More recently, under Qatanani’s leadership, ICPC has invited others either rhetorically supportive of or directly linked to Hamas. In 2003, ICPC hosted a lecture by Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who was identified as a prominent Hamas member in FBI documents declassified not long after 9/11. Ashqar was sentenced to 11 years in prison for criminal contempt and obstruction of justice after refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating Hamas support in the U.S.
Radical Egyptian cleric Wagdy Ghoneim also lectured on multiple occasions around that same time at ICPC, as indicated by the archived page from the ICPC web site, which can be seen here. In November 2004, Ghoneim was arrested on immigration violations and held without bond, according to ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice, “based upon Department of Homeland Security concerns that his past speeches and participation in fund-raising activities could be supportive of terrorist organizations.” He voluntarily agreed to be deported in 2005.
In a 2010 appearance on Hamas-run Al Aqsa TV, Ghoneim reportedly said, “We are a nation that excels in the production of the art of death… I will die anyway, so I should be creative to make sure my death is for the sake of Allah,” according to the translation provided by Middle East Media Research Institute. He also reportedly clarified by explaining, “We pray to Allah that we be terrorists, if terror means Jihad for the sake of Allah.”
American Muslim Union
Pascrell has also been very close over the years with the American Muslim Union, a NJ-based political organization that has shared many officers and directors with ICPC, according to a March 2004 New York Sun news story. Pascrell repeatedly has attended the main annual gathering for AMU, even receiving an award from the group in 2007. Longtime AMU President Mohamed Younes and his wife have given over $8,000 over the years to Pascrell.
AMU co-sponsored a 2002 rally in Times Square that called for, among other things, an “immediate withdrawal of Israeli army from occupied lands” and to “end US Aid to Israel.”
This happened shortly after the rally in Paterson, NJ, where El Filali led the crowd in cheers comparing Israel to Nazis, at a time when he was an AMU official. In an interview in which the AP identified El Filali as an “Executive Committee member” of AMU, he pointedly refused to condemn Palestinian suicide bombers. “I am not in their shoes,” he explained. “My house has not been destroyed; my brother has not been shot dead.”
El Filali’s sentiment was similar to comments made by longtime AMU board member Waheed Khalid, who said of Hamas in a 1998 interview with The Bergen County Record, “They are trying to get the occupiers out of their home.”
Khalid, whom Younes said in an interview for this story still serves on AMU’s board, has also given a rather strange defense of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious Russian forgery that purported to catalog Jewish attempts at world domination. Khalid told the New Jersey Jewish Standard in 2002, “[W]hile he heard one person say that the Protocols ‘didn’t seem genuine,’ most people seemed to either believe the book was true or wonder whether it could be. Khalid said that he did not want ‘to make any comment about the authenticity’ of the book.”
The Democratic primary today, June 5, is likely to be very close. Because the district is deep blue, the winner is all but assured of victory in November. The largest political difference between these left-wing Democrats seems to be Middle East policy.
While Pascrell has voted in favor of foreign aid for Israel, he has also engaged in caustic Israel bashing, such as signing on to the so-called “Gaza 54” letter, the Keith Ellison-led effort which accused the Jewish state of collective punishment against Gaza.
It would also seem reasonable for voters to ask Pascrell why he has kept associating for at least a decade with figures such as El Filali, who refused to condemn suicide bombers but gleefully led public chants comparing an Israeli leader to Hitler, or why he has locked arms year after year with AMU, an organization whose leaders have justified Hamas terrorism.
These questions have been asked repeatedly by local media outlets, but Pascrell has brushed them off. For example, he called the questions about AMU “pure crap.”
Of course there is no problem with courting support in the Arab and Muslim community. But there seems to be a troubling pattern with the associations Pascrell has chosen to cultivate in garnering that support. Should a congressman be condoning – by accepting contributions and other support – the most radical elements as part of his outreach?
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