Aref Assaf, president of the Arab American Forum, could be forgiven for his condemnation of my daughter’s service in the Israeli army (“Boteach tries to claim a ‘pro-Arab’ mantle, July 20), but not his defense of Rep. Bill Pascrell’s silence on the mass slaughter of Arabs in Syria. For those who do not know, I am challenging Pascrell in the November election. That Assaf, a recognized Arab leader, can say that domestic issues matter more to him and Arab Americans generally than the wholesale butchery of innocent Arabs in Syria – especially that 500 or so children were murdered in the past year by Bashar al-Assad’s butchers – is shameful. Assaf must repudiate such comments.
And consider the hypocrisy. Assaf says that an Israeli soldier killed his young brother in 1967, before a single Jewish foot trod on the west bank or in Gaza, much less settled there; the year that Egypt, Syria, and Jordan attacked Israel with the intent of driving it into the sea. I am very sorry for the tragic loss of a precious life, as it sounds like Assaf’s young brother was the innocent casualty of the larger Middle East conflict. My heart goes out to Assaf and his family. But it was a conflict initiated by Israel’s Arab neighbors and they must share a large part of the blame for such collateral damage.
On the other hand, Saddam Hussein killed more Arabs than any man who ever lived, 800,000 according to The New York Times’ own January 2003 account. 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 – before the eyes of the entire world – 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.