November 3, 2006, - 8:12 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Two Michigan religious minorities–Muslims and Jews–are playing an interesting role in the state’s Gubernatorial election, next week. It’s a lesson in how legitimizing extremists can come back to bite the legitimizers. And how pandering politicians will do anything for a vote, even if it means sucking up to extremist terrorism supporters and agents–how politicians are willing to sell their souls to those who stand by the Hezbollah murder of over 300 U.S. Marines and civilians.
During the summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah, Osama Siblani was vocal and steadfast in his praise of the “Hezbollah martyrs.” At a rally in front of the Dearborn City Hall, he asked protesters to have a moment of silence for them, “the heroes.” He was identified a few months ago as an agent of Hezbollah by Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah. Siblani, editor and publisher of the Arab American News, is a Shi’ite Muslim from Lebanon.
Jewish community leaders–who’ve constantly feted this man over the years–were taken aback by Siblani’s comments. But the remarks are nothing new from anything he’s ever said or written. His newspaper consistently celebrates HAMAS, Hezbollah, and once ran a cover story honoring Louis Farrakhan’s birthday. Yet, over the years, Detroit Jewish leaders–who bend over backwards so much, you’d think they’re limbo champs–repeatedly broke pita with Mr. Siblani and, ultimately, legitimized him. Arthur Horwitz, leftist publisher of the Detroit Jewish News, had regular lunch meetings with Siblani. His editor, Bob Sklar, constantly featured Siblani’s quotes and statements in an approving way, including a special Jewish News feature featuring the voice of Arabs and Muslims right after 9/11.
But something happened during this summer’s war against Lebanon. Horwitz and Sklar were suddenly shocked–shocked!–by Siblani’s pro-Hezbollah comments. Apparently, they were temporarily awakened from their slumber by their less left-wing readers. Enter Michigan’s close gubernatorial race, to be decided on Tuesday.
Siblani also heads the Arab American Political Action Committee, a Muslim-dominated organization of questionable influence. AAPAC’s Secretary, Lola Elzein, sent me death threats and threatened to rape, torture, and murder me, my parents, and grandparents. She also denied the Holocaust. Siblani endorses all of this, and Elzein remains an officer of his PAC. And, so, apparently, does the Detroit Jewish News, which has refused to cover the story.
In early September, Michigan Republican gubernatorial challenger Dick DeVos was scheduled to meet with Siblani’s Arab American PAC. Jewish News editors feigned outrage about this man, Siblani, whom they, themselves, elevated to respectable status. They editorialized against the meeting citing Siblani’s comments. And DeVos cancelled the meeting. Not so fast. Siblani and his Islamofascist compatriots whined about the meeting, and under pressure from crotchety, moral equivalency-touting Detroit talk show host Frank Beckmann (who loves to kiss the rear of Siblani and “former” Islamic terrorist Imad Hamad on the air), DeVos met with them after all.
It’s not that Siblani and friends changed their views on terrorism and Hezbollah. It’s just that DeVos wants their votes, as does his opponent, Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. And both are willing to whore themselves out to these Hezbollah supporters to win. And it’s that Jewish News officials who legitimized terror agent and supporter Siblani for years woke up too late. Their half-assed protests were too little, too late, too insincere given their record.
Last spring, Rabbi Bunni Friedman–who fancies himself a political kingmaker in Detroit’s Orthodox Jewish community and stunned fellow members of his community by opposing Ward Connerly’s efforts to end affirmative action discrimination in Michigan–invited Orthodox and traditional Jews to his home to meet and ask DeVos questions about his race for governor. The e-mail invitation included a picture of DeVos in front of the Kotel, the Western Wall of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
At the event, DeVos spoke of his trip to Israel and his visit to the Kotel. But when it came to issues having to do with terrorism and Israel, the picture was a fraud. DeVos wasn’t having any of it, and his speech stuck to repealing Michigan’s Small Business Tax. He didn’t want to take any questions. But I asked them, anyway. DeVos waffled on questions regarding Israel and the State of Michigan, with his friend Rabbi Friedman trying to silence the questions. One of those questions was about ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.
Because Michigan has the most concentrated Muslim population outside of the Middle East, the state has become a microcosm of Islamist influence. Arab agencies catering to Muslims and endorsing divestment from Israel get millions in funding from the state.
That includes ACCESS. It was a sponsor of the 2002 Divestment Conference at the University of Michigan. Its federal job-training money apparently went to fund commercial driving lessons for members of an Al-Qaeda terrorist cell. And ACCESS opposed adding Hezbollah–and other Islamic terror groups–to the State Department Terrorist List. Its Arab American National Museum features several anti-Israel exhibits. ACCESS’ offices were raided by the FBI in 2002 because the agency was involved in enabling pregnant Muslim foreigners to get Medicaid to have their babies delivered in the United States.
DeVos and his wife Betsy, former Chair of the Michigan Republican Party, were honored guests at ACCESS’ 35th anniversary banquet, this year. (ACCESS chief and founder Ismael Ahmed was a Howard Dean Delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and ran Jesse Jackson’s Michigan Presidential campaign.) When I asked him, DeVos refused to declare that he will not give state funds to organizations that support Hezbollah or divestment from Israel.
DeVos’ opponent, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, is tight with ACCESS, too. She was Michigan’s Attorney General at the time ACCESS was being investigated by her office. Yet, she named ACCESS’ chief and founder, Ismael Ahmed, as Chair of her transition team, not long after the FBI raids. And she’s appointed ACCESS officials to various State committees and commissions.
I asked DeVos whether he opposed divesting the State of Michigan’s assets from companies that do business with Israel, something his friends at ACCESS and the Arab American PAC are pushing. He hemmed and hawed and finally said he opposed divestment, promising to put a statement to that effect on his website, so his Islamist friends would see it. To date–just a few days before the election–the promised statement has never been posted.
Maybe someone will remind these two–Granholm and DeVos–that Michigan is in the Middle West, not the Middle East. Until then, the pandering to extremist Muslims will continue in Michigan politics.
And soon–very soon–the rest of America.
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