Jewish leaders expressed outrage Friday over the State Department’s praise for, and defense of, a controversial Muslim leader who has defended terrorist groups and suggested that Israel may have been responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Salam al-Marayati, founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), was picked to represent the United States government at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) annual 10-day human rights conference, the Human Dimension Implementation Meetings (HDIM).
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Al-Marayati’s well-known anti-Israel bona fides prompted Jewish leaders and others to express outrage over the Obama administration’s selection.
"It is regrettable that someone with such distorted, conspiratorial views—even with a lackluster apology—is delegated by our government to represent our country abroad," the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement to the Free Beacon.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, argued that the State Department is showing inconsistency by touting an individual who has defended the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which are designated by the U.S. as terrorist organizations.
"One would assume that individuals selected to represent the United States at an international human rights conclave would share our government's longstanding policy that Hamas and Hezbollah are dangerous terrorist organizations," Cooper told the Free Beacon. "But Mr. Salam al-Marayati and his organization are long-time advocates that these deadly terror groups be removed from the U.S. terrorist list."
"With terrorism continuing to roil the Middle East," Cooper added, "the question is why the U.S. State Department would say he is ‘highly credible’?"
Josh Block, a former Clinton administration official who now serves as CEO of The Israel Project, said the State Department’s defense of al-Marayati lacks credibility.
"That statement, defending a person who is clearly a terrorist sympathizer and deeply hostile to Israel, calls into question the credibility of the person who gave it, and it raises a very serious question: What exactly is the U.S. government saying here?" Block asked.
"It is inexplicable and deeply concerning that a person who has suggested Israel was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and advocated for terrorist organizations including Hamas and Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist group except al Qaeda, would be described as ‘valued' and ‘highly credible’ by our government," Block said.
The State Department, however, defended al-Marayati's participation, calling him "valued and highly credible."
"Mr. al-Marayati has been involved in U.S. government initiatives for almost 10 years and has been a valued and highly credible interlocutor on issues affecting Muslim communities," a spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the OSCE told the Free Beacon Thursday in a statement. "He was invited to participate in this year’s HDIM as a reflection of the wide diversity of backgrounds of the American people."
Al-Marayati was criticized by pro-Israel leaders when he recommended that the U.S. "put the state of Israel on the [9/11] 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.
The U.S. Embassies in Poland and Brussels had commended al-Marayati’s participation in the human rights forum, according to statements on their respective websites.
MPAC, the organization al-Marayati helped create, has been condemned by Jewish groups for promoting false articles claiming that Israel harvests Palestinian organs, the latest iteration of a centuries-old anti-Semitic blood libel.