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Tue, 02/27/2024 - 17:08
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‘Make sure Biden loses’: Michigan’s Arab, Muslim Democrats push for ‘uncommitted’ vote over Gaza

by Rabia Iclal Turan

Dearborn, MICHIGAN

Arab and Muslim Americans in key swing state say primary vote is a message to Biden for his ‘complicit role in genocide’

With both Republicans and Democrats in Michigan set for the state primaries on Tuesday, a significant factor for Joe Biden will be Arab and Muslim Americans and some progressive Democrats who have vowed to vote “uncommitted” to protest his administration’s Gaza policy.

Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American serving in Congress, has encouraged voters to use their primary ballot as a form of protest against the Biden administration’s support for Israel and opposition to a cease-fire in Gaza, where Israeli attacks have now killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians.

“If you want us to be louder, come here and vote uncommitted,” Tlaib said in a video message, standing outside a voting location in Dearborn.

The video was posted by the Listen to Michigan campaign, which aims to get 10,000 “uncommitted” votes and convey a warning to the Biden campaign ahead of the November election. Ohio Senator Nina Turner has also endorsed the campaign.

There are more than 310,000 people of Middle Eastern and North African descent living in Michigan, about 3.1% of the population of this key swing state, according to 2020 census data.

In 2020, Biden defeated Donald Trump in Michigan by a margin of just over 150,000 votes, a significant contrast to 2016, when Trump won by less than 11,000 votes against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

In addition to the Listen to Michigan movement, the Abandon Biden campaign will also vote “uncommitted” on Tuesday.

They, however, will also not vote for Biden in November, regardless of whether he changes his Gaza policy.

“Our community has tried to send many messages to Joe Biden, telling them stop the genocide, stop arming the Israelis dropping the bombs on the Palestinians in Gaza. But this president would not listen,” Khaled Turaani, chairman of the Abandon Biden campaign in Michigan, told Anadolu.

“The uncommitted vote is only a preview, just so that they would know we are really serious that we are going to vote you (Biden) out of office in November,” he added.

Turaani, a Palestinian-American, said they want to punish Biden for his “complicit role in the genocide.”

“If Trump becomes president, then the Democrats can blame themselves for making Trump president again, by being disconnected from their constituents,” he said.

“We launched the Abandon Biden campaign, and we would make sure that Joe Biden is going to lose the election and he would be a one-term president, (and) that his loss will always be paired with the genocide in Gaza.”

Imran Salha, an imam, or prayer leader, at the Islamic Center of Detroit, said he voted for Biden in the last election, but will be voting uncommitted in the primary.

“I did not think that President Joe Biden is a beacon of morality, but I just thought that he was not Donald Trump,” said Salha, a Palestinian-American who hails from a village near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

“But now at this point, the reality is Donald Trump did not commit a genocide. President Joe Biden did.”

Salha shared how Biden’s policies have affected him personally, saying his relative, a 37-year-old woman, was shot and killed in his village while driving in her car with her husband and son.

“If I were to sign that ballot with Joe Biden’s name, the ink that I would use to sign that ballot would be through her blood and the blood of over 40,000 innocent civilians in Gaza,” he said.

Salha said he rejected an invitation from the White House for a meeting with senior Biden administration officials.

“I want history to record that President Joe Biden lost the presidency because of what he did to the Palestinians,” he told Anadolu.

“As Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Jews, all people of conscience, we may not be able to have the power to choose who the next President will be, but we’re going to prove that those who support Palestine have the power to oust a president out of power.”

On the possibility of Trump becoming the next president, Salha said: “I am not the one bringing Trump to power. Biden’s decisions are what is bringing Trump to power.

“If he believes that Donald Trump will destroy American democracy, then I will say, ‘Biden, why was it worth it to you in your opinion, to destroy American democracy just to satisfy (Israeli Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu?’”

‘Arab American vote should not be taken for granted’

Rebecca, an Arab American in Michigan who wanted to be identified only by her first name, said she is also planning to vote uncommitted.

“Arab American vote should no longer be taken for granted … We hope that our voices will be heard loud and clear, and we’re hoping to send an unequivocal message of support to Gaza with this vote,” she said.

“We’re not only seeing a broad coalition of Arab Americans, but also working with other ethnic and racial groups. African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans across religious lines, Muslim, Christian, even people from the Jewish faith are coming together to send this message that we’re demanding a cease-fire now.”

Unlike the Abandon Biden campaigners, she said her focus is now on the primary, reiterating that they are conveying a message to Biden with this vote.

“However, we also have to keep our eye on November. And the prospect of seeing Trump back in office is a terrifying one for people of all sorts of minoritized backgrounds, not just Arabic or Palestinian-Americans,” she added.

Biden’s support for Israel

Biden’s first campaign stop this year was in Michigan, where he met with members of the United Auto Workers union and visited a Black-owned restaurant.

However, he chose not to engage with members of the Arab American community angry over his support to Israel.

Some Arab American leaders also declined an invitation to meet with his campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez.

Biden, who reaffirmed multiple times Washington’s unwavering support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, has changed his tone in recent days, gradually ratcheting up pressure on Tel Aviv to take some measures to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians.

Israel also faces a genocide case at the International Court of Justice, which passed an interim ruling in January with six provisional measures and said there is a plausible risk of genocide being committed in Gaza.

However, the Biden administration is still seeking to send $14 billion worth of additional military aid to Israel, while the US has used its veto power thrice to block the UN Security Council from calling for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.

In a recent CBS News interview, Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell said Biden is going to meet with members of the Arab American community at some point, but noted that the community is “pretty angry right now.”

She stressed that “ongoing conversations” between Biden’s team and Arab Americans must continue, especially because Michigan is considered a “purple state,” where Democrats and Republicans have similar levels of support and chances of victory.