Publisher of leading Arab American newspaper ‘shows Biden’s campaign manager the door’

Osama Siblani, the publisher of Arab American News. (Video grab)
Osama Siblani, the publisher of Arab American News. (Video grab)
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Updated 27 January 2024
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Publisher of leading Arab American newspaper ‘shows Biden’s campaign manager the door’

Osama Siblani, the publisher of Arab American News. (Video grab)
  • Osama Siblani rebuffs efforts to win back support for president from Arab and Muslim voters in Michigan, says Biden will not be forgiven for failure to halt killing of civilians in Gaza
  • Accuses Secretary of State Antony Blinken of being ‘extreme in his support and defense of Israel’ but ‘muted in his response’ to carnage in Gaza

CHICAGO: The national manager of US President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign was “shown the door” on Friday following a meeting in Michigan that lasted an hour and 45 minutes with the publisher of one of the most influential Arab newspapers in America.

Osama Siblani, the publisher of Arab American News, said Julie Chavez Rodriguez and other members of the Biden campaign team were seeking to “repair the damage” caused by the president’s one-sided support of Israel’s indiscriminate campaign of bombing and carnage in Gaza.

After attacks by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 Israelis, the Israeli government launched a military operation that has so far killed more than 27,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, women and children, according to figures from the Palestinian Health Ministry, and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.

“Yes, they came in today, led by Biden’s national campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez,” said Siblani, whose newspaper holds tremendous sway over the large Arab, Muslim and progressive Democratic voting base in Michigan.

“She wanted to talk about how to restore Arab and Muslim support for Biden and I showed them the door.

“She said she wanted to listen. It was her first visit to Michigan. I told them we feel betrayed. He (Biden) took our votes and betrayed us and gave us the finger. And that is not going to happen again in 2024. We will not vote for him.”

Rodriguez was accompanied during the meeting at Siblani’s office in the city of Dearborn by Rep. Debbie Dingell and Ed Duggan, the son of Mike Duggan, the mayor of Detroit and Biden’s campaign manager in Detroit.

Siblani said he was “polite but forceful” in conveying the “utter anger and disappointment and betrayal” felt by Arab and Muslim voters about Biden’s policies, not only in Michigan but across America.

“This is how Arabs and Muslims feel across the country,” he said. “This is a generation that is determined to make a difference in the election. We are not alone. We have Americans from all aspects of life who are with us, even Jewish Americans.

“This is bigger than the Arab community. This is formidable. We are not going to let it go. We are going to punish him and we are going defeat him in the election. This is national. I said everything is not fine and dandy. Everything is not fine and good. He has to be better than Jesus and he can’t be.”

The Arab community does not believe Biden is leading American foreign policy, Siblani said, as he highlighted the fallout from flawed policies on Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

He laid the blame at the feet of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, accusing him of being “extreme in his support and defense of Israel” but “muted in his response” to the escalating Israeli violence and carnage in Gaza.

“Blinken is running the show,” said Siblani. “He’s the one who is driving this policy and carnage of Gaza. He has not stopped it. He has stood with Israel, defended Israel and not held them accountable.”

Siblani said opinions among Arab and Muslim communities across the country are consistent and determined, and they “don’t care” who might benefit if Biden loses the presidential election in November.

“The Arab and Muslim community is not going to change about this,” he added. “They feel bad, very bad. We have a generation of American Muslims and Arab Americans who feel they need to punish Joe Biden and that is what we are going to do at the election.

“It doesn’t matter who benefits from this or which candidate might win. Who else is not our problem. We voted for (Biden) in 2020. We got him elected. We’re not going to do that again.”

Arab and Muslim leaders across America has rallied behind an “Abandon Biden” campaign amid anger over his perceived failure to stand up for justice and accountability in the Israeli war on Gaza.

Siblani predicted the effects of this national campaign, and the simmering anger among Arabs and Muslims about what they view as Biden’s failures and Blinken’s policies, will be felt by Democrats “up and down the election ballot.”

He added: “We are not going to vote for anyone that Biden supports.”

