Thursday, February 22, 2024

Joe Biden’s Michigan visit highlights rift with Arab American community | Israel War on Gaza News

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US president seeking re-election likely to have a hard time winning key state because of his support for Israel.

A visit by United States President Joe Biden to Michigan has exposed a growing divide with the considerable Arab-American community in the key swing state ahead of November’s general election.

Biden sat down with members of the United Auto Workers union on Thursday after they endorsed his re-election bid, but the president’s motorcade had to take side streets in Warren to avoid some two hundred protesters before arriving at its destination.

Crowds of Arab Americans had gathered to display their anger at Biden’s unwavering support for Israel even as its war on Gaza has killed more than 27,000 people, mostly women and children, amid international calls for a ceasefire.

The protesters in the election battleground state chanted “Genocide Joe has got to go” and waved Palestinian flags, a week after the World Court ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza.

“Michigan has a large Arab American and Muslim population who voted overwhelmingly for Biden in the last election,” Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Warren, said. “If he loses even half of their vote, it’s unlikely he can win Michigan – and without Michigan, he has a very narrow path to winning a second term,” she added.

At the protest, anger and disappointment were palpable with several demonstrators saying the US president was “lost to us forever”.

“There is nothing that will ever make me vote for a genocidal president, ever,” a protester who identified as Hawraa told Al Jazeera. “Not only me, but everybody else. My whole Arab community will never vote for this man.”

Salma Hamamy, an activist with Students for Justice in Palestine, said Biden had “entirely abandoned” the Palestinian and Arab communities, as well as “the concept of humanity”.

“Just as he abandoned us, we will be abandoning him on election day,” the protester said, citing Biden’s continued support for Israel.

Arab Americans will no longer choose between the “lesser of two evils”, between the Democrat and Republican candidates, in the next election, she continued. “We will be voting for people who are deserving of our vote”.

‘No looking back’

Along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, Michigan was among the so-called blue wall of states that Biden managed to return to the Democrats when he was elected in 2020.

Michigan has turned increasingly Democratic in recent years, with the party now controlling all levels of state government for the first time in four decades. Biden is looking to secure the critical 15 electoral votes that the battleground state can bring.

But Israel’s war on Gaza has impacted his chances.

“There is real anger in the [Arab American] community,” James Zogby, president of the Washington, DC-based Arab American Institute, told Al Jazeera.

“Imagine a situation where a sitting president comes to town and people are trying to set up a meeting with him before he comes, and the community says, ‘We don’t want to meet with him,’ and they reject it, and finally the White House has to abandon plans to do it,” Zogby said, predicting that a loss in Michigan would mean a Biden defeat in November.

Democratic strategists are hoping the potential of another Donald Trump presidency will be enough to change the community’s minds – but Khalid Turaani, who helped launch the Abandon Biden movement, said that would not work.

“Because Joe Biden is president, we don’t believe that the Israelis are bombing a little bit less. So when we have Trump, I don’t believe they’re just going to bomb a little bit more just because Trump is president,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We need a ceasefire.”

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