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Palestinian-American doctor says he walked out of Biden Ramadan meeting in Gaza protest

WASHINGTON — A Palestinian-American doctor who joined a small group meeting with President Biden at the White House Tuesday in recognition of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan claimed Wednesday he walked out in protest of Biden’s support for the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Thaer Ahmad, a Chicago emergency room physician who recently worked in Gaza, said that he was the first of six guests to speak at the meeting and mentioned that Gaza residents are “starving” before touching on concern about a looming Israeli offensive in Rafah, the last major city held by Hamas.

“It was very brief comments by the president saying he wants to hear from us and he wants to listen to us. And so I spoke first, and I let him know that I am from a community that’s reeling,” Ahmad told CNN.

“The rhetoric that has been coming out of the Biden administration, that’s been coming out of the White House, it’s frustrated a lot of people — especially for Palestinian-Americans, Muslim Americans, Arab- Americans. We are not satisfied with what has taken place.”

Ahmad went on: “I was able to share that with the president and let him know that out of respect for my community, out of respect for all of the people who have suffered or have been killed in the process, I need to walk out of the meeting.”

The doctor further claimed that he told Biden “it was disappointing I’m the only Palestinian here, and out of respect for my community, I’m going to leave.

“I wanted a chance to stand up and walk away from the people making decisions the way they are walking from my people.”

In response, Biden “actually said that he understood, and I walked away,” added Ahmad, who claimed that he gave the president a letter from an eight-year-old orphan girl in Rafah named Hadeel.

The letter, according to Ahmad, read: “I beg you, President Biden, stop them from entering Rafah.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to confirm Ahmad’s account Wednesday at her regular briefing, saying in response to questions that the gathering “was supposed to be private” and refusing to say whether Biden read the child’s letter.

“I’m not going to speak to contents of a private meeting — just not going to do that from here,” she said, adding, “We’re going to keep our side of the promise.”

Another meeting attendee, Philadelphia ICU doctor Nahreen Ahmed, corroborated Ahmad’s account.

“This was not him as a doctor, this was him as a Palestinian American, having witnessed the atrocities that he saw firsthand,” she told CNN.

“Thaer and I were both in Gaza together. We watched far too many people killed, coming in dead on arrival in the emergency room.”

“I felt like maybe this was not necessarily a meeting where anything actionable was meant to happen, or be promised, but that it was that — it really felt like it was kind of a PR move, to be able to say, ‘We met with the Muslim community,’” Ahmed added.

The Philly doctor went on to say that after the guests had finished speaking, Biden spoke about the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas that killed 1,200 people — including 33 Americans — and triggered a declaration of war by Israel.

“He kind of went back to that and said, ‘You know, I hear what everybody’s saying, but like, think about the young people that were killed on October 7.’ And it kind of dismissed the over 30,000 people dead in Palestine,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed also told CNN she was surprised by Vice President Kamala Harris’ reaction after the veep asked about what Gazans were eating.

“I said, ‘Well, mostly, they’re not eating anything. But, if you’re asking about the animals feed, like, yes, people are eating animal feed.’ And she looked like she was hearing that for the first time as a confirmed thing,” Ahmed said.

The meeting was held in lieu of a planned Iftar dinner, which had to be canceled because Muslim community leaders refused to attend. Biden instead held a small meal with Muslim administration staffers, the White House said.

The White House did not provide a list of attendees of the more than hourlong meeting with Biden and Harris.

Biden strongly supported Israel in the initial months of the war and visited the country on Oct. 18, but has become increasingly critical about the need to prevent civilian casualties. Last month, the US abstained on a United Nations Security Council vote demanding an “immediate cease-fire,” allowing it to pass.

Polling shows Muslim Americans and Arab Americans, who are mostly Christian, are prepared to desert Biden’s re-election bid in November — as hecklers repeatedly call him “Genocide Joe” at public events.

Arab and Muslim voters have a substantial presences in swing states such as Michigan, where many residents have family members who have died in the fighting.

Former Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a Republican Senate candidate of Palestinian descent, revealed in October that several young Christian relatives of his were among the dead after Israel bombed a building adjacent to a historic Gaza church where they were sheltering.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), also of Palestinian descent, encouraged fellow Mitten State voters to oppose Biden in the state’s presidential primary in February by voting “uncommitted” as a general-election warning. “Uncommitted” received 13.3% of the vote.

Biden has called on Israel not to invade Rafah without a plan to address the fact that most of the Gaza Strip’s more than 2 million residents are believed to have fled to the area.

But in the meantime, the White House has approved more weaponry for Israel.

In the past month, the US has signed off on the transfer of 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs, the Washington Post reported — on top of State Department approval of a $2.5 billion transfer of 25 F-35A fighter jets and engines.

The administration also reportedly is preparing to approve the sale of 50 F-15 fighter jets to Israel for $18 billion.

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