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Illinois Muslim, Arab Groups Decline White House Meeting Over Gaza Policy

Muslim and Arab groups in Illinois are refusing to meet with White House officials due to the Biden administration’s lack of policy change on Gaza, highlighting the president’s inability to square his unconditional support of Israel’s military offensive with his constituents’ calls for an immediate cease-fire.

With just days until Illinois holds its primary election, White House officials had requested to meet with Palestinian, Arab and Muslim American groups and leaders in Chicago this week. In response, dozens of frustrated groups signed a letter sent to the White House on Thursday.

According to the letter, the groups found “no point in more meetings” when the White House is already aware of the position taken by Muslim and Palestinian Americans and their allies. The signatories cited prior meetings with the Biden administration, press statements, letters to elected officials, media interviews and “enormous street action within earshot of the Oval Office” to protest the U.S. government’s role in Israel’s ongoing offensive in Gaza, which has reached five months without a permanent cease-fire.

“The White House has not only refused to call for a ceasefire, but also enabled this blatant campaign of ethnic cleansing to take place by providing financial and military means, as well as diplomatic support at the United Nations,” the letter stated. “A meeting of the minds is nowhere in sight.”

Neither the White House nor Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment. The governor has served as one of Biden’s strongest allies in the Midwest, and Chicago is preparing to host the Democratic National Convention in August.

The rejection echoes that of Muslim and Arab leaders in other states ― specifically Michigan, which led a movement for Democratic voters to cast their primary ballot for “uncommitted” instead of for President Joe Biden. The goal of the movement, which saw an unprecedented 100,000 votes for uncommitted, was not necessarily to block Biden from winning Michigan’s primary, but rather to show him that continuing to aid Israel in its military campaign will cost him in November.

In Illinois, there will be no ballot option to vote uncommitted in Tuesday’s primary. But some Muslim civic engagement groups and local Palestinian organizations are encouraging voters to either write-in “Gaza” for president or to simply leave the option blank.

“There is no confusion as to our consistent demand for an immediate ceasefire to end the mass murder of civilians and stave off the worst humanitarian crisis in modern times,” the letter by the Muslim and Arab groups read. “We believe another meeting would only act to whitewash months of White House inaction followed by meek handouts. We are interested in serious action.”

Just days after Hamas militants launched a deadly attack on Israel ― and the Israeli government in turn launched its military offensive in Gaza ― Illinois was put under the spotlight when a man killed a 6-year-old Muslim boy in the heavily Palestinian Chicago suburb of Plainfield. The fatal stabbing of Wadea Al-Fayoume is being investigated as a hate crime by the Justice Department.

Illinois’ Cook County, which includes Chicago, is home to more Palestinians than any other county in the nation. With Mayor Brandon Johnson casting the tie-breaking vote, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution in January calling for a permanent cease-fire. The symbolic declaration, which also calls for humanitarian aid and the release of all remaining hostages, made Chicago the largest city yet to officially demand a cease-fire.

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