‘Uncommitted’ Supporters Dance and Celebrate in Dearborn

Long before the final votes had been tallied in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary race, organizers of a protest movement against President Biden’s support for Israel had declared victory, dancing to the tunes of traditional Palestinian music at a Lebanese restaurant in Dearborn, the center of the state’s Arab American community.

“This is a resounding victory for our country’s pro-Palestinian, antiwar movement,” said Abbas Alawieh, a spokesman for Listen to Michigan, a group that sprang into existence three weeks ago urging voters to cast their ballots for the “uncommitted” option in the state’s primary instead of Mr. Biden.

The crowd of roughly 250 people broke into cheers shortly after 9 p.m., when Mr. Alawieh announced that the number of “uncommitted” votes had surpassed former President Donald J. Trump’s roughly 11,000-vote margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in Michigan in 2016. Organizers had set that as a public milestone for their effort, perhaps strategically aiming low.

A rabbi led a singsong chant calling for “no more war” and “cease-fire now” and offered a prayer for peace in Hebrew and English.

By 10:30 p.m., more than 34,000 votes for “uncommitted” had been counted, with only about a quarter of the total vote tallied. Strong turnout in the Detroit area meant that the movement could win enough votes to send at least one delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Soon after, Mr. Biden released a statement that thanked “every Michigander who made their voice heard today” but did not mention Israel, Gaza or the protest movement.

The president’s allies pointed out that he was winning the vast majority of the vote in Michigan. Rachel Rosen, a spokeswoman for the pro-Israel group Democratic Majority for Israel, cast doubt on the significance of the results, saying in a statement that “questions today about what distraught Democrats will do in November are completely unreliable.”

But Layla Elabed, Listen to Michigan’s campaign manager, dismissed such words of caution, telling reporters: “We need Joe Biden to listen to the voice of Michiganders. Listen to the voice of his core constituents and demand a permanent cease-fire now and the ending of this unconditional, unchecked funding to Israel.”

Although some Arab American voters have said there is nothing Mr. Biden can do to win them back, several speakers at the event suggested they would return to the Democratic fold if Mr. Biden changed his stance on Gaza.

“We are no longer in a position to beg Democrats to listen to us,” said Gaby Santiago-Romero, a member of the Detroit City Council. “Quite frankly, none of us want Trump to win, which is exactly why we’re doing this. This is the only way we can raise a flag to Democrats that you are going to lose unless you call for an ultimate cease-fire.”

As the party began winding down around 11 p.m., a group of seven people smoked double-apple flavored tobacco from a hookah in a corner of the Adonis restaurant. All had voted “uncommitted.” Only one, Hussein Abdel-Hak, a dentist who opened the restaurant 21 years ago, said he would consider voting for Mr. Biden in the general election if the president were to call for an unconditional cease-fire.

“If he does it tomorrow, there might be a chance,” said Dr. Abdel-Hak, 57, who is Muslim. “But it’s getting too late. It would almost be against my religion to vote for him now.”

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