Biden won the 2020 presidential election with 306 electoral college votes compared with the 232 that went to Donald Trump. A certain number of electoral college votes are assigned to each state based on its population, and they normally go to the candidate that wins the popular public vote. If Biden was to loses 37 or more of the electoral college votes he received four years ago, he would lose the election.

Michigan, where Biden won the popular vote in 2020 by a relatively narrow margin of 154,188 votes, has 16 electoral college votes up for grabs.

If he was to lose Michigan in November, and either two or three, depending on the number of electoral college votes, of the other swing states he won in 2020, he would lose the 2024 election, said Siblani, adding that the Arab and Muslim votes in these states are strong.

Biden won four swing states by small margins: Arizona (which has 11 electoral college votes) by 10,457 votes; Wisconsin (10 electoral college votes) by 20,682 votes; Georgia (16 electoral college votes) by 11,779 votes; and Nevada (six electoral college votes) by 33,596 votes.

In addition, Minnesota, which Biden won by 233,012 votes, and has 10 electoral college votes, has a significantly large Arab and Muslim population.

 

 


British man investigated for hate crime after viral racist rant against Muslim women

British man investigated for hate crime after viral racist rant against Muslim women
Updated 21 April 2024
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British man investigated for hate crime after viral racist rant against Muslim women

British man investigated for hate crime after viral racist rant against Muslim women
  • ‘I don’t understand why people stand by and let it happen,’ says witness

LONDON: A hate crime investigation is underway following a viral video of an attack against Muslim women in East London, police confirmed on Sunday.

The incident occurred on Saturday in Romford when a white male, wearing glasses, targeted the group, some of whom were wearing hijabs and pushing shopping trolleys.

The footage, shared by Redbridge Community Action Group, shows the man following the women down South Street, a busy shopping area, while shouting and gesturing aggressively as they attempt to leave the scene.

The man is heard using profanities and labeling the women “Muslim traitors.”

In an outburst caught on camera, he accused one of the women of supporting missile attacks against Israel, adding: “We don’t want you here.” He went on to use an expletive.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed it is treating the confrontation as a hate crime.

Scotland Yard posted on X: “We are aware and urgently investigating this clearly unacceptable incident. We will be speaking to the victim later.”

Vaseem Ahmed, 55, who was participating in a rally supporting a free Palestine, and located near Barclays Bank on the high street, witnessed the incident.

As police arrived, Ahmed noted that the activists dispersed, with the confrontation occurring as the women headed home.

He told The Independent: “I’d say to him (the white male) ‘If you’re going to be brave, do the same thing in front of some Muslim men (and) then see what the outcome is.’

“Don’t target innocent people; it’s the worst kind of bullying. And grow up. Some of the stuff he was saying was really vile.

“He was so angry and so worked up he couldn’t get his words out properly. It wasn’t the most eloquent rant.”

He added: “I know those women from other demonstrations. I was shocked in the way it happened, but then not shocked at the same time. Islamophobic attacks have skyrocketed since Oct. 7.

“A lot of government ministers and even Rishi Sunak refuse to call out Islamophobia when it happens, and people get emboldened.

“We are visibly Muslim, especially women, (and) they become easy targets. That’s the saddest thing.

“I didn’t see anyone intervene. They might have been concerned for their safety, but all you have to do is shout a few times; you don’t have to put yourself in danger. I don’t understand why people stand by and let it happen.”
 


Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition

Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition
Updated 20 April 2024
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Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition

Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition
  • Awards across print, digital, infographics and illustrations ‘testament to talent and dedication of design and editorial teams’

LONDON: Arab News, the leading English-language daily newspaper in the Middle East, has won four Merit Winner awards at this year’s Society of Publication Designers competition.

Arab News’ “The Kingdom vs. Captagon” Spotlight piece garnered recognition in the two categories — Custom Feature and Single Page.

The two remaining accolades went to the “Onions’ tears and inflation fears” in the Feature Opener category and the “Guide to Hajj” in Infographic, commended for its exceptional data visualization.

“We are extremely proud to have won four awards at this year’s prestigious SPD competition,” Omar Nashashibi, head of design at Arab News, said.

“To win awards across print, digital, infographics and illustrations is testament to the talent and dedication of the Arab News design and editorial teams in creating engaging content for our readers.”

