2.11.07

Gerry Gemayel

Once upon a time, there was an pathetic politician who, in a desperate bid for re-election, resorted to baseless attacking of Armenians.

But I digress. This post is supposed to be about Gerry Cardinale.

Here's the background - in late October, Cardinale commissioned a "push poll" in which voters were asked if they would be less likely to support his opponent, Joe Ariyan, if they knew his firm was connected to terrorists. Then, on October 26, the press release shown here was issued, apparently from Cardinale's office. I say apparently because, as you can see, it was circulated by fax as a scan of a printed page. It was not posted on PoliticsNJ as are the rest of Cardinale's press releases under the name "wmurray", although it did contain a phone number that matches Cardinale's campaign HQ.

The press release states:

In a television appearance today on New York station My9, State Senator Gerry Cardinale drew attention to the sharp contrast between himself and Joe Ariyan, his opponent in District 39. Cardinale criticized Ariyan for, among other things, his association with an extremist organization...

"My opponent and I are very different," said Cardinale. "He is comfortable working day in and day out, side by side with a law partner who is the NJ chapter President of an extremist pro-terrorist organization, ADC. That law partner is his campaign advisor and fundraiser."

Cardinale is referring to Hani Khoury, Ariyan's law partner and fundraiser who has served as an immediate past president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a group which has been criticized for pro-terrorism viewpoints." (continued...)

Now, it just so happens that I was in Dearborn, Michigan on October 26 for the National Leadership Conference of the Arab American Institute, along with several colleagues from New Jersey. It was there that I first caught wind of the press release, but thought perhaps it was a hoax or a trick, since it was not published on PoliticsNJ but rather distributed by fax. Thus I decided, as did my colleagues, to refrain from jumping to conclusions until the content and intent were validated.

When I returned to NJ, I immediately watched the My9 appearance to which the press release refered. Not a word about the ADC (unless I overlooked it amidst the rest of the juvenile tit-for-tat from these 2 clowns through which I obliged myself to suffer). So I concluded that something fishy was up.

Then, yesterday morning, PoliticsNJ's Matt Friedman broke the story wide open with a plethora of quotes from Cardinale himself. This suggests to me that the campaign was unsure about this tactic, so they circulated the press release in an "informal" manner, so as to provide plausible deniability if it backfired. As the week progressed, perhaps Cardinale became more desparate and decided to play va banque:

At issue is Ariyan law partner Hani Khoury's connections to the ADC, which is not viewed as particularly controversial by the Anti-Defamation League. Cardinale pointed to the national chapter's former communications director, Hussein Ibish, as a sign of something darker lurking behind its anti-discriminatory facade.

"I make no argument that the ADC doesn't concern itself with iscrimination against Arab Americans. It does. But there is a second agenda," said Cardinale.

Hussein Ibish (click on his name to watch a debate in which he teams up with Bill O'Reilly to combat the ultra-PC "War on Christmas") has made several controversial statements regarding Israel and Israeli-US relations, including an article saying that assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was "a monster, war criminal, ethnic cleanser, mass murderer and terrorist." According to other articles provided by Cardinale, some from right leaning publications, Ibish made several sympathetic remarks about Hamas and Hezbollah.

"Hezbollah and Hamas and the PLO have been defined by the United States Government as terrorist organizations by any right-thinking person, but not by the ADC," said Cardinale.

But there is no evidence that Khoury, who could not be reached for comment, ever knew or collaborated with Ibish.

...Khoury served as the New Jersey chapter's treasurer in 2004, and president in 2005 and 2006, according to its Web site. He is currently a member of its board but is not in any leadership position...

Cardinale also pointed out that Khoury, who specializes in immigration law, had represented 10 detainees caught up in a dragnet following the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, some of whom were illegal immigrants and have since been deported -- but none were charged with terrorism-related activities.

"That firm has represented numerous suspected terrorists picked up by the FBI who were illegally in this country," said Cardinale, who compared the situation to last year's bouncing of Sami Mehri from the Passaic County Freeholder ticket. Mehri was quoted by the New York Times in 2002 as saying that there was no comparison between the 9/11 hijackers and Palestinian suicide bombers.

"They recognized in the Passaic County case that this is a very troubling image for the party, but they're tolerating Ariyan and Khoury," said Cardinale.

