I’m the mayor of Dearborn, Mich., and my city feels betrayed

I’m the mayor of Dearborn, Mich., and my city feels betrayed

Abdullah H. Hammoud writes:

“Dearborn doesn’t sleep,” I recently told an out-of-state visitor to my hometown.

It was a reference to the celebratory time of Ramadan, when our city breaks bread together for iftar at sunset and suhoor, before sunrise, each day. For a month, Dearborn is bustling around the clock: Business districts buzz during the day, and residents and visitors flock to break the fast together every night, gathering over hot, heaping plates filled with some of the best food in the country, surrounded by neighbors of all backgrounds.

I have always spoken these words with warmth and pride for my community, but after 130 days of genocide in Gaza, the phrase has taken on new meaning.

Dearborn does not sleep. We have not slept. Our entire city is haunted by the images, videos and stories streaming out of Gaza. Life seems heavily veiled in a haze of shared grief, fear, helplessness and even guilt as we try to understand how our tax dollars could be used by those we elected to slaughter our relatives overseas.

We don’t have to imagine the violence and injustice being carried out against the Palestinian people. Many of us lived it, and still bear the scars of life under occupation and apartheid.

Since the Nakba of 1948, many Palestinians have been forcibly displaced by the state of Israel. My neighbors still have the documents they had to carry between Israeli military checkpoints, to prove they could walk the streets of their own ancestral villages. My aunts, uncles and elders recall life under Israeli occupation and wrestling with the decision to flee the only home they ever knew. I have seen grief gut a constituent whose family pulled both his grandmothers from the rubble of their shared apartment building after it was leveled by Israeli missiles. Even before the horrific events of Oct. 7, last year was the deadliest year in nearly two decades for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Now, friends pray for the safe return of family members still in the West Bank. A shop owner from Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem that has come under threat from radical Zionist settlers, wonders what will happen to Al Aqsa Mosque. His family has cared for it for generations.

At a Dearborn City Council meeting in November, a resident testified that his family has buried at least 80 relatives in Gaza since Israel began its bombing campaign in October. Eighty relatives. Eighty innocent lives.

What compounds the constant fear and mourning is a visceral sense of betrayal. In the past three federal elections, Arab American voters in Michigan have become a crucial and dependable voting bloc for the Democratic Party, and we were part of the wave that delivered for Joe Biden four years ago. But this fact seems long forgotten by our candidate as he calls for our votes once more while at the same time selling the very bombs that Benjamin Netanyahu’s military is dropping on our family and friends.

Until just a few months ago, I firmly believed that Joe Biden was one of the most consequential and transformative presidents that our nation had seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His administration managed to put in place groundbreaking domestic policies in the last three years that his predecessors couldn’t manage even in two terms. But no amount of landmark legislation can outweigh the more than 100,000 people killed, wounded or missing in Gaza. The scales of justice will not allow it. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.