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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Pascrell’

In New Jersey 9th Race, Boteach Is Best Bet

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

For New Jersey voters who place a high priority on the safety of Israel and want the U.S. government to continue its strong support for the Jewish State, there is only one choice in the 9th District race – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

It isn’t just that Boteach is a rabbi, steeped in Jewish law and lore and is strongly pro-marriage, pro-America and pro-democracy, and it certainly isn’t that he is a world-famous author and larger-than-life personality, although he is all of that. It’s simply that despite there being a low bar set for congressmen to apply to their lapels the hecsher of “pro-Israel,” not all of them really deserve it, and Boteach’s opponent falls firmly into that category.

Boteach’s opponent, Bill Pascrell, Jr., was first elected to congress in 1996 and since then represented New Jersey’s 8th District, until it was redrawn which is why he is now facing Boteach in the 9th.  It is true that during his congressional tenure Pascrell has voted each time to support aid to Israel which, in the eyes of many who professionally hold out that low bar, makes Pascrell pro-Israel.

In fact, following a recent debate between the congressional candidates after Boteach insisted his opponent’s record is not sufficiently pro-Israel, Pascrell thundered at Boteach, “you don’t preach to me about my relationship with Israel!”

Pascrell practically foamed at the mouth as he spat out, “I did the right thing [in supporting Israel]. I want Israel to have the power to protect itself. You show me one time I went against that principle or one time I didn’t vote for dollars to make Israel safer!”

But Boteach doesn’t question Pascrell’s vote for U.S. aid to Israel.  “Instead,” he told The Jewish Press, “the problem is that Pascrell criticizes Israel when she uses that aid to defend herself.”

Pascrell signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter blasting Israel for what it called “collective punishment” of Gazans by blockading food and medicine — not true — and reserved a meeting space for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the Capital building.

And just recently Boteach pointed out another way in which Pascrell, despite his public vows, is tone deaf to the interests of Jews.

This September it was announced that a portion of a park located within the 9th District, in Clifton, was going to be renamed for a local resident who had recently died, Chester Grabowski.  Grabowski had been the publisher of a local Polish-American weekly, the Post Eagle.

Pascrell had written an enthusiastic letter of endorsement to rename that park.  But Grabowski’s Post Eagle regularly referred to Jews as “vermin,” “animals” and “Christ killers.”

Pascrell’s letter in support of honoring Grabowski stated,

I knew Chester for many years and he was a great friend. He was a kind and respected man who would help anyone in need and he was a friend to all.  Chester was an individual who cared about the City of Clifton and was a strong advocate of the Polish-American community, not only in the City of Clifton, but all across the great State of New Jersey…For this, I whole heartedly support the honor of memorializing the Richard Scales Park to a resident, a businessman, and a leader in the City of Clifton, Mr. Chester Grabowski. His legacy will not only be that of a successful newspaper he operated for many years, but the family man who worked so hard for his community

And this isn’t the only hater of Jews and Israel on behalf of whom Pascrell has used his public office.

Pascrell signed an affidavit opposing the deportation of radical anti-Israel Imam Mohamad Qatanani, the Imam of one of the largest mosques in New Jersey, calling him “peace-loving” and “magnanimous.”  That’s hard to square with information provided by Steve Emerson, one of the world’s leading terrorism experts.

Emerson wrote that Qatanani’s deportation case centered on the Imam’s lying on his immigration documents about having been arrested by Israel for membership in the terrorist organization Hamas.  But even while in the United States, Qatanani openly displayed his hatred and contempt for Israel.  He allegedly referred to the creation of Israel as “the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the Earth,” and has called for supporting the children of homocide bombers.

It is difficult to reconcile that with the words in Pascrell’s affidavit and his 2008 description of Qatanani whom he said, “put so much time into bringing peace for all of us. Thank you imam, for all you’ve done for America since you’ve come here.”

Thank you, voters of New Jersey’s 9th, if you vote for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to be your next congressional representative.

Being a Critic of Israel Does Not Make You Pro-Arab, Congressman Pascrell

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The first thing I did after winning the Republican nomination for New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District was invite my Democratic opponent, Congressman Bill Pascrell, to Shabbat dinner at our home, so we could meet as people rather than opponents. I conveyed the invitation in writing and spoke to him directly by phone. Unlike Pascrell’s democratic challenger in the primary who attacked him mercilessly, I also wrote a highly respectful letter to Pascrell asking him to repudiate his signature on an infamous letter known as “Gaza 54,” which falsely accused Israel of practicing collective punishment against the Palestinians and libeled Israel by fraudulently accusing the Jewish State of denying essential medicines and food from entering Gaza in the blockade. My letter was well-balanced and thanked Pascrell for voting in favor of American aid to Israel. I also called Pascrell personally to invite him to Israel with me on a joint trip. Through all these efforts my intention was to practice a new kind of politics, foregoing partisanship and running an issues and values-based campaign where political opponents disagreed but always treated each other with respect and courtesy.