Then Friedman went on to quote Democrat operative Julie Roginsky, who I must admit made rather quick work of Cardinale's ludricous theory:

Cardinale repeatedly described Khoury, who has donated a few thousand dollars to Ariyan's campaign, as a "principal advisor" to Ariyan, but Ariyan spokeswoman Julie Roginsky said that he does have any role in the campaign.

If I played six degrees of Kevin Bacon I'd have an easier time finding a correlation between Joe Ariyan and that (Ibish)," said Roginsky. "What that means to me is that Gerry Cardinale does not understand anti-Semitism if he treats it so lightly. He should apologize to Joe Ariyan, he should apologize to the Jewish community and he should apologize to his constituents for exploiting the issue of anti-Semitism."

Roginsky noted that Ariyan's experience with the Armenian genocide puts him in a position to understand the plight of the Jewish people.

"I can guarantee you that there is nobody who understands the subject of genocide, bias and racism better than the Armenian people, and what the Jews went through," said Roginsky. "For Cardinale to even imply anything on the subject is a pathetic ending to a 28-year legislative career."

Ouch! Then, today, things got more interesting, as Ibish himself responded in an incredulous drubbing of Cardinale:

Cardinale's charges are a malicious slander that grossly distorts my views and long standing track record on these issues. It is a cynical attempt to smear his opponent through guilt-by association several times removed and is based on blatant falsehoods. Even by the standards of dishonesty that sometimes characterize failing political campaigns, this tactic is shocking and despicable.

...Can there really be anyone in the whole State of New Jersey gullible enough to fall for such transparent and ham-fisted attempts at fear-mongering and manipulation? Is this not the very definition of McCarthyism at its lowest?

Suffice it to say that anyone who claims that I am a supporter of Hamas or Hizballah is either a fool or a liar, or both. A simple Google search for my own writings, not to mention a quick consultation with Nexis or Youtube, would have revealed that my views are quite the opposite of those implied by Cardinale's smears.

...I am and have for many decades been a committed secularist with no sympathy for extremist religious organizations of any kind. I am presently a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), whose aim is to promote an end to the conflict in the Middle East based on two states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security.

I was one of the first prominent Arab-Americans to publicly condemn Hamas' practice of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, beginning in February 2001, when these unconscionable acts started to become a consistent feature of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians during the second Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I made a habit of describing this tactic as "cruel and stupid," a position on which I have never wavered.

The Cardinale campaign has also sought to impugn me based on comments I made in a student paper more than a decade ago about the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, long before I had any association with ADC or ATFP. I agree that those comments were intemperate and were, in fact, the language of a college student. On the other hand, the article was based on evidence that is not in any historical dispute and is recounted in detail in Rabin's own memoirs.

...I suppose it is asking too much of Cardinale and his campaign, who did not even know what job I presently have or, apparently, anything else remotely accurate about me, to check the facts and come to any kind of serious evaluation of my well-established views and track-record.

This is a transparent effort to play on fear-mongering of Arab-Americans, exploit the legitimate concerns of the American people about terrorism and not only smear me unfairly but also apply a truly laughable level of guilt by association many times removed against a rival candidate – especially since to the best of my recollection until Cardinale's slanders surfaced I had never met or spoken with Mr. Khoury, let alone Mr. Ariyan.

And Mrs. Cardinale had to get in the fun, except she seems to have overcooked her alphabet soup, confusing the letters A and J. Wally Edge reports:

Frustrated that the New Jersey office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was not speaking out against The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Demarest Councilwoman Carole Cardinale, the wife of State Senator Gerald Cardinale, wrote an email to what she apparently thought was the group's central office.

"I am told that your NJ office is telling people that the ADC is a benign operation. How is it possible when they employ Hussein Ibish as their communications director?," wrote Cardinale. "...Do you not know or is there some other agenda operating to cause the JDL to defend these extremists?" (Ibish has not been the ADC’s communications director since 2004).

...replied Shelley Rubin, JDL's Chairwoman and CEO, "By the way, you may have us confused with the ADL."

But you see, Cardinale made another error. He doesn't know the half of just how dangerous Hani Khoury is. As Ibish suggests, Cardinale should have done his homework. Had he done so, he would have discovered that "Khoury" is the Arabic term referring to a ceremonial religious figure in a bizarre cannibalistic cult that eats flesh and drinks blood. And - get this - the cult originates in the West Bank! Oh, the HORROR!

