Arab leader says Cardinale is race baiting

Arab-American activist Hussein Ibish, who was attacked by State Sen. Gerald Cardinale yesterday for his connection to Democratic Senate candidate

Arab-American activist Hussein Ibish, who was attacked by State Sen. Gerald Cardinale yesterday for his connection to Democratic Senate candidate Joseph Ariyan’s law partner, says that “this turn of events in New Jersey shows that some unprincipled politicians still feel that ethnic baiting of this kind might still be an effective campaign tactic.”

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Read the full text of Ibish’s statement:

I had never heard of either State Sen. Gerald Cardinale or Mr. Joseph Ariyan, and do not follow New Jersey state politics. Imagine my surprise, then, to suddenly find myself turned into a campaign issue in the 39th District State Senate election currently underway between those candidates.

This turn of events is bizarre and disturbing, but instructive at a number of levels.

In an article recently published on ("Cardinale says Arab group an issue," by Matt Friedman, November 1, 2007), Cardinale attempted to smear his opponent by leveling a McCarthyite accusation against a well-known and respectable Arab-American civil rights organization, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), for which I was communications director from 1998-2004.

The article reports that Cardinale cited my own statements as demonstrating that there is "something darker lurking behind its anti-discriminatory façade" and claiming that I made "several sympathetic remarks about Hamas and Hezbollah."

Needless to say, 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.

Cardinale is clumsily trying to use these slanders against me to vilify the character of ADC, and from that to sully the reputation of his opponent's law partner, Hani Khoury, who is a member of ADC, and from then, finally, to somehow call into question Mr. Ariyan himself.

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.

Indeed, anyone following the ongoing debate in the Arab-American community on the issue of Hamas, in which I have been a leading critic of the group and some of its admirers, would find Cardinale's charges laughable if they were not so sinister and malicious.

My most recent writing on this subject, which makes my position on this matter crystal clear, can be found at:

Moreover, 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.

The efforts of Rabin, the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and others to craft a peace between Israel and the Palestinians were laudable, if ill-fated. They show that public figures, politicians and national leaders can evolve in their thinking and change their minds. This same privilege ought to be accorded to everyone else.

I suppose it is asking too much of Cardinale and his campaign, who didnot even know what job Ipresently have or, apparently, anything elseremotely accurate about me, to check the facts and come to any kind ofserious evaluation of my well-established views and track-record.

This is a transparent effort to play on fear-mongering of ArabAmericans, 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.

Cardinale's slanders against me fall into a long-standing pattern of ethnic baiting used against Arab Americans in public life. In the past, candidates would routinely return contributions from Arab-American donors, although those days are thankfully largely behind us.

However, it remains the case that Arab-American candidates around the country find themselves the subject of ethnic slanders, and false and malicious innuendo hinting at sympathy for terrorism by desperate opponents.

Worse still, a disturbing pattern is emerging in the current campaign in New Jersey in which, as the New York Times has noted, candidates like Cardinale "are charging their opponents with being soft on terrorism — or rather, with knowing someone who is."

Sadly this turn of events in New Jersey shows that some unprincipled politicians still feel that ethnic baiting of this kind might still be an effective campaign tactic.

I am confident that the people of the Garden State will see through these repulsive efforts to manipulate their legitimate concerns and reject candidates who seek to use personal slanders, ethnic baiting and McCarthyite charges based on guilt by association and false accusations.

In this instance in particular, the pathetic and incredibly dishonest attempt to smear his political opponent by blatantly mischaracterizing my views and statements is yet another reason why the voters of New Jersey should to reject Cardinale's candidacy and vote for someone else.

Hussein Ibish is a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine

Hussein Ibish, PhD
Executive Director, Hala Foundation
Senior Fellow, ATFP

Arab leader says Cardinale is race baiting