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More Than 40 Pro-Palestine Orgs Refused to Meet With Biden in Chicago Last Week

In an open letter, pro-Gaza leaders said there was "no point" to more talks without action from the White House.

People gather in Chicago, Illinois, to show solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and condemn recent actions by the government of Israel, on October 18, 2023. Police take security measures around the area.

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An open letter to the White House sent by Muslim, Arab and Palestinian American leaders and groups informed President Joe Biden that they would not meet with him in Chicago when he requested to do so last week.

The White House had requested that these leaders visit with the president to discuss Israel’s relentless attacks against Palestinians in Gaza. Biden arrived in the city on Thursday last week.

The letter was signed by more than 40 leaders and organizations in Chicagoland, including American Muslims for Palestine, CAIR Chicago, the Muslim Bar Association of Chicago, Muslims for Just Futures, the Palestinian American Council, the Human Dignity Project, the United Holy Land Fund, and more.

“This letter is to communicate with transparency and clarity why the Palestinian American leadership of Chicagoland has unanimously decided (along with key Muslim and Arab leadership) against attending planned meetings with White House officials in Chicago this week,” the letter-writers state in the opening paragraph.

Saying that there “is no point in more meetings,” the letter-writers noted that the White House’s position on Israel’s brutal siege of Gaza is already known. The organizations and individuals who have signed on to the letter, meanwhile, have “made it abundantly clear, including in prior meetings with the White House, but also in press statements” their opposition to the U.S.’s staunch support of Israel’s genocide.

“With a genocide that has flattened Gaza, forcibly displacing 85% of its residents, and claiming the lives of 31,000 people, 13,000 of whom are children, the White House has not only refused to call for a ceasefire, but also enabled this blatant campaign of ethnic cleansing to take place by providing financial and military means, as well as diplomatic support at the United Nations,” the letter states. “A meeting of the minds is nowhere in sight.”

The letter goes on:

There is no confusion as to our consistent demand for an immediate and permanent ceasefire to end the mass murder of civilians and stave off the worst humanitarian crisis in modern times. We believe another meeting would only act to whitewash months of White House inaction followed by meek handouts. We are interested in serious action.

“We stand with a diverse coalition of our fellow Americans when we demand, at minimum, an immediate and permanent ceasefire, complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, ultimately ending the siege and blockade of Gaza, allowing the natural flow of humanitarian aid, reinstating funding to UNRWA, a cessation of weapons sales or transfers to Israel, and accountability measures for all war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of genocide, and justice and liberation for the Palestinians,” the letter from the coalition of leaders concludes. “That is what history will judge us by, not more token meetings when every day is of the essence.”

The letter to Biden came almost a week before the now-nominal statewide Democratic Party primary election for president. Although Biden attained enough delegates to secure his nomination status last week, the state is still an important one in the Midwest for him to secure in the 2024 general election. The primary election in Illinois will take place this coming Tuesday.

More than 100,000 Arab Americans live in the Chicago area, and more than 350,000 Muslims live within the state of Illinois.

Although Illinois is deemed likely to vote “blue” in the race, losing the support of Muslims, Arab and Palestinian American voters there and in neighboring Great Lakes states would be devastating for Biden — especially when it comes to Michigan and Wisconsin, swing states that are considered imperative for Biden to have a shot at securing a second term in the White House.

Muslim and Arab voters were indeed a major component of the electorate that helped Biden to defeat Donald Trump in Michigan in the 2020 presidential race. But as Israel’s genocide in Gaza has gone on now for several months, and with no action by the administration to pressure Israel to agree to a permanent ceasefire, Muslim voters are expressing their grief and frustration with the Biden White House through protest votes — including voting “uncommitted” in primary races.

Muslims in Illinois are a part of that movement, with pro-Palestine groups planning to turn out in droves to vote uncommitted on Tuesday. Chicago is home to the largest per capita Palestinian population in the entire country.

Even though the primary doesn’t give voters an option to have their uncommitted votes recorded, the movement is hoping that, by voting in other down-ballot races but not the presidential primary, they can showcase to Biden that they feel betrayed by his participation in Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

“It felt like the President did not see many Americans [in his State of the Union address] — and we want to make sure he knows he needs us,” read a flyer from the Muslim Civic Coalition encouraging an uncommitted vote in the primary.

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