Rafah: Smoke billowing after Israeli strikes over the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip Image Credit: AFP

During the US presidential elections back in November 1948, Arab diplomats in Washington tried lobbying Arab-Americans into voting for the Republican governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey. Their aim was to defeat incumbent president Harry Truman, given his unwavering support for and early recognition of the state Israel earlier that May.

They chaired long meetings, speaking passionately about importance of Arab vote in the United States. Their efforts amounted to nothing, however, given that the Arab community was relatively small, mostly apolitical, and lacked both media outlets and leadership. Truman won the election and would stay at the White House until 1953.

Today, seventy-six years later, that community stands at a strong 3.5 million people and seems determined to bring down Joe Biden in next November’s presidential election, for his unwavering support for Israel and failing to push for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.


Over the past week, the Biden Administration has made two airdrops in Gaza, with tens of thousands of ready-to-eat meals. This is a classical way of providing aid to war zones, employed by the Americans since World War II. It’s usually a last-ditch effort, resorted to only when everything else fails.

CENTCOM says that the airdrops provide “essential relief to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict.” It fails to mention that in addition to only reaching a tiny fraction of the population — if it ever does — this method is inaccurate, dangerous, and costly, given that it involves aeroplanes and fuel. It’s also pathetic — to say the least — coming after five months of carpet bombing that have whipped up a massive death toll of Palestinian lives.

Over thirty thousand Palestinians have been killed and yet, the United States has nothing to offer but packaged meals for what remains of the starving population. More than airdrops, they need a ceasefire; a real and permanent one, not just a six-week halt during the upcoming month of Ramadan.

It’s actually the only logical thing that should be on the table now, after war and wanton destruction have failed to break Hamas.

Read more by Sami Moubayed

The airdrops come just days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that residents of northern Gaza were dying from starvation. That is where the first stage of the war began last autumn, and where the World Food Program (WFP) suspended food deliveries on February 20 due to violence, looting, and what it described as “complete chaos.” Nine days later, more than one hundred Palestinians were killed as they rushed to collect aid packages. Only a small handful came away with real food. Others returned carrying the bodies of their dead children.

The Arab-American Vote

At first glance, the airdrops seem like nothing but a half-baked effort from the Biden Administration to show the world that it remains committed to easing suffering in Gaza. A closer look, however, indicates that it also aims at boosting Biden’s image at home, ahead of upcoming presidential election in November.

It’s about Biden then, not about Gaza.

Arab-Americans are furious with the ageing US president, whom they had overwhelmingly supported four years ago. According to a recent poll by the Arab American Institute, his approval ratings among Arab-Americans, who make up 3.5 million people in the US, has dropped from 59% in 2020 to 17% in 2023.

Many have said that they plan to either boycott the next election or vote for Donald Trump. For months, Trump has been largely silent on Gaza before speaking to Fox News recently, where in response to whether he supported what Israel was doing, replied: “You’ve got to finish this problem.”

In typical fashion, he added: “This would have never happened if I was president.”

In Minnesota, Arab-Americans have launched the #AbandonBiden hashtag while in Michigan, home of the largest Arab community in the US, recently saw more than 100,000 “uncommitted” votes in the Democratic primaries. Along with Georgia and Pennsylvania, Michigan is expected to be a battlefield next November and it is where Biden won 154,000 votes in 2016, thanks mainly to its Arab-American community. The Dearborn-based bilingual weekly publication, Arab American News, came out with a headline recently: “He lost our votes.”

If Biden wants to keep that vote — and there is no reason why he shouldn’t — then he needs to take a long, hard look at the titanic human catastrophe that has unfolded in Gaza. He needs to do something about it, very quickly, and only a permanent ceasefire can sway Arab-American voters today.

— Sami Moubayed is a historian and former Carnegie scholar. He is also author of the best-seller Under the Black Flag: At the frontier of the New Jihad.