Oct 10, 2023 - News

Michigan Democrats split on Israel, Palestinian support

Palestinian citizens inspect damage to their homes caused by Israeli airstrikes on Monday in Gaza City, Gaza. More than 700 people have died in Gaza after Israel launched sustained retaliatory airstrikes after Saturday's attack by Hamas. Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

Metro Detroiters are paying close attention to what elected leaders are saying about the fighting in Israel and the Gaza Strip after hundreds were killed following a surprise attack on Saturday by Hamas.

Why it matters: The wide range of statements from local politicians reflect Southeast Michigan's divided feelings on the topic.

  • The region is home to the nation's largest Arab American population and America's only Palestinian congressperson.

Driving the news: Per Axios, at least 900 have been killed in Israel, "a staggering toll on a scale the country has not experienced in decades," the AP reports.

What they're saying: "As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue," U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who represents parts of Dearborn and Detroit, said in a statement.

The other side: State Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), who is Jewish, criticized Tlaib's statement, saying it refused to acknowledge "a shocking act of terrorism."

  • "Hamas violence is not some mere effect of resistance; it is a primary cause of instability in the region that prevents both Israelis and Palestinians from living in peace without fear," Moss says.

Zoom in: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was heavily criticized after her initial post in reference to the violence that failed to mention any specifics.

  • Hours later, she added to her original statement: "There is no justification for violence against Israel. My support is steadfast."

Between the lines: Former state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, the mayor of Dearborn, first took to Instagram to criticize President Biden's response to the killings before issuing a longer statement in support of Palestinian rights.

  • "Ending this violence requires ending the occupation," Hammoud wrote.
  • Wayne County health director Abdul El-Sayed has also made social media comments in support of the Palestinian cause.

The bottom line: Where leaders stand on the issue is a litmus test for voters in the area concerned with Palestinian rights.

  • Supporting Israel came with political blowback this summer for state Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), who apologized to her Arab American constituents after visiting Israel.
  • "I should have exercised better discretion and engaged in a different protocol with community leaders to seek their counsel prior to the trip," Santana wrote.
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