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American Muslims will not sign our ballots in blood

December 11, 2023 at 5:07 pm

People demanding ceasefire in Gaza join a pro-Palestinian march from Brooklyn to Manhattan in New York City on Saturday, December 9, 2023 [Selçuk Acar – Anadolu Agency]

Former US President, George Bush, launched the War on Terror and invaded Iraq under false pretences. Barack Obama launched over 500 known drone strikes, killing over 300 civilians. Donald Trump escalated these strikes in his first two years in office and then revoked reporting mechanisms. And, now, President Joe Biden green-lights and funds a genocide in Palestine.

In addition to the typical prerequisites of age, natural-born citizenship and residency, the modern presidency has always required another – imperialism. This has forced many progressives to judge presidents on a curve, ignoring disastrous Middle Eastern affairs in favour of liberal domestic policies.

Muslims will no longer do this.

Now, US Muslims are banding together to deny President Joe Biden a second term over his support for Israel. Muslims leaders gathered in Dearborn, Michigan, to kick off the #AbandonBiden campaign. Contrary to pundit predictions, this anger will not dissipate come November, nor is it blind, misguided rage.

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The decision to vote or abstain is deeply personal, but it is rarely careless or accidental. It can be a strategic choice, a show of passion, an expression of disbelief in the system or an unwillingness to accept insults from the powerful. It can be emotional, given the consequences, but that does not make it uncalculated or naive.

Democratic Party surrogates and supporters have defended the President with recycled 2020 campaign talking points — democracy is at risk, Donald Trump is worse, we will be deported when Biden loses and, most importantly, when all this happens, it will be our own fault.

American Muslims are somehow powerful enough to destroy US democracy, but not powerful enough to stop the US-Israel destruction of Palestine. Although we likely do not have the capacity to do the former, fear from the Democrats surely implies we can do the latter, if we are organised.

According to many political leaders, every election is the most important of our lifetime. The consequences are somehow always unprecedented. However, for Palestinians, Muslims and their allies, Israel’s bombing of Gaza is the most important political moment of our lifetimes. This does not change whether the Commander in Chief is a Democratic Zionist or a Republican one.

For imperial powers like the United States and its allies, war is simply an extension of politics. It is one mode of domination, among many. Similarly, for people who oppose war, the ballot is just one method to arrive at our destination. Other methods include contacting elected officials, protests, boycotts, disruption and other forms of civil disobedience.

It is collective organisation that gives each of these tools power as part of a larger effort. To blindly vote for the President with no permanent ceasefire, withdrawal of Israeli aid returning of Palestinian prisoners, sanctions and, most of all, a free Palestine, is to abandon our brief influence. Making the decision individually, as opposed to collectively, is to throw away our vote. Given Biden’s unwavering stance, abandoning him may be the most viable option to be taken seriously as a constituency.

The American Muslim community is diverse. We are composed of different races, ethnicities, countries of origin, ages and even political persuasions. Most liberal attempts to appeal to all of us en masse fall flat. Democrats have certainly tried. Biden did condemn some anti-Palestinian hate crimes, but his demonisation of Palestinian resistance contributed to the environment that caused them and his policies killed 18,000 Palestinians in Gaza.

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Ultimately, there is only one thing that truly unites the Muslim ummah: unwavering sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Ironically, what most unites politicians across the aisle is an unwavering commitment to Palestinian subjugation.

Democrats do not want Muslims to become uncompromising, single issue voters, or non-voters more accurately, purely motivated by US-Palestine policy. However, they have not made a commitment to abandon their favourite campaign strategy: “vote blue no matter who”, with an implied “no matter what”.

Those most impacted by US foreign policy do not have the power to vote in our elections. This requires progressives and Muslims alike to vote or abstain in alignment with the interests of humanity, not just ourselves.

If genocide is not enough to shake the reliability of Muslims as a Democratic constituency, nothing will. The longer Israel goes unchecked, the larger Muslim demands must become. Ceasefire was a bare minimum, both politically and morally to preserve the sanctity of life. It was not a long term solution. Israel’s occupation must end and US aid cannot remain unconditional.

The longer Biden waits to hold Israel accountable, the deeper he cements the nickname “genocide Joe,” one that is considerably more damning than “sleepy Joe”. As a result, he will have to do considerably more to win back the support of Muslims and progressives, not just for himself, but the future Democratic Party.

If Muslim Americans sit out this election, it is a rational choice and an exercise of our political agency. It is also a decision that will be made within our own communities, families, mosques and organizations. Any condemnation of this, especially over a year away from the presidential election, is a cynical understanding of democracy that puts partisanship over people.

President Biden has failed to listen to the emails, faxes, calls, and cries of his constituents. As millions of us have chanted, “in our millions, in our billions, we are all Palestinians”. This will not change come November 2024.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.