Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Displeasure with Biden’s handling of Hamas-Israel war was on display at closed-door White House meeting

By 37ci3 Apr3,2024

WASHINGTON β€” A Palestinian-American doctor treating critically wounded patients in Gaza couldn’t bear to stay just five minutes after meeting with President Joe Biden, so he left.

Dr. specialized in emergency medical care. Thaer Ahmed described the scale of death in the six months since the war began, recalling becoming emotional as he spoke about the many Palestinians he cared for.

“The decision to leave was a personal decision,” he said in a phone interview with NBC News, explaining that he wanted to show the White House that “it’s important to recognize the pain and grief that my community is in.”

Ahmed emphasized that he wants to “feel the administration the same way we’ve felt for the last six months and kind of stand up and walk away from them.”

He was one of six Muslim-American community leaders who attended a small meeting with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and senior administration officials at the White House on Tuesday.

Many others invited to attend declined to highlight deepening tensions between the administration and the Muslim and Arab American communities over the president’s support for Israel in bombing Gaza, according to multiple sources familiar with the proceedings. More than 30,000 people have been killed and more than 100 hostages are still being held by the group, according to health officials, since the October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel.

Another doctor in attendance was surprised when he showed Biden a series of photographs of malnourished children and women in Gaza β€” pictures that Biden said he had seen before. According to the doctor, the problem is that he printed the photos from his iPhone.

Dr. “This speaks to the administration’s recalcitrant nature when it comes to a permanent ceasefire, or at least strong willed action on the red line of the occupation of Rafah,” Nahreen H. Ahmed told NBC. News.

Before quickly leaving the meeting, Ahmed presented the president with a letter from an 8-year-old orphan in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city.

“There is an incredible urgency to this,” Ahmed said, expressing deep doubts that Israel’s military campaign could be carried out in a “sophisticated or tactical way” that did not put innocent civilians at risk.

During the 90-minute closed-door meeting, Biden told attendees he would not call for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas until all remaining hostages are freed, according to two people familiar with the comments.

According to a third source briefed on the meeting, the president “listened respectfully” and pledged to continue working to “significantly increase” humanitarian aid to Gaza.

During the discussion, other doctors who had spent time in Gaza spoke of their own painful experiences, including the danger they faced trying to help others, said a Muslim human rights activist who attended the meeting. According to the activist, they also showed Biden and Harris photos of injured patients, including children.

Biden thanked leaders of the American Muslim community for attending the meeting and acknowledged that many people expressed concern about attending the White House event at a time when many Palestinians are suffering.

Salima Suswell, founder and CEO of the Black Muslim Leadership Council, who attended the White House meeting, said she felt both Biden and Harris listened closely to the participants and understood their perspectives.

“I felt it was important to accept the invitation today to meet with the president, the vice president and their senior administration officials because I have been consistent about the importance of engagement,” Suswell said. “It was important for me to let the president know that Black Americans and Black Muslim Americans are suffering greatly from what is happening in Gaza.”

Harris also made comments that echoed Biden’s position and appeared to be designed to soften criticism of Biden’s position on the war, that he values ​​the US relationship with Israel more than the Palestinians. According to one attendee, Biden was “sincere” in his concerns. He told the group he saw how much the war and the civilian death toll had “weighed” on the president, adding that he was “doing everything in his power to end this war.”

Biden said if Israel tried to block aid to Gaza, the United States would back down and advocate for more resources to be brought to the region.

Last Thursday, the United Nations’ top court ordered Israel to open more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into Gaza after reports that the Israeli government was blocking life-saving supplies from reaching the devastated enclave. Israeli officials have repeatedly denied that they were blocking aid from entering Gaza, instead blaming the UN for a severe shortage of life-saving supplies in the strip, particularly in the north.

The president did not specify what the United States would do to ensure the safe delivery of aid, the participant said.

Just this week, seven aid workers from the disaster relief charity World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike, adding to the 200 already dead since the war began in October. The aid group said its convoy was hit as it left a warehouse in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, and the team had earlier unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid that the charity had brought into Gaza by sea. day.

A participant in the meeting said Biden and Harris were careful not to discuss what was going on behind the scenes to negotiate a possible six-week truce between Israel and Hamas.

Muslim American community leaders departed, and a small group of Muslim staffers attended a reduced iftar meal with Biden, Harris and other senior administration officials.

In past years, the White House has hosted larger Ramadan receptions, including several holiday celebrations that have drawn hundreds of guests and featured public speeches by the president.

Two people who received invitations told NBC News that several Arab-American and Muslim-American leaders have turned down invitations in recent weeks, citing concerns about attending a celebration where so many people are facing starvation, particularly in Gaza.

“President Biden and Vice President Harris know this is very painful for many in the Muslim and Arab communities,” a White House official said. “President Biden has announced that he mourns the loss of every innocent person in this conflict.”

Senior White House officials and Biden campaign aides have attempted to meet with key members of the Muslim and Arab American communities in recent months, but have often received chilly receptions.

“The president and vice president will continue to reach out to the Muslim and Arab American communities and listen to the voices of everyone affected by this conflict,” a White House official said.

Dr. Ahmed, who left the meeting, said he planned to return to Gaza soon and was “legitimately concerned that I might be killed in the process.”

If that happens, he said, it’s “hard to imagine” it could happen “from a 2,000-pound bomb that the United States gave to Israel.”

“My government could have had a hand in this, I hate it,” he said. “These are the kinds of thoughts that go through my mind.”

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By 37ci3

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