Efforts of Trump allies to win over Arab Americans in Michigan met with skepticism

During a gathering of Arab American activists, held in Lansing, Michigan, a prominent adviser to former President Donald Trump was questioned about how Trump would have handled the Israel-Hamas war, given the dissatisfaction expressed by the attendees towards President Joe Biden’s response.

Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany under the Trump administration, emphasized the positive impact of Trump’s governance on global conflict reduction. However, according to two individuals present in the room, Grenell did not delve into the specific policy changes they were seeking. As a result, one leader expressed dissatisfaction and remained unconvinced.

The meeting, which lasted almost two hours, signaled the start of a heightened effort by Trump supporters in the crucial swing state of Michigan. In this state, key segments of Biden’s coalition are dissatisfied with his handling of Israel’s offensive after Hamas’ attack on October 7th. However, Trump’s potential political advantage may be constrained by the criticism he faced from many Arab Americans due to his immigration ban on several predominantly Muslim countries and his perceived disrespectful comments.

“We value the effort to engage with us,” expressed Khaled Saffuri, a political activist of Arab American descent who attended the event on Tuesday. “However, it will be challenging to persuade the community to shift their support from Biden to Trump. Despite our discontent with Biden, there is still lingering dissatisfaction from the four years of Trump’s presidency.”

Grenell attended the meeting alongside Michael Boulos, the husband of Trump’s daughter Tiffany, and his father, Massad Boulos, a wealthy Lebanese businessman. Palestinian American UFC fighter Belal Muhammad also participated in the meeting, which was not an official campaign event.

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The event was attended by nearly 40 Arab American activists from different parts of the country. Among them were individuals who already support Trump, while others had come to listen to his surrogates, as mentioned by Yahya Basha, a doctor from Michigan who was present at the gathering.

“I believe the majority of attendees were eager to learn about the specific policy changes that Trump would propose. The interaction during the meeting primarily revolved around a series of questions,” Basha explained. Despite participating in the discussion, Basha did not make a final decision on which candidate to support in the upcoming election.”

During the conversation, Saffuri asked Grenell about the travel ban on majority Muslim countries that was implemented during Trump’s presidency. Grenell denied that such a ban was ever put into effect. Additionally, Saffuri inquired about Jared Kushner’s recent comments regarding the potential of Gaza’s “waterfront property.”

Saffuri criticized Grenell for never addressing the topic of Gaza correctly.

Saffuri, who identifies as leaning Republican but voted third-party in 2020, expressed his thoughts on the meeting, stating that he did not anticipate all the questions to be answered directly. He acknowledged that addressing these issues would require significant consideration, but appreciated the effort to involve the community, seeing it as a positive step forward.

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Grenell chose not to provide a comment.

According to a statement made by Ammar Mousa, a spokesperson for Biden’s campaign, Trump poses a significant threat to the Muslim and Arab community. Mousa further emphasized that Trump has openly discussed the possibility of allowing Israel to bomb Gaza without considering the consequences.

Moussa praised President Biden for his relentless efforts in achieving a fair and enduring peace.

According to Massad Boulos, Tiffany Trump’s father-in-law, he delivered a speech wherein he shared his experiences as an immigrant and how they influenced his conservative values. Boulos also shed light on a more intimate aspect of Trump, emphasizing his affection and admiration for the Middle East as a whole.

In an interview, Boulos emphasized the importance of organizing and preparing for November, as well as mobilizing their respective communities.

According to Bishara Bahbah, the chairman of Arab Americans for Trump and organizer of the meeting, Tuesday’s gathering in Michigan marked the start of a series of upcoming meetings between Trump allies and Arab American leaders. Bahbah, who attended the meeting, mentioned that he is currently in the process of organizing future meetings.

According to a statement from Brian Hughes, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, the campaign did not initiate the meeting. However, they remain committed to engaging with these voters and emphasizing the positive impact of President Trump’s policies in the Middle East, which have resulted in unprecedented levels of peace and stability in the region.

Arab Americans have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party in recent times. However, many of them are currently upset with Biden for his failure to demand a permanent ceasefire and withdraw all aid to Israel. The meeting held on Tuesday took place in Metro Detroit, which has one of the largest Arab American populations in the United States. This region has become a significant center of opposition because of its vital role in the battleground state.

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According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, approximately 35,000 Palestinians have lost their lives in Israel’s offensive following the attack on October 7. It is important to note that the Health Ministry does not differentiate between combatants and noncombatants in its death toll.

The anger has spread beyond Arab American voters and has resonated with different groups, including young voters. This sentiment has been evident through widespread protests on college campuses across the nation. One notable form of protest in the Democratic primaries has been the movement to choose “uncommitted” as a way to express dissatisfaction. This movement has gained significant support, receiving hundreds of thousands of votes nationwide. In fact, it garnered 18% of the vote in Kentucky’s Democratic primary on Tuesday.

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