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New York Jets’ Oday Aboushi faces anti-Palestinian smears

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Oday Aboushi, who played for the University of Virginia Cavaliers, was drafted by the NFL’s New York Jets in May.

(Lee Coleman / Icon/Newscom)

Football player Oday Aboushi, recently drafted to the New York Jets NFL team, is the target of an escalating media smear campaign to associate him with terrorism and extremism, apparently for no other reason than his Palestinian ancestry.

Aboushi compared to accused murderer

In the most recent smear, Jonathan Mael, the new media coordinator for MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, tweeted that the New York Jets “are a disgrace. The Patriots have Aaron Hernandez, the Jets have Oday Aboushi.”

Hernandez, who formerly played for the NFL’s New England Patriots, is currently facing trial on murder charges.

When challenged by other Twitter users for this outrageous comparison, Mael promptly deactivated his entire Twitter account.

Reached by telephone at MLB.com’s corporate offices by The Electronic Intifada, Mael said, “I’m sorry I can’t help you right now,” and immediately hung up phone.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Mael was a “Community Relations Intern” at the Israel lobby group AIPAC in 2010. (Note: Several hours after initial publication of this post, Mael publicly apologized)

A rare Palestinian American in the NFL and a role model

Aboushi, a native of Brooklyn, New York, was a well-respected and recognized player during his college career at the University of Virginia, from which he graduated this year.

The Jets signed the 6 foot 6 inches, 308-pound Aboushi in May on a four-year contract.

Aboushi also drew attention for being a rare Arab American player in the NFL, and a community role model.

“You don’t see many of us in the sport,” Aboushi told the Associated Press at the time. “So for me to kind of break that mold and sort of open the door for other people, and show them that it is possible, it’s a great feeling. It’s a pleasure for me, an honor, and I’m happy to be able to be that sort of person for people.”

He also spoke to HuffPost Live’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin:

Smears started by racist, Islamophobic website

The smears against Aboushi appear to originate in a 9 July article on FrontPageMag, a website published by notorious anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian agitator David Horowitz, who is also a key figure in the Islamphobia industry.

The article, by Joe Kaufman, claims that Aboushi “gave a speech at a radical Muslim conference sponsored by a group denying Israel’s right to exist and associated with blatantly anti-Semitic and terrorist propaganda.”

What was this supposedly radical conference? It was the El-Bireh Convention, an annual community gathering of Palestinian Americans, especially people with connections to the town of the same name, near Ramallah.

In typical smear tactic fashion, Kaufman makes a laundry list of other speakers at the conference, alleges various nefarious ties to them, and then hopes that these outlandish accusations will rub off on Aboushi – guilt by association.

Accused of using the word “Nakba”

Even FrontPageMag’s Kaufman could not find any inflammatory words to attribute to Aboushi, but expressed outrage that Aboushi tweeted on 15 May, “65th anniversary of the Nakba and palestinians all across the world are still thriving. #perseverance.”

on Twitter

Kaufman claims, “The Nakba or Catastrophe is a derogatory reference to Israel’s May 1948 founding as an independent Jewish state. It is used to spread enmity against Israel and to fuel terrorist attacks from groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

In fact, “Nakba” is the term Palestinians, mainstream media and even Israeli organizations like Zochrot use to describe the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that began in 1947.

As Zionist militias invaded their lands to create Israel, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from 500 cities, towns and villages in historic Palestine.

For Kaufman, however, Aboushi’s acknowledgment of Palestinian and Israeli history and praise of Palestinians’ perseverance amounted to a call for “terrorism.”

Smear spreads to Yahoo! News

The scurrilous smears against Aboushi have now spread to Yahoo! News, where Adam Waksman wrote a column, linking back to Kaufman, headlined: “Could Oday Aboushi Jeopardize His NFL Career with Anti-Israel Activism?”

With nothing to go on other than the outlandish smears from FrontPageMag, Waksman alleges that Aboushi “has been accused of playing an increasing role in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activism.” (Note: Several hours after initial publication of this post, the Waksman article appeared to have been removed from the Yahoo! News website).

Silencing and smearing Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians

It is clear that Aboushi has done absolutely nothing to deserve these smears and that they are aimed at him because he is publicly identified as Palestinian American and participates in his community’s activities.

