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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - #AbandonBiden campaign seeks to leverage Arab- and Muslim-American political influence
A leader of the “#AbandonBiden” campaign is urging Arab and Muslim Americans to vote “against’ President Joe Biden in the upcoming election, saying the goal is to empower the community as a voting bloc but also to show the Democrats that they “can’t be taken for granted.”
University of Minnesota’s Prof. Hassan Abdel Salam, one of the leaders of the new movement — launched in response to Biden’s embrace of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indiscriminate carnage against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — said the campaign represents a “turning point” in Arab- and Muslim-American political history.
Salam told Arab News the goal is to show the Democratic Party, “which has taken Arab- and Muslim-American voters for granted,” that the community’s call for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza must be taken more seriously.
“We think that after 60 days of this rampant attack by the state of Israel, that we really have no other choice. We will not vote for Biden if he is on the ticket. And even if there is a ceasefire that is called, we can never, never reward this kind of behavior,” Salam said, noting the movement is not endorsing former President Donald Trump or any other candidate.
“Not only will this create an opportunity now to have a clear message to the White House, but it will also demonstrate the power of the Arab- and Muslim-American vote, so that in the long-term we don’t do all this triage after these attacks, we will be taken seriously ... We are saying please stop the killings, which is supposed to be a fundamental principle of the Democratic Party.”
Salam said that if Arab and Muslim Americans present a “credible political threat” to Biden, then in the future and on the issue of the occupation, “we will be heard and policy will move towards or (in the) direction of dignity and the value of life.”
The #AbandonBiden movement is targeting critical “swing states” in which Biden barely defeated Trump. The Arab and Muslim community has sizable voting populations in those states, including Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, Wisconsin, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
For example, Biden defeated Trump in Michigan by only 154,188 votes in 2020, Minnesota by 233,012, Arizona by 10,457, Wisconsin by 20,682, Georgia by 11,779, Nevada by 33,596, and Pennsylvania by 81,660.
The #AbandonBiden movement is also targeting states in which Biden had significant support including in Illinois. And Florida where Trump had strong support over Biden, defeating him by 371,686 votes.
Salam said if America’s more than 7 million Muslims and 4 million Arabs stand together, they can “significantly impact” the 2024 presidential election.
He explained the goal is not to take a “short-term approach” to American politics. He said the group is not endorsing Trump or other candidates. The issue is Arab and Muslim Americans “must not be taken for granted” by the Biden administration or any president.
“It’s unimaginable for us to go back to Biden. When we were doing these press conferences calling on Arabs and Muslims to abandon Biden, we were told through folks who communicated the position of the White House that they thought we were just throwing a tantrum and that we would eventually go back into his (Biden’s) arms in November,” Salam said.
“This isn’t a tantrum. This is not about politics. This is about valuing life ... We are always told to select the lesser of two evils. Mr. Trump did not allow our family members to come into the country. But Mr. Biden allowed our friends and family to be killed.”
Salam said the Biden administration has failed to rescue Arab and Muslim Americans caught in Israel’s war on Gaza while asserting that rescuing Americans was a priority.
“We have to think about this as a means to increase the power position of Arab and Muslim Americans. If we say we have to vote for Biden what does that say about us and what we believe is right? That it’s not important?” Salam said they will not be discouraged by empty promises from Biden’s allies.
“We had folks that the White House sent to us, very high officials, begging us to end the conference (in Michigan) and close it down. They recognize the political threat for what it is.”
Organizers of the #AbandonBiden campaign hope to bring the Arab- and Muslim-American community together and demonstrate to Democrats and other political parties their power in a nation that has the most influence over Israel.
“We are not supporting Trump in this process,” Salam emphasized, noting presidential elections are held every four years in America and candidates come and go.
“It’s not just a message to the Democratic Party or to Biden. It is about Arabs and Muslims coming home to America. Neither party will ever dismiss us as they have been doing. Muslim Americans and Arab Americans might actually be the most influential people on the planet when it comes to the Middle East and affecting change in US foreign policy towards Israel. Biden created the environment which allowed Israel to do these acts with no consequence.”
The #AbandonBiden campaign launched in Michigan during the first few weeks of the Israeli assault on Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. This was when the Biden administration refused to call for a ceasefire and provided not only billions in financial support but also military armaments which were used to kill Arabs and Muslims in Gaza.
“This is historically unprecedented the way in which we are approaching this. It is a historical moment in which we have to act now for this to be a juncture which shifts our accepting the way the political system works,” Salam said.
“We are from swing states and we are going to come together and we are going to make this White House understand finally that Muslim Americans, Arab Americans are American. We have the power and the ability to determine who will be president.”
Salam said the movement is not “anti-Israel” nor “anti-Jewish” but is instead focused on preventing the indiscriminate killing of any innocent civilians, Muslims, Christians or Jews.
The #AbandonBiden rallies are being organized in the cities of key states and will continue through next year targeting the Democratic Primary elections and culminating in the Nov. 5, 2024 presidential election. The words #AbandonBiden have been prominently displayed at several large demonstrations across the country over the past two months.
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