Officials from the Biden administration traveled to Dearborn, Michigan on Thursday for private meetings with Muslim and Arab American community leaders as the president seeks to mend relations with a core constituency troubled by Israel’s support for the war effort in Gaza.
Abbas Alawieh, a Lebanese-American and a The Democratic strategist said he was honored to attend the meetings alongside members of the Palestinian American community advocating for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and an end to military funding to Israel.
But he described as a somewhat frustrating process. He added that the family members of two of the participants remained in Gaza.
“At different times, the meeting was very tense. At different times he was crying, at certain times he was screaming,” said Alawieh, who was previously chief of staff to Democratic-Republican Cory Bush. “I think my impression among the senior officials that we had there was that they were interested in a meaningful back-and-forth, but also that they didn’t have the authority to communicate any of their demands, their core demands, in a meaningful way. The public entered.”
More than half of Dearborn residents It is of Middle Eastern or North African origin.
According to a person familiar with the meetings, officials said there were missteps in Biden’s statement around the 100-day mark of the war and that the statement did not mention Palestinian deaths. Future leaders of the Muslim and Arab American community.
Alawieh was invited to attend in person, but he also represented the Listen Michigan campaign. launched last week and calls on Democrats to vote “disloyal” in the state’s Feb. 27 primary to pressure President Biden to support a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
“Administration officials have come in and talked about missteps, specifically pointing to President Biden’s statement at the 100-day mark as an example of a misstep,” Alawieh said, adding, “We just didn’t look for them to admit their mistakes and how they talked openly about the war, while also acknowledging that the president’s continued support for Netanyahu’s far-right government and continued funding of Netanyahu’s most murderous instinct is a problem.
Among the officials of the Biden administration, whom he said were present during the meeting, were Steve Benjamin, the president’s senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Affairs; Tom Perez, Senior Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Jon Finer, senior deputy national security adviser; and USAID Administrator Samantha Power and others.
Laila Elabed, manager of the Listen Michigan campaign, said the private admission of wrongdoing by Biden administration officials contrasted with the president’s public inaction on ending the violence in Gaza, although she said Thursday that Israel’s military response in Gaza was “over the top.”
Elabed He did not attend the meetings on Thursday, but later spoke to Alawieh about it.
“You know it’s a clear step of moral bankruptcy for them to privately tell us they made mistakes while continuing to fail to hold Netanyahu and his right-wing government accountable,” Elabed said.
Alawieh said he became emotional during the meeting as he spoke about his experience of surviving the 2006 war in Lebanon and the nightmares he faced afterward. He said the cease-fire call was the “bare minimum” required for the Biden administration to prove it was serious about fighting Islamophobia.
“I asked them directly, I looked Mr. Perez in the eyes, I looked Mr. Finer in the eyes, I looked in the eyes of Samantha Power, in the eyes of Mr. Benjamin, and I asked, ‘Have you advised calling President Biden? for an immediate ceasefire? Will you advise President Biden to call for an immediate ceasefire?’ None of them could give me this commitment,” Alawieh said.
Alawieh, who said he attended one of several meetings yesterday, Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud and the state Rep. Abraham Aiyash also met with Biden officials, but he did not have that interaction.
Michigan is a critical battleground, where former President Donald Trump won in 2016 and Biden is carrying in 2020. Biden himself visited this month with the support of the United Auto Workers, but did not meet with members of the Muslim and Arab American communities. during the trip.
“I just feel that President Biden has put him and those who support the Democratic agenda for years like this at risk,” Alawieh said, adding, “Not only is he threatening to lose this election to Donald Trump in November, but from what I’ve seen on the ground, the Democratic Party has a lot of Arab and Muslim Americans and a is at risk of losing very young voters not only for one election, but perhaps for the next generation.”