Israel-Hamas war: How does the conflict shape the U.S.?

Part Four: Biden's aid to Israel, American protests and the future of the conflict

The United States Capitol, Nov. 14, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

This story is the fourth part of the Israel and Palestine conflict series. Read parts one, two and three at Central Michigan Life.

Editor's note: Senior Reporter Aurora Rae Abraham is Jewish and a former member of Hillel at CMU. In no way did this affect the reporting or writing of this story. 

While President Joseph Biden's administration and the United States Congress firmly stand with Israel, the American public is unsettled. Through protests, Americans are calling for the humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and are watching the decisions of the government closely.

After Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Biden fully supported Israel’s right to defend itself and condemned Hamas' actions.

“We will make sure the Jewish and democratic State of Israel can defend itself today, tomorrow, as we always have,” Biden said in a statement. “You know, there are moments in this life — and I mean this literally — when the pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world. The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend."

“The bloody hands of the terrorist organization Hamas — a group whose stated purpose for being is to kill Jews.”

According to the Associated Press, Hamas is a militant group that seized control over Gaza Strip from Palestinian Authority. Hamas is fighting for a liberation of occupied Palestinian territories and a complete destruction of Israel.

The House of Representatives approved an almost $14.5 billion aid to Israel on Nov. 2, according to AP.

However, not all stood with Biden’s and the House’s decision.

Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-12) is the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress. She is also a Congresswoman in a Michigan district that includes Deaborn with the largest Arab diaspora in the U.S.

Tlaib voted against the Resolution H-771, condemning Hamas and has repeatedly spoke out in support of Palestinians. She also voted present on Resolution H-888 recognizing the state of Israel’s right to exist.

“Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live with democracy, safety, peace and human dignity,” Tlaib said in a press release. “This resolution that ignores the existence of the Palestinian people brings us no closer to peaceful coexistence. … Israel does not have a right to carry out illegal occupation and apartheid — which will never lead to a just and lasting peace.”

Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer strongly supported Israel.

"We here in Michigan condemn this vile act of terrorism," Whitmer said in a pro-Israel rally, according to Detroit Free Press. “We stand with Israel. And Israel has a right to defend itself."

Former Central Michigan University political science Professor Nahla Hamdan said that Biden’s administration made a bad decision to stand with Israel. She said this way, he will lose the Arab-American support in his next elections, as well as destroy relationships with Arab countries.

“How do Americans accept this?” Hamdan said. “There are a lot of children (who) will die soon. … This is not accepted at any level. It’s a vicious circle (and it) has to stop.”

She said international audits and justice are needed to stop Israel’s bombing of Palestinians in Gaza.

Similarly, Reuters reported that Biden's support of Israel will cost him Arab and Muslim American voters specially in Michigan.

"Arab and Muslim Americans and their allies are criticizing President Joe Biden's response to the Israel-Hamas war, asking him to do more to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza or risk losing their support in the 2024 election," the article read.

Arab Americans account for 5% of the vote in Michigan, which helped Biden win Michigan with 50.6% in 2020, according to Reuters.

“Our district didn’t send President Biden to the White House to have him facilitate the killing of innocent civilians,” Tlaib said when responding to Biden’s approval of $100 million military aid to Israel on Dec. 11. “We didn’t turn out in huge numbers to elect President Biden to have him supply the bombs for a genocide. 

“This Administration’s refusal to acknowledge the human dignity of Palestinians is disturbing, and actions like this speak loud and clear.”

Michigan Representative John Moolenaar (R-2) supported Biden condemning the Hamas attack. 

"As Americans, we must be resolute in our support for Israel and the Jewish people so they know they will never have to face their enemies alone," Moolenaar said in a statement. "There is no doubt that Iran, Hamas and other terrorist organizations want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. We will do everything we can to make sure that never happens."

The U.S. also vetoed the United Nations Security Council Arab-sponsored resolution calling for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza because of the blockade of food, water and fuel on Dec. 8. The vote on the resolution has been delayed again, the U.S. backed its new text, according to AP

Meanwhile, the U.N. General Assembly voted 153 in favor, 10 against and 23 abstentions on a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza on Dec. 12.

Even though Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel is losing support and called for cease-fire, the U.S. voted against the cease-fire in the General Assembly vote.

While politicians struggle to agree, activists on the ground are working to build peace among divided populations.