Sadly, I have now discovered that I am running against a career politician – now seeking his eighteenth year in Congress – a pro who would rather practice the politics of divisiveness and contempt that has so alienated the American electorate.

In response to my invitation for Sabbath dinner, after first accepting, Pascrell let it be known through a spokesman that he would not be attending. The invitation to visit Israel was met with stone-cold silence. A later phone call from our campaign politely asking Pascrell to a series of debates for the benefit of the district’s constituents was similarly met, after the promise of a response, without even the dignity of a returned phone call.

But it was Pascrell’s response on Israel and the libel he had participated in by signing the ‘Gaza 54’ letter that was the most offensive of all. I can forgive Pascrell for his continued contempt toward me by refusing to address me directly or even mention me by name, even in his letter written in response to mine. But his attack against Israel cannot be similarly overlooked. Pascrell answered my letter by repeating rather than repudiating the slander against the Jewish State. In an opinion piece in The New Jersey Jewish Standard, Pascrell wrote that the purpose of his signature was to “ensure that aid organizations were able to carry out their work on the behalf of civilians in Gaza… the blockade was too broad. In addition to preventing weapons from entering Gaza, it was also preventing medicine and food, as well.”

This is a bald-faced lie and constitutes a direct attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state. Israel never stopped food and medicine from entering Gaza. Ever. Indeed, the only blockade imposed on Gaza was a sea blockade. Land routes were always open, albeit subject to inspections on the part of Israeli authorities to prevent bombs and arms from entering. It is regrettable that a United States congressman would participate in a deliberate effort to defame the Jewish State and join the ranks of its most determined enemies in falsely accusing it of preventing food and medicine from reaching Palestinians.

It is also regrettable that a politician seeking to become the elected representative of some of America’s most Jewishly committed communities would falsely blame Israel for collective punishment against the Palestinians when the real culprit is the terrorist organization Hamas.

As I wrote in The Bergen Record in response to Julie Hurley, an activist who also libeled Israel over the Gaza blockade, I personally visited Gaza City on a solidarity trip to Israel with the Rev. Al Sharpton shortly after 9/11 and witnessed the unspeakable poverty that prevailed under Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority, even though, as The New York Times reported, by 2004 the Palestinians had become “the world’s largest per capita recipients of international aid.” As the Congressional Research Service stated, “the United States alone has committed over $4 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians.” Where did the money go? Sadly, very little of it ever trickled down to the Palestinian people, due to widespread corruption and theft on the part of the Palestinian leadership. In 2003, a team of American accountants – hired by Arafat’s own finance ministry – claimed that Arafat had wealth in a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion. Pascrell, during his sole visit to Israel, which was organized apparently by the Metro West Jewish Federation of New Jersey, decided to insult his hosts by suddenly visiting Arafat, even though, as the father of modern terrorism, Arafat’s hands were utterly drenched with Jewish blood and he had stolen the food and medicine money of his own people.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Congressman Pascrell, Repudiate the Gaza 54 Letter

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Dear Bill,

It was a pleasure speaking to you on the phone last week. I thank you for your time and your friendly manner, and especially for agreeing to join me for a Friday night Shabbat dinner. I believe the residents of New Jersey’s Ninth District will benefit from us keeping our race positive and issues-focused.

Thank you also for your offer to introduce me to Imam Mohammad Qatanani, the subject of much controversy in our district. Indeed, in your race against Congressman Rothman, much was made of your friendship with the Imam and your efforts to assist him in remaining in this country. This despite INS attempts to deport him over an earlier arrest by the Israeli authorities for membership in Hamas, which the imam concealed. Should the imam publicly repudiate those ties and condemn Hamas for its murderous intent against innocent Israelis, a meeting between us would be welcome.

Bill, I will not repeat the earlier error made by some members of our community in labeling you an “enemy” of Israel. My religion commands me to speak truth and show gratitude, and you have voted in favor of foreign aid to Israel on numerous occasions. To perpetuate the myth, started in the Democratic primary, that you are a foe of Israel would contravene my value system, which obligates me to thank you for votes in favor of the Jewish state. By assisting in the continunity of American aid to Israel, you have made the Middle East safer, not just for Jews, but for the hundreds of millions of Arabs whose freedom under their own tyrannical regimes is largely predicated on Israel setting an example of a viable democracy in a region which Arab dictators claim can never be democratized.

