Protesters Challenge U.S.’s Middle East Policies as Biden Visits Dearborn

More than 1,000 people showed up to voice their disapproval of President Biden’s stance on the escalating violence in Israel and Gaza.

This feature originally aired on NPR.

A broad coalition of activists gathered in Dearborn Tuesday as President Joe Biden visited a Ford electric vehicle plant. Many protested his administration’s policies in the Middle East, including U.S. support for Israel. 

Protests in Dearborn, which is home to Ford Motor Co. and one of the biggest Arab American communities in the U.S., have continued since the weekend. The demonstrations are in solidarity with Palestinian causes and in opposition to Israeli military action in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.  

“We have cousins who have been shot and murdered. It’s hard that we live here and we get to, at least, be able to speak on it. So that’s what we’re choosing to do.” –Sarah Hamad

More than 1,000 people showed up to voice their disapproval of President Biden’s stance on the recent violence in Israel and Gaza. 

One of the protests was held at a neighborhood park a few blocks from the Ford Dearborn plant. Nadeen Hamad’s family are Palestinian refugees. 

Russ McNamara/WDET
Russ McNamara/WDET

“My great-grandfather and my grandfather were kicked out of their homes. And ever since then, the Palestinian pride has been — we were built on it. We were grown on it. So I brought everybody that feels the same with me to fight for the cause,” Hamad said. 

Many protesters here feel the fighting in the Middle East is part of what they call a decades-long campaign of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israel. Israel says the conflict is about stopping Hamas rockets from terrorizing its civilian population. Hamad has family in Lebanon and Yemen, too. Her sister Sarah says many people like them who live in Dearborn have family or know people who have suffered because of U.S. foreign policies in other parts of the region. 

“We have cousins who have been shot and murdered. It’s hard that we live here and we get to, at least, be able to speak on it. So that’s what we’re choosing to do,” Sarah Hamad said. 

Both sisters voted for President Biden during the last election, but they say they regret that decision. 

“I thought I was doing the right thing by voting for Biden. And it turns out I ended up hurting my family back home more than when there was a Republican in office even though it was as bad as Trump, you know?” Nadeen Hamad said. 

Her sister added: “You can never win in politics. There’s always evil. But it’s the promise of, I’m going to be better, and you’re not better. You’re just as bad as him.” 

Sarah Hamad pointed to the speakers and said rather than picking between Democrats or Republicans, she’d rather elect somebody totally different. 

“Somebody like one of these leaders that see that everybody is equal, you know, that see that even though you can’t make a huge change, you can make a change,” she said. 

Biden secured about 40,000 votes in Dearborn in the November election, about 1.4% of the ballots cast in Michigan. Biden beat former President Donald Trump by about 2.7% in the state. 

Laura Albast/Yemeni Liberation Movement
Laura Albast/Yemeni Liberation Movement

“We’re no longer following these politicians. We’re no longer believing what they’re saying or taking their words at face value. We’re looking for material change,” said Iman Saleh, who helped organize Tuesday’s protest. 

She hopes the protests can help change the national dialogue on the violence. Saleh led a 23-day hunger strike in Washington, D.C., earlier this year to draw attention to the Saudi Arabian blockade of Yemen. She said the people who gathered Tuesday are united in what many here see as a shared struggle. 

“When we talk about police here and Black lives here, we’re also relating that to Palestinian lives in Palestine. We’re seeing a lot of the same tactics that they used to oppress the people in these villages or in these cities overseas being used here on the streets in Detroit,” she said. 

Groups like the Palestinian Youth Movement, the Yemeni Liberation Movement and Detroit’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America have used social media to organize protests. That’s how Sham Al Alem found out about Tuesday’s gathering. The 16-year-old was born in Syria and remembers the conflict there. 

“I got kicked out of my country when I was seven. I used to close my ears when I hear the bombs. It was a disaster and it was not good for me. And I know what kids is going through, and that’s why I want to reach their voices,” Al Alem said. “I see kids right now on Instagram crying and telling, Dad, please don’t leave me. They don’t have parents, you know? And that’s why we want to come here.” 

During his visit to the Ford plant in Dearborn, President Biden called out Palestinian American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and offered his prayers for her family in the West Bank. 

Listen: Demonstrators in Dearborn show their disapproval of the Biden administration’s Middle East policies.




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  • Eli Newman
    Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.