A Muslim leader who said that Israel should have been added to the"suspect list" for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was recently selected to represent the United States government at a human rights conference sponsored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Salam al-Marayati, founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), was chosen by the Obama administration to deliver remarks in Warsaw, Poland—home to one of the largest Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust—during the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meetings (HDIM), a 10-day gathering meant to foster the "promotion of tolerance," according to the group’s website.
Al-Marayati was selected to participate in the confab by the U.S. delegation, which was led by Ambassador Avis Bohlen, a Georgetown University professor and former Clinton administration official, according to MPAC’s website.
The selection of al-Marayati, who has drawn criticism for defending terrorist acts and blaming Israel for 9/11, raised concerns among some observers, who deemed his presence at the human rights meetings offensive.
"It is inexplicable that a person who blamed Israel for the 9/11 attacks and advocated for terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah—which has killed more Americans than any terrorist group in the world except al Qaeda—was chosen to represent the United States," said Josh Block, a former Clinton administration official who now serves as CEO of The Israel Project, a pro-Israel educational group.
Al-Marayati drew widespread criticism from Jewish leaders and others when he said that the U.S. "should put the state of Israel on the suspect list," according to the New York Times.
"If we're going to look at suspects, we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what's happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies," al-Marayati told a radio host, according to the Times.
Al-Marayati has also defined attacks by the terrorist group Hezbollah as "legitimate resistance," according to a report by the Investigate Project on Terrorism.
He was invited to participate in the conference as a "public member of the U.S. delegation," according to MPAC.
"Al-Marayati was invited as a public member of the U.S. delegation to HDIM along with Professor Ethel Brooks of Rutgers University and Nida Gelazis of the Woodrow Wilson Institute," MPAC said in a statement.
During his remarks before OSCE participants, al-Marayati said that "hate speech that intends to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence against someone based on religion is harmful," according to a portion of his speech posted on MPAC’s website.
MPAC, the pro-Muslim advocacy group that al-Marayati helped found, has urged that the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas be removed from the list of U.S.-designated terrorist organizations, according to the Investigative Project’s report.
Among other topics, participants in the Warsaw conference discussed "freedom of religion and belief," according to MPAC’s website.
"Al-Marayati, who has a long history of civic engagement and service to the U.S. and the Muslim community, was the only American Muslim invited to speak at the HDIM," the statement said. "This honor and privilege of addressing the OSCE could not have been bestowed upon a better person who epitomizes working toward religious freedom and human rights protection."
The U.S. Embassy in Poland also praised al-Marayati’s presence.
"The United States is proud to have Mr. Salam al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Professor Ethel Brooks of Rutgers University, and Ms. Nida Gelazis of the Woodrow Wilson Institute serving as public members in the USG delegation to HDIM," the embassy said in a statement. "Their expertise will be invaluable in addressing these topics at the meeting."
One official with a Jewish organization said the embassy’s statement was tone deaf, and demanded the Obama administration explain itself to the Jewish community.
"That he was chosen to address human rights and religious tolerance, and that our embassy in Poland said in a statement that it is ‘proud’ to have him provide his ‘expertise,’ compounds the concern," said the official, who requested anonymity. "Whoever made this decision owes the American people and the Jewish community an explanation for this error in judgment."
Also in attendance at the meetings was Ambassador Ian Kelly, the U.S. Representative to the OSCE, as well as Ambassador Michael Kozak, a senior adviser on human rights who is serving as the acting special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.
Stacy Bernard Davis, a senior adviser to the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal, told the Free Beacon that "while Amb. Kozak is indeed in Warsaw on the delegation, I do not know anything about the individual you named."
Ambassador Bohlen, the U.S. delegation’s leader, served in the government for nearly 30 years, including in the State Department. She also served as the ambassador to Bulgaria during the Clinton administration.
Bohlen currently serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.
She did not respond to a request for comment about al-Marayati’s presence on the trip.