Arab-American community leaders in Michigan cancel talks with Biden team over Gaza

Dearborn mayor says he 'will not entertain conversations' with President's re-election campaign as Gaza death toll continues to climb

'This is not a moment for electoral politics,' Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said. AP
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Arab-American leaders in the state of Michigan cancelled a meeting on Friday with President Joe Biden's re-election team over the war in Gaza.

“Community engagement is powerful when it is used to shape policies that save lives – these conversations must be had with policymakers, not campaign staff,” Mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, Abdullah Hammoud said in a post on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter.

“I will not entertain conversations about elections while we watch a live-streamed genocide backed by our government.”

Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez was scheduled to meet Arab-American elected officials and community members in Michigan on Friday.

“This is not a moment for electoral politics,” Mr Hammoud said in another post, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Assad Turfe, deputy Wayne County executive and community organiser, told The Detroit News that he had helped to arrange the meeting with Biden campaign representatives but later decided to cancel.

“As the community got to learn about the meeting, there was definitely a lot of outrage and, ultimately, the decision was made to cancel the meeting,” he said.

The newspaper said Ms Rodriguez was still meeting some individual members of the community who wanted to talk.

“Until there's a ceasefire, the overall consensus in the community is they're not welcome here, essentially,” Mr Turfe added.

The cancellation of the meeting came on the day of the International Court of Justice's ruling in a case brought by South Africa against Israel, in which it said it was “plausible” genocide was being committed in Gaza.

More than 25,000 people in the Gaza Strip have been killed in an Israeli military operation that began after a deadly Hamas attack on Israeli soil in October.

“After 110-plus days of US-backed Israeli bombings that have killed Palestinian babies and families, many who have ties to Americans right here at home, we will not allow our communities to be utilised for political expediency,” state representative Abraham Aiyash, who was also invited to the meeting in Michigan, said in a post on X.

Michigan has one of the largest Arab-American populations in the US.

Losing the support of the Arab-American electorate may pose a challenge for Mr Biden, as Michigan is a battleground state.

Support for Mr Biden among Arab-American voters has decreased from 59 per cent to 17 per cent, according to a late October poll done by the Arab American Institute.

So far, Mr Biden has shrugged off losing support in the community while the White House has claimed that the President understands their concerns and criticism.

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Updated: January 26, 2024, 9:23 PM