Muslim American leaders are threatening to mobilise their supporters to withhold votes and donations for president Joe Biden’s presidential campaign unless he pushes for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The National Muslim Democratic Council, a coalition of Muslim community leaders and activists within the Democratic Party, announced in an open letter that it would “withhold endorsement, support, or votes for any candidate who endorses the Israeli offensive against the Palestinian people.”
The letter criticised the Biden administration’s “unconditional support, encompassing funding and armaments” to Israel, which it argued 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.”
Arab Americans have been angered by Mr Biden’s response to Israel’s attack on Gaza, which followed the 7 October massacre by Hamas of 1,400 people. Israel responded by bombarding the densely populated Gaza Strip from the air and following up with a ground invasion, so far killing 8,525 people, including 3,542 children, in the process.
Mr Biden has offered Israel fulsome support in the wake of the attack, asking Congress to provide $14bn in assistance to Israel this month, in addition to the $3.8bn the US provides to Israel each year. But despite the high civilian toll, the White House has rebuffed calls for a ceasefire.
A new poll has found that Mr Biden’s support among Arab Americans has plunged by 42 per cent since 2020, down to just 17 per cent. The poll, commissioned by the Arab American Institute (AAI), marked the first time since 1997 that a majority of Arab Americans did not identify as Democrats.
The poll found that 66 per cent of Arab Americans have a negative view of Biden’s response to the crisis, and 68 per cent believe the United States should stop supporting Israel’s military efforts.
Those numbers may have a profound impact on Mr Biden’s re-election chances, given that large Muslim and Arab communities are found in swing states that are crucial to his chances, such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
James Zogby, AAI’s co-founder and president, called the drop in support “unprecedented in our 27 years of polling this community.”
“It shows the importance of the Palestinian issue and deep disappointment with the failure of the administration to address it,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
Aid groups have described the humanitarian situation in Gaza in apocalyptic terms as the death toll rises, and the UN has said more than 1.4 million people have been made homeless.
UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said on Tuesday that “Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children. It’s a living hell for everyone else.”
“Our gravest fears about the reported numbers of children killed becoming dozens, then hundreds, and ultimately thousands were realized in just a fortnight,” he told reporters.
On Tuesday, more than 50 Palestinians were killed and another 150 wounded in Israeli air strikes on Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, the director of Gaza’s Indonesian Hospital told Al-Jazeera.