(That last paragraph was sarcastic, in case you couldn't tell.)

But anyway, here is my take on all of this: First of all, I know Hani Khoury, I like Hani Khoury, I respect Hani Khoury. Furthermore, I can't imagine that anyone who gets to know Hani wouldn't like or respect him, because he's an affable, even-tempered, and agreeable person. In fact, he also has a reputation as a consensus-builder, which is why each year that the Arab American Institute organizes a candidates night, Hani is always nominated to be the moderator of the event - because he is the one person that all the staunch partisans (like Republicans me, Sherine Elabd, Hesham Mahmoud, and Mayor Randy George - as well as Democrats like Samer Khalaf, Joann Byrnes, and Bassima Mustafa) can all trust to conduct the event fairly.

The irony of this whole situation is that Hani is an individual who dislikes controversy and discord, which is probably why he wasn't terribly thrilled with me at the 2005 AAI event. Hani saw to it that we ran a "town hall" meeting prior to the candidates' arrival at which we duked it out and determined the questions that we wanted Hani, as moderator, to pose to the guests. This way, decorum would be maintained and a partisan balance struck. Anyway, Doug Forrester turned out and was a smash hit with the crowd, while Jon Corzine sent Bonnie Watson Coleman in his stead, who was the Democrats' State Chair at the time. She annoyed the crowd (already restive as a result of Corzine's snub) with her blasé attitude - as she could barely bother to read through the cookie-cutter talking points provided to her - as well as her boasting that she was so busy as a surrogate that she didn't even have time to campaign for her own re-election in District 15. It was repusively arrogant.

Well, I couldn't take it anymore, so I stood up close to the end of her answers to the posed questions, in breach of our ground rules, and said:

"Look, Ms. Coleman, obviously it's frustrating for people in this room to be asking specific questions that you really can't fully answer for Jon Corzine, but you are running for re-election to the State Assembly, so I have a question for you...had you been in Congress in 2001, and not in the State Assembly, how would have you voted on the Patriot Act?"

Without recognizing what an obvious trap I had set for her, she piped right up and said, "The same way I would have voted on the Iraq War - NO", to which I replied, "Well, I hope the media is still here to report that the State Chair of the Democrats is in opposition to the gubernatorial nominee on a key piece of legislation that affects civil rights!" Poor Hani's face started turning colors, and some of my Democrat colleagues were less than thrilled with me, but I'd bet most of the audience was glad that I stuck it to her, she had it coming.

The point being, Hani Khoury is a stand-up guy. It's hardly worth my time to point out how ridiculous Cardinale's logic is: "don't vote for Ariyan because his law partner used to be the local chapter head of a mainstream organization founded by a former US Senator and currently headed by a former US Congresswoman whose national communications director from 3 years ago forcefully criticized a foreign head-of-state back when he was a college student." Not to mention, even if one could detect even the slightest bit of "there there", I would still have to agree with Roginsky's logic: Jewish voters form a well-educated and politically sophisticated constituency - pandering to them with such rubbish is downright insulting to their collective intelligence.

As an Arab-American and a Republican, I can't figure out what's more disturbing: that the likes of Gerry Cardinale find such divisive attacks appropriate, or the fact that Republican candidates would rather base their electoral strategies on such hair-brained schemes instead of a simple tax-oriented message at a time when the Democrats are absolutely bankrupting this state.

Cardinale's insitence on this non-issue seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher amongst the handful of Republican insiders with whom I've discussed it.

So do not vote for Gerald Cardinale. He does not deserve re-election.

But do not vote for Ariyan either. A word or two on him: First of all, Ariyan used to be a Republican. Supposedly, he didn't feel a warm fuzzy welcome in the BCRO. I can relate to that, as I too have been vocal about the fact that the party has done a poor job of reaching out to ethnic communities and young people. But here's the difference - both Ariyan and I saw flaws in the local GOP. My reaction was, "it's my party too" and thus I took head-on the corrupt status quo represented by Peter Murphy and his goons, and held firm to a set of principles that I believe the party should embrace.

Ariyan's reaction was, "it's too hard" and thus he jettisoned his natural inclination and willingly made himself a flimsy tool in the hands of Joe Ferriero and Dick Codey.

NO to Cardinale. NO to Ariyan. Cast a write-in vote for Bob Schroeder. He should have primaried out "Gerry Gemayel" in the first place.

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