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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: During a campaign rally in Virginia last week focusing on abortion rights, US President Joe Biden faced unexpected interruptions from pro-Palestine protesters.
“Genocide Joe!” a protester, holding up a Palestinian flag, cried from the back of the hall. “How many kids have you killed in Gaza? How many women have you killed in Gaza?“
Inside the hall, there were about 30 protesters, with an additional 50 outside, as reported by The Guardian.
The interruptions, which happened at least 13 times during Biden’s speech, were part of a wider movement by a decentralized network of pro-Palestinian groups. This coalition includes Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans and anti-war organizations. They are protesting Biden’s support for Israel. The Gaza conflict has resulted in more than 26,000 deaths in Israeli military operations, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
“Our community will be active, with actions big or small, until this genocide ends and there’s a permanent ceasefire,” Mohamad Habehh, a protester at the Virginia event, told The Guardian.
The Palestinian-American organizer said that such protests would continue throughout Biden’s campaign. “At every event the president does, no matter where it is or what state or city, there will be Americans who stand against his stance on Gaza.”
The disruption in Virginia was not an isolated event.
A day later, protesters disrupted a similarly carefully choreographed event in Washington DC aimed at drawing union members, where Biden accepted the United Auto Workers’ endorsement. Katie Rogers, a reporter for The New York Times, captured video footage of people being dragged out of the event.
A few weeks earlier, at the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Biden’s appeal to some Black voters came to an abrupt halt when several protesters began chanting “Ceasefire now!“
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the feminist peace group Code Pink, noted that such protests are becoming increasingly common and target not only Biden but also other senior politicians.
“We expect there to be protests at every major event Biden does, and even at minor ones,” Benjamin told The Guardian. “People are so angry they’re looking to vent their frustration and disgust at the man we now call Genocide Joe and anybody working for this complicit administration.”
Meanwhile, Code Pink and other groups have targeted senators as they enter and exit congressional hearings. They have also staged sit-ins at the offices of Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, and Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell.
Regular demonstrations are also taking place at the entrances to the White House, the US State Department, and other federal government offices thought to be aiding the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s assault on Gaza.
These disruptions have the potential to overshadow Biden’s re-election campaign narrative. Biden and his team had hoped that the rallies would generate media coverage emphasizing the president’s record of fighting for women’s rights, racial equality and labor rights, but instead they have been met with protest headlines.
There are already signs that key demographic groups who strongly supported Biden in 2020 may be splitting this time due to their disagreement with his policy on the Gaza war. According to an AP analysis from 2020, 64 percent of American Muslims voted for Biden, compared to 35 percent for Donald Trump.
Biden will try to replicate such results in November, particularly in key battleground states with sizable Muslim electorates. These include Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
However, opinion polls conducted since Israel’s assault on Gaza show that support for Biden among Arab Americans has plummeted. The trend is particularly concerning for the White House in Michigan, the state with the highest Arab-American population.
Influential Michigan figures have been harshly critical of the Biden administration. “I can tell you with confidence that Biden won’t get Arab and Muslim American votes in November,” Osama Siblani, publisher of the largest Arab-American newspaper in the US, the Dearborn-based Arab American News, told The Guardian.
He added: “Our community is extremely angry at the president for his unlimited and unconditional support of Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. We won’t forget what Biden did, and we’ll deliver the message where it really counts — no votes for Biden.”
Similar alarming signs indicate that support for the Democratic president is dwindling among young voters dismayed by the destruction in Gaza. According to a recent YouGov poll, nearly half of young adults aged 18 to 29 believe Israel is committing genocide.
In response to concerns about losing Arab-American support, Biden cited his administration’s actions, such as reversing Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
Biden supporters have urged caution, telling protesters that the president’s Middle East stance is not the most important issue in this presidential election.
When asked how she responded to the accusation that protesters were helping Trump by attacking Biden, Eva Borgwardt, national spokesperson of the Jewish American group If Not Now, which opposes unconditional US support for Israel, said: “Young Jews are terrified of a Trump presidency.”
However, she called it “absurd” to blame young voters “who are rightly furious with Biden for backing the Israeli government, which has caused tens of thousands of deaths, rather than the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world.”
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