My objection to your stance on Israel lies, rather, in other actions with which you have been associated that are extremely troubling to the pro-Israel community. Most notably, you signed the infamous Gaza 54 letter, condemning Israel for “collective punishment” against Palestinians in the Gaza blockade. While this may not have been your intention, your participation in this cruel attack on Israel is highly injurious to the Jewish State’s ability to defend itself.

As you know, Bill, Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. I can tell you personally how painful that withdrawal was, since I visited the flourishing Jewish communities of Gush Katif in Gaza many times. Brave Jewish residents – nearly all of whom had family members or close friends killed by terrorists in Gaza – made the desert bloom, growing fruits and vegetables of the highest quality out of the desert sands, literally. They offered the hope that Gaza might be turned into a land of agricultural excellence, exporting produce to the entire world and benefiting Jew and Arab alike. I contrast this civilized landscape with the unspeakable poverty and misery that I witnessed in Palestinian-controlled Gaza City. Not long after the 9/11 attacks, Reverend Al Sharpton came to Israel for a trip of reconciliation with the Jewish community, jointly hosted by me and Shimon Peres, Israel’s then foreign minister, to whom President Obama has just given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. While in Israel, Rev. Sharpton insisted on visiting Yasser Arafat, and though I refused to meet the man who had the blood of my people on his hands and who had stolen billions of dollars from impoverished Palestinians, I did accompany Rev. Sharpton to Gaza and witnessed the squalor that reigned in the Palestinian Authority-controlled cities, despite billions of dollars in foreign aid. The New York Times reported in 2004 that “the Palestinians are already the world’s largest per capita recipients of international aid.” But I did not witness this trickeling down to average citizens.

Regardless, Israel uprooted the Jewish communities of Gaza – including my wife’s cousins who years later are still confined to a trailer – and evacuated from Gaza completely. Their reward? Thousands of rockets from Hamas on Israeli nurseries, homes for the elderly, and buses.

Hamas, as you well know, Bill, is sworn to Israel’s destruction and to attacking Jews wherever they may be found. Its covenant is deeply racist and contains vicious genocidal aspirations, such as the following: “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realized.”

Boteach Invites Opponent to Sabbath Dinner

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Dear Congressman Pascrell,

Much was made of the nasty primary battle that took place between you and Congressman Steve Rothman. Many believe you prevailed precisely because Rothman’s campaign had gone woefully negative. Americans are sick and tired of toxic campaigning and politics. My friend Mayor Cory Booker used the word ‘nauseated’ when he discussed the negative attack ads being used by both Republicans and Democrats alike.

I agree. People want to be inspired. They look to public leaders to lift them up, not to pull them into some personal gutter of vicious attack.

Now that you and I are the formal candidates of our respective parties we have the ability to do things differently. We can run a positive campaign that stays focused firmly on the issues. We can rise above personality and make this a policy and ideas-driven race. In so doing we can excite not only New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District but others around the country who can learn from the example we seek to set.

In pursuit of that I have a simple idea. You and I don’t know each other and to my knowledge have never met. I’ve heard a lot about you and you’ve probably heard some about me. Let’s start this race by getting to know each other as people before we get to know each other as opponents.

Every Friday night at our Sabbath table my wife and I host all kinds of people. We love having guests and it would be my honor for us to host you and your family either this coming Friday night or whenever it may suit you, although sooner would be better than later.

Over the years we’ve hosted thousands of people at our home. Many are students, some work in media, others in academia, even more are business executives, laborers, and professionals. Many have been Democratic politicians like yourself, from Governor Jon Corzine, who came several times with his wife Sharon, to Mayors Michael Wildes and Frank Huttle of Englewood. Mayor Cory Booker and I have shared hundreds of Shabbat dinners together, beginning in our Oxford days and continuing into Jersey.

The Sabbath is a day of peace. We don’t argue about business, politics, or anything else contentious. It’s devoted to higher things. It’s the kind of setting where no matter how much you disagree you never become disagreeable. Our Friday night table is a place of warm conversation, spirited discussion, laughter, and inspiration. There would be nothing to separate us, only to unite us.

Joining together for a Friday night meal also allows us to highlight the importance of regular family dinners for the people of our district and beyond. Indeed, together with some leading American personalities and celebrities, I started a non-partisan, non-political organization called Turn Friday Night Into Family Night (website www.fridayisfamily.com) to encourage Moms and Dads to give their children two uninterrupted hours of family time, and to invite guests to the home, every Friday night. Part of the way we promote the initiative is with 30-second web commercials featuring well-known figures promoting the important of family time (We’d be very pleased if you would agree to do a spot for us. It takes only about half an hour to shoot and its painless.).

