LANSING — Last week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a statement, questioning the decision by the Michigan State University (MSU) School of Journalism to select The Arab American News Publisher Osama Siblani, as one of five recipients to be inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame on April 21 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing.
Prior to issuing their statement, the ADL had sent a letter to Lucinda Davenport, the Director of the School of Journalism at MSU on Friday, April 12, stating that Siblani had an anti-Semitic agenda and has consistently allowed the Arab American News to be "a forum for hate." The letter went on to urge them to re-consider his induction.
In addition to a press statement, the ADL also posted a profile on their website of Siblani, claiming that, according to their research, the English-language section of the Arab American News frequently provides a forum for known anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theorists.
The ADL claimed to have also done research within The Arab American News' Arabic section, misquoting an Arabic article written by frequent contributor Miriam Shahaab in March of 2010, in which they mistranslated the language to "Thanks America…Israel does not want peace with the Arabs and is not headed toward it. The only peace is the death of Israel."
Siblani was made aware of the ADL's actions last Monday, when he received a phone call from The Detroit News, inquiring into the matter.
"I stand by everything I say and everything I have written. My newspaper is open to everyone, including the Jewish community. I'm very surprised and shocked that the ADL is trying to defame me in this way.... It's a shame that they have resorted to this sort of tactic," Siblani told the Detroit News.
Once the news became widespread, Siblani refused to answer further questions from the media, but offered his assistance to the 14-member Journalism Hall of Fame Committee by providing them with any information regarding the ADL allegations. Instead, the committee decided to handle the matter on their own and issued a press release, stating that they would look into ADL's allegations. The 14 member committee, who represents journalism organizations across the State, later held a telephone conference to review the allegations.
Members on the committee are; Tim Boudreau, from Central Michigan University, Sue Carter from Michigan State University, Lucinda Davenport from Michigan State University, Janet Geissler from Mid-Michigan Chapter, Jayne Hodak from Michigan Association of Broadcasters, Tina Lonski from Michigan Press Women, Maureen McDonald from Association of Women in Communications of Detroit, Walter Middlebrook from the Detroit Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists, Gloria Olman from Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, Rochelle Riley from the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, Jan Sardar from the Michigan Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, Kendall Wingrove, from Michigan State University, and at-large Members Bob Giles and Janet Mendler.
After their review of the allegations, the committee decided to move forward with inducting Osama Siblani into the Hall of Fame and released a statement to MSU State News.
"After reviewing the concerns raised by the Anti-Defamation League, members of the selection committee support their earlier decision," MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said in the statement. "The Hall of Fame selection committee believes in the freedom of the press and the right to freely express one's views, although it may not always agree with all the views expressed by its inductees, or those printed in publications with which the inductees are affiliated."
After the news became public, the ADL expressed that the committee's decision to not remove Siblani was "disappointing."
"I just hope that this particular selection does not damage the legitimacy of the Hall of Fame in anyway," Anti-Defamation League Michigan Regional Director Heidi Budaj told The State News.
Siblani, who was pleased by the news, also released a statement to The State News, telling the paper that he felt the ADL had an intention to limit the Arab-Israeli debate in American media.
"They're trying to stifle the debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict here in America, and we should not allow that," stated Siblani.
Siblani, along with late photo journalist Hugh Grannum, alternative journalist W. Kim Heron, Emmy Award winning journalist Nancy McCauley and educator Betsy Pollard were inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame on April 21.