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In Michigan, anger over Biden's Israel-Hamas war stance could cost him votes: "We're gonna be silent in November 2024"

Biden losing support amid Israel-Hamas war
Biden losing support in Michigan, a state he won in 2020, over Israel-Hamas war response 03:46

Four years ago, Adam Abusalah campaigned for Joe Biden, urging his neighbors in predominantly Arab-American Dearborn, Michigan, to vote against Donald Trump. Today, the 23-year-old's concerns about President Biden are sounding an alarm bell for Democrats. 

As the administration continues standing by Israel's deadly attacks on Gaza, Abusalah says he and his community can no longer support the president, given his steadfast support of Israel.

"If you were to ask me two months ago, if I was gonna vote for Joe Biden, yeah, I would've held my nose and voted for him," Abusalah said.

But then, Hamas terrorists launched a brutal attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and Israel retaliated with devastating assaults on the Gaza Strip. The health ministry in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip says the overall death toll there since the start of the war had surpassed 15,200.

Four years ago, Adam Abusalah campaigned for Joe Biden. Today, the Dearborn, Michigan Democrat says anger in the Muslim American community over the White House's support of Israel in its war against Hamas could cost the president the state.  CBS News

Abusalah warns that anger in the U.S. over Israel's attacks could cost the president the election. 

"The same way that they're being silent right now in the face of injustices, we're gonna be silent in November 2024," Abusalah said. When asked whether Muslim Americans will stay home on Election Day, Abusalah replied, "No, we're gonna go vote. But we're gonna keep the top of the ticket empty."

When faced with a prospective Biden loss, which could mean a Trump presidency, Abusalah said, "If you were to tell me that my vote would be the vote, whether Biden wins in Michigan or not, I would still not vote for Biden. … My people dying is that much of an issue for me."

Abdullah Hammoud, Dearborn's first-ever Arab-American mayor, says for many here, the Israel-Hamas war is deeply personal. 

"We have some residents who've lost entire families," he said.

A Democrat, the mayor credits legislation signed by the president for pumping tens of millions of dollars of federal aid into his city. 

"The domestic policies that President Biden has achieved have been nothing short of phenomenal," Hammoud said.

But he has his own strong views on what's happening in Gaza. 

"You cannot overlook the genocide that's taken place, and you have to weigh that on a scale," he said.

He believes that Mr. Biden's response to the Oct. 7 attacks has been "awful."

Holding Michigan, a swing state, is key to a Biden victory in 2024. In 2020 Mr. Biden defeated Trump there by about 154,000 votes; 146,000 Muslim Americans voted in the state, with nearly 70% nationwide going for the president.  

A CBS News poll released Sunday shows that 38% of Democrats believe the president is showing "too much" support for Israel, up from 28% in October. 

Osama Siblani, the co-founder and former president of the Arab American Political Action Committee (AAPAC), Mr. Biden reached out to this organization prior to his election in 2020 and said he promised to include an Arab American in his cabinet.

"We don't have a cabinet member. We don't have an assistant, deputy, whatever," Siblani said. "We don't even have a standing place in the room with Joe Biden. Biden and both senators won because of our vote. There is one thing for sure; that at this time, if the election were held today, American Muslims will not vote for the top ticket."

A Biden campaign spokesperson says the president continues to work closely and proudly with leaders in the Muslim and Palestinian communities across the country, while the White House says it is tirelessly working to increase the urgent delivery of aid to people in Gaza.

There are some Arab American voters in the region who have not completely withdrawn their support for the president.

Ahmed Boomrad, the executive chairman of GDI Integrated Facility Services, empathizes with his community's frustration but refrains from harshly judging the administration. Despite the challenges, he intends to cast his vote in favor of Mr. Biden in 2024.

"Can the administration do more? Absolutely. But If I'm being fair, the Biden administration has had real achievements," Boomrad said.

Boomrad pointed to Mr. Biden repealing the Muslim ban, appointing a record number of Muslim Americans, including federal court judges, and helping to resolve the longstanding Lebanese Israeli maritime border dispute, during the early days of his presidency.

But younger voters are more like Abusalah and less forgiving of the president. At the Michigan State University campus in Lansing, where students gathered in late November to demand a ceasefire, several protestors held signs, in which some read "No Ceasefire No Vote," while others said "Biden: Fund Climate Action Not Genocide."

Some students even dubbed the president as "Genocide Joe."

A Lebanese student, Alissa Hakim, 21, a senior at MSU, said Mr. Biden has lost her vote. Instead, she implored her fellow peers to vote for an independent candidate.

"With the way things are now, I'm not very hopeful that it won't be another Biden vs. Trump candidacy, but I would implore people to vote third party rather than abstain," Hakim said.

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