DEARBORN, Mich. (FOX 2) - Along with several Arab-American leaders, Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud refused to meet with Joe Biden's campaign manager over the president's stance in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
"What do I tell my residents? My residents who have lost loved ones overseas," Hammoud said.
The mayor, a member of the Democratic Party, said his decision to bail on the meeting reflects the demands of the Arab-American community.
"This is not the time to talk about elections," Hammoud said. "This is the time to ask and demand for an immediate cease-fire."
The meeting was set for Friday afternoon – with about a dozen local Arab American leaders, including Hammoud and Dearborn's State Rep. Alabass Farhat.
"I couldn't get myself to want to sit down with that individual," Farhat said.
From Biden’s campaign, Julie Chavez Rodriguez was supposed to lead the meeting.
Sources familiar with the meeting told FOX 2 this was part of a tour that began last fall, in key battleground states, to talk election strategy with diverse groups.
"Right now is the time for us to hold him accountable to the promises they made in 2020 – when they said the Arab American community, the Muslim American community will have a seat at the table," Farhat said. "We don't have that seat right now."
Since Oct. 7, the death toll from the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip surpassed 26,000 on Friday, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. About 2 million Palestinians have been displaced.
Fighting between Israel and Hamas has inflamed tensions between Jews and Muslims around the world. But it has had especially deep resonance in the Detroit area, which is home to several heavily Jewish suburbs and to Dearborn – the city with the country’s largest concentration of Arab Americans.
In 2020, Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes over Donald Trump. However, this year's presidential election could take a different turn as Arab-Americans vow to ditch Biden in 2024 for his full-throated support for Israel in its war with Hamas.
There are currently 300-thousand Arab-Americans in Michigan, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Farhat says 80-percent typically swing Democrat.
"If you poll them, many of them will tell you this is their number one issue," Farhat said.
Hammoud took to X (formerly Twitter) to further explain his decision not to meet with Rodriguez, stating "the lives of Palestinians are not measured in poll numbers. Their humanity demands action, not lip service."
If Biden’s policymakers decide they want to talk about a cease-fire in Gaza, Hammoud said he would consider that meeting.
"If there's a meaningful conversation to be had where you're not just here to listen and then walk away for a photo opp – we'll gladly take that conversation," Hammoud said.
Rodriguez still met with a few Arab-American community leaders on Friday, along with leaders in other minority communities.
AP News contributed to this report.