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

July 25, 2012 6:26 pm 0 comments

Aref Assaf.

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 c 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.

Yet, 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.

But 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 Gaddafi 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 Gaddafi 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.”

Assaf’s ugly use of the “Israel firsters” slur, a borderline anti-Semitic allegation that falsely accuses American Jews of being unpatriotic, was roundly condemned. Pascrell, however, chose not to distance himself from Arab supporters making the false charge.

Assaf also wrote to the Newark Start Ledger in 2004, “I am truly troubled by your support for the Israeli apartheid barrier,” though the whole purpose of Israel’s wall is to stop suicide bombers from blowing up innocent civilians — Arab and Israeli alike.

That Assaf is not concerned about Jewish life is lamentable and does not in any way accord with the noble values of Islam. But the fact that he is not even concerned with Arab life is truly remarkable. He is a misguided leader, more interested in delegitimizing Israel than saving Arabs. Aref Assaf should resign.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach served as Rabbi to the students of the University of Oxford from 1988-1999 where he brought together many Jewish and Islamic students from around the world. The author of many books, he recently published “Kosher Jesus.” He is now the Republican nominee for Congress from New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District. His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.