White House Takes Heat for Courting Pro-Hamas Activist

Osama Siblani at the White House (Osama Siblani/Facebook).
February 9, 2024

The White House is under fire from Jewish groups for meeting with an Arab-American activist who has praised Hamas and other terrorist groups, and who claimed American lawmakers have been "bought" by the "Zionist lobby."

White House officials met in Dearborn, Mich., on Thursday with Arab-American News publisher Osama Siblani in a bid to mollify Muslim and Arab voters upset with the administration’s handling of the Gaza war. Jewish leaders slammed the White House for giving a platform to Siblani, who has a long record of pro-terrorist and anti-Israel rhetoric.

"We are deeply disturbed at the inclusion of Osama Siblani in a meeting with top Biden administration officials," Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, 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."

Siblani has referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as "freedom fighters," and cheered Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists after they declared war on Israel in October. In 2022, he urged Arabs to use "stones" or "guns" to fight Israel. In 2006, Siblani said then-President George W. Bush and Congress were "being bought by the Zionist lobby."

Asher Lopatin, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said White House officials should not have met with Siblani given his "long record of open support for U.S.-designated terrorist groups and his demonization of Israel."

"We would urge extreme caution in providing legitimacy or validation to such a divisive figure," Lopatin told Jewish Insider.

Those remarks suggest Biden could lose support from pro-Israel voters should the administration continue to cozy up to anti-Israel figures like Siblani. But Team Biden seemingly sees Siblani as essential to repairing Biden’s standing with Michigan’s Arab and Muslim voters.

Deputy national security adviser Jon Finer and U.S. Agency for International Development chief Samantha Power organized and attended Thursday’s meetings. Also in attendance was senior Biden adviser Tom Perez, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez met with Siblani in Dearborn last week to hear the activist’s concerns about the administration’s handling of the Gaza war. Siblani was not swayed by that meeting. He called Biden a "war criminal" in an interview with Qatar-owned media outlet Al Jazeera.

During the meeting this week, Siblani urged the administration to establish a ceasefire in Gaza followed by "the release of all hostages/prisoners from both sides, Israelis and Palestinians," in a statement. He also called on the United States to "resume and increase" funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The State Department paused funding for the group after reports that it employs numerous Hamas members who took part in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.