DEARBORN, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Despite initial refusal, Dearborn, Arab-American, and Muslim leaders met with senior advisors from the Biden administration on Thursday ahead of Michigan’s Presidential Primary Election.
What happened at the meeting?
Dearborn Mayor, Abdullah Hammoud, was among the leaders present at the meeting, and shared that he and others “represented the voices of Dearborn” during a two hour policy meeting with senior advisors, “not campaign staff.”
“For the last several months, it has become increasingly clear that our position and viewpoints on the ongoing conflict have not been accurately captured by mainstream media and have failed to reach the highest office in our government,” he said on X (formerly Twitter). “This meeting was held to ensure that the White House and those with the ability to change the course of the genocide unfolding in Gaza very clearly hear and understand the demands of our community – directly from us.”
Among the demands from he and other leaders included “a permanent ceasefire, ending unrestricted military support to the State of Israel, and expediting humanitarian aid and funding to [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the near east] (UNRWA), among others,” he said on X.
“As citizens of the United States of America and representatives of the City of Dearborn, we have done our duty; now it is incumbent upon the President to do the same,” added Hammond.
The mayor is also one of more than two dozen leaders that have pledged to vote uncommitted in the upcoming Presidential Primary Election after signing onto a “Listen to Michigan” campaign, a campaign for Michigan Democrat voters to vote uncommitted in protest of President Biden’s position on the Israel-Hamas war. Their decision did not change after the meeting.
Michigan legislator weights in on discussions.
House Majority Leader and State Representative, Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), also shared strong demands with the Associated Press.
“I relayed the emotions and the concerns of our community, and we gave them tangible steps,” said Representative Aiyash. “We want to see a permanent cease-fire. We want to be able to see restrictions and conditions on any military aid that is sent to Israel. And we want to see the United States take a serious commitment towards rebuilding Gaza.”
Aiyash added that “there will not be engagement beyond this if we do not see any tangible changes after this discussion.”
Meeting attendees spark controversy with Jewish leaders.
In addition to the Dearborn Mayor, State Representative Aiyash, were Wayne County Executive Assad I. Turfe, and Arab American News publisher Osama Siblani- whom some Jewish leaders had strong words about calling him “a Dearborn political activist and newspaper publisher who has in the past praised Hamas and Hezbollah,” according to Jewish Insider.
“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.”
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt shared his disagreement with Siblani’s inclusion 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 Jewish Insider. “Siblani is simply the wrong choice to serve as an interlocutor with the administration as they hear from the local Muslim community.”
For some of Siblani’s past comments regarding Hamas and Hezbollah, see here.