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Frustrated Arab and Palestinian Americans left without commitment to policy change after meeting with Blinken


Arab and Palestinian Americans left a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken Friday evening, frustrated at not having a clear understanding of how the Biden administration could address their concerns as the war between Israel and Hamas devastates the civilian population in Gaza, participants told CNN. .

“No shared plan has led to confidence that the administration is prioritizing an immediate solution,” Bilal Hammoud, executive director of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce, adding that the discussion “was disappointing because we wanted next steps more concrete. .”

The emotional and passionate meeting comes as the Palestinian and Arab American community is divided over engagement with the White House, as members harbor sadness and anger over the administration’s policies toward of the war between Israel and Hamas. White House officials have held several meetings with prominent Arab Americans across the country since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, but some of the invited participants have declined to attend, often making their rejection known in open letters and interviews with the press.

Many in the community agree that Biden should make significant policy changes to win back this key part of his political coalition — including Arab and Muslim Americans and progressive voters — before the November election, as his administration largely refuses to use its influence on Israel. to end the fighting in Gaza.

The groups surrendered Friday with specific demands of the administration, including calling for an immediate ceasefire, the return of all hostages and prisoners held without charge, the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, for unhindered humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian population, an end to US arms shipments to Israel and the reconstruction of devastated Palestinian communities.

Yet participants did not leave the meeting, which lasted more than 90 minutes, with any promise to act on these fronts.

“I believe the meeting was a failure; we could not agree on any change in US policy regarding the situation in Gaza,” said one participant.

John Dabeet, President of the Palestinian American Council, said he felt “cautiously optimistic” after the meeting. But he added that it was too difficult to predict what steps the administration might take.

“We are not naive. We didn’t go there thinking we could turn the ship completely in the opposite direction, but any change we can create will be seen as a positive thing to help the people of Gaza reduce their suffering,” Dabeet said. More than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the regional health ministry.

Arab and Palestinian American leaders requested the meeting, which included leaders of five national organizations: the American Federation of Ramallah Palestine, the American-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Arab America, the Arab American Institute and the Palestinian American Council.

The State Department did not provide minutes of the meeting or respond to an inquiry about the lack of commitments made at the meeting.

The Biden administration this month suspended sending bombs to Israel over concerns about their potential use in an incursion into Rafah, where more than a million civilians are sheltering. But meeting participants did not consider the step important enough to constitute a powerful political change that could force an end to the conflict.

They entered the meeting already frustrated by the callous neglect,” they say, the Arab American community has received from the Biden administration. But they also approached the meeting with the belief that engagement is necessary to drive political change.

“I firmly believe that commitment is important. Being at the table is important because at least our voice will be heard that way,” Dabeet said.

But for participants CNN spoke with, returning to the table with Biden administration officials would only come after significant policy changes.

“I will not attend another meeting until there is action,” Hammoud said. “At this point there is nothing more to say. I think the administration knows exactly what needs to happen.

Bilal is not alone in thinking that the Biden administration knows what it needs to do to win — or win back — Palestinian and Arab American support domestically.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for the administration to make real change…and I haven’t seen any change, any real change in policy. That’s why I think they’re checking the boxes right now,” said Ghada Elnajjar, a Palestinian American who lost more than 80 members of her extended family to the war between Israel and Hamas, which she describes it as an “ongoing Israeli genocide”. »

Elnajjar added that those messages might finally be heard as the November election approaches. “They are risking the elections,” she said.

Elnajjar helped organize the Biden campaign in 2020 as part of Arab Americans for Biden. The group has now removed Biden’s name, changing to Arab Americans Forward. Elnajjar said she wasn’t sure what she would do in November regarding her presidential run.

Participants in the meeting with Blinken emphasized that it is not just Arab Americans that Biden is losing, but also allies of other ethnic backgrounds who stand in solidarity with Arab, Palestinian and Muslim Americans.

“This was a last-ditch effort by this administration, so they can’t say they haven’t heard from us or our requests,” one meeting attendee said.

News Source : www.cnn.com
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