The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee encouraged Muslims to boycott tonight’s Iftar dinner at the White House in celebration of Ramadan, citing the administration’s support for Israel.
The dinner is scheduled in the State Dining Room for 8:55 p.m., after the sun goes down to break the daily fast in accordance with Islamic law. Ramadan ends July 28.
In a statement, the committee aid the “deplorable situation” in Gaza, “brought on by Israel’s U.S.-sanctioned illegal occupation of Palestine, has received no direct action from President Obama.”
“The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) will not be attending this year’s government iftars and calls upon members of the Arab and Muslim communities to join us in the boycott, including tonight’s White House Iftar hosted by President Barack Obama, given the government’s condoning of the current slaughter of Palestinians in Palestine and the spying of American Arabs and Muslims domestically,” the group said in a statement.
“In the government’s silence, Israel is committing a massacre in Palestine with the possibility of an all-out ground assault. Our American tax dollars have contributed to over 100 civilian casualties as of Monday morning, of which 70% are estimated by the United Nations to be women and children,” continued the statement.
The ADC cited recent reporting from Glenn Greenwald that revealed “the government’s indiscriminate and ongoing criminalization of the community” through NSA spying on some Arab and Muslim community leaders.
“Political engagement is important and having a seat at the table is crucial — but only when that seat is intended to amplify our voice as a community, not tokenize or subdue it… In lieu of this year’s government iftars, ADC asks that senior officials take immediate steps to end Israel’s current military operation in Palestine and abolish the problematic practices of the NSA regarding the illegal surveillance of our community,” said the ADC.
“If President Obama and the U.S. government truly seek to empower and connect with the Arab and Muslim communities, they must provide a forum for such dialogue to take place. While our request for a meeting with Secretary of State John F. Kerry continues to be ignored, we ask that senior officials meet with the community to discuss these important issues. Government iftars, such as the White House Iftar, are highly politicized events that will be taking place in the shadow of the government’s lack of representation of the community, and will provide no room for this productive dialogue.”
Asked about the boycott at the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the purpose of the Iftar dinner “is to observe a religious tradition that Muslims all around the globe are observing at this time of Ramadan.”
“It also is an opportunity for the president and other senior administration officials to pay tribute to the important role that Muslim Americans play in American communities all across the country,” he said. “There are immigrants to this country from a variety of regions of the world who are Muslim, and it is important for every American to understand that they are critical to the success of our country and inter-woven into the basic fabric that makes United States of America such a unique place to live.”
“We certainly respect the differences that some people may have on this — on these matters, but we would not want that to overshadow the efforts of the president and other senior administration officials to pay tribute to the contribution that so many American Muslims play in their communities.”
President Obama marked the start of Ramadan in a June 27 statement said the U.S. is “grateful to the many Muslim American organizations, individuals, and businesses that are devoted to creating opportunity for all by working to reduce income inequality and poverty, not only through their charitable efforts, but also through their initiatives to empower students, workers and families with the education, skills and healthcare they deserve.”
“Ramadan also reminds us of our shared responsibility to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves and the basic principles that bind people of different faiths together: a yearning for peace, justice, and equality,” Obama said. “At a moment when too many people around the world continue to suffer from senseless conflict and violence, this sacred time reminds us of our common obligations to pursue justice and peace and to uphold the dignity of every human being.”
Earnest said the U.S. isn’t condoning Palestinian deaths, but is “encouraging the leaders of both sides to reflect that concern for those individuals’ safety as they consider the best way to deescalate this conflict.”
“That’s one of the reasons that not just the United States, but people all around the journal I think would have some hesitation about a ground offensive by the Israelis is that it would put the — put at risk even more civilians. So we would like to see a deescalation of this conflict for the benefit of civilians on both sides of that conflict,” he said.
On the ADC’s complaint about spying on Muslims, Earnest pointed out “that unlike some other countries, the United States of America doesn’t target individuals based on their race or ethnicity or religion.”
“That is a principle to which we scrupulously adhere,” he said. “And that hasn’t changed.”
A groups of more than 100 Muslim activists including the ADC released an open letter in support of the Iftar boycott, citing disdain with Guantanamo Bay and other foreign policy.
“We cannot ignore that fact that it is U.S. tax dollars that are funding Israeli occupation and apartheid and that the White House has wholeheartedly endorsed Israel’s current massacre,” the lengthy letter states in part. “This makes our call to reject an invitation to the White House iftar even more crucial as we are being told once again that from Palestine to Iraq, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, that the lives of those killed by the U.S. and its allies are worthless.”
But one of two Muslims in Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), said a boycott would be counterproductive.
“I’m looking forward to visiting with President Obama at the White House Iftar. While I certainly share the concerns of the people who have called for the boycott, I disagree with the tactic. It will not close Guantanamo Bay, guarantee a cease-fire between Israel and Palestine or undo the NSA’s targeting of Muslims,” Ellison said in a statement.
“The leaders of the Montgomery Bus boycott and the United Farm Workers’ boycotts didn’t have the opportunity to speak directly to the White House about the issues affecting their communities. Boycotting was one of the few tools on the table at that time. A boycott of the White House Iftar dinner tonight won’t help advance an agenda on the policy matters we care about. If the boycott was successful and no Muslims showed up, then no one would talk about the issues on behalf of our community,” Ellison continued.
“Precisely because the people adversely affected by these policies cannot be present, passionate and articulate members of the community must be there tonight.”