Since 1965, the annual SPD awards have promoted and celebrated excellence in editorial design, photography and illustration across both print and digital mediums. This year, the competition’s jury received thousands of entries from around the globe.  


Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say
Updated 20 April 2024
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Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say
  • Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man
  • The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park

NEW YORK: A man who doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial has died, police said.
The New York City Police Department told The Associated Press early Saturday that the man was declared dead by staff at an area hospital.
The man was in Collect Pond Park around 1:30 p.m. Friday when he took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories, tossed them around, then doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire, officials and witnesses said.
A large number of police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition at the time.
The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park.

The park outside the courthouse has been a gathering spot for protesters, journalists and gawkers throughout Trump’s trial, which began with jury selection Monday.
Through Friday, the streets and sidewalks in the area around the courthouse were generally wide open and crowds have been small and largely orderly.
Authorities said they were also reviewing the security protocols, including whether to restrict access to the park. The side street where Trump enters and leaves the building is off limits.
“We may have to shut this area down,” New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said at a news conference outside the courthouse Friday, adding that officials would discuss the security plan soon.


Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine

Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine
Updated 20 April 2024
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Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine

Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine
  • Izvestia said Semyon Eremin, 42, died of wounds from a drone attack in Zaporizhzhia region
  • Eremin had reported for the Russian daily from hottest battles in Ukraine during the 25-month-old war

Semyon Eremin, a war correspondent for the Russian daily Izvestia, was killed on Friday in a drone attack in southeastern Ukraine, the daily said.

Izvestia said Eremin, 42, died of wounds suffered when a drone made a second pass over the area where he was reporting in Zaporizhzhia region.
Izvestia said Eremin had sent reports from many of the hottest battles in Ukraine’s eastern regions during the 25-month-old war, including Mariupol, besieged by Russian troops for nearly three months in 2022.
He had also reported from Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns at the center of many months of heavy fighting.


WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system

WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system
Updated 20 April 2024
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WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system

WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system
  • Targets’ selection based on membership to some WhatsApp groups, new report reveals
  • Accusation raises questions about app’s privacy and encryption claims

LONDON: WhatsApp is allegedly being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s contentious artificial intelligence system, Lavender, which has been linked to the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, recent reports have revealed.

Earlier this month, Israeli-Palestinian publication +972 Magazine and Hebrew-language outlet Local Call published a report by journalist Yuval Abraham, exposing the Israeli army’s use of an AI system capable of identifying targets associated with Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

This revelation, corroborated by six Israeli intelligence officers involved in the project, has sparked international outrage, as it suggested Lavender has been used by the military to target and eliminate suspected militants, often resulting in civilian casualties.

In a recent blog post, software engineer and activist Paul Biggar highlighted Lavender’s reliance on WhatsApp.

He pointed out how membership in a WhatsApp group containing a suspected militant can influence Lavender’s identification process, highlighting the pivotal role messaging platforms play in supporting AI targeting systems like Lavender.

“A little-discussed detail in the Lavender AI article is that Israel is killing people based on being in the same WhatsApp group as a suspected militant,” Bigger wrote. “There’s a lot wrong with this.”

He explained that users often find themselves in groups with strangers or acquaintances.

Biggar also suggested that WhatsApp’s parent company, Meta, may be complicit, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in these operations.

He accused Meta of potentially violating international humanitarian law and its own commitments to human rights, raising questions about the privacy and encryption claims of WhatsApp’s messaging service.

The revelation is just the latest of Meta’s perceived attempts to silence pro-Palestinian voices.

Since before the beginning of the conflict, the Menlo Park giant has faced accusations of double standards favoring Israel.

In February, the Guardian revealed that Meta was considering the expansion of its hate speech policy to the term “Zionist.”

More recently, Meta quietly introduced a new feature on Instagram that automatically limits users’ exposure to what it deems “political” content, a decision criticized by experts as a means of systematically censoring pro-Palestinian content.

Responding to requests for comment, a WhatsApp spokesperson said that the company could not verify the accuracy of the report but assured that “WhatsApp has no backdoors and does not provide bulk information to any government.”