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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘steve rothman’

Congress to Obama: Time to Punish Arabs for Blowing Up Oslo and Blowing Off the US

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

A bi-partisan majority of congressional members sent a letter to U.S. President Barak Obama late last week.  In the letter, the members insist that the time has come for this U.S. government to hold the Arab Palestinian leadership responsible for their bald refusal to comply with repeated requests from the United States government to refrain from seeking an enhanced status at the United Nations General Assembly, as is required of the Arabs under the Oslo Agreements under which it is bound.

The PLO pledged in the Oslo Agreements that it would take no unilateral actions to change the status of the disputed territories and Gaza.

Congressional leadership that has long been involved in working with Israel and the Arab Palestinians in attempts to resolve the Middle East conflict, such as U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee, U.S. Reps. Edward R. Royce (R-CA) and Eliot L. Engel (D-NY, Chairman-designate and Ranking Member-designate, respectively, of the Committee, along with more than 230 other members of  Congress, signed and sent the letter to the President on Friday, December 21.

The letter informed the President that “we believe the United States must react strongly to the ‘Palestinian’ leadership’s failure to uphold its obligations,” and explained that in order to send a clear message of U.S. disapproval, the Arab leaders must learn that their actions are not “cost-free,” and, “at a minimum, they result in setbacks to U.S.-’Palestinian’ relations.”

Congressional members suggested that the minimal steps the U.S. should take at this time would be to close the PLO office in Washington, D.C. and to call on the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem – who is, illogically, responsible for relations with the Arab Palestinians but not Jewish or Arab Israelis – back to Washington for consultations.

The congressional letter to President Obama points out the necessity for the U.S. government to ensure that the UNGA vote on November 29 “does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO in other UN bodies or international forums.”

Should the PLO attempt to force its hand by seeking membership in those other UN institutions, the congressional members told President Obama that, “we should do everything possible to make sure that does not happen, including by reaffirming our commitment to maintaining and enforcing U.S. laws that require withholding U.S. contributions from any international forum that grants membership to the PLO.”

The PLO envoy in Washington, Maen Aerikat, told the Palestinian News Agency Ma’an, that the congressional letter “is an attempt by Congress to undermine the U.S. administration in any possible role it is planning to play in Palestinian affairs.”

In addition to pointing out that “punitive measures won’t pay off.  If they were effective we would have already changed our mind,” Aerikat railed at Israel, suggesting it was behind the congressional effort.  He said, “It is a political decision, a decision on the part of the Israeli government to escalate things against the Palestinian people at home and here…the U.S. is their other front.”

In a letter circulated to members of Congress by the PLO Envoy on December 14, Aerikat sought to dissuade Congress from responding to the PA provocation.  Aerikat makes several points in his letter, one of which should qualify for the Chutzpah Hall of Fame.  Perhaps he forgot that the action taken by Congress was in response to the decision by his colleagues to spurn dialogue and negotation, and instead to take unilateral action by introducing a one-sided resolution at the U.N.  This is what Aerikat wrote:

Engagement and dialogue is the only way to express the views of Congress.  Biased and one-sided resolutions cannot contribute to an atmosphere that is conducive for a political resolution to the conflict.

Not all Jews supported the congressional effort.  In the interview with Ma’an, Aerikat appreciatively listed both J Street and Americans for Peace Now as organizations that oppose the initiative to punish the Arab Palestinians for violating the Oslo Accords by seeking unilateral changes through the UN vote.  Although not mentioned by the PLO Envoy, the Union for Reform Judaism has also actively lobbied against congressional efforts to shutter the PLO Office.

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.

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.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: The Lockerbie Bombing Hall of Shame

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, is finally roasting in hell after dying peacefully in his bed in Libya, surrounded by family and friends, rather than in the cell to which he was condemned for murdering 270 innocent people on Pan Am 103 in December, 1988. But even with the two principal murderers of these innocents – Kaddafi and Megrahi – now gone, what remains is a Lockerbie hall of shame of those who were either collaborators or looked the other way at Libyan tyranny. A day of reckoning awaits.

Foremost among them is the Scottish authorities who assured us three years ago that Megrahi was at death’s door but who ironically outlived Kaddafi himself. All documents detailing the secret deals that were done for the terrorist’s release must see the light of day so we can know whether the sacred memory of 270 victims was sold so that British oil companies like BP could benefit. We also need to know which British officials negotiated his release. Prime Minister David Cameron himself condemned “‘the appalling dodgy dealings with Libya under the last [British] government.”

In our own town of Englewood, New Jersey, where the Libyans own an official residence immediately next door to me and which has been tax-exempt for nearly three decades, millions were spent to ready the derelict embassy for Kaddafi’s use in the summer and autumn of 2009, just months after the tyrant accorded Megrahi a hero’s welcome in Tripoli. Were permits granted too readily to allow the construction at such a hasty pace?

I have a video of the time I confronted the contractors working on Kaddafi’s home, after they cut down my trees and removed my fence. City official Peter Abballe, who was in charge of Englewood’s Department of Building and Code Enforcement and was responsible for enforcing construction codes and inspecting residential and commercial properties and issuing certificates of occupancy, was present in the contractor’s trailer inside the Libyan compound. He intervenes and says the camera should be turned off. Abballe was later arrested in an FBI investigation on charges of official corruption having accepted payments in another case and was recently sentenced. Will the City of Englewood finally do an official investigation into its 2009 dealings with the Libyans?

