Rep. Elissa Slotkin met with Islamic center that blamed Israel for Hamas attack

A spokesperson for Slotkin, a Democratic Senate candidate, said that her job is to listen to the views and perspective of all her constituents, even when she disagrees

Chip Somodevilla/Sipa USA via AP

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) questions witnesses during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on September 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), the leading Democratic candidate for Michigan’s open Senate seat, met with members of an Islamic center in Lansing that blamed Israel for the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians and left thousands more wounded.

The Islamic Center of East Lansing posted on Facebook on Wednesday that Slotkin had reached out to the center to request a meeting “to hear our concerns about what is happening in Gaza.” Slotkin’s congressional district includes Lansing.

On the day of the massive Hamas attack on Israel the center posted a statement on Facebook that appeared to blame Israel for the attack.

“We join USCMO [U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations] and the American Muslim community in reaffirming our support for the Palestinian people’s right to freedom and calling for an end to the Israeli occupation, which kills hundreds of Palestinian civilians every year, subjects millions of Palestinians to racist oppression, and sparks the deadly violence that we see again and again, including today,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to call for a change in the “status quo” of U.S. support for Israel and condemns normalization between Israel and its neighbors as “thinly veiled arms deals with the Israeli government.” It does not criticize Hamas. The center also shared a statement from the USCMO that made no mention of the Hamas attack.

Imam Sohail Chaudhry, the center’s resident imam who appears to be seated next to Slotkin in photos from the meeting, told the Associated Press that the “root cause of this problem is 50 years plus of oppression, illegal occupation, illegal settlements,” adding, “You have to return the land of the Palestinian people to them; you have to return their human dignity back to them.” 

According to the AP, Chaudhry also condemned “violence against all innocent people.”

A spokesperson for Slotkin said in a statement to Jewish Insider, “Rep. Slotkin believes it’s her responsibility as an elected official to listen to the views and perspectives of all her constituents, even when those conversations may be hard and even when she doesn’t always agree.”

“She has been doing this since she was sworn in in 2019, and she’s proud to continue that work today,” the spokesperson continued. “The meeting at the Islamic Center of East Lansing last week was frank, tough and important. The congresswoman has been open about her thoughts on the situation in Israel and Gaza, and anyone trying to ascribe the views of others to her is not acting in good faith.”

Slotkin, who is Jewish and has a background as a national security official, “condemn[ed] in the strongest terms Hamas’ terror attacks on Israel” as “truly shocking” in the immediate aftermath of the attack. 

She later condemned her colleague Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and others who have refused to criticize Hamas.

“It shouldn’t be hard to condemn terrorists and terrorism,” Slotkin said on CNN. “And that doesn’t mean you don’t have beef with the Israeli government. Lots of people — we saw a fifth of the Israeli population — had beef with the Israeli government, but it should be easy, especially with the details coming out to condemn terrorism and terrorists.”

“That was the hardest part not just about [Tlaib’s] statement, but a number of statements that have come out from organizations and individuals,” Slotkin said. “I don’t question whether someone has the right to be angry at the Israeli government. I question their inability to condemn grievous, grievous violence.”

On Tuesday, the Islamic center also posted a promotion for a rally in Lansing describing Israel’s attacks on Gaza as “genocidal.” It posted photos from another rally that included signs stating “resistance is justified when people are occupied” and “that’s not your land,” with an illustration showing the whole of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

According to the center’s description, Slotkin met with the group for two hours, to discuss ending the violence in Gaza, humanitarian aid and “the hurt and anguish that Muslims feel when people in the media and when politicians dehumanize the Palestinian people or gloss over the suffering of innocent civilians.” 

The post thanked Slotkin for “giving voice to our concerns, for working toward saving innocent lives, and for confronting the scourge of Islamophobia in Congress.”

Michigan has a significant Arab and Muslim population, as well as a sizable Jewish population, and has been an epicenter of divisions within the Democratic Party over the Israel-Hamas war.

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