Arab Americans in Michigan protest Biden’s visit over US support for Israel

Dearborn is home to 40,000 Arab Americans with one of largest Muslim populations in US

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 18 May 2021 17:07 EDT
A week of death and destruction: How the Israeli-Palestinian violence has unfolded

President Joe Biden visited a Ford electric vehicle facility in Dearborn, Michigan following a week of protests in the city against US support for Israel’s military strikes in Jerusalem and Gaza.

Dearborn is 47 per cent Arab American with one of the largest Muslim populations in the US.

On Tuesday, as the president toured the facility to promote his infrastructure agenda, Arab American groups held three protests across the city to demonstrate against Israel’s actions in Gaza and the forced removal of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem.

The actions on Tuesday follow widespread protests across the US over the last week, including in Dearborn, calling on the US to pressure Israel to end its military strikes.

In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, the president “expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end”, according to a White House description of the call.

It marked the first time that the White House had invoked mention of a ceasefire in its largely behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts, as Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 212 people in Gaza, including 61 children, with hundreds of others wounded over the last week. At least 20 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank.

Protesters in Dearborn, Michigan protest the Biden administration’s support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration in Israel and the ongoing Israeli army actions in Gaza as the president tours a nearby Ford plant.

Hamas has fired more than 3,300 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns, killing at least 10 people, according to the Israeli Air Force.

Of the roughly 266,000 people living in Michigan with Middle Eastern backgrounds, 6,800 identity as Palestinian, according to the US Census Bureau.

A group of Arab American community organisers in Michigan called on Mr Biden to intervene on Tuesday.

Abdallah Sheikh, president of the American and Muslim Political Action Committee, said that the president “cares for justice” as he pleaded for Mr Biden to demand a ceasefire.

“We are asking him to cease the fire,” he said during a press conference in Dearborn on Tuesday. “We are asking him to end the war in Palestine. We are asking him to help.”

The American Humans Rights Council, American Muslims for Palestine, the American Center for Justice and the American-Muslim Leadership Council were also among the groups urging Mr Biden’s support.

Michigan US Rep Rashida Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants with family in the West Bank, greeted Mr Biden upon his arrival in the state.

In remarks from the Ford facility, Mr Biden told her: “I admire your intellect. I admire your passion, and I admire your concern for so many other people.”

He added that he is praying for her family.

On Monday, she demanded the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “get out of the way” of the United Nations Security Council for a ceasefire after the US blocked a statement calling for an end to the violence.

“Apartheid-in-chief Netanyahu will not listen to anyone asking nicely. He commits war crimes and openly violates international law,” she said on Twitter.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that “the president’s objective is clear, which is that he wants to see an end to the violence on the ground, an end to the suffering of the Israeli and the Palestinian people.

“As I’ve noted in the past, our focus and our strategy here is to work through quiet, intensive diplomacy,” she said. “And he’s been doing this long enough to know that the best way to end an international conflict is typically not to debate it in public, so we will continue to remain closely engaged behind the scenes.”

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