US President Joe Biden may be vociferous in his support for Israel in its war against the militant group Hamas, but the White House has suddenly increased its outreach to Muslim and Arab Americans. On Thursday, Biden reportedly met with Muslim-American leaders at the White House in private to discuss the "anti-Muslim attitudes."
The meeting comes in the wake of reports that the President could see his support base erode among young, progressive voters and American Muslims who feel he isn't showing enough sympathy for the Palestinians.
Biden came under fire on Thursday for saying that he has "no confidence" in the death tally from the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
According to media reports, Thursday's meeting focused on the White House’s efforts to combat Islamophobia amid the recent incident wherein a 6-year-old Palestinian-American was stabbed to death by an American man in Chicago. Police say the child and his mother were targeted due to their religion and heritage background.
In his speech from the Oval Office on October 10, Biden made no mention of Gazans who lost their lives in the air raids, He failed to mention that Palestinians had died. Some Arab and Muslim Americans feel "dumbfounded" and "disheartened" at this.
"It felt like Muslim blood was cheap. All lives are not equal in the eyes of the Biden administration. There's more precedent given to Israeli lives than there are to Muslim lives," said Niala Mohammad, director of policy and strategy at the Muslim Public Affairs Council and former senior policy analyst for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
This growing frustration among Arab Americans and Muslims could be reflected in next year's Presidential elections.
While Arab Americans and Muslims are just a small portion of the electorate, they can be significant in tightly contested battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. Exit polls show a clear majority of Muslims voted for Biden in 2020.
In hotly-contested Michigan, Arab Americans account for 5% of the vote. In other battleground states, Pennsylvania and Ohio, they are between 1.7% to 2%, Reuters quoted Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. Biden won Michigan with 50.6% of the vote in 2020, compared to 47.8% for Trump, and Pennsylvania with 50.01% to Trump's 48.84%, a difference of less than 81,000 votes.
While political analysts think Arab and Muslim Americans are unlikely to back Trump, they could decide not to vote altogether. "I do think it will cost him Michigan," said Laila El-Haddad, a Maryland-based author and social activist from Gaza, told Reuters.
"The voters are heartbroken. They don’t want to vote for Trump. But right now they’re asking themselves, ‘How can we vote for the other side given the refusal to call upon Israel to abide by a ceasefire and the continued rhetoric that we’re seeing here domestically?" Wa’el Alzayat, CEO of the Muslim advocacy group Emgage, told Politico. "What I’m most concerned about is actually not whether they’re going to vote for Trump or not, but whether these voters are going to stay home."
The message has reportedly reached Biden. Mmany Democratic members of Congress have alerted the White House officials about the need to address the isolation and fear their Muslim constituents were experiencing.
Things have slightly changed since then as Biden repeatedly said Hamas doesn’t represent the Palestinian people and expressed concern for Palestinian civilians. He has since pushed Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.