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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Congressman Pascrell’

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.

An Open Letter to Congressman Pascrell on School Choice and Vouchers

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Dear Bill,

At the Juneteenth celebrations in Englewood, I was speaking to African-American parents who were decrying the state of the public school system in our town. We spend approximately $23k per child per year, but still have a failure rate of about one third. I was amazed at how many parents were telling me they preferred to send their children to private school but could not afford it. I asked them if they would support school vouchers that would empower them to do just that: take their own hard-earned money and use it to send their children to the school of their choice. Overwhelmingly, they said yes. They were adamant that they had the right to override the public school system if they so chose.

You and I, Bill, have the capacity to do something unique. We can join together, as candidates for Congress from opposing parties, to endorse school choice. Just think about the implications. Rather than seeing towns in our district jack up real estate taxes more and more just to afford out-of-control education costs – and in Englewood property taxes have gone up 70 percent in the last decade – we could jointly advocate school vouchers that would cost about half the public school bill per child, and arguably give kids a better education.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that we harm the public school system. On the contrary: I believe that school choice will make the public school system far better by creating competition. Why are so many parents dissatisfied with public schools? Because they are a monopoly. And monopolies have a hard time sustaining quality.

In my own community, the absence of a voucher system is actually making the community grow smaller. Jewish parents whose only crime is to want their children to learn who Abraham, Moses, and David were cannot afford both the astronomical property taxes of North Jersey, and the high school tuition. So they are having fewer children.

This is outrageous and utterly unfair. We pay insane property taxes in Bergen Country when not one dollar can finance even the secular education of our parochial schools. We all believe in separation of Church and State. But could there really be an honest objection to government subsidizing secular subjects like mathematics and geography, even if it occurs in a parochial school?

Parents who seek a values education for their children should not be penalized for wanting to expose them to a tradition that will make them into more moral, ethical, and responsible citizens.

America is alone among leading industrialized nations in not providing any funding for parochial schools, even for their secular departments. In my community of Englewood, New Jersey, we have approximately 700 Modern Orthodox Jewish families, the overwhelming majority of which send their children to Jewish day schools. Were we to send our children to the public school system, it would collapse in a day, Bill. Still, we have never summoned the political will to organize and demand that even a fraction of the highest property taxes in the nation be applied toward offsetting the high costs of school tuition.

Many of my Islamic brothers and sisters in Paterson, where you were once mayor, Bill, feel the same way. They love their religion and want their children to be raised in it. They want to send them to a religious, Islamic school. Should America penalize them for simply loving their faith? And what about all the Catholic parents in our district who want to send their kids to a Catholic school? Who is the government to tell them that they can’t? After all, it’s the not the government’s money, but the parents. The government has no money. It takes it from us.

In my area, private Jewish school tuition costs somewhere between $10,000 and $13,000 per child, and for that sum – which is significantly lower than what the public schools in the same areas are spending per child – children get a comprehensive and quality education. I suspect the Catholic and Islamic schools cost about the same. Were we to grant parents a voucher to send their children to any of these parochial schools, the local government expenditure per child would immediately decrease by about 40 percent.

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.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/rabbi-shmuley-boteach-congressman-pascrell-repudiate-the-gaza-54-letter/2012/06/18/

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