On 31 May, 1944, in one of the greatest military speeches ever delivered, General George S. Patton told his Third Army, “Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, What did you do in the great World War Two? You won’t have to say, Well, I shoveled s–t in Louisiana.”
In this election cycle, Israel is living under the specter of a possible nuclear holocaust at the hands of Hitler mini-me Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. President Obama refuses to draw red lines that Iran dare not cross. Our President has just declined to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in New York because he is too busy being interviewed by David Letterman and doing a fundraiser with Jay-Z. In the meantime, our brave Ambassador to Libya and several other Americans have been murdered by an Islamist mob and the Middle East is erupting like a powder keg. Amid all this upheaval, one of the foremost pro-Israel groups in America — NORPAC — has decided to opt out of the battle and instead shovel manure in North Jersey.
The news that Congressman Bill Pascrell has just hired an army of 15 of the top consultants in the country to defeat lil’ ol’ me demonstrates just how close the race in New Jersey’ 9th Congressional District has become. Here you have an eight-term incumbent who needs 15 hired guns, with decades of political experience between them, to defeat a rabbi political newcomer with only two fulltime campaign staffers (no matter how good they are, words they have just forced me to add).
In this titanic battle of a David versus Goliath it is clear where the momentum lies. Congressman Pascrell’s announcement comes in the wake of a simple web video we created titled ‘Where’s Bill?’. It focuses on the fact that Congressman Pascrell has such contempt for the voters of the 9th District, relying entirely on a structural advantage in a democratic district, that he did not even bother to update his website since the primary on June 5th, did not bother to campaign, and did not bother to raise money. By the last filings, having spent $2.4M on an incredibly ugly primary to defeat fellow Democrat Steve Rothman, his remaining cash on hand was only $250,000.
Much has been made of the Congressman’s willingness to condemn Israel with his signature on the Gaza 54 letter, his false accusation against Israel of denying food and medicine to Palestinian children in Gaza, and his defamatory claim that Israel is guilty of collective punishment against the Palestinians. Furthermore, our campaign released a video of Congressman Pascrell actually telling Imam Mohammad Qatanani – former member and recruiter for Hamas who lied to the US Government on his application for a green card and now faces a ferocious effort by the INS and FBI to deport him – that he would do “everything in my power” to keep the Imam in this country because “we need you, Imam, we need you.” Pascrell has further said of Qatanani, “The Imam is a man of moderation and peace who has proven himself time and again as a pillar of goodwill in the Paterson community.”
And who is the real Imam Qatanani? The same man who encourages his followers to read the speeches of Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, which state, “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption…The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them…Allah Willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.” Qatanani, from his mosque in Paterson, also regularly says things like the creation of the State of Israel was the darkest day in the history of the world (“The 15th of May 1948 was the greatest disaster which occurred on the face of the earth”), and that Jews have never had a presence in the holy land and have stolen it from the Arabs (“This land called Palestine has been an Arab land from 4,000 years ago before the presence of Abraham”). This is the man who Congressman Bill Pascrell wants to use his “power” to keep in the United States. Qatanani’s “moderation” includes his insistence on the Islamification of the entire world: “We expect the world to be Muslim empire from Morocco to China.”
It would seem that the smartest course of action would be to deny Pascrell any further power thereby making it impossible for him to keep a Hamas member in the United States.
With all of this happening – the closeness of the election and Congressman Pascrell’s highly problematic record on Israel – you’d expect this race to be a no-brainer for NORPAC. You’d expect them to stand staunchly behind my candidacy. After all, NORPAC, one of the pro-Israel PACs in the United States, raises money from thousands of donors with the stated purpose of standing up for Israel and promoting pro-Israel candidates.
But you’d be wrong to make that assumption.
NORPAC is headquartered right here in New Jersey 9th District. Ben Chouake, its president, is a friend, and lives just a few blocks from me. NORPAC brings senators, congressmen, and challengers from all over the country to raise money for them. Yet here, in their own backyard, not only have they made peace with the fact that Congressman Bill Pascrell will be their congressman, but as a sop to Pascrell they have even taken steps to hinder my candidacy. It goes without saying that, in an effort to mollify Pascrell, they refuse to raise a dollar for my candidacy. That’s strange enough. But they have gone much further in attempting to prevent me from attending a fundraiser in my own district for Speaker John Boehner, the congressional head of my party. The day before the event, for which a donor gave me an expensive ticket (only 30 people were invited in total), Dr. Mort Fridman, a national board member of AIPAC and vice President of NORPAC, left me a message forbidding me from attending. It was only when I reached out to my friend, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, that I was permitted to attend. It seems that NORPAC did not even want Congressman Pascrell to catch wind that I might be attending one of their events.
NORPAC’s decision to embrace Pascrell is an astonishing act of surrender. At the very least, you’d expect that NORPAC would make its support conditional on Pascrell’s renouncing the infamous Gaza 54 letter, ceasing to slander Israel with false allegations, and renouncing his public support for keeping a member of Hamas in the United States. That a national pro-Israel organization headquartered right here in Englewood would put up no fight whatsoever against the Congressman who has participated in some of the worst denunciations of Israel and would just accept a lawmaker who protects a Hamas imam who slanders Israel at every opportunity at one of the largest mosques in the country is a brazen betrayal of their mission.
Why are they doing all of this? Because they believe that in a Democratic district a Republican cannot win. Bottom line: NORPAC, however virtuous, wants to rub elbows with winners, regardless of their position on Israel. I have even been told by some of the organization’s leaders that they fear Pascrell’s wrath against Israel if they come out against him, which, when you think about it, maligns the Congressman as a man of vengeance and vindictiveness. Even I, his opponent, have never accused the Congressman of a vengeful streak and I consider it grossly unfair to accuse him of mean-spiritedness without evidence. But even if they are right that Pascrell has a structural advantage, should NORPAC not, at the very least, demand certain concessions from the Congressman before they thrown a not unknown Rabbi under the bus? Rather than giving away their support for free, shouldn’t there be a clear commitment from the Congressman to declare that he will never again attack Israel in Congress as he has done in the past? Shouldn’t there be a guarantee that he will not give assistance to keep Imam Qatanani in the country in his upcoming second INS trial, unless the Imam publicly renounces Hamas and vows to stop hate-filled attacks against Israel?
Now that the race is getting closer, it gets interesting. If my campaign loses by a smaller margin than the last Republican challenger in this district, it will be NORPAC who will bear a lot of the blame for withholding support from this campaign.
But there is an even more serious consideration. I have always taught my children that what matters in life is not victory but fighting for justice and righteousness. It’s not about winning or losing but doing what’s right even if you have to pay a price for it. What signal is NORPAC sending to the Jewish youth of the ninth district if they surrender without even a fight? What message are they sending to their own members, from whom they raise large amounts of money, if they betray their mission to defend Israel simply because they fear Pascrell?
Israelis are on the front lines of international terror. They live under the specter of Iran building a nuclear bomb amid their oft-stated oath to wipe Israel off the map. The Israelis do not ask us to jump on grenades or dodge Katyushas, as they so often must just to survive. What they do ask of us is that in the comfort of our own American homes we simply stand up to the efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state and agitate for support of the only flourishing, American-style democracy in the entire Middle East. If we can’t even do that for fear that we might offend an elected official who is supposed to be our servant, then something is seriously wrong with our courage and our values.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the Republican Candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District. The international best-selling author of 28 books, his newest work is “Kosher Jesus”. Next month he will publish “The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.