Republican challenger questions Pascrell’s support of Israel

Republican challenger questions Pascrell’s support of Israel

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. has not been a real friend to Israel, said Roland Straten, the Republican challenging Pascrell in the eighth district.

“Israel is one of our few friends in the Middle East and we need to support Israel 100 percent, and I don’t think we are supporting Israel 100 percent,” Straten said.

This is the second run for Pascrell’s seat for Straten, a retired businessman from Montclair, who lost to the seven-time representative in 2008.

Straten directed The Jewish Standard to his foreign policy adviser, West Orange resident Mark Meyerowitz, who blasted Pascrell for signing a letter earlier this year with 53 other Democratic members of the House urging Israel to loosen its blockade of Gaza.

Eighth district Republican challenger Roland Straten is attacking Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.’s record on Israel.

“Pascrell knows that Hamas is a terrorist group,” Meyerowitz said. “He should know that. Those 53 other Democrats should know Hamas is a terrorist group, so if they’re going to condemn anybody it should be these people using Gazans as human shields.”

Meyerowitz pointed to a 2004 appearance at a community brunch sponsored by 11 Muslim organizations, including, reportedly, a mosque with connections to Hamas, and to a 2007 report by The Washington Times that Pascrell reserved a Capitol conference room for the Council on American Islamic Relations, an organization that has come under fire for ties to extremist groups.

Pascrell, Meyerowitz said, has taken the Jewish vote for granted.

“When he speaks to Jewish groups he’s very, very pro-Israel,” Meyerowitz said, “but when he gets back to the northern part of the district, to the Paterson part of the district, it’s an a different story. He’s been playing both sides against the middle.”

Reached on his way to Washington on Tuesday, Pascrell defended his voting record on Israel, saying that he has never missed a vote involving the country or “backed off my obligation.”

Pascrell was one of 338 members of Congress who signed a letter to President Obama in June supporting Israel’s actions in the flotilla incident, when a Turkish convoy attempted to break the Gaza blockade. Nine activists were killed after they attacked Israeli soldiers boarding the ship.

“I asked for a fair, objective analysis of what happened,” Pascrell said. “I said in the letter to the president that Israel has every, every right to defend itself. Those folks who were with the flotilla were up to no good.”

Noting that he has strong friendships in the Jewish and Arab communities, Pascrell rejected accusations that he has one position on Israel for Jewish audiences and another for Arab audiences.

“I supported the ability of Israel to defend itself against the terrorists of Hamas and any other organization,” he said. “To use race or ethnicity, and to use religion in a campaign is the most despicable act I can think of.”

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