Muslim and Arab leaders in Michigan rebuke Biden campaign team on response to Israel and Gaza

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Muslim and Arab American leaders in Michigan have canceled a meeting with President Joe Biden’s campaign team amid growing opposition to his administration’s response to the war between Israel and Hamas, several people told ABC News.

“We are stunned,” Abed Ayoub, national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told ABC News. He asked, “Why does this administration still believe that we will be willing to meet them without any action on their part regarding our demands? These are the same demands since October, and nothing has changed.”

A person familiar with the decision told ABC News that it was Wayne County Executive Asad Turvey, who organized the planned meeting between the campaign and the community, who canceled the meeting.

Photo: Pro-Palestine demonstrators gather in Freedom Square to participate in a march, January 13, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators gather in Freedom Square to participate in a march, January 13, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, the Biden administration has faced calls for the United States to support a permanent ceasefire as protests continue to underscore its strong support for Israel.

On Tuesday, as Biden was giving a major campaign speech in Virginia on abortion rights, he was interrupted about 14 times by pro-Palestine demonstrators chanting “Genocide Joe” and “Ceasefire Now!”

Photo: A protester interrupts President Joe Biden during a campaign event focusing on abortion rights in Manassas, Virginia, January 23, 2024.

A protester interrupts President Joe Biden during a campaign event focused on abortion rights in Manassas, Virginia, January 23, 2024.

Evelyn Hochstein – Reuters

Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez traveled to Michigan on Friday to meet with elected officials in the Detroit area. However, Ayoub said initial plans were to meet with 10 to 15 Muslim and Arab American leaders after her staff contacted them to discuss growing discontent in their community.

“We realize that she meets different individuals,” Ayoub said. “It’s not a collective setting… It’s upsetting that they thought they had the right to go ahead and set a date for this. They’re not speaking on behalf of the community.”

Several local leaders who were invited to meet with Rodriguez, including Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, declined to do so after community opposition.

“Our immediate demand is very clear: The Biden administration must call for a permanent ceasefire against the genocide it defends and funds with our tax dollars,” Hammoud said in a statement. mail On X, formerly Twitter. “Dearborn residents have tirelessly protested and organized to demand a ceasefire. As their mayor, I am following in their footsteps.”

Hammoud added: “I will not enjoy talking about elections while we watch a live broadcast of our government-backed genocide.

Photo: Khaled Tourani, co-chair of the Abandon Biden Campaign in Michigan, speaks at the Islamic Center of Detroit in Detroit, January 26, 2024.

Khaled Tourani, co-chair of the Abandon Biden Campaign in Michigan, speaks at the Islamic Center of Detroit in Detroit, January 26, 2024.

Paul Sancia/AP

Lexis Zeidan, a Palestinian-American resident of Dearborn, said the campaign also contacted her but she declined the invitation as well.

“I strongly believe that the community has mobilized effectively and strategically over the past four months, and that we should not make any decisions or have any conversations without bringing our community into the fold,” Zidane said.

Wayne County, home to Detroit and Dearborn, has the largest Arab population of any county in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Michigan, a state that Biden narrowly won over Trump in 2020 and which plays a crucial role in the upcoming election, has the largest Arab population of any contested state.

Amid reports that Vice President Kamala Harris is privately urging Biden to be more compassionate toward the Palestinians, several people also told ABC News that Harris’ team reached out to Biden for a meeting in February in D.C.

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks about his plans to invest in America and bipartisan infrastructure at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, January 25, 2024.

President Joe Biden talks about his plans to invest in America and bipartisan infrastructure at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, January 25, 2024.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Howaida Arraf, a civil rights lawyer, says she was approached by a senior adviser from Harris’ team, but Arraf immediately declined.

“We asked the administration to stop funding this genocide, and we were met with obstruction,” Arraf said. “And now because we’re getting closer to the election. Biden’s not doing well in the public polls. And now they want to talk to us.”

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Community leaders told ABC News that communication is too little, too late, and that the only thing that satisfies them is a ceasefire.

Ayoub said, “Our position from day one was clear: without a ceasefire on the table or a call for a ceasefire, we do not see a goal for the meeting.”

This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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