Who is Governor Chris Christie Really Pandering To?
Pundits have written about Governor Chris Christie’s recent faux pas at the Republican Jewish Coalition conclave in Las Vegas. The Governor mistakenly called the territories that Israel was forced to conquer in its defensive wars of 1967 and 1973, “occupied.” The fact is that the Palestinians have consistently refused to negotiate in good faith, refusing to even verbally acknowledge of the existence of a Jewish state.
The reason that the term “occupied territories” is offensive to some is that those facts seem to be glaringly omitted by that particular phraseology.
Certainly, Governor Christie should have been better briefed. It appears that Christie later apologized for the use of the term to Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish philanthropist, major humanitarian, and political benefactor, at whose Las Vegas hotel the event was held.
After the apology, the enlightened oracles of the media began alluding to the fact that the only reason that the governor apologized for the wording was to pander to Mr. Adelson because of his wealth and generosity to political campaigns.
The most odious comment came from New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who compared Adelson to Iran’s dictator Ayatollah Khamenei saying they had, “…one thing in common -- they are both trying to destroy Israel. Adelson is doing it by loving Israel to death. Khomeini is doing it by hating it to death.”
Not agreeing with a policy for making peace with those who daily demonstrate that they are clearly not ready for peace, by inciting children to blow themselves up in pizza restaurants by teaching them that one day all of Israel will someday be theirs, does not equate with “trying to destroy Israel.”
If Mr. Friedman had spent time speaking to the parents of some of the Israeli children who have been killed by the terrorists lionized by Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, he would understand a bit more of just what the Jewish state is really up against, and how out of touch he is with the reality on the ground.
What the talking heads failed to report is a much more significant remark made in that same speech. This remark indicated whom the governor really panders to, and frankly is a more serious issue for America’s national security interests.
When asked about those who raised questions in their writings about Governor Christies support on issues related to Sharia law, he replied by focusing solely on Sohail Mohammed, an immigration attorney. He described Mohammed’s touching history as an immigrant and naturalized citizen before adding:
“Sohail Mohammed knows as much about jihad as I do, being an Irish-American kid from Newark, New Jersey,” Christie said of the Indian-American judge who immigrated to America as a child. “It is ridiculous and insulting, that because I nominated Sohail Mohammed -- that people somehow think that means I’m for Sharia Law. It’s crap,” he said to applause. “And I will not ever apologize for making him a judge -- in fact, I’m proud of it.”
Almost every American can relate to that beautiful “American dream” and “rags to riches” saga. We are a nation of immigrants, and all of our ancestors came here to make a better life for their children. But Christie’s description conveniently omits certain facts.
Sohail Mohammad is on the board of the American Muslim Union (AMU), and serves as its attorney. The AMU was founded by a former executive of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is a front group of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sohail Mohammad’s practice has focused on defending suspected terrorists from deportation.
New Jersey is home to a very large mosque, the Islamic Center of Passaic County, (ICPC), which was founded by Mohammad El-Mezain, who in 2008, was convicted for fundraising for Hamas through the Holy Land Foundation. It is now led by Imam Mohammad Qatanani. The ICPC and the AMU share multiple directors and leaders.
Mr. Qatanani was arrested in Israel in 1993. The Israeli government said Qatanani confessed to being a member of Hamas, but was released following a plea bargain.
According to an FBI report, Mr. Qatanani moved to New Jersey in 1994, the year following his arrest in Israel, and worked together with El-Mezain to raise funds for Hamas. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began proceedings for the deportation of Mr. Qatanani because of his failure to disclose his conviction in Israel. The DHS also said he “engaged in terrorist activity” and is “guilty of material misrepresentation and “engaging in unauthorized employment… by allowing an out of status alien to reside with him.” It further discusses a “highly dubious” transfer of thousands of dollars to the West Bank.
A court filing in 2008 by the DHS states, “It is certainly suspicious when a person who has been convicted of being a member of, and providing services to, Hamas, who has personal ties to a Hamas militant leader, and also sends undisclosed cash to the West Bank.”
Imam Mohammad Qatanani used his pulpit to praise the Holy Land Foundation and to say that those conspirators who were found guilty should be immediately released from jail. Imam Qatanani also repeatedly uttered disturbing and defamatory statements about Jews, Israel, and Christians. He also asked expressed support for providing funding for the children of suicide bombers.
Governor Christie had repeatedly praised the Imam. In July of 2012, at an Iftar dinner at the governor’s mansion in New Jersey, Governor Christie praised referred to Qatanani as his “friend”, and “My view is he’s always had a very good relationship with us, and he’s a man of great goodwill.”
You might well ask who the attorney was who represented Mr. Christie’s “friend” Mr. Qatanani, and saved him from deportation by the DHS?
It was none other than Sohail Mohammad.
Is it possible Mr. Christie feels that Sohail Mohammad is such an American success story because he counts the votes in the Islamic Center of Passaic County? Just who is Governor Chris Christie really pandering to?
Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of EMET, The Endowment for Middlle East Truth, an unabashedly pro-American and pro-Israel think tank in our nation’s capital.