Why American Muslims aren’t buying Biden’s anti-Islamophobia spiel

6 months ago 97

Washington’s unquestioning support for Israel’s attack on Gaza invalidates any anti-hate “strategy” the White House may present at home

This week, the administration of US President Joe Biden announced that it would, according to Reuters, “develop a national strategy to battle Islamophobia.” Meanwhile, Biden is facing intense skepticism from Muslim Americans for his unwavering support for the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) assault on Gaza, which comes in response to terrorist attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7.

Reports suggest that this effort to combat Islamophobia has been in the works for months. In May, the White House also released a strategy to push back against anti-Semitism that also mentioned countering hatred against Muslims. The renewed hostilities in the Middle East have provided an impetus for this; meanwhile, the FBI has long noted that white-supremacist terrorism and hate-based terror are the number one terror-related concern in the United States. Hate crimes against Asian Americans, against the backdrop of renewed tensions between the US and China, have also been soaring in recent years.

As with the hatred against Asians in the US, it is evident that Washington’s foreign policy is intimately connected to the deteriorating domestic security situation. In January of this year, I noted in my column for RT in response to one of many hate crimes against Asians in the US, “Without a change in how we approach the subject of competition with China, Asian communities in the United States will never be safe. They will be a canary in the coal mine for what the military is seething to do in live combat against the Chinese.”

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A smoke plume ascending following Israeli bombardment in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel could be committing war crimes – UN human rights body

It is evident that the same applies to how official US policy treats Arabs and Muslims and how the public digests this. What is happening in Gaza has been described as “genocide,” “an atrocity,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “war crimes,” not just by enemies and opponents of Israel but by UN experts and officials, if sometimes cautiously. The Hamas attacks, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres correctly pointed out, did not happen in a vacuum. They were preceded, if in no way justified, by over half a century of occupation of Palestinian territories and construction of countless Israeli settlements there that were ruled illegal under international law by a UN resolution.

Washington has been supporting Israel in all of this and has now given it carte blanche – be it weapons, diplomatic cover, and political support – to proceed with its destruction of Gaza. The situation as it stands is such that Palestinians have been robbed of their sovereignty and any realistic path toward statehood. The US is enthusiastically supporting this.

What makes this latest escalation in Gaza unique is that it is so well-publicized. We are constantly inundated with images and videos of death and destruction, its victims predominantly being women, children, and the elderly. In spite of these terrible things, which everyone in the world is seeing on virtually every available platform, the US and the White House are pronouncing clearly that they do not care.

Devaluing the lives of Palestinians, who are Arabs and predominantly Muslim, so flagrantly, as well as dismissing those who do speak out as supporters of terrorist outfits like Hamas, sends a message that such atrocities are fine – and, doubtless, many bad actors within the US will take note. They will use the tacit approval of the crimes being committed in Gaza by the White House to play out their own sick fantasies at home. This is what makes the supposed strategy to combat Islamophobia so fundamentally absurd.

If basic morality were not enough to convince Biden’s team that this course of action was foolhardy, perhaps the language of electoral politics may suffice. On this, we can see that the White House’s support for Israel is also a clear political liability.

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Joe Biden speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington DC, October 25, 2023 Biden approval among Democrats drops to lowest point of presidency

According to a widely reported poll commissioned by the Arab American Institute, Biden’s support among Arab Americans, who are a crucial voting bloc in key battleground states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, has plummeted in response to his pro-Israel stance. In 2020, Biden enjoyed support from 59% of Arab Americans and, even before the outbreak of more violence in the Middle East, this fell to 35%. Now that support has plummeted to just a meager 17%. 

The poll’s key findings reveal that about a quarter of Arab Americans are unsure of who they intend to support in 2024, while 40% said they would vote for likely Republican nominee and former President Donald Trump, 13.7% said they would vote for independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and another 3.8% would vote for Cornel West, also an independent. Only 20% of respondents indicated they would rate Biden’s job performance as ‘good’, and another 66% reported negative feelings about his presidency. 

One may like to think that the old phrase ‘what goes around comes around’ may indeed hold up. While Palestinian civilians suffering in Gaza may never have justice, it seems clear that for those supporting the unfolding tragedy there will be consequences – whether these be deepening racial tensions in America or loosening Biden’s frail grip on power.

For the White House, if it would like to avoid these obvious consequences and actually ameliorate the victimization of American Muslims, then they necessarily need to hold Israel accountable for its crimes in Gaza. Any strategy that does not include this is utterly meaningless – and millions of Americans know it.

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