Vice President Kamala Harris’ plans to meet with members of the Arab American community were abruptly postponed this week after leaders decided not to move forward, according to two sources familiar with the situation, marking the latest sign of the obstacles the administration faces in trying to make inroads with the community.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris have been dogged by protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza at events nationwide, underscoring a persistent reality as the president shifts into general election mode: Democrats are deeply divided on Biden’s support for Israel as it wages war with Hamas, and the issue threatens to split the coalition.
Earlier in the week, the vice president’s office held a virtual meeting with around a dozen participants from the Arab American community — including activists and representative organizations — to discuss topics, including the crisis in Gaza, ahead of a listening session with Harris at the White House that was scheduled for Monday, one source said.
The following day, those participants called off the Monday session, citing concerns including potential backlash from allies and not wanting to speak for entire communities. Conversations about potentially rescheduling are ongoing, sources said.
The now-postponed meeting, which has not been previously reported, is part of a concerted effort by the administration to hear from members of the Arab American community, including this past week in Michigan after a push by leaders and activists to meet with White House officials.
A White House official told CNN the vice president “looks forward to continuing to engage with leaders of the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities, including through phone calls and meetings.”
“The vice president is committed to listening to and having a dialogue with members of these communities, and we look forward to meeting with these leaders in the future,” the official said, adding that Harris has spoken to people who have left Gaza, people contributing to the humanitarian response and others.
The community members invited to Monday’s session maintained they want to keep lines of communication with the White House open, but the episode served as yet another reminder of the challenges the administration is confronting.
ACCESS Reproductive Justice, a California-based nonprofit focused on abortion access, decided not to attend Harris’ San Jose stop.
“We feel very strongly that the plight of the Palestinian people is very much a reproductive justice issue and quite frankly ignored by the Biden-Harris administration,” Jessica Pinckney Gil, executive director of ACCESS RJ, told CNN.
Gil stressed that the group is staying in contact with the vice president’s office despite its decision not to attend the event.
“For us, being at the event was supporting policies that we can’t fully support, whereas continuing to be in dialogue with the administration is pushing for policy change,” she said.
Sources told CNN that Harris’ staff, at the vice president’s direction, have offered those protesting at her events an opportunity to speak directly with senior White House officials to share their concerns.
Harris was interrupted during remarks in San Jose