Aboushi’s high profile and recognition as a positive role model may also be threatening to hate groups invested in ensuring that Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are always perceived in a negative light.

Aboushi himself has not commented on the attacks directly, but retweeted this message of support from another person:

on Twitter

He also made this tweet that may be an indirect reference to the smear campaign:

on Twitter

Contacted by The Electronic Intifada, the New York Jets media office said it had not issued any statement about the matter.

Update: MLB’s Mael apologizes

Major League Baseball’s new media coordinator Jonathan Mael has apologized for comparing New York Jets player Oday Aboushi, a Palestinian American, to an accused murderer.

“I apologize to the @nyjets organization and to [Oday] Aboushi for my insensitive and offensive tweet,” Mael tweeted this afternoon. “The comparison was beyond inappropriate and did not reflect my true beliefs.”

Yahoo! News also appears to have removed the Adam Waksman article from its site which repeated Islamophobic smears against Aboushi. However it did not post an apology or explanation.

Aboushi has also tweeted a message of thanks to supporters:

on Twitter

Update, 12 July: Aboushi speaks out

From an interview Aboushi gave to The New York Post today:

“My family’s been just as shocked by the lies and smears as I’ve been,” Aboushi said in a telephone interview this afternoon. “I don’t think I’m radical at all. I have never done any radical behavior. For the writer to come out and claim that just builds lies on top of the lies.”

Read the whole article.

Comments

Great reporting on a significant story. MLB should fire Jonathan Mael immediately.

Oday I am a Palestinian mother my daughter may be your age I am so proud of you god bless you

Heads need to roll, at MLB and Yahoo and he should sue for defamation of character yeah these bastards a lesson!

He does not have to pay any attention to any of those people who have nothing else to do but to try to make him look bad,, he's not only a great athlete but he's an intelligent person who should only focus on his future and make his fans proud.

It appears he is "playing an increasing role in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activism” just by existing successfully.

Mael must go--if the roles were reversed, the acrimony would be deafening. Enough of double standards. Just the fact that Jonathan Mael would even think it was appropriate and possible to make such a comment privately--let alone publicly--indicates how racistly comfortable and blindly hypocritical our society is on any issue dealing with Arabs, Muslims, the Middle East, etc. Mael is entitled to his opinion, but where does MLB and the NFL, for that matter, stand on this kind of attack. Time to put up or explain to all of us just how the so-called "rules" don't apply in this situation. Time for EQUAL justice. No, it's WAY past time.

I agree! MLB should not support spineless acts like this and I personally do not want my sports news from a racist. Let MLB know but calling or using the URL below!
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=J...

Just coming across this story (ADC e-mail) I find that trying to get the text of the article in question on the web seems impossible since Yahoo! took it down. Did anyone keep a copy that can be made available?

Thanks.

I made a screenshot that you can see here. http://cld.bangpound.org/image/0F1U3e3w1m1P

Can't believe Yahoo published such a pathetic article. They, and their advertisers should be ashamed not only of the content/context, but also the journalism standard that reads way below journalism 101 - below high school level! Do they not have editors who might have cautioned Adam to wait oh, an hour or so to click "publish" until they could clarify a couple of things so readers didn't have to choke on all those grains of salt!

Thanks so much!
I've very appreciative.

Racism is alive and well in this country as these attacks on Oday Aboushi demonstrate. Jonathon Mael should be fired for his demeaning and inflammatory comments.

As Palestinian American I believe in this country to be a melting pot and every individual has the right to accelerate in life regardless of his origin, race or religion. It is who you are and what ability you have. Of course you should expect criticism from radicals and people who hate you based on your origin alone which is a shame and I am sure they will not tolerate anyone making these comments toward their people. We Palestinian American are proud to be American and we believe in this country is the Land of the free and justice for all. Best of luck in your career and keep up the good work!

Jonathan Mael in his apology spelled "Obay Aboushi". That is code for "... but I really don't mean this -- I call him sh*t still".

Agreed, the double standard in today's society is sickening. On the one hand, racist lies can be said about a palestinian-american and there is very little public outrage to speak of and no one has gotten fired. What if this were arab-american journalists saying racist things about a jewish-american athlete? What a joke.