A group of Minnesota Muslim community leaders said Friday that they would actively campaign against Joe Biden in the 2024 election if he does not call for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas by Tuesday.
About 40 Muslims gathered for a news conference at Minneapolis' federal court building downtown, with speakers demanding that Biden issue a call for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict by noon Tuesday.
"We refuse to be taken for granted as a Muslim community and we are organizing in all swing states," said Taher Herzallah, a University of Minnesota student.
Herzallah added that "there will be a political cost" if Biden does not call for a cease-fire. Biden is expected to visit Minnesota on Wednesday.
Speakers included several imams, professors and college students. Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of Minnesota's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said if Biden doesn't call for a cease-fire, there would be "no option" but to vote against him. Hussein later stressed he was speaking as an individual, not on behalf of CAIR.
Speakers expressed outrage over the increasing number of civilian deaths in Gaza, which has been hit with airstrikes from Israel in retaliation for Hamas' attacks. The militant group, designated as terrorists by the U.S. and other countries, fired rockets and sent fighters into Israel on Oct. 7, killing over 1,400 people and taking hundreds of hostages, most of whom are still in captivity.
In response, Israel launched airstrikes into Gaza; more than 7,000 civilians have died as a result, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Biden has questioned whether the ministry is giving accurate numbers. On Thursday the ministry released a list of names of people it says have been killed.
Hussein and others said they believe Biden pushing for a cease-fire would help reduce the number of civilian deaths each day.
"President Biden has the opportunity at this moment to save lives," Hussein said.
Hussein acknowledged that campaigning against Biden could mean that conditions for American Muslims could get worse.
"But it will never be what is happening today in Gaza," he said.
While those speaking at the news conference demanded a cease-fire, there are other Minnesotans who think it's the wrong move. Ethan Roberts, deputy executive director for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota (JCRC), said he thinks a call for a cease-fire from Biden would provide motivation for Hamas to attack Israel again.
"To demand a cease-fire now while Hamas is still holding over 220 hostages would be a tremendous victory for Hamas," he said.
Roberts added that the JCRC is concerned for the innocent civilians in Gaza while also being against a cease-fire. He noted that he sees Hamas' control as the main problem in Gaza.
"The only way to end this nightmare for the people of the Middle East is Hamas' surrender," he said.
This report contains information from the Associated Press.