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Posts Tagged ‘Pascrell’

AIPAC, NORPAC, Stay Neutral in Race between Rabbi Boteach and CAIR Supporter Pascrell

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is running for US congress in the 9th Congressional District in New Jersey.  He is pro-marriage, pro-security, pro-democracy, pro-Israel, and pro-Arab (as in pro-democracy and western-style freedoms for Arabs).  His opponent, Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr., 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 has done his best to help block the deportation of radical anti-Israel Imam Mohamad Qatanani.

This particular election should be an easy choice for pro-Israel voters.  Should be, but something’s missing.

Other than the Republican Jewish Coalition and the locally-based Jewish paper, The Jewish Voice and Opinion, Rabbi Boteach doesn’t have the public support of major pro-Israel political organizations behind him.  In fact, although critics attack groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the single issue NORPAC political action committee as being blindly supportive of Israel, neither one of these political heavyweights are actively supporting Boteach’s bid for congress.

Why?

Both NORPAC and AIPAC typically support the incumbent in a race, unless he or she has failed to meet what is sometimes criticized as a “fairly low benchmark.”

Ben Chouake, president of NORPAC, told The Jewish Press that, in general, if an incumbent has a “good voting record,” which means largely that they “vote for U.S. aid to Israel, vote in favor of pro-Israel Resolutions, and have voted in favor of Iran sanctions,” they are considered a “friendly incumbent” and NORPAC will support them.  There are a few exceptions, but those are rare.

One example of such an exception was in the bruising primary campaign preceding this general election in NJ’s 9th, when Pascrell defeated his Democratic opponent, the fiercely pro-Israel Steve Rothman.  That battle was a Middle East conflict set in the Garden State.  A major Pascrell supporter, Dr. Aref Assaf, the president of the Arab American Forum authored an op-ed contemptuously referring to Rothman as being “Israel’s man.” Assaf also denounced Rothman as an “Israel-firster,” as in Israel was more important to Rothman than is the United States.

Even though both Pascrell and Rothman were incumbents with “good voting records,” NORPAC supported Rothman in the primary because he had an “extraordinary record on Israel.” However, NORPAC is now treating the NJ 9th election as an “open seat.” This means that they will bundle funds for either contestant, if asked.  “But,” Chouake said, “NORPAC is not making donations from their general fund for either candidate.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the kind of red line drawn by the major pro-Israel political organizations.

Chouake admitted that Pascrell signing the Gaza 54 letter and supporting Imam Qatanani were problematic.  “But Qatanani is a constituent of Pascrell’s, and the decision about whether to deport the Imam is a judicial one, not a congressional one.”

Maybe so, but Pascrell signed an affidavit opposing the deportation on behalf of 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 has 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.”

On the other hand, although AIPAC and NORPAC are sitting out this election, the pro-Israel sugar daddy/mama team of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have contributed directly to Boteach, as well as to a Boteach-connected super PAC.  In total, their contributions to Boteach account for more than half a million dollars.  The cash-infusion, in turn, led the Republican National Congressional Committee to upgrade Boteach’s campaign to “Contender” status.  That new status ensures Boteach will be the further recipient of important support from other GOP congressional leaders and other campaign accoutrements.

In fact, riding the wave brought on by the Adelsons’ donations, Rabbi Boteach is currently in Florida, attending the Republican National Convention.  The Jewish Press caught up with him in the RJC lounge.

What pushed the world-famous celebrity rabbi, author and reality show star to choose politics as his next frontier?

He says he “wants America to refocus on values, but not the side show ones on abortion and gay marriage.”  Boteach wants to focus on “supporting marriage, offering vouchers for school choice, and granting tax breaks to corporations to close on Sundays.”

He pointed out that “before the big brouhaha surrounding Chik-fil-A and gay marriage, the chain deserved attention for its astronomical growth, even though all the outlets were closed on Sundays.” His point is that being family-friendly does not have to have negative economic consequences for businesses.

When asked what distinguished him from his opponent who has what some professionals claim, is a “strong pro-Israel record,” Boteach let loose.  “Look, the number one issue threatening Israel is Iran.  But right behind that is the international delegitimization of Israel.  And Pascrell is one of the foremost congressional participants in that delegitimization.”

