Aref Assaf of the Paterson-based American-Arab Forum, one of North Jersey's leading Palestinian activists and a frequent critic of Israel's policies, also condemned the video.Whoa, you read that correctly, he's equating Israel's responses to terror as the same thing as the terror attack. And he fails to define what he means by "same land."
"Any person or group that glorifies the killing of innocent people is something I can't condone," said Assaf, who was born in a West Bank refugee camp and still has family there.
But Assaf said the video's release did not surprise him.
"This is part of the price of continued violence between two people fighting over the same land," he said.
Two letters to the editor of the Bergen Record have taken Assaf to task for those comments. While available on line, the links are hard to follow, so here are the letters in full:
Persistent ‘straw men’ in Mideastand
Regarding Columnist Mike Kelly’s "Video as senseless as terrorist attack" (Page L-1, May 1):
Kelly’s column reminded us that monumental events often have lasting impact and that the horror of acts of violence do not dissipate with the passage of time and the public’s short-term memory.
Yet I was taken aback by the comments of Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum. Assaf, described by Kelly as one of North Jersey’s leading Palestinian activists and a frequent critic of Israel’s policies, condemned the video but said, "This is part of the price of continued violence between two people fighting over the same land."
Is Assaf drawing moral equivalency between terrorist bomb attacks and responses by the Israeli military concerned about the safety of its citizens, both Arab and Jewish? By using the term the same land, is he saying that Palestinians are fighting over Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beer Sheva? These are two fundamental questions that must be answered by Palestinians when they decide to join Israel at the negotiating table, where Israel has offered to sit with her neighbors for 64 years.
The "settlement excuse" for not negotiating is in truth a "straw man." The maps for a just territorial compromise that would involve land swaps and the evacuation of some Israeli communities in the West Bank were drawn and agreed to by the negotiators at the end of President Clinton’s administration. The problem then, as it remains today, is the inability of Palestinian leaders to say yes to territorial compromise and no to terror. Israel is waiting for the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate its sincere desire for peace.
Neal I. Borovitz
River Edge, May 2
The writer, rabbi of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge, is chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.
Regarding Columnist Mike Kelly’s "Video as senseless as terrorist attack" (Page L-1, May1) on the Internet video of the bombing that killed Alisa Flatow:Well said.
Aref Assaf of the Paterson-based American Arab Forum asserts, "This is part of the price of continued violence between two people fighting over the same land."
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Arabs have been attacking the people of Israel long before it was a state, including long before the West Bank was taken by the Israeli Defense Forces.
This violence has absolutely nothing to do with land. It is about existence: The Arabs simply do not want Israel to exist. Period. The truth is plain to see.
Teaneck, May 2