Several members of the Palestinian-American community refused to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
“After nearly four unbearable months of constant US-enabled Israeli violence against our families, friends and other innocent civilians in Gaza, and throughout Palestine, we cannot imagine what Secretary Blinken could have to say or discuss with us,” read a published statement by a group of Palestinian leaders who were invited to the meeting.
The rejection comes one week after Arab and Muslim community leaders declined to participate in a listening session with President Joe Biden’s campaign in the metro Detroit area last week.
Arab, Muslim and Palestinian communities across the country have been turning their backs to the Biden administration, citing frustrations with the U.S. strategy in Gaza. The White House has faced staunch criticism for its continued support of Israel’s assault on Gaza, which has killed over 26,000 Palestinians.
Angry voters have taken to social media, signed petitions and even launched an #AbandonBiden campaign in battleground states. When asked about the rising number of Arab Americans who pledged to not vote for Biden’s reelection, the president dismissed those reports.
“We understand who cares about the Arab population,” said Biden, comparing himself to former president and current 2024 GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
But some of those voters say they have lost confidence in the administration and have no motivation to engage or meet with senior officials.
Tariq Haddad, a cardiologist based in Virginia who has lost nearly 90 family members in Gaza since the Israeli bombardment began last October, got the invitation from the State Department last Friday about the off-record roundtable discussion, but ultimately declined.
“Where do I start trying to meet with somebody who I feel is primarily responsible for the killing of all my family, and who has had four months to make a difference to actually prevent my family from being killed?” Haddad said.
Instead, he wrote a personalized letter to the administration, including photos of family members who had been killed, and gave it to other roundtable invitees, who then hand-delivered it to Biden.
“I ask you put yourself in my shoes, secretary Blinken, and as yourself as a human being; would you be able to meet and speak to the person primarily responsible for the most suffering and death your family has ever gone through for centuries and convey that in three minutes,” read his letter, which was shared with HuffPost.
Haddad said the meeting was performative, “manipulative” and “for political gain.” He said he continues to get messages every day from his remaining family in Gaza about the deteriorating humanitarian situation there.
Almost 1.9 million people — 85% of Gaza’s population — have been displaced. Food, clean water and medication are scarce, and aid trucks are barely sustaining the population. Advocates have pressured the U.S. to call for a ceasefire and to do more to protect Gazan lives.
“We do not know what more Secretary Blinken or President Biden need to hear or see to compel them to end their complicity in this genocide,” the letter from Palestinian leaders on Thursday said. “They show us every day whose lives they value and whose lives they consider disposable. We will not be attending this discussion which can only amount to a box-ticking exercise. Our families, our community and all Palestinians deserve better.”
Dozens of protestors have camped out of Blinken’s home for the last week.
“The reality is that a lot of the people that are in the decision-making seats like Blinken Biden, and others are completely sanitized in their personal spaces from the repercussions of their actions,” said Hazami Barmada, a Palestinian activist based in the Washington metropolitan area.
“So we decided to do a camp out in front of his personal residence as a way of reminding him that he works for the American people — and more importantly, he cannot sanitize his personal life from the repercussions” of U.S. foreign policy, she said.
Barmada’s sentiments are shared by many Palestinian Americans across the country who have lost family members.
“I am a forgiving person, secretary Blinken,” wrote Haddad in his letter to Biden on Thursday. “But what I can’t forgive is making mistakes that cost people their lives, knowing what your actions are doing, and yet choosing to continue your unethical/criminal actions.”