“Pascrell has engaged in a blood libel.  It was an astonishing act of ignorance for Pascrell to sign the ‘Gaza 54′ letter.”  That letter, according to Boteach, “charged Israel with engaging in collective punishment by falsely claiming they deny food and medicine to the Gazans.”  Pascrell has stood by that letter, saying he did not regret signing it.

Boteach asked, “what is the point of having the pro-Israel red line be support for aid to Israel, if, when every time Israel uses that aid to defend herself, she is accused of things like ‘collective punishment?”

Boteach is clearly disappointed by the lack of expected support.  Nonetheless, with the clout added to his campaign by the large financial show of Adelson support, Boteach was invited to address the RJC’s Salute to Pro-Israel Elected Officials at the Crowne Plaza Westshore Hotel last night.  Boteach is hoping that, “G-d willing,” at the next Republican Convention, he’ll be part of that audience.

AIPAC expressed disinterest in speaking on the record.  Congressman Pascrell’s campaign spokesman Keith Furlong did not respond to a request for comment.

Aref Assaf and the Scandal of Arab Leaders Silent on Syria’s Slaughter

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

While Aref Assaf, President of the Arab American Forum in Paterson, New Jersey, might be forgiven for condemning my daughter’s service in the Israeli army, nothing can explain his defense of Congressman Bill Pascrell’s silence on the mass slaughter of Arabs in Syria (NJ Jewish Standard, 20 July, 2012). It is shocking that a man who purports to be an Arab leader can say that thousands of Arab children being shot in the head by Bashar Assad’s butchers does not matter to him or Arab Americans as much as domestic issues. Assaf should either repudiate his comments or resign his position.

And just think of the hypocrisy. Assaf says that Israel killed his young brother in the 1967 war. I am very sorry for the tragic loss of a precious life as it sounds like he was the innocent casualty of a large Middle East conflict initiated by Israel’s Arab neighbors whose stated intention it was to wipe Israel off the map. Whatever our differences, my heart goes out to Assaf and his family for this sorrowful death. Every child’s life is of infinite value, Arab and Jew alike. And this is exactly why we have to hold mass murderers in the Middle East accountable.

Saddam Hussein killed more Arabs than any man who ever lived — 800,000 by the New York Times own account (January, 2003). Pascrell voted against the removal of Saddam, which would have left him in power to kill thousands more Arabs. Yet Pascrell remains a hero to Assaf.

Assaf’s defense of Pascrell’s refusal to give one speech from the floor of the House condemning the wholesale murder of approximately 30,000 Arabs in Syria should make us question whether his criticisms of Israel are motivated by a desire to stand up for Arab life or simple hatred for the Jewish state.

It isn’t as if Congressman Pascrell hasn’t had the opportunity to address the slaughter in Syria. Over the past few years, Pascrell has found the time to sponsor legislation on recycling plastic, to reduce tax on pickled pepper, and to commend New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with an official Congressional proclamation. But in all that time, he has not found even a moment to address, from the floor of the most powerful assemblage of elected representatives on earth, the bombings of Arab civilians under Kaddafi in Libya, the murder of unarmed protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, or the murderous Assad regime for killing tens of thousands in Syria.

About ten years ago a friend of mine named David Suissa showed me a campaign he wished to launch called Free the 400 Million, which focused on the liberation of Arab masses from the tyranny under which they lived throughout the Middle East. Suissa’s idea presaged the breakout of freedom in Arab lands that we now call the Arab spring. As someone who believes that America is the light of freedom to the world, I was greatly inspired by his idea and started writing columns and participating in debates aimed at highlighting the oppression of Arabs under unelected dictatorships throughout the Middle East.

In the midst of this campaign, as providence would have it, Muamar Kaddafi tried to move into the home immediately next door to me in Englewood, New Jersey. I brought together, on my front lawn, Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Frank Lautenberg, and Congressman Steve Rothman – all Democrats – to push the murderer out of our midst. We succeeded and the tyrant was prevented from crossing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey from his Ambassador’s residence at the United Nations. Congressman Bill Pascrell, representing one of the largest Arab American populations in the country, was noticeably absent.

