Jewish leaders slam White House for meeting with activist who defended Hamas, Hezbollah

Several Biden administration senior officials traveled to Michigan to meet with Muslim leaders, including controversial Dearborn activist Osama Siblani

SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images

Anti-Israel protesters march in Dearborn, Michigan

A Thursday meeting between several senior Biden administration officials and Muslim leaders in Michigan drew scrutiny from leaders in the Jewish community over the inclusion of Osama Siblani, a Dearborn political activist and newspaper publisher who has in the past praised Hamas and Hezbollah, and claimed the U.S. government was “bought” by the “Zionist lobby.”

The meeting was part of the White House’s efforts to mend ties with Arab Americans who are displeased with President Joe Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, particularly in Michigan, a key battleground state. Siblani has pledged not to vote for Biden this year. Those in attendance from the Biden administration included USAID Administrator Samantha Power, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer and Steve Benjamin, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. 

“While the Biden administration is of course entitled to meet with whomever it chooses, they should be aware of Mr. Siblani’s long record of open support for U.S.-designated terrorist groups and his demonization of Israel,” Asher Lopatin, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Detroit, told Jewish Insider. “We would urge extreme caution in providing legitimacy or validation to such a divisive figure.”

A White House spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding Siblani’s participation in the meeting.

“This is a private meeting. We want to give them the space to have a meeting that certainly has candor, certainly where both — where we can hear directly from them,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday. “I do want to underscore what you’ve heard from the president numerous times. Obviously, we mourn the innocent lives that have been taken in this conflict. And we’ve said that — Palestinian lives and also in Israel as well.  We mourn those lives.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt slammed the White House for including Siblani in the meeting.

“We are deeply disturbed at the inclusion of Osama Siblani in a meeting with top Biden administration officials. Both Siblani and his newspaper, the Arab American News, have a long history of expressing sympathy, and occasionally outright support for the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas,” he told JI. “Siblani is simply the wrong choice to serve as an interlocutor with the administration as they hear from the local Muslim community.” 

After the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel, Siblani, the paper’s publisher, defended Hamas. “Hamas is not a terrorist organization, and we have to say to them the terrorist is Benjamin Netanyahu and his government,” said Siblani.

He called the violence “unfortunate” but said it resulted from Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “Yes, Hamas is radically approaching this situation, but that’s a result of oppression for a long period of time. So Hamas wants a Palestine to be independent,” Siblani said. 

Siblani has over the years expressed support for terrorist groups. “If the FBI wants to come after those who support the resistance done by Hezbollah, then they better bring a fleet of buses. I for one would be willing to go to jail,” he said in 2006. Years earlier, in 2003, he told The Washington Post: “[George] Bush believes Hezbollah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions are terrorists, but we believe they are freedom fighters.”

During the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006, he attacked U.S. government officials for their ties to the “Zionist lobby.”

“We know that the president is being bought by the Zionist lobby,” he told The Detroit Free Press at the time. “We know that the Congress is being bought by the Zionist lobby.”

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