From Lawsuits to Protests, Pro-Palestine Americans Are Pushing Biden to Pivot

From Lawsuits to Protests, Pro-Palestine Americans Are Pushing Biden to Pivot  

After Israel’s assault on Gaza killed five members of Monadel Herzallah’s family, he decided to sue President Joe Biden. Herzallah—a U.S. citizen—had already taken part in protests and written to his representatives. This felt like the logical next step. “We have exhausted every possible way we can raise our voice,” he says in an interview with TIME. “They did not stop the genocide.”

On Nov. 13, Palestinians in Gaza and the U.S.—aided by the Center for Constitutional Rights—sued Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The lawsuit aims to stop the U.S. from providing more arms, money and diplomatic support to Israel, on the grounds that the U.S. is legally obliged to avoid facilitating an ongoing genocide. 

Biden is facing intense heat over his administration’s Israel policy, not only in court, but from voters and dissenting staffers in Congress and at federal agencies. The president is pushing to supply Israel with an additional $14 billion in military aid and has said there are “no red lines” when it comes to American support for Israel. The White House has so far said that they have a rigorous process for evaluating whether a country has committed genocide and that Israel’s actions do not fit that definition.

Massive pro-Palestinian protests have swept major U.S. cities, and Biden’s approach to Middle East policy may cost him significantly ahead of the presidential election. While Arab and Muslim communities don’t make up a large percentage of the electorate, they have a disproportionate influence in key battleground states—particularly Michigan, says Youssef Chouhoud, an assistant professor of political science at Christopher Newport University, an expert in Muslim minorities in the West. “When you factor in how close that gap has been between the winner and the loser in presidential elections in swing states, any kind of decrease in support could prove pivotal,” he says.

Last month, more than 400 congressional staffers signed an open letter calling for a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages. The signatories were predominantly Muslim and Jewish but signed anonymously out of fear that it could endanger their personal safety and their employment. “Nationwide and in Congress, the voices calling for de-escalation and peace have been drowned out by those beating the drums of war. As Muslims and Jews, we are tired of relieving generational fears of genocide and ethnic cleansing,” the letter stated. 

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