Sixth and I Street Synogauge Senior Rabbi and Executive Director of Jewish Life, Aaron Poteck, moderates a conversation with Sally Abed, middle, and Alon-Lee Green, right, on Nov. 13, 2023 in Washington, D.C. Abed and Green spoke to a full room about their work work with Standing Together, a grassroots movement to unite Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel in the shared interest of peace and security.

Two leaders of an Israel grassroots movement spoke on Nov. 13 in one of Washington D.C.’s oldest synagogues about their efforts to bridge Palestinian and Jewish people in order to find a solution to the current conflict.

Sally Abed and Alon-Lee Green, leaders of Standing Together, discussed their experiences as Israeli citizens, their views, efforts and most of all, their undying hope for peace and empathy. 

Standing Together, which started in 2015, mobilizes Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, and social and climate justice, according to the organization’s website.  

Abed and Green said hope for a shared future starts with acknowledging pain on all sides. 

“If we are able to contain the grief and hold the experiences of both peoples, we will also be able to envision a world for both peoples,” said Abed, who has become a prominent Palestinian voice in Israel and co-hosts a podcast called Groundwork.

Here, at Central Michigan University a small group of students called for cease-fire and Palestinian freedom in a Nov. 20 protest and held a Palestine Informational Night.

In San Francisco, 80 protesters blockaded traffic demanding a cease-fire in Gaza on Dec. 16. According to a Dec. 18 article by the Associated Press, while the protestors faced their court date, more than 200 protested outside of the courthouse. 

Violence has risen in the U.S. as well.

According to an Anti-Defamation League press release, antisemitism in the United States increased by 337% since Oct. 7. There were 2,031 antisemitic incidents between Oct. 7 and Dec. 7.

In Detroit, synagogue President Samantha Woll was stabbed to death for unknown reasons on Oct. 21, according to AP

"Woll’s death had stoked speculation that it could be tied to animus over the Israel-Hamas war," the article read. "But White said the attack doesn’t appear to be a result of antisemitism."

Islamophobia has seen an increase since Oct. 7 as well.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has received 1,283 requests for help reporting anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias in the period of Oct. 7 and Nov. 4. That is a 216% increase since the last year.

Wadea Al Fayoume, 6, a boy from a Palestinian Muslim family was fatally stabbed and his mother was injured in an Islamophobic attack on Oct. 14, according to CNN.

“The Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian rhetoric that have been used to both justify violence against Palestinians in Gaza and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights here in America has contributed to this unprecedented surge in bigotry,” CAIR Advocacy Director Corey Saylor said in a press release.

Green, a life-long activist and former political adviser in Israel’s parliament, said it seems as though there is only space to empathize with one population affected by the war. 

“You either have to hashtag stand with Israel or hashtag free Palestine and it's not possible to kind of hold the pain of both people and admit the very basic fact that both people lose from this reality,” he said. 

Now, the future of the Israel and Hamas conflict depends on the world leaders’ decisions, CMU Muslim Student Association members Shaheer Noor and Mahum Hakim said.

“Global leaders … can voice (their) opinion for a cease-fire, and the United Nations and their role in trying to call for a cease-fire and allow humanitarian aid into wherever it needs to be,” Noor said. 

Thus, he said, it depends on what the global population wants, and whether it will allow more fighting to take place.

“I think a lot of leaders and countries are really polarized on this issue and are not willing to see another side or another perspective,” Hakim said. “And because of this, it’s causing a lot of diplomatic issues between calling for a ceasefire. We can only hope that the aggression ends sooner for the civilians of both sides.”

CMU history Professor Jason Szilagyi said that conflict might take “decades down the road” before Israelis and Palestinians come to an agreement.

“Optimistically, I believe naively in my case, I would hope that they would come to the agreement that either it has to be ... one state -- with everyone involved, with everyone having full citizenship, with everyone being able to function in a society -- or there's going to be a two-state solution ... set up in (such) a way that they will both be able to survive and thrive,” he said. 

Green said the path to peace must start with a common understanding of one basic idea. 

“I think every discussion should start from the very basic fact that millions of Palestinians live on this land, and they’re not going anywhere, and millions of Jewish people are living on the same land and they’re not going anywhere as well,” he said. “If you cannot start the discussion for this very fact … then every kind of discussion, solution, or political chant that ignores that is not contributing to a solution, but it’s actually part of the problem.” 

Related content:
Israel-Hamas War: Understanding the division through CMU historians
Israel-Hamas war: The impact on CMU's community
Israel-Hamas war: Michigan universities respond in various ways