A Not-So-Ringing Endorsement

Pascrell, under fire, flaunts endorsement from activist with checkered past

March 2, 2012

David Steiner, a New Jersey real estate mogul and former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who was forced out of the organization, recently embraced Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.), who is locked in a primary battle with fellow Democrat Steve Rothman.

Pascrell has taken heat in recent weeks for his association with Aref Assaf, a prominent Arab-American who accused the state’s Jewish voters—and by proxy, Rothman—of being more loyal to Israel than America.

Now, with his pro-Israel bona fides in question, Pascrell has gotten Steiner to come to his defense.

"Bill has also been one of the strongest pro-Israel supporters in Congress," Steiner said in a statement released yesterday by the campaign. "I proudly endorse Bill Pascrell in his bid for re-election to the United States Congress."

The statement does not mention that Steiner was forced to resign from AIPAC in disgrace after "he made exaggerated claims about the group's power to choose the members of President Clinton's Cabinet," the New York Times reported in 1993.

One New Jersey Democrat said that Steiner’s support is not likely to help Pascrell win the Jewish vote.

"I'm not sure why Pascrell proactively calls attention to how little support he has within the pro-Israel community," said the Democrat. "First, he bragged about the endorsement of a one-term 80-plus-year-old congressman and now the endorsement of a former president of AIPAC who embarrassed AIPAC so much when he was president that they forced him to resign."

A Rothman spokesperson said that there is no doubt about who has been a better friend to Israel.

"Congressman Rothman's pro-Israel credentials speaks for themselves," Aaron Keyak, Rothman’s communications director, told the Free Beacon. "He is proud to have the endorsement of NORPAC, the largest pro-Israel PAC in the country and New Jersey, as well as many other pro-Israel leaders in Northern New Jersey—including some from Congressman Pascrell's district—for Congressman Rothman's leadership in fighting for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship."

Pascrell has come under increased scrutiny from New Jersey’s Jewish voters since the Free Beacon first reported on Assaf’s controversial comments.

"As total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s," Assaf wrote in an article for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Assaf’s comment sparked outrage in the state’s Jewish community, and led the Rothman campaign to call on Pascrell to distance himself from the charge, which many viewed as repugnant and inappropriate.

Pascrell, however, has refused to cut his ties with Assaf.

The primary is June 5.