White House officials hold meeting with Palestinian Americans as anger grows

Exclusive: White House officials tell group of Palestinian-American leaders they are working with Israel to ensure that international law is respected during war

Arab and Muslim Americans say the Biden administration's response to the Israel-Gaza war has dehumanised them. AFP
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Senior White House officials held a meeting with Palestinian-American leaders on Friday to discuss the Israel-Gaza war and to address growing anger with President Joe Biden over his response to the conflict, a source has told The National.

In a video meeting, White House officials told a group of Palestinian Americans that they were working with Israel to ensure that international law is respected, that more aid – including fuel – is brought into the Gaza Strip and that the safe exit of US citizens from the enclave is ensured.

“They were trying to tell the Palestinian-American community that they are heard,” a source who took part in the meeting said.

The meeting comes amid growing anger among Palestinian and Arab Americans over Mr Biden's response to the Israel-Gaza war, which erupted on October 7, when Hamas gunmen launched an attack on Israel, killing more than 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostage.

Israel responded by bombarding Gaza – home to 2.3 million people – with strikes by air and in recent days by launching a ground incursion.

More than 9,000 Palestinians are reported to have been killed, about a third of them children. Israel also tightened the blockade on Gaza by cutting off entry of water, food, medicine and fuel – triggering a humanitarian crisis.

One participant said during the meeting that they would never vote for Mr Biden and would personally work towards making sure that no Arab American would either, according to the source.

A White House official responded by saying Mr Biden was personally invested in resolving this crisis and was “not looking at this conflict through a political lens”, the source said.

During the meeting, officials also made it clear that the Biden administration is opposed to the forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and that they have made that clear to the Israelis.

The Biden administration has stood staunchly by Israel's side. The President flew to Israel in the days following the Hamas attack and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on his second visit to the country on Friday, where he reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself but also said more needs to be done to protect Palestinians.

Mr Biden has also pledged more military aid to Israel and the US vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire.

Arab and Muslim Americans say Mr Biden's response to the conflict has dehumanised them and triggered a rise in Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment in the US.

Last month, a group of Arab-American leaders called a meeting with Mr Blinken, during which they sounded the alarm that Mr Biden's popularity among Arabs and Muslims had significantly declined – an issue that may cost him re-election.

Updated: November 03, 2023, 6:05 PM