Pascrell, who signed the Gaza 54 letter falsely accusing Israel of denying essential food and medicine to Palestinians in Gaza, is hailed by Arab leaders like Aref Assaf for championing the Arab cause. But you are not Pro-Arab simply because you condemn Israel. You are Pro-Arab when you advocate that the 400 million Arabs of the Middle East enjoy the same political freedoms and human rights that we enjoy here in the United States.

During the Democratic primary Assaf famously said of Pascrell’s opponent, Jewish Congressman Steve Rothman and his many pro-Israel supporters, “Rothman is Israel’s man in District 9… As total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s.”

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.

Arabs Attacking Jews in NJ Primary

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

It began after the state of New Jersey after the Garden State lost one congressional seat and its redistricting commission put Democratic Congressman Steve Rothman’s hometown of Fair Lawn into the same district as Republican Congressman Scott Garrett.

Rothman decided to avoid a costly war against Garrett, and opted instead to challenge fellow Democrat Bill Pascrell from Paterson in the Blue District 9, where much of Rothman’s former district was relocated (57 percent of the new district is from Rothman’s former district, and 43 percent from Pascrell’s).

Rothman actually had to move back to Englewood, where he used to be the mayor in the 1980s.

Now, with the race between the two fellow Dems who used to be best of friends getting to the finish line on Tuesday, many in New Jersey fear that it has given rise to the first bona fide Jewish versus Arab competition, and an ugly one at that. As Adam Kredo in the Washington Free Beacon put it, the battle “has transformed into a troubling ethnic brawl.”

Kredo quotes a veteran campaign strategist who told him: “For the first time in recent American political history, we are witnessing a proxy battle between supporters and detractors of Israel, and it’s playing out in the Ninth District of New Jersey.”

On Monday, an Arabic campaign poster supporting Pascrell urged the “Arab diaspora community” to “elect the friend of the Arabs” and billed the race as the most important election in the history of the Arab community.

The full poster.

The full poster.

The Jewish Press online’s own Iran-born cartoonist Salome Worch (“The Adventures of JooJoon”) who translated the poster for us, said it called on New Jersey residents to “Vote for a true Arab.”

According to the Beacon, Rothman has avoided the temptation of joining the ethnic brawl, and focused instead on his congressional record.

Josh Block, a Democratic strategist and former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told Kredo that, in his opinion, “Rep. Rothman has run an issue-oriented campaign, focused on progressive values domestically and abroad, including his strong pro-Israel credentials, among other things. Rep. Pascrell, however, has implicitly endorsed odious attacks on Rothman’s religion and commitment to the United States. These claims are reminiscent of canards regularly bandied about by White Supremacists and anti-Semites.”

Recently, 15 Orthodox synagogues in the district urged their members to switch party affiliation—frummies in Jersey have long since turned red—and vote for Rothman in Tuesday’s primary.

Dr. Aref Assaf, president of American Arab Forum and a resident of NJ-9, wrote in NJ.com: “…If it is Kosher for Orthodox rabbis to preach to their members on political candidates, then it must be Halal for Muslim Imams to do the same. We will soon find out if Muslim religious leaders will reach out to their respective congregations. Imams, like rabbis, wield disproportionate leverage in and uncontested access to their congregations.”

The candidate most likely to benefit from this war between Democratic brothers is another frequent contributor to the Jewish Press online, Rabbi Shmueli Boteach, who is running on Tuesday seeking the Republican nomination. In a meeting with the Jewish Press online editorial board, Boteach said he had a lock on about 36 percent of the Republican votes in the primary, well ahead of the rest of the field.

But as districts go, the new NJ-9 will not be an easy arena for the good rabbi come November.

But he couldn’t help adding his own five cents’ worth to the debate on the other side, with a call to the warring sides to love one another again.

“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.’”

In N.J., Pro-Israel Congressman Faces A Primary Battle

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

WASHINGTON – Rep. Steve Rothman is accustomed to being re-elected to his northern New Jersey congressional district by wide margins.

This year, however, the pro-Israel stalwart faces what could be a tough, redistricting-induced primary battle against a fellow eight-term Democrat, Rep. Bill Pascrell, who also has a history of winning re-election handily.

