Cardinale’s attack mailer stirs controversy

State Senator Gerald Cardinale’s latest attack on Democratic state Senate candidate Joe Ariyan has drawn sharp rebukes by some Jewish Democrats as well as at least one Republican.

Last week, Cardinale accused Ariyan of having ties to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), an advocacy group whose former communications director, Hussein Ibish, has made some controversial remarks in the past. Ariyan’s law partner and campaign donor, Hani Khoury, served as president of the group’s New Jersey chapter in 2005 and 2006, and is still a member.

Recently, Cardinale sent out a campaign mailer saying that Ariyan has allowed “his firm to defend numerous illegal aliens detained by the federal government after 9-11 for suspected terrorism,” and noted Ariyan’s relationship with Khoury. Of the ADC, it said “This group has instructed its members to right (sic) letters in support of radical and extremist Palestinian attacks against the Jewish people and Israel.”

The flyer went on to quote Shelley Rubin, Chairman & CEO of the Jewish Defense League, condemning the ADC.

The Jewish Defense League was referred by a 2001 FBI publication as a “right-wing terrorist group” and a “violent extremist Jewish organization.”

“The continuing threats posed by terrorism and anti-Semitism are too real and too great for anyone to play cheap politics and invoke them recklessly,” said Rabbi Dennis Shulman, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination to run against U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett. “And yet State Senator Gerald Cardinale has had the gall to suggest that Joseph Ariyan is dangerous to both the residents of New Jersey generally and Jews specifically on the most specious grounds imaginable.”

The New Jersey chapter of the National Jewish Democratic Council also criticized Cardinale.

“The cynical behavior of Senator Cardinale and Councilwoman Cardinale are, to be frank, reminders of why all-too-many Americans are fed up with politics,” said Ira N. Forman, the New Jersey Chapter’s Executive Director. “To blame a candidate because his law partner is affiliated with an organization which had a former staffer who wrote nasty articles in a student newspaper – this is almost as absurd as it is reprehensible. Voters deserve better.”

Cardinale responded that Ariyan ought to return Khoury’s campaign contributions, and that everything in his mailer was “factually correct.”

“Mr. Ariyan’s law firm defended illegal aliens suspected of terrorism by the federal government. It is also true that he has received contributions from the immediate past president and current board member of the ADC-NJ,” said Cardinale, who noted that some of the pages on the ADC’s Web site had, until recently, contained pictures of “anti-Israel” protests and instructions for writing letters to media sources with “anti-Zionist comments.”

“No matter how loudly Mr. Ariyan protests, the facts remain the same: he should return the money and explain his error in judgment in accepting the campaign contributions,” said Cardinale.

No federal detainees represented by Ariyan’s law firm were ever charged with terrorist-related activities.

Republican blogger George Ajjan, who challenged U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell for Congress in 2004, wrote a post over the weekend defending Khoury, and called Cardinale’s campaign tactics “pathetic.”

“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,” wrote Ajjan. “…So do not vote for Gerald Cardinale. He does not deserve re-election. But do not vote for Ariyan either.”

Cardinale’s attack mailer stirs controversy