Biden team to meet Michigan Arab, Muslim leaders during tension 


Feb. 7, 2024, (Bloomberg) — Top administration officials plan to meet Arab and Muslim community leaders in Michigan, amid tensions over President Joe Biden’s Israel policy in the critical battleground state.

The group includes some of Biden’s most senior advisers, including US Agency for International Development head Samantha Power and Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, according to a list obtained by Bloomberg News. The meetings are scheduled to take place Thursday, according to a White House official, who did not disclose which community members would attend.

Biden is facing vocal opposition to his handling of the Israel-Hamas war from Arab and Muslim Americans, criticism that poses an obstacle to his 2024 reelection bid. Michigan is home to one of the nation’s largest Arab and Muslim populations, and some Democrats have told the president’s team they’re worried Biden’s stance is alienating a key voter group in a state that he won narrowly in 2020 and is expected to be close this year as well.

White House Office of Public Engagement Director Steve Benjamin, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director Tom Perez, White House liaison to American Muslim communities Mazen Basrawi and White House aides Jamie Citron and Dan Koh also plant to participate in the meetings, according to the list. CNN first reported on the meetings.

Several leaders in Michigan’s Arab and Muslim communities have been invited for a series of meetings beginning at 1 p.m., said two people familiar with the matter. Politicians and other civic leaders from the community are among those invited, one of the people said.

Biden trails Republican frontrunner Donald Trump 47% to 42% in Michigan in a hypothetical rematch, according to a January Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll. The president’s team argues his strength with other groups, including older voters and union workers, could offset losses among Arabs and Muslims and say Trump’s past inflammatory statements about those communities could turn them back toward the president.

Biden has been confronted by pro-Palestinian protesters in nearly every city he has visited since war broke out following Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 massacre. Critics of the administration’s policy have also picketed appearances by top officials, including Power. The US and European Union have designated Hamas a terrorist group.

The president’s advisers are meeting with local leaders in Michigan to speak about a range of issues important to them and their families, including the Israel-Hamas war, according to a White House official. The meetings are part of a series of engagements by Biden’s team with the community since the outbreak of the war.

Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez met with some Arab-American community leaders in the Detroit area last month, but another meeting was canceled after some who were invited declined to attend, according to the Associated Press.

The president has sought to acknowledge the concerns of protesters, who have interrupted several of his speeches this year.

“I understand their passion,” he said during a January speech at Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. “I’ve been quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get out of Gaza.”



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