored – and I think in many ways we feel betrayed,” said the political activist.

“The Arab-American community in Michigan is seriously questioning backing [Biden] again, and there's even a serious movement for organising against him.”

Abraham Aiyash, a Democratic state representative in Michigan, told The National: “Some may say it's irredeemable, but there's certainly widespread loss of support for President Biden.

“People feel abandoned, betrayed by the level of callousness that's been demonstrated on this particular issue.”

A Gallup poll released on Thursday found that Mr Biden's approval rating among Democrats has plummeted to a record low of 75 per cent – down 11 percentage points over the past month.

“The daily results strongly suggest that Democrats’ approval of Biden fell sharply in the aftermath of the October 7 attacks by Hamas and Biden’s promise of full support for Israel on the same day,” the poll said.

Arab Americans say they are angered by Mr Biden's response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza that began after Hamas gunmen launched an attack that killed 1,400 people.

They also say he has not done enough to push for a ceasefire and there has been a lack of condemnation of Israel, whose attacks on Gaza have killed more than 7,000 people.

Israel has in the past weeks tightened its siege of the enclave, blocking the entry of food, water, medicine and fuel, plunging Gaza into a humanitarian crisis.

It also ordered the evacuation of more than one million Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip ahead of an expected ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas.

Arab Americans say Mr Biden has not done enough to advocate the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“Nothing could have prepared us for the complete erasure of our voices and radio silence from those whom we elected to protect and represent us,” Abdullah Hammoud, the Democratic mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“Our family members trapped in Gaza have been ignored, our calls for a ceasefire drowned out by the drums of war.”

The Biden administration has vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire while pledging more military aid to Israel.

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

On October 13, Wadea Al Fayoume, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy, was stabbed to death in his home in Chicago and his mother was critically injured after the family's landlord attacked them with a knife. He carried out his attack in response to the war and because they were Muslim.

The 2024 election is shaping up to be a rematch between Mr Biden and former president Donald Trump.

It is unlikely that many Arab and Muslim Americans would vote for Mr Trump. The Republican former president has made a number of derogatory comments about Muslims and when in office passed legislation that banned citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

Many may simply sit the election out.

“Unfortunately, with the way things are looking, there are no good choices, not on the Democratic side and not on the Republican side,” said Emane Errayes, 28, a Moroccan American who lives in Michigan.

About 300,000 Arab Americans live in Michigan, accounting for roughly 5 per cent of the vote in the state, which Mr Biden narrowly won in 2020.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Arizona are also hotly contested states where the Arab-American vote would make a difference.

Historically, the majority of Arab Americans have voted for Democratic candidates.

And Mr Biden had campaigned on promises of more inclusivity and representation. He has appointed more Arab Americans and Muslims to important political positions, including two federal judges.

“I never expected this to come from a Democratic president,” said Rima Mohammad, a Palestinian American and a Democrat living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Last week, representatives of Arab and Palestinian-American groups held a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during which they sounded the alarm over Mr Biden's dwindled support in their communities.

And on October 13, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan invited several leaders of Arab-American and Muslim-American groups to the White House to discuss the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza and helping civilians, including Palestinian Americans, to leave.

Dozens of Palestinian Americans remain stuck in Gaza, awaiting a diplomatic breakthrough that would allow them to leave through the Egyptian border.

Mr Aiyash, the Democratic representative from Michigan, said Arab Americans cannot be expected to reward candidates who ignored opportunities at change, with re-elections.

“We were promised a seat at the table,” Mr Aiyash said. “We were promised to have input on decisions that are made as it relates to the field that directly impact our communities.

“And this is a clear example where that is not happening – in fact, we are completely ignored in this process.”

The latest from the Israel-Gaza war – in pictures

Updated: October 26, 2023, 7:27 PM