Biden to visit Michigan as Arab American anger over Gaza grows

AFP , Thursday 1 Feb 2024

US President Joe Biden travels Thursday to the crucial swing state of Michigan, which is also the crucible of growing Arab American anger at his pro-Israel policies.

US President Joe Biden speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation s annual event at the
US President Joe Biden speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation s annual event at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 1, 2024. AFP


The trip comes days after the Democratic incumbent's campaign manager traveled to the city of Dearborn -- home to the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States -- only to be snubbed by the Detroit suburb's mayor.

It was an ominous sign for Biden, for whom swing states such as Michigan could prove decisive in November, when he faces a likely rematch with his predecessor Donald Trump.

The White House has made clear that Thursday's trip is purely a campaign visit, and Biden's 2024 team has said that he will meet with members of the powerful United Auto Workers (UAW) union, who endorsed him last week.

That could carry a lot of weight in Michigan, home to the US auto industry -- but he will still have to contend with the anger of Arab Americans as Israel's devastating war in Gaza grinds on.

Biden has asked Congress for billions of dollars in additional military aid to Israel and his government has vetoed multiple UN Security Council calls for a ceasefire in the conflict, leaving many Muslims and people of Middle Eastern heritage feeling betrayed by the Democratic Party, normally their political home.

They accuse the 81-year-old Democrat of sacrificing civilians in Gaza, which is facing a serious humanitarian crisis, in the name of supporting Israel.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that Biden was "heartbroken by the suffering of innocent Palestinians."

US media reported that the president will issue an executive order Thursday punishing Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have attacked Palestinians -- an order apparently timed to coincide with his Michigan trip.

On Wednesday a group of Dearborn organizations called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The city's mayor, Abdullah Hammoud, had earlier written on X, formerly Twitter, that he refused to meet with Biden's campaign manager.

"I will not entertain conversations about elections while we watch a live-streamed genocide backed by our government," he said.

Biden is now regularly confronted by demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans against "Genocide Joe," with his speeches interrupted by protestors.

He won decisively among Arabs and Muslims in 2020. But analysts have warned many could stay home or vote for a third party in 2024.

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