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Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin writes about the politics of sports for the Nation Magazine, and is author of Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love

July 11th, 2013 3:01 PM

The Slandering of NY Jet Oday Aboushi

A stunning tweet just came across the wires from Major League Baseball’s recently hired “new media coordinator” Jonathan Mael. It reads, “The @nyjets are a disgrace of an organization. The Patriots have Aaron Hernandez, the Jets have Oday Aboushi.” (Mael has since deleted his account, making him a rather ineffectual “new media coordinator”.)

Aaron Hernandez is, of course, the former star tight end now on trial for premeditated murder. So who is Oday Aboushi? He’s a Brooklyn-born fifth-round rookie lineman from the University of Virginia. His crime, in the eyes of Mael, is being of Palestinian heritage as well as having the temerity to discuss what a life of dispossession this has meant to him and his extended family.

This ugly line of thought exists on a plane beyond tweets. In a stunningly unprincipled piece on Yahoo! Sports, a writer named Adam Waksman wrote this week that Aboushi was involved in “anti-Semitic activism” and asked whether he should be drummed out of the league. Waksman compared Aboushi with those who traffic in “anti-gay, anti-black, anti-immigrant, sexist [speech]” and asks, “Does the NFL want its image associated with prejudice, violence or fundamentalism on any level?”

Aboushi is not quoted once in this entire piece. He is just Waksman’s silent, hulking brown mannequin. Instead, the main source Waksman draws upon for proof of his “anti-Semitic activism” is Front Page Magazine. For the uninitiated, this is the creation of David Horowitz, the hard-right-wing minstrel best known for taking out ads in college newspapers arguing that people of African descent should thank Europeans for slavery. Front Page—which bills itself as “fighting the war at home and abroad”—is a one-stop shop for anyone seeking articles cheering on George Zimmerman or catching up on the most frightening anti-Arab rhetoric in Israeli politics. Quoting it for source material on Palestinian activism is like choosing to learn about the environmental rights movement by reading an Exxon/Mobil newsletter.

Front Page says that Aboushi’s “crime” was speaking at the annual convention of the El-Bireh Palestine Society. Waksman quotes Front Page as describing their convention as “a conference run by an organization which denies Israel’s existence and associates with those involved in violence against her citizens.” Waksman cites Front Page as a legitimate authority on El-Bireh even though he concedes deeper in the article that they “should not be viewed as an entirely objective source of information”, writing, “In the end, nothing in the…piece is sufficient proof of much except for activism of a general sort.”

Ah, good to know. Waksman doesn’t include that the organization at whose convention Aboushi spoke simply does not have the politics Front Page describes. The conference was a decidedly mainstream affair held at the Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Speakers included United States Congressman Nick Rahall and Oscar-nominated Five Broken Cameras director Emad Burnat. El-Bireh’s symbol is an American and Palestinian flag side-by-side, with the Stars and Stripes elevated above the Palestinian flag, and it is currently preparing, according to its website, for its Saturday dinner cruise. Someone call Homeland Security.

Waksman proceeds to discredit his own article further by revealing that Front Page’s exposé of Aboushi confused IR (Islamic Relief), a legitimate charity Aboushi supports, with IRRO (International Islamic Relief Organization), which Waksman—once again without links or evidence—describes as “the one that is believed to be a front for terrorism.”

None of this stops Waksman from ending his piece with the following statement: “If [Aboushi] chooses to make politics and anti-Semitism his calling card, it will negatively affect the Jets, the NFL and all the kids who look up to Aboushi as a role model.”

Yes, Waksman wants to know whether Aboushi will think of the children. Just not the ones living in terror on the Gaza Strip. Once convinced that I was reading a real article and not an Onion-esque exercise in self-parody, it became clear what this was about.

Waksman is using Aboushi as a straw man to argue that any narrative from a Palestinian that’s critical of Israel is anti-Semitic, terrorist, and grounds to be hounded out of the NFL. I’m not an NFL player, but as a non-terrorist who happens to be a Jew, let me say that this is hogwash. It’s yellow journalism without any of the flair. Instead of Waksman asking why Aboushi deserves to be employed by the Jets, I think we should ask Yahoo! why they would publish a piece that accuses an NFL player of anti-Semitism without one solitary quote or piece of actual evidence. This is worse than your typical “keep your politics out of my sports” hit piece. It’s slander.

Bob Dreyfuss calls out those who believe playing the anti-Semitism card means that you can play with the facts.

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