Web Stories Thursday, April 25

The White House has shifted plans for President Joe Biden to host an iftar dinner Tuesday night to break the Ramadan fast with Muslim community leaders, instead deciding to hold a meeting with the group as the administration faces anger and concern from Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim American communities amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Biden will still host a small dinner with senior Muslim administration officials, a White House official said, but outside attendees will only go to the meeting after significant pushback from expected attendees, sources told CNN.

“There was a significant amount of pushback from attendees that it would be inappropriate to raise the humanitarian crisis in Gaza over dinner,” a person familiar with the meeting told CNN. “There’s a famine in Gaza, 23 children have died from starvation in Northern Gaza. I don’t think anybody would be comfortable sharing those stories and images over dinner.”

Another source familiar with the plans said that there was little interest from participants in wanting to eat and celebrate and that it became clear it would be more fitting to hold a policy discussion.

CNN had previously reported that several people who were invited to attend have declined, sources said, citing frustration with the administration’s support of Israel amid the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

And a third source told CNN, “Basically the sentiment we heard over and over again was that anybody going to the iftar while Palestinians are being killed and starved should be ashamed of themselves.”

The moment is significantly scaled back from previous Ramadan observations during the Biden administration. Last year, the White House did not hold an iftar dinner – the breaking of the daily fast after sundown – but hosted nearly 350 people for a reception celebrating Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of Ramadan.

“Continuing his tradition of honoring the Muslim community during Ramadan, President Biden will host a meeting with Muslim community leaders to discuss issues of importance to the community,” a White House official said.

Vice President Kamala Harris, senior Muslim administration officials, senior members of Biden’s national security team and fewer than a dozen invited guests are expected to attend the meeting, per a senior administration official.

The iftar following the meeting was described by the White House official as “a small breaking of the fast, prayer, and iftar with a number of senior Muslim administration officials.”

This year, Ramadan comes as more than 32,000 people have been killed since Israel launched a ferocious campaign in Gaza against Hamas in the wake of the terror group’s brutal attacks on October 7, according to the Gaza health ministry. Biden has called for an immediate ceasefire but has stopped short of saying it should be permanent or halting arms provisions to Israel.

White House officials have held several meetings with prominent Arab American and Muslim leaders in various cities. Last month, senior White House officials met with Arab, Muslim and Palestinian American community leaders in Chicago. Tom Perez, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs, and Steve Benjamin, director of public engagement, participated in the meeting, among others. But some of the invited participants declined to attend due to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Anger and concern about the administration’s handling of the conflict is also presenting political problems for Biden, including in battleground states such as Michigan, home to more than 200,000 Muslim American voters. In the state’s Democratic primary in February, more than 100,000 Democratic primary voters chose “uncommitted” to send a message to the president. Biden has also been repeatedly interrupted by activists on the campaign trail.

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