Friday, February 24, 2012

NJ Dem Bill Pascrell Thinks Calling Jews Disloyal To America Is No Big Deal

Earlier this week I wrote NJ Arab Leader Aref Assaf Accuses Jews Of Being "Israel-Firsters" In Coming Election. The issue is that Aref Assaf, as the president of the New Jersey-based American Arab Forum, accused Jews of disloyalty to the US. In the New Jersey Star Ledger, Assaf wrote:
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.
Since Assaf is a supporter of New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell, Pascrell has been asked to distance himself from--but Pascrell has refused:

New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell has no intention of distancing himself from a prominent Arab-American supporter who accused the state’s Jewish community—as well as his Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Steve Rothman—of being more loyal to Israel than America.

Earlier today, Pascrell surrogate Herb Klein, a former member of Congress, called the controversy a non-issue.

“The ongoing ‘controversy’ being laid at Bill Pascrell’s door as a result of an op-ed authored by someone not affiliated with the Pascrell campaign has proven to be a distraction from the issues confronting the 9th Congressional District’s Democratic voters,” Klein said.
Apparently, that depends on how one defines "affiliated."
“We are disappointed that Congressman Pascrell refuses to disavow his donor’s ridiculous and unfounded attack,” Rothman spokesperson Aaron Keyak said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon this afternoon.

“Mr. Assaf is a supporter of and donor to Congressman Pascrell,” Keyak said. “We stand by our request that Congressman Pascrell disavow these attacks and ask his supporters to stop this harmful, dishonest, and bigoted rhetoric. Questioning Congressman Rothman’s loyalty to America is a serious charge.”
Accusing Jews of being disloyal to the US is a non-issue? This at a time that the story about members of the pro-Democratic group Center For American Progress accusing Jews of being Israel Firsters is just beginning to recede.

Also, as Alana Goodman writes, anti-Israel controversies are not new to Pascrell:
After the controversy over Democratic-linked organizations engaging in dual-loyalty charges, it’s problematic that one of Pascrell’s supporters would make such inflammatory claims. This also isn’t the first time Pascrell has come under fire for anti-Israel associations. In 2010, he signed the controversial “Gaza 54 letter,” which was harshly critical of Israel. Pascrell’s best move may be to take Rothman’s advice and distance himself from Assaf’s toxic rhetoric, unless he wants to be seen as tacitly approving these allegations.
Pascrell seems to attract this sort of controversial support. Back in 2002, a Pascrell supporter made incendiary anti-Israel comments at a Pascrell fundraiser:
The selection of a controversial Arab-American businessman to run for Passaic County Freeholder has sharply divided Democrats, with Sen. Robert Menendez and Gov. Jon Corzine indicating that they were not prepared to support the candidacy of Sami Merhi, even in a general election.

Merhi is under fire for comments made at a 2002 fundraiser for Rep. Bill Pascrell, when he likened former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Adolf Hitler, and said he "can't see the comparison" between Palestinian suicide bombers and the "cold blooded murderers" he says are responsible for the attacks of September 11th.

In a letter to Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, Menendez called Merhi’s statements “extremely disturbing.”
As for Aref Assaf himself, he ignores the issue. In an update to his op-ed, Assaf writes:
The Pro Israel Lobby is not happy with my views. I like what Rep Bill Pascrell stands for. However, I am not a supporter of his latest campaign simply because I am not a resident of District 9 unless I follow Cong Rothman's plan and move into Englewood. And I will not change my party affiliation for a short term benefit.
Unfortunately, Assaf misses the point.

Aref Assaf's accusation that Jews are disloyal to the US is the issue here, not his backing of Pascrell.

But Assaf need not worry.
Bill Pascrell thinks making that kind of remark is just a distraction.

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