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US Election Row – Ro Khanna meets Arab Americans in Michigans amid Gaza tension

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Representative Ro Khanna of California met Thursday with Arab American leaders at a local coffee shop in Dearborn, Michigan, in an attempt to reduce tensions over the war in Gaza.

Over the course of two hours, the leaders spoke about how they were personally affected by the war in Gaza and criticized President Joe Biden over the increasing number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli attack after the Hamas attack on October 7, while Khanna, who independently organized the meeting, listened intently.

Dialogue was rare between two sides that had grown further apart, and after a day of meeting, the two sides seemed unlikely to converge unless the administration’s policy changed on the Gaza ceasefire, which both the White House and Israel oppose.

While Biden is expected to win Tuesday’s primary, the president’s allies are seeking to avoid potential embarrassment in the state.

Michigan’s Arab American community has largely refused to meet anyone associated with Biden in recent weeks, and has prompted several leaders, including Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, to vote “non-committal” to send a message to Biden about the war.

Khanna, who met with Arab American leaders, did not visit Michigan on behalf of the Biden campaign.

In a statement, Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said that Biden “is working closely and proudly with leaders in the” Muslim and Arab American communities “to listen to them about a wide range of issues.”

“He has urged Israel to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties,” Moussa said. “He has also successfully pressed for humanitarian aid to be delivered in Gaza.”

Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, and other campaign aides headed to suburban Detroit late last month, but found a number of minority leaders unwilling to meet with them.

Other activists in the minority have gone further, by pleading their disapproval of the president’s handling of the war and forming a group called “Abandon Biden,” a movement that discourages voters from supporting the president in the November election.

Michigan has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the country and more than 310,000 people of Middle Eastern or North African descent.

Many in the minority expressed anger that Biden did not call for a permanent ceasefire in the four-month-old war that has killed more than 27,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

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