The City of Englewood has played a particularly ignominious role in the Libyan affair. Even after I hosted a rally on my front lawn to ban Kaddafi from taking up residence in the home next door to me and even after Kaddafi began bombing his citizens in February, 2011, Englewood made absolutely no effort whatsoever to compel the Libyans to pay property taxes, thereby forcing the residents of Englewood to be complicit in supporting the evil regime by paying for things like the Libyan’s police protection and trash removal with local tax dollars. While previous mayor Michael Wildes joined me as an enthusiastic partner in opposing Kaddafi, his successor, Mayor Frank Huttle, broke repeated promises to challenge the Libyans and did nothing.

But while Mayor Huttle, who is now running for a second term unopposed, did not lift a finger against the Libyans, he did find cause, in the application my organization made to establish a Synagogue on my property in Englewood, to dismiss our right to be heard before Englewood’s Planning Board, which he chairs and whose members he appoints. Two days before our hearing this past January, our attorney received a bizarre phone call from Michael Kates — the Planning Board attorney hand-picked by Mayor Huttle — who told him that there would likely be a challenge to the jurisdiction of our application from a member of the board. He would give no further details of these behind-the-scenes maneuvers. Our attorney protested vigorously. The law was on our side. But sure enough on the night of the hearing — one that consumed thousands of dollars in preparation — Kates found a technicality so obtuse that arguably only he and our attorney could even understand it. Over a thirty-five year period no Englewood attorney could find a single technicality upon which to force Kaddafi to pay his taxes. But in a unanimous vote our Synagogue was denied even the right to be heard. Our stunned attorney told a local newspaper that the decision was political and “Where we go from here, I’m not sure.” You can watch the hearing, taped by one our congregants, and posted below.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Obama’s Doublespeak On Russian Missile Defense and Israel

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

President Obama’s recent open mic comments to President Medvedev of Russia are troubling, which explains why Obama and the White House have decided to make light of them. It seems that every time a microphone captures the President in unscripted remarks, he’s saying something that contradicts his own public pronouncements.

There was the famous incident in November, 2011, when French President Nicolas Sarkozy, not knowing his microphone was hot, expressed his contempt for Prime Minister Netanyahu, calling him a liar, with President Obama jumping in to commiserate, lamenting the fact that he has to deal with Netanyahu even more than the French.

And now comes Obama’s comments about a missile defense treaty with Russia where the President tells Medvedev that he and Putin have to give him “space” until his reelection when he’ll have far greater “flexibility,” presumably because he no longer has to answer to the American people.

A great debate has been waged this year as to whether President Obama is reliably pro-Israel and deserves the support of the pro-Israel community. The president made his case to AIPAC by listing a long record of promoting military and intelligence cooperation with the Jewish State, arguing that “I have Israel’s back.” While I have personally praised the President for that cooperation and other support shown Israel, there is more to the story, and he knows it.

For the first three years of his presidency, Obama basically declared Israel’s settlements to be illegitimate, put near-unilateral pressure on Israel to make peace without any expectations from the Palestinian side, declared at a speech that was supposed to be about the Arab Spring that Israel should return to its indefensible 1967 borders–albeit with land swaps, treated Prime Minister Netanyahu shamefully at a March 2010 meeting where he refused even a photo op with the elected leader of the Middle East’s only democracy, and had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dress down the Prime Minister before that meeting, leaking the harsh tone of the conversation to the media.

Ever since his self-confessed ‘shellacking’ during the mid-term elections, part of which was due to his perceived unfriendliness to the Jewish state, the President decided to make nice with Bibi and treat him with the same respect he accords other world leaders, albeit without the warmth of the two-armed embrace he reserved for Hugo Chavez or the bow he accorded the King of Saudi Arabia.

At the UN in September, 2011 the President strongly supported Israel against a Palestinian attempt at unilateral statehood. The President deserves credit for the effort. Then, he talked tough on Iran and imposed even greater sanctions, although he has yet to define any red lines that would invoke a military strike. The President has gotten much better in his posture vis-à-vis Israel and he is winning back Jewish support as a result.

But here is the all-important question. Why? Why has he suddenly changed in showing Israel unalloyed support?

I am not one who believes in ascribing insincere motivation to others. I judge people on their actions. But based on his actions, rather than his rhetoric, I believe the answer to the President’s new posture towards Israel lies in his words to President Medvedev. He has no ‘flexibility’ before an election in which Jewish votes and financial support are critical to what will be a very close race. And therefore, after the election, he cannot be trusted to refrain from exerting undue pressure on Israel to consummate a peace deal that will likely not lead to peace but will simply compromise Israel’s security.

And herein lies my mystification at the bizarre story of fifteen presidents of orthodox Synagogues in Passaic encouraging their congregants to switch registration to Democrat in order to vote for Steve Rothman over Bill Pascrell in the upcoming Democratic primary in New Jersey’s ninth district.  This is because Pascrell is perceived to be less friendly to Israel since, among other considerations, he was one of 54 Congressman who signed the J-Street letter criticizing Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Now leaving aside the questionable ethics of the advice, are they seriously suggesting that any Democratic supporter of President Obama is going to be as sound on Israel as, say, Republican Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who both invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress?

The Daily Beast quoted me last week as saying that President Obama is a strong friend of the Jewish people and that anyone who speaks of him as anti-Semitic is guilty of character assassination. I stand by that quote. President Obama has elevated committed Jews like Dan Shapiro to be our Ambassador to Israel, and orthodox Jews like Jack Lew to be his Chief of Staff.  But being a great friend of the Jewish people does not automatically make you a great friend of Israel. After all, President Obama has yet to even visit Israel as President. And yet, the principal problem with President Obama is his belief that Israeli intransigence, rather than, say, Islamist terror or Palestinian rejection of Israel as a Jewish state, is the principal obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In this sense President Obama follows in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – Israeli toughness, rather than Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist, is the principal cause for the continuation of the conflict.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rabbi-shmuley-boteach-obamas-doublespeak-on-russian-missile-defense-and-israel/2012/04/02/

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