Progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said Sunday that President Joe Biden may risk losing Arab and Muslim votes due to his unwavering support for Israel in its ongoing war with Hamas terrorists.
Ms. Jayapal, chair of the far-left Congressional Progressive Caucus, told NBC News that President Biden needs to be “careful” about how he handles the Israel-Hamas conflict as it might hurt his reelection bid next year.
“I have been one of President Biden’s biggest supporters. I have been proud to be a partner as he has been courageous and strong on the domestic front,” the fellow Democrat told the news outlet on Oct. 29.
“I think that the president needs to be just as courageous on this issue so that we keep the unity within our country,” she added of her caucus’s position.
Ms. Jayapal said she believes that Americans are “quite far away” from the position taken by the Biden administration on the war that has seen Israel bombarding Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’ deadly attack on Oct. 7.
“They [Americans] support the right for Israel to defend itself, to exist. But they do not support a war crime exchange for another war crime. And I think the president needs to be careful about that.
“I am certainly concerned about his approach to this,” she noted, adding that President Biden will need to “call us to a higher moral place.”
President Biden has expressed his unwavering support for Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack launched by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 people, including 32 Americans. Hamas took over 200 hostages from Israel during its terror attack, which it is now using as bargaining chips in negotiations despite international calls, including by the United Nations, for their immediate release.
Meanwhile, Israel has vowed to permanently dismantle Hamas and secure its borders, and has carried out airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said the death toll in Gaza has passed 8,000 on Oct. 29.
President Biden had asked Congress for $14 billion in military aid to Israel.
President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in a call on Oct. 29 that Israel has “every right” to defend itself and should do so in a way that is “consistent with international humanitarian law that prioritizes the protection of civilians,” the White House stated.
He also underscored the need to accelerate the flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza and discussed efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas.
Biden Urged to Call For Ceasefire
Many Arab Americans are upset that the Biden administration has not backed calls for a ceasefire amid the fighting. Israel has been conducting targeted bombardments of Hamas targets on the Gaza Strip after it urged Palestinians to evacuate away from targets.
Abdullah Hammoud, mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, which has a large population of Arabs and Muslims, decried the Biden administration’s failure to condemn the Israeli government’s actions to cut off the 10 percent of water, the electricity, and food it controls going to the Gaza Strip.
“Nothing could have prepared us for the complete erasure of our voices and radio silence from those whom we elected to protect and represent us,” Mr. Hammoud wrote on his Facebook page on Oct. 18.
“Our family members trapped in Gaza have been ignored, our calls for a ceasefire drowned out by the drums of war and racist media coverage that dismisses the massacre of entire Palestinian families as collateral damage,” he added.
Mr. Hammoud urged all federal and statewide officials in Michigan to call for a ceasefire to save lives and demand justice for the Palestinian people in Gaza.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said on Oct. 29 that it would hold “emergency peaceful protests” at the offices of elected officials in Maryland to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
In hotly contested Michigan, Arab Americans account for 5 percent of the vote. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, they are between 1.7 percent and 2 percent, according to Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.
President Biden won Michigan with 50.6 percent of the vote in 2020, compared to 47.8 percent for Mr. Trump, and Pennsylvania with 50.01 percent to Mr. Trump’s 48.84 percent, a difference of less than 81,000 votes.
‘Ceasefire Now Resolution’
Democratic Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a Black Lives Matter activist, introduced on Oct. 16 the “Ceasefire Now resolution,” demanding that the Biden administration call for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
“The United States bears a unique responsibility to exhaust every diplomatic tool at our disposal to prevent mass atrocities and save lives,” Ms. Bush said in a press release. “With thousands of lives lost and millions more at stake, we need a ceasefire now.”
The resolution was co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.), Jesús García (Ill.), Jonathan Jackson (Ill.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.).
The Biden administration has said it will not support calls for a ceasefire until Hamas has released all its hostages.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Friday that there are no signs that Hamas will “abide by calls for a ceasefire.”
Reuters contributed to this report.