The Biden administration held three separate heated meetings with Muslim and Arab American community leaders in Dearborn, Michigan, earlier this week — an attempt to mend relations with a community that has sharply criticized President Joe Biden’s role in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. .
Wayne County Executive Asad Turvey was among those in attendance at the contentious meetings, and said he — along with other attendees — wanted to push for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
“In our pivotal meeting with White House officials, I stood with other leaders from the Arab American and Muslim community with unwavering resolve, pressing for an immediate and irrevocable ceasefire,” Turvey said in a statement to ABC News.
The meetings, described by attendees in the room, included Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, in addition to members of the Muslim and Arab American community. According to one source, the administration was there to listen and acknowledge the mistakes they made in handling the conflict, although the mayors and members of the local communities did not propose any plans of action other than a ceasefire.
“We want to give them the space to have a meeting that is certainly frank,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “We want to hear from them directly. We want to hear their concerns. We think it’s important that these leaders can speak directly to officials in the White House.”
Hamas, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. More than 27,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched a counterattack, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since October 7, according to Israeli officials.
Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the meeting venue in Dearborn, upset that the meeting was held without any action toward a ceasefire.
Many community members who were invited, such as Michigan State Representative Abbas Farhat, declined to attend.
Although Michigan has prominent Muslim and Arab communities, Biden did not meet leaders there last week when he made his first visit to the swing state since the war began.
Turvey canceled a scheduled meeting with Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez last month due to community protests. He attended one of the meetings despite dozens of calls he says he received urging him not to attend.
“It is important to understand that our decision to engage in dialogue with the administration was not taken lightly,” Turvey said. “We entered this conversation because our voices needed to be heard. Our community’s pain must be acknowledged. This was about ensuring that the administration saw the true impact of its policies, not just on foreign lands but here, impacting our people.” “Our families.”
National Executive Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Abed Ayoub, said he felt the meetings were “poorly planned and executed.” He told ABC News that meetings won’t be enough for this community, they will need to see action.
Ayoub said, “The demands have become clear since October.” He added: “There is no point in meetings until we see action from the administration. Anyone who thinks otherwise, or anyone who plans to coordinate in another way, is approaching the matter the wrong way.”
Biden rebuked Israel in strong terms Thursday evening when he told reporters that Israel’s response in Gaza was “exaggerated.” Biden called for a hostage deal that could lead to a long-term cessation of fighting before suggesting that the loss of life and treatment of Palestinians “must stop.”
“I see, you know, the response in Gaza – in the Gaza Strip – was over the top,” Biden said. “I have worked tirelessly on this deal – how can I say this without giving it away – to lead to a permanent cessation of the fighting, to the ongoing actions in the Gaza Strip. And because I believe that if we can get a delay to that, an initial delay, I think we will be able to extend “This is so that we can increase the chances that the fighting in Gaza will change.”
The noteworthy comment went largely unnoticed because Biden made it after he vigorously defended himself against special counsel Robert Hoare’s report into his mishandling of classified documents.
As their demands for a ceasefire grow, some groups in Michigan’s Muslim and Arab American communities are actively campaigning against Biden in the pivotal battleground state for the upcoming 2024 elections.
Activists on Wednesday launched the “Listen to Michigan” campaign as they actively try to encourage community members to vote “disengaged” in Michigan’s Feb. 27 Democratic primary.
The campaign, led by Laila Al-Abd, the sister of Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, was inspired by former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign after he withdrew his name from the primary when the Democratic National Committee sanctioned Michigan for holding its primary out of order. That year, nearly 240,000 Michiganders voted “disengaged” to support Obama. Biden narrowly won the state in 2020 by 150,000 votes.
“We have made clear that any future engagement with the administration is conditional on real action being taken,” Turvey said. He added: “The developments in Gaza will serve as a criterion for evaluating the effectiveness of the administration’s actions. The Biden administration must act quickly and decisively to end this violence and respect the principles of justice and human rights.”
ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com