Among many pro-Israel activists, the stakes are seen as high. Rothman is regarded as a key and outspoken pro-Israel voice on Capitol Hill.

“There are less than a handful of congressmen who bring the kind of passion, intensity and commitment to America’s security and Israel’s security that Steve Rothman does,” said a congressional aide whose boss previously served with Rothman on the House Appropriations Committee.

“He has a laser beam-like focus on defeating the enemies of Israel, and he’s definitely not shy about holding the State Department accountable.”

The race between Rothman and Pascrell is the result of the new congressional map adopted at the end of 2011 by New Jersey’s redistricting commission.

Rothman is not the only high-profile Jewish lawmaker facing a redistricting-fueled primary fight. In California, the decennial redrawing of congressional districts has yielded a faceoff between Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, both leaders on Israel issues.

The new map for New Jersey, which is losing a congressional seat, put Rothman’s residence and a fifth of his constituents into a more conservative district, a large majority of which is currently represented by Republican Scott Garrett. Meanwhile, the largest portions of Rothman’s and Pascrell’s constituencies were shoehorned together into another district.

Hoping to avoid an internecine primary battle, some Democrats reportedly urged Rothman, 59, to challenge Garrett. But it would have been an uphill battle for Rothman.

Instead, Rothman and Pascrell, 74, have declared their intentions to run for the same seat. Rothman currently represents 54 percent of the new district’s constituents, while Pascrell represents 43 percent.

“I decided that I wanted to continue to represent the people who I was born and raised with and who I have lived with most of my life,” Rothman said.

The media-savvy, bespectacled congressman previously served as mayor of Englewood, a city with a sizable Jewish population located in the district he is now contesting.

“I will be reminding my constituents not only of my strong support for Israel, but my great success in helping tens of thousands of constituents every year with their problems and bringing home to the district more than $2 billion in federal funding for a variety of essential local projects,” Rothman said.

A spokesman for Pascrell’s campaign, Sean Darcy, offered a different take on who would be the best choice for Democrats in the June 5 primary.

“Congressman Pascrell has a track record of fighting for middle-class taxpayers,” Darcy said. “He is not afraid to take on extreme right-wing conservatives and stand up for Democratic principles and ideals.”

Both lawmakers receive relatively high ratings for their voting records from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action.

Rothman’s power base is Bergen County, while Pascrell’s stronghold is neighboring Passaic County, an area with a large Arab-American community. Both men have lined up endorsements from local elected officials.

“I think Rothman starts off as the favorite in this,” said Alan Steinberg, who writes about New Jersey politics for Politicker NJ and NewJerseyNewsroom.com. “In this primary he will have overwhelming support from the Jewish community.”

Rothman is a longtime supporter of President Obama, endorsing him in the 2008 presidential primaries over then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton – the first member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation to do so.

While Rothman has been critical of aspects of the Obama administration’s Israel policies, including what he has said was a misguided early focus on Israeli settlement activity, he has been at the forefront of defending the president from Republican attacks on his record.

In a July op-ed for Politico, Rothman wrote that the Obama administration “has given – and continues to provide – unprecedented support for the defense and security of Israel.”

He also has hammered leading Republican candidates for supporting an overhaul in the way U.S. foreign aid is allocated, alleging that their positions contradict American understandings with Israel on aid.

Ben Chouake, president of the New Jersey-based pro-Israel political action committee NORPAC, said that Rothman is “very knowledgeable and very engaged and is looked to by other members of Congress for information and advice on matters concerning U.S.-Israel relations and the Middle East.”

NORPAC, the country’s largest pro-Israel political action committee, has raised money for both Rothman and Pascrell in the past.

“While both would carry the status of friendly incumbent in an ordinary election, there is such a wide difference in the records of the candidates that Rothman receives our preference and endorsement in this particular race,” Chouake said.

Rothman sits on two key appropriations subcommittees handling assistance to Israel: the state and foreign operations subcommittee and the defense subcommittee, where he has helped secure funds for Israeli missile defense systems.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/in-n-j-pro-israel-congressman-faces-a-primary-battle/2012/01/11/

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