ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Biden condemns anti-Arab hate after WSJ opinion piece calls Dearborn ‘jihad capital’

Without citing op-ed, US president says residents of Michigan city should not be blamed ‘for words of a small few’; mayor ramps up security following ‘bigoted’ column

Illustrative: US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, in Dearborn, Michigan, on May 18, 2021. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)
Illustrative: US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, in Dearborn, Michigan, on May 18, 2021. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

US President Joe Biden on Sunday denounced anti-Arab rhetoric in response to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece targeting Dearborn, Michigan, that the city’s mayor had called “bigoted” and “Islamophobic.”

The piece, published in the WSJ on Friday with the headline “Welcome to Dearborn, America’s Jihad Capital,” suggested that the city’s residents, including religious leaders and politicians, supported Palestinian Islamist terrorist group Hamas and extremism.

The column drew outrage from Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, as well as several US lawmakers and rights advocates from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The mayor said on Saturday he had ramped up police presence at houses of worship and other public places after “an alarming increase in bigoted and Islamophobic rhetoric online targeting the city of Dearborn.”

As of Sunday afternoon, there were no reports of unrest in Dearborn, a suburb of about 110,000 people that borders Detroit.

Biden, while not referring directly to the WSJ or the article’s author, said on social media platform X it was wrong to blame “a group of people based on the words of a small few.”

Illustrative: Then-Michingan state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, now mayor of Dearborn, speaks during a campaign rally for presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, in Dearborn, Michigan, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

“That’s exactly what can lead to Islamophobia and anti-Arab hate, and it shouldn’t happen to the residents of Dearborn – or any American town,” Biden said on the platform formerly called Twitter.

The city has one of the highest percentages of Arab Americans among US cities, with census figures showing it is about 54 percent Arab American.

“Reckless. Bigoted. Islamophobic,” Hammoud said on Saturday about the WSJ piece written by Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Biden, who is running for re-election, has himself faced criticism and protests from Dearborn and from antiwar voices around the country for his administration’s support for Israel in its operations in Gaza.

The WSJ did not respond to a request for comment. Stalinsky said he stood by his piece and added that videos compiled by his institute showed that “shocking anti-US and pro-jihad sermons and marches” had taken place in the city. Reuters was not able to independently verify the location or the date of when the videos were filmed.

Rights advocates have noted a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US since the eruption of war in the Middle East in October.

Among anti-Palestinian incidents that raised alarm were a November shooting in Vermont of three students of Palestinian descent and the fatal stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian American in Illinois in October.

Some Democratic members of the US Congress, including representatives Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna and senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, also condemned the WSJ opinion piece, with Jayapal demanding an apology from the newspaper.

Illustrative: A pro-Palestinian demonstration, during the Israel-Hamas war, in Dearborn, Michigan, on October 14, 2023. (Jeff Kowalsky/ AFP)

The Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists invaded Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and take 253 hostages of all ages, while committing numerous atrocities and weaponizing sexual violence on a mass scale.

The shock assault led Israel to conduct massive airstrikes on Gaza in support of a land campaign dedicated to dismantling  Hamas and retrieving the hostages.

According to the Gaza Strip’s Health Ministry, which is controlled by the terror group, over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ensuing war. The figures, which cannot be independently verified, make no distinction between civilians and combatants.

Nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million population is displaced. The densely populated enclave also faces starvation.

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