No ceasefire in Gaza, no votes, Muslim Americans tell Biden

By Andrea Shalal and Andrew Hay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Some Muslim and Arab American groups are threatening to withhold donations and votes towards President Joe Biden’s 2024 reelection unless he takes immediate steps to secure a Gaza ceasefire.

The National Muslim Democratic Council, which includes Democratic Party leaders from hotly contested states that can decide elections, such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, urged Biden to use his influence with Israel to broker a ceasefire by 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT) on Tuesday.

In an open letter entitled “2023 Ceasefire Ultimatum,”Muslim leaders pledged to mobilize “Muslim, Arab, and allied voters” to “withhold endorsement, support, or votes for any candidate who endorses the Israeli offensive against the Palestinian people.”

“Your administration’s unconditional support, encompassing funding and armaments, has played a significant role in perpetuating the violence that is causing civilian casualties and has eroded trust in voters who previously put their faith in you,” the council wrote.

Emgage, a Muslim American civic group, found that nearly 1.1 million Muslims voted in the 2020 election. Associated Press exit polls showed 64% of Muslims voted for Biden, a Democrat, and 35% for his Republican rival, Donald Trump.

The Arab American Institute estimates 3.7 million Americans “trace their roots” to an Arab country; its poll results issued on Tuesday show support for Biden and Democrats has dropped significantly in this group.

The White House has scrambled to address concerns raised by community members and political appointees within the administration. Biden met with a handful of Muslim leaders last Thursday, a White House official said.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the poll, but told reporters that Biden was aware that American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim had “endured a disproportionate number … of hate-fueled attacks” and respected their perspectives.

She said the Biden administration had been engaging with Arab and Muslim community members, along with Jewish leaders, as well as political appointees within the administration on their different concerns, and would continue those efforts.

Biden has spoken out against rising antisemitism and Islamophobia, but Muslim leaders say the war must end.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Minnesota, said he had no option but to vote against Biden in 2024 unless he worked to end the fighting. He said he was speaking as an individual, not on behalf of CAIR, which is barred from political campaigning.

Local pro-Palestinian groups have scheduled a protest in Minneapolis on Wednesday during a visit by Biden to Minnesota to tout his administration’s investments in rural America.

Arab and Muslim American communities have voiced frustration that Biden has not condemned Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip after an Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian Hamas militants from Gaza that Israel says killed 1,400 people and took 240 hostages.

Biden has said Israel has a right to defend its citizens but should protect innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza who are victims of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Gaza health authorities say that 8,525 people, including 3,542 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks since Oct. 7. U.N. officials say more than 1.4 million of Gaza’s civilian population of about 2.3 million have been made homeless.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he would not agree to any cessation of the attacks on Gaza. U.S. national security spokesman John Kirby said, “Hamas is the only one that would gain from that right now.”

Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American lawmaker from Michigan, on Monday released a 90-second video on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, decrying Biden’s support of what she called “Israel’s genocidal campaign in Palestine,” adding “Don’t count on our vote in 2024.”

Biden won Michigan’s 16 Electoral College votes by 2.8 percentage points in 2020.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington and Andrew Hay in New Mexico; additional reporting by Jeff Mason. Editing by Heather Timmons and Howard Goller)