Several prominent American Muslim organizations boycotted the annual White House Eid celebration Sunday, part of the backlash the Biden administration faces over its handling of the ongoing violence in Gaza and Israel.
For weeks, President Joe Biden has refused to echo the international community’s call for a cease-fire in Gaza where hundreds of people, mostly Palestinians, have died and has shied away from openly opposing Israel’s planned evictions of Palestinian families from a neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated Monday the U.S. would not join calls for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas militant group. Instead, the Biden administration approved a $735 million weapons sale to Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, furthering outrage among Muslim groups and lawmakers.
The dissenting groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations and American Muslims for Palestine, participated in a counter Eid event, “Eid with Palestine: A Protest of the White House Eid Event,” and have since circulated petitions urging the White House to take action and organized protests across the country.
“A strong rebuke of this callous response by the Biden administration is necessary. We will not allow the White House to exploit our holy Eid celebrations for political gain at the expense of the Palestinian people,” read a statement by American Muslims for Palestine, a Palestinian advocacy organization that called for the boycott and circulated a 7,000-signature petition along with dozens of other co-sponsoring groups.
A White House spokesperson told HuffPost that Biden and first lady Jill Biden addressed the virtual Eid event, and Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, sent a video from the region.
“Consistent with our virtual Passover and Easter events, this event marked one of the most important holidays for the Muslim community. A significant number of major Muslim organizations participated and appreciated the event’s tone and acknowledgement that the conflict in the Middle East has prevented many from celebrating in the region,” the spokesperson added.
Over the weekend, more than 100 delegates from the Democratic Party sent their own letter to the White House, calling Biden’s Eid greetings “hollow” in the wake of the increasing violence in Gaza.
“As Muslim delegates, but also just as human beings we’re disgusted by President Biden’s failure to demand an immediate ceasefire, and as Muslims we’re really disheartened to see that there’s no actual engagement with the Muslim community that’s culturally sensitive,” said Nadia Ahmad, a Democratic National Committee member and the co-founder of the Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition.
“We want to send a message that we stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, but we also expect our government to uphold the values of the constitution and that it has to treat all people as equal,” she added.
Violence has worsened in the region over the last few weeks. In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood of east Jerusalem, Palestinian families faced possible evictions and their homes were at risk of being granted to Israeli settlers, leading to protests from Palestinians and left-wing Israelis. During the holy month of Ramadan, which ended last week, Israeli security forces threw tear gas and fired rubber bullets inside the Al Aqsa mosque while Muslims were praying, sparking more outrage.
On Capitol Hill, the three Muslim members of Congress ― Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), André Carson (D-Ind.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) issued a statement last week condemning the attacks on worshippers.
“For decades, we have paid lip service to a Palestinian state, while land seizures, settlement expansion, and forced displacement continue, making a future home for Palestinians more and more out of reach,” read the statement. “It is long past time we finally take action to protect Palestinian human rights and save lives.”
In the past week, which included the Muslim holiday of Eid, the Israeli army launched a barrage of attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza and destroyed a tower that held offices of Al Jazeera and The Associated Press. At least 200 Palestinians have been killed in the strikes as of Monday, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,300 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Eight people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.
Dozens of Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) called for an immediate cease-fire Sunday night “to prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict” in the Gaza Strip. That list included long-vocal lawmakers Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the second most senior Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin (Ill.).
“It would be appalling for the Biden Administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians,” Omar said in a statement released Monday. “If this goes through this will be seen as a green light for continued escalation and will undercut any attempts at brokering a ceasefire.”
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