How did Biden's Ramadan White House meeting on Gaza fall apart? – Top Stories (Trending Perfect)


When the White House invited Muslim community leaders to dinner this week to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, the responses came quickly: back down. drop. drop.

Many of the invitees, distressed by President Biden's support for Israel's war in Gaza, said they would not attend breakfast with the president on Tuesday evening while many Palestinians were under siege.

“How can we talk to you about famine and hunger over bread and steak?” said Dr. Thaer Ahmed, a Palestinian-American doctor who was in Gaza in January.

That moment summed up how problematic the war in Gaza has become for Mr. Biden, who is increasingly critical of Israel but still resists calls from within his own party to put conditions on arms sales to the country.

The White House quickly pivoted when it became clear the Ramadan event would be controversial, holding an abbreviated staff-only meal and a separate meeting for Muslim community leaders like Dr. Ahmed.

The meeting, which lasted for more than an hour, was attended by Mr. Biden; Vice President Kamala Harris; Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor; And other senior officials. Among those who spoke to the president were three doctors who had recently treated patients in Gaza.

More than 32,000 people were killed in the war, according to health authorities in Gaza.

Dr. Ahmed said he told Mr. Biden that an imminent Israeli ground invasion of Rafah would amount to a “bloodbath and massacre.” The President also delivered a message from an 8-year-old girl in Gaza who lost her entire family in the war.

The girl wrote in the letter, which was obtained and translated by the New York Times: “We in Rafah are suffering a lot because we live in a very small tent, and a tank could enter the tent and run me over.”

The message continued: “We do not want massacres and suffering. We want safety, and to live like the rest of the world's children. Please, Biden, stop this war. That's enough. Stop this war, please.”

After speaking for approximately six minutes, Dr. Ahmed told the President that he was leaving.

“I said, 'Out of respect for my community, out of respect for the many people who are grieving, who are in a lot of pain, I have to walk out of this meeting.'

Mr. Biden responded that he understood that, he said.

“Part of me wanted to express the frustration, anger and resentment felt by the entire community,” Dr. Ahmed said. “But part of me also wanted to get up and get out of the decision-makers and give them an idea of ​​what it's like to be apart of them.”

This was a far cry from last year's celebration at the White House to mark the end of Ramadan, which attracted hundreds of community leaders, White House staff and politicians who ate snacks and took selfies with the president. shouted one of the attendees “we love you!” Mr. Biden before he started speaking.

This year, as the Biden administration hosted its brief meeting and meal, protesters knelt outside the White House to pray.

Tuesday's meeting with Muslim leaders and community members was among many the administration has held in recent months, both internally with staff and with outside groups, as it tried to calm widespread discontent over the war.

Mr. Biden's stance has angered critical constituencies in Mr. Biden's base, including young people, Black voters and progressives.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined on Wednesday to comment on the details of Tuesday night's meeting, saying it was private. But she said the president knew it was “an extremely painful moment for many in the Arab and Muslim communities.”

She added: “The President also expressed his commitment to continue working to ensure an immediate ceasefire as part of the hostage release deal and to significantly increase humanitarian aid to Gaza.” “The President made clear that he mourns the loss of all innocent lives in this conflict – Palestinians and Israelis.”

When Ms. Jean-Pierre was asked about Dr. Ahmed’s withdrawal, she said that the President respects the right to peaceful protest.

Salima Suswell, CEO of the Black Muslim Leadership Council, who also attended the meeting, said she told Biden about the “moral dilemma” some members of the Black Muslim community who support him feel over the war in Gaza.

“Black people identify with and relate to some degree of this issue of oppression and dehumanization of people,” Ms. Suswell said. “Our ancestors lived for 400 years of it.”

She said Mr. Biden said he was committed to the black community.

Ms. Suswell, who stayed for the duration of the meeting, said that attendees shared their experiences on the ground in Gaza. She said that one of the doctors distributed pictures of children there.

Both Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris expressed their desire to end the war as quickly as possible. When asked about calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, Biden said Israel would respond because of concerns about the hostages.

“They both said, ‘We don’t want to see this war continue,’” Ms. Suswell said.

Heba Yazbek He contributed reporting from Jerusalem.



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