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