Palestinian American doctor explains why he left the meeting with Biden and Harris

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A Palestinian-American doctor who walked out of a meeting with President Biden and other Arab and Muslim leaders and activists said Wednesday that he left “out of respect for my community.”

Dr. Thaer Ahmad, a Chicago emergency room doctor who traveled to Gaza earlier this year, told “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan that the White House meeting was the first time Biden heard directly from people who had been on the ground in Gaza since October 7. He said the president asked him to speak first and detailed his experiences in Khan Younis and Rafatelling Biden that there was no way Israel could invade safely the southern Gaza city where more than a million Palestinians have fled since the war began.

“And then I asked for an apology, out of respect for my community that is grieving, that is grieving, that really wanted to be heard and has felt silenced and excluded this whole time,” Ahmad said.

Before leaving, Ahmad said he gave Biden a letter from an 8-year-old orphaned boy in Rafah, asking the president not to allow an invasion.

Ahmad said he accepted the invitation because “I think there are many of us right now who have a serious sense of urgency and panic about what is happening in Gaza, and specifically the imminent invasion of Rafah that could take place.”

“It seems to me that there is one person who maybe can make a difference and put an end to this, and that is President Biden,” he said.

Ahmad said he feels Biden is not doing enough to stop Israel from moving forward with its planned invasion, and says he is not alone.

Ahmad said he spoke to members of the U.N. Security Council states’ delegation, “and they all felt that if the White House decided to make Rafah a red line, the war would stop tomorrow. That simply required the President Biden said: ‘Under no circumstances can this take place.’

White House officials have previously said that Biden has tried to get Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scale back plans for an invasion of Rafah and do more to protect civilians.

“Our position is that Hamas should not be allowed a safe haven in Rafah or anywhere else,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at a White House briefing last month. “But a major ground operation there would be a mistake. It would lead to more deaths of innocent civilians, worsen the already terrible humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza and further isolate Israel internationally.”

Ahmad said he felt comfortable leaving because he knew other attendees would also be able to convey to Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris the dire situation in Gaza.

He said he was initially unsure about leaving the meeting, but that “when the president didn’t even mention Gaza or Palestine in his first opening remarks, I felt like I needed to leave and I needed to at least express the pain that the entire Palestinian American community is feeling.” .

“I don’t speak for you, I’m just a Palestinian American,” Ahmad continued. “But the fact that there were no other Palestinian Americans in the room and that so many people are hurting right now, it was important for me to at least communicate that pain and walk away from the president as if we felt like he had walked away from us.” “.

Ahmad told CBS News that he plans to return to Gaza, despite the enormous risks involved. He said that the last time he was in Gaza he saw the Israeli army storm a hospital where families had taken refuge.

“It is important to note that the Israeli military has done this in multiple hospitals. This is not an isolated incident,” Ahmad said. “So what I saw was that there were families in these hospitals. Children playing circle of the rose. I saw children affected by this war, who had been injured, who had been traumatized by it… “I can list hospital after hospital. And that’s really what makes me want to come back: realizing that these people in the Gaza Strip are under tremendous pressure and pain, including health care workers and humanitarian workers. And if “It’s not people like us who are going to support them because the whole world has turned its back on them, then who else is going to do it?”

Ahmad also said he never saw signs that Hamas was operating in the hospitals.

“We saw the opposite of that,” he said.

“I’ve been sharing those details since I came back. I’ve been sharing those details with anyone who will listen. Senators, congressmen, I told the president and the vice president before I left,” he said. “There are real people who are there, innocent people, families, and they have been displaced several times. They have lost a lot, including their homes, they have lost everything… their livelihood.

“The idea of ​​an invasion of Rafah by the Israeli army is something that could be very disastrous,” he said. “To a place that has seen so much disaster and humanitarian suffering.”

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