Israel issues loom large in NJ-9 primary

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March 15, 2012

New Jersey: Candidates' stances on Israel has come to the forefront in New Jersey's 9th District Democratic primaries, as 15 synagogue presidents have urged their communities to switch parties in order to vote for Steve Rothman over Bill Pascrell on June 5.[1] Some see the battle between the two Democratic incumbents -- pitched together by the state's 2012 redistricting -- as representative of a larger concern over the Democratic party's approach to Israel.[2]

In response to the synagogues' letter, American Arab Forum President Aref Assaf wrote an op-ed in a local newspaper. He stated that the Arab and Muslim community detests "the questioning of our loyalties and doubts of our patriotism," going on to say that those who vote based on policy toward Israel show more loyalty to a foreign country than to America.[3] This prompted Rothman's campaign to ask Pascrell to distance himself from the claims made by Assaf, a Pascrell supporter.[1]

A Rothman spokesperson says Rothman "has always put his country first," and supports Israel as a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.[2] Pascrell has denied that Assaf is part of his campaign.[1]

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