I suspect, Congressman Pascrell, that you have attended a Jewish Friday night meal. So no doubt you are aware of the unique peace to be found on a day when no one looks at their cell phones, the television is off, and the internet is down. It’s liberating and allows one to focus on people instead of all the distractions that currently separate us.

No doubt in the coming months there will be spirited disagreements between us. No doubt you and I will wish clash mightily over issues that affect the residents of New Jersey’s Ninth District. But that does not mean that we can’t start on the right foot by experiencing a shared humanity that should spur us to running campaigns that are effective yet respectful.

While reaching to you directly to accept my invitation, I have also chosen to make this letter public in order to make it clear to the residents of our district that I am committed to a positive, inspired, and values-based campaign that transcends the politics of personal destruction and hyper-partisanship and focuses squarely on what each of us would do to renew America. After your recent experience, I assume you are in agreement. I eagerly await your affirmative response and my family and I look forward to warmly welcoming you to our home.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: An Open Letter to Congressmen Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Dear Steve and Bill,

Many of us have watched with amazement and dismay the increasingly bitter primary battle ensuing between you. You were once close friends and allies. Now that you are contesting the same Congressional seat, the natural affection that once bound you has come undone.

This is a shame, both personally and collectively. Personally, because friendship is one of life’s greatest blessings, and collectively, because Americans are sick and tired of rancorous, scorched-earth politics, which has given Congress a nine percent approval rating.

Let me be clear that I am not passing judgment. I recognize the stakes are high in your primary as they are in the current Republican primary. But I am saying that there is a better way, a more magnanimous manner in which to run for office, where personalities are kept out of the race and where issues are the focus.

Congressman Rothman, was it really necessary to put out a mailer that said of Pascrell, “With friends like this, who needs enemies?” Was it essential to say of your fellow Democrat that he is guilty of peddling “UGLY… BASELESS… CRAP” (Your own emphasis).

Congressman Pascrell, did you really have to say of your fellow Democrat, “I lived in Paterson all my life. I didn’t have to move. You moved twice. If you’re such a progressive, why didn’t you take on the leader of the Tea Party instead of your ‘friend’ Bill Pascrell.”

Come on, guys! You’re in the same party. And you’re both elected officials representing New Jersey and the nation. While that doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything, it does mean that you should be according each other some basic civility.

I know something about this because I do family conflict resolution for a living. My TV show on TLC, Shalom in the Home, had me living with families across America for up to a week to try and get husbands and wives to stop fighting, parents and kids to stop arguing, and brothers and sisters to stop squabbling.

The ABCs of conflict resolution involve human empathy – an ability to see the matter from the other person’s point of view. Surely you can both appreciate that after spending sixteen odd years in Congress.

Winning is great, but not at any cost, and certainly not at the cost of your integrity. While I disagree with both of you substantially on the issues, I do not question that you are both devoted public servants and it’s for this reason that the increasingly bitter tone of your race doesn’t accord with your own values. You’re both better than this.

Imagine two good friends at High School who do everything together but then begin to fight over the same girl. Surely, as they abuse and taunt each other in her presence, they will not only fail to win her hand but will instead alienate her completely. That’s what’s happening with the electorate as they watch the two of you assail each other.

Even the Star Ledger Editorial Board has commented on the vitriolic nature of the campaign by stating “it is particularly appalling to see Rothman take such cheap shots at Pascrell” and “a pity that he’s (Rothman) choosing to tarnish his long-standing reputation for integrity by running a campaign like this.”

Look, I shouldn’t be saying this. The two of you bludgeoning each other works to my advantage. I hope to win the Republican nomination for Congress on the very same day – June 5th – that you hope to win the Democratic nomination. And when people see what you’re doing to each other, they might just decide to give the other party the chance to represent them in Congress with values they can respect. But I don’t want to win this way. I don’t want to get votes because the Democratic primary has become a fratricidal war of Cain and Abel in a duel to the death. I don’t want to win based on something like The Hunger Games. Rather, I want to win based on the issues and on values.

It is my belief that my ideas and policies are better for America than yours. I may be wrong. That’s why elections exist, for the electorate to determine whose ideas will best steer the country. But we have to take personality, bitterness, and bile out of the equation and make this a policy-based dispute.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rabbi-shmuley-boteach-an-open-letter-to-congressmen-steve-rothman-and-bill-pascrell/2012/05/30/

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