Today’s Democratic primary in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District — which, due to redistricting, is a contest between two incumbent congressmen, Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell — has developed into an ugly fight over Israel. Pascrell has courted the local Arab and Muslim community, and Rothman, who is Jewish, has faced attacks over his support for the US-Israeli alliance — and they haven’t been confined to policy disagreements, but have included shrill charges of dual loyalty, a staple of anti-Semitic discourse. From a disturbing report on the race by the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo:
“One side says, ‘We want this Jew out of office’ and, frankly, it’s pretty unsettling,” Ben Chouake, president of NORPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee based in Englewood Cliffs, told the Free Beacon. “They emphasized [Rothman] is a Jewish congressman.”
It gets worse. Some of the people and institutions that Pascrell has cozied up to are rather sinister:
Pascrell also has embraced Imam Mohammad Qatanani, a controversial Passaic spiritual leader who stands accused by the State Department of hiding a conviction in Israel for having ties to the terror group Hamas.
In a post at Powerline, Joel Mowbray digs deeper into this, examining Pascrell’s “troubling associations with Muslim figures who have espoused fiery anti-Israel rhetoric and turned a blind eye to Hamas sympathizers.” The whole thing is worth reading.
(Ironically, the one blemish on Rothman’s pro-Israel record — his support for Barack Obama — has added another wrinkle to the race: Bill Clinton has campaigned for Pascrell, who supported Hillary Clinton in 2008. President Obama, in an unusual move for a race between two sitting Democrats, has endorsed Rothman.)
The local Orthodox Jewish community, meanwhile, has rallied to Rothman, with leaders of 15 Orthodox synagogues urging their heavily Republican congregants to switch registration for this race. Will it be enough? We’ll find out tonight. Polls close at 8 PM Eastern.