New York Jets draft pick Oday Aboushi (Photo: AP/Steve Helber)
A right-wing smear campaign targeting a National Football League player rose and crashed this week. At the center of it is Oday Aboushi, a Palestinian-American Muslim draft pick for the New York Jets, who appears for now to have come out of the smearing proudly.
“It is upsetting to see people try and tarnish my reputation without even knowing me,” Aboushi said yesterday in a statement issued by the team. “But I appreciate all the support I have been getting from people of all backgrounds across the city and country.”
The smear began at Frontpage Magazine, a website started by rightwing Islamophobe David Horowitz. On Tuesday it published a story painting the lineman as a Muslim extremist and anti-Semite and headlined, “NY Jets Player Speaks at Extreme Anti-Israel Conference.” The story sought to support its claims by linking to an Aboushi tweet, in which he praised Islamic Relief USA for helping Palestinian refugees, and another tweet in which he shared a photo of an 88-year-old Palestinian woman standing outside of her house in Jerusalem after being evicted to make room for Orthodox Jews.
Writer Joe Kaufman, who has advocated using a nuclear bomb on Middle Eastern countries, alleged that the UK-based Islamic Relief is “a charity that the Israeli government has labeled a front for Hamas and that has been cited for both receiving and giving huge sums of money to al-Qaeda related groups.” While it’s true the Israeli government accused the British group Islamic Relief of being associated with Hamas–hardly a conclusive or persuasive claim–Islamic Relief USA is not the same as the British organization. It’s an “affiliate” of the British group, and there is no proof of any Al Qaeda links. Islamic Relief USA has worked with the U.S. government and boasts of corporate sponsors like JP Morgan Chase–not the usual relationships for a terror group.
No matter. The lie was on its way, and bounced from FrontPage to Yahoo Sports. As Greg Howard at Deadspin explained:
Adam Waksman… part of Yahoo’s contributor network…. penned an article in which he came to the same conclusion as the FrontPage buffoons—that Aboushi “is a potential disaster that needs to be dealt with before it becomes anything real.” The link doesn’t work, because the article was taken down.
As Dave Zirin of The Nation points out, Aboushi was never quoted in the Yahoo piece. He was hardly even mentioned. Waksman used Aboushi as a stand-in for all potential Palestinians in the NFL. Waksman just rolled with FrontPage, because he didn’t know enough, or didn’t care enough, and was too lazy to report for himself. He didn’t pick up the phone and give Aboushi a call. In his mind, there is no doubt: Aboushi is a Muslim, and is therefore is taking taking part in “anti-Semitic activism.” In his mind, Aboushi is a Muslim, and already a criminal.
Once the inaccuracies in Kaufman’s piece were pointed out, Waksman took the piece down, or Yahoo Sports did.
But the ball kept rolling. JD Mael, said to be a new media coordinator for Major League Baseball, also got into it. On his twitter feed, he compared Aboushi to an accused murderer who formerly played for the New England Patriots–
“The @nyjets are a disgrace of an organization. The Patriots have Aaron Hernandez, the Jets have Oday Aboushi.”
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.
Meantime, our own Scott Roth engaged Waksman, who published the hit piece in Yahoo!:
— Scott Roth (@scottroth76) July 11, 2013
— Scott Roth (@scottroth76) July 11, 2013
@scottroth76 If he played for the Jets, absolutely. (If you expect more than a one sentence answer, Twitter is the wrong outlet).
— Adam Waksman (@AdamWaksman) July 11, 2013
The smearers are surely on the defensive. The latest example of how the smear campaign has fallen flat on its face is that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has now condemned the attacks against Aboushi.
“There’s a lot of exaggeration and hyperbole in all the talk about Jets lineman Oday Aboushi. Absolutely nothing in the public record suggests that Aboushi is anything other than a young American athlete who takes pride in his Palestinian heritage,” said ADL leader Abe Foxman in a statement. “Being pro-Palestinian does not mean you’re an anti-Semite or an extremist. The record simply does not show that Aboushi has crossed that line.”
The Sporting News also showed great sympathy to the athlete:
After three days of being thrust into an unwanted spotlight after three separate published attacks on his Palestinian ethnicity, Jets rookie offensive lineman Oday Aboushi defended himself against his critics Friday.
In an interview posted on the New York Post website Friday afternoon, Aboushi—a Palestinian-American born in Brooklyn and drafted out of Virginia in April—said: “My family‘s been just as shocked by the lies and smears as I’ve been … 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.”
We can only hope that the attacks will not deter Aboushi where it counts: in his effort to make the team. Happily, many Americans have glimpsed his valor and pride and have wished him well:
Can’t thank everyone enough for all the supportive and strong words! Continuing to hold my head high. Thank You!
— Oday Aboushi (@Oday_Aboushi75) July 11, 2013