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Arab-American leaders vow to keep pressure on Biden after the Michigan primary 


Arab-American leaders vow to keep pressure on Biden after the Michigan primary 

Feb 28, 2024 | 2:33 pm ET
By Katie O'Brien Kelley
Arab-American leaders vow to keep pressure on Biden after the Michigan primary聽
A Palestinian flag hanging in Lansing | Susan J. Demas

On Monday, a roundtable discussion featuring prominent leaders from the Arab-American community urged Michiganders to vote uncommitted in the Michigan presidential primary election in opposition of President Joe Biden’s support of Israel in the war in Gaza. On Tuesday, over 100,000 voters did just that. 

According to unofficial results from the Associated Press, 101,100 Democratic presidential primary voters, or 13%, chose to vote uncommitted with 99% reporting. Biden won 618,426 votes or 81%, with U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and author Marianne Williamson taking 3% apiece. With 117 delegates at stake, Biden won 115 and uncommitted netted two.

Voting uncommitted is a way for community members to send a “loud and strong message” that they don’t approve of Biden ignoring calls for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, leaders said at the roundtable Monday night. 

Arab-American leaders vow to keep pressure on Biden after the Michigan primary聽
Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun | Courtesy photo

“We’ve been calling for a ceasefire for over four and a half months. We have passed resolutions in the cities of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Wayne County — and the city of Detroit and 75 other cities,” said Sam Baydoun, a Wayne County commissioner. “They’re not listening to us and we feel in the community that Joe Biden has betrayed us. He told us that he’s going to govern with humanity. He has governed with the opposite of humanity.”

Biden expressed optimism on Tuesday about a ceasefire agreement by the end of the weekend.

“Well, I hope by the beginning of the weekend, I mean, the end of the weekend,” he said. “My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close, it’s not done yet. And my hope is that by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.”

However, both Israeli and Hamas leaders have said they remain far apart on a deal.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry, nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 70,000 have been wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200. At least 576,000 people in Gaza — one quarter of the population — are one step away from famine, the United Nations says

Around 67% of voters, including 77% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans, support the U.S. calling for a permanent ceasefire and a deescalation of violence in Gaza, according to a survey from Data for Progress that was released on Tuesday. 

“I would like to see at least 60[000] or 70,000 uncommitted votes from the area of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and other areas,” Baydoun said. “To send a loud and strong message to the president that we don’t approve. You didn’t listen to us when we called for a ceasefire, here’s our message to you.”

Amer Zahr, president of New Generation for Palestine, said that Arab Americans have a chance to do something historic in the primary election and in November.

“Michigan might be the state — very good chance — that it is the state that everything comes down to,” Zahr said. “And the Arab American community throughout the whole state … we have a chance to decide who becomes president of the United States, and more importantly, we have a chance to send the president — who has supported the genocide of our families in mass graves — out of the White House.”

Lexis Zeidan, a Palestinian activist, said that people underestimate young voters, but they have been “motivated and mobilized” to get behind the campaign to vote uncommitted. 

“They’ve been canvasing, phone banking, text banking, going to their groups on campus and sending the message that we are no longer going to stand for a president that signs off on genocide,” Zeidan said. 

Arab-American leaders vow to keep pressure on Biden after the Michigan primary聽
State Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn) | Kyle Davidson

Over 40 Michigan leaders have signed the Listen to Michigan campaign, which is led by Layla Elabed, the sister of U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). 

State Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn) said that this is a movement that goes far beyond just the primary election. 

“People have organized, they’ve built a coalition of voters who, for the first time, have been forced to grapple with the reality that our country has been enabling 75 years of institutional apartheid in the West Bank, in Gaza,” he said. “This is the chance for Arab Americans, and our allies and the coalition that exists here in Michigan, to push the needle forward on Palestine — on the West Bank, on Gaza, on the Middle East broadly, even.”