Group urges voters to write in 'Gaza' amid lack of cease-fire this Illinois primary election

Coalition of Palestinian, Muslim organizations also boycotting meetings in Chicago with senior White House officials

Craig Wall Image
Thursday, March 14, 2024
Some urge Illinois voters to write-in 'Gaza' amid lack of cease-fire
A coalition of Palestinian and Muslim organizations is urging voters to protest at the ballot box this Illinois primary election.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A coalition of Palestinian and Muslim organizations is boycotting meetings in Chicago with senior White House officials, and they also plan to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

It all stems from the way President Joe Biden has handled the war between Israel and Hamas.

The frustration among Palestinians and their supporters is a result, they say, of the failure of the Biden administration to secure a cease-fire in the war in Gaza.

And, in boycotting meetings with White House officials set for Thursday, they are sending a message about what this will mean for the primary and general elections.

Pro-Palestinian groups have been demonstrating for months, calling for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

They are also demanding an end to U.S. military support of Israel and for increased humanitarian aid to Palestinians in war-torn Gaza.

Now, a coalition of more than 30 Palestinian and Muslim organizations have sent a letter to the White House, declining an offer to have a meeting with senior officials about the situation in Gaza.

"You know exactly what our community's demands have been, what they are, and you continue to reject them. You continue to pretend like those demands are not worth listening to," said Tarek Khalil, with American Muslims for Palestine-Chicago.

But they want their voices to be heard not just at rallies, but at the ballot box, with early voting well underway, and the primary just five days from now.

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The message they want to send is similar to what happened in Michigan's primary, where more than 100,000 voted "uncommitted."

"In Illinois, a lot of the Palestinian in the Muslim American community are encouraged to either leave it blank, or write 'Gaza' as a way for us to show that we are coming to the polls. We're still voting; we're voting for other elected officials," said Deena Kishawi, also with American Muslims for Palestine-Chicago.

There's no guarantee they will come back to President Joe Biden in November, even though the president might be the more logical choice for Arab voters.

"If he, Joe, wants to win, and if he really believes that what he wants to do for our country is good. He'll show us by his actions," said Joehar Hamdan, with the Justice Coalition PAC. "You have to earn the American vote. It doesn't get, it's not given for free."

The groups see the president's promise during his State of the Union address to have the military build a floating seaport to get humanitarian aid to Gaza as a token gesture.

Their message about Biden's overall response to the war in Gaza will be sent at the polls.

"To tell this president that we will not accept this kind of behavior. We will not accept this policy. And you cannot use us as tokens, as tools to further your political gains," said Tarek Khalil, with American Muslims for Palestine-Chicago.

Unlike in Michigan, any write-in protest votes in Illinois will not be counted by state election law.

So, it may be hard to gauge the significance of those efforts.