ENGLEWOOD - Disgusted by one-party rule and vowing to beat U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9), author and motivational speaker Rabbi Shmuley Boteach launched his general election campaign against the odds this afternoon at his home here, calling on Pascrell to explain his policies on Israel.
"I will not win at any cost," the Republican nominee said, denouncing what he cited as the negativity of U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman's (D-9) losing Democratic Primary campaign. "I have a life outside of politics. I have tons of books to sell all of you. This is about issues."
The security and freedom of Israel are ultimately more important than whether or not he wins this election, Boteach told PolitickerNJ.com. If he can argue his ideas in the mosques, synagogues and public places of the new 9th District and get Pascrell to be receptive, he will feel he accomplished something at the end of the campaign, he said.
But he still insisted he will win in this district that lopsidedly favors registered Democrats.
Prior to redistricting, Pascrell served a constituency of mostly Italians, Irish, Latinos, blacks, and Arabs. The new 9th includes a big portion of north Bergen Jews.
"I could score a huge amount of points to say Bill Pascrell is hostile to Israel," Boteach said, speaking at a podium set up in his front yard in front of a friendly crowd. "That was done in the primary. I'm not going to run an accusatory campaign. Bill Pascrell, I believe you to be a good and decent man. But why did you sign the Gaza 54 letter?"
Addressed to President Barack Obama, the Gaza 54 letter urges Obama to demand an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
"The people of Gaza have suffered enormously since the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt following Hamas’ coup, and particularly following Operation Cast Lead," reads the letter signed by Pascrell and 53 other congresspeople in January 2010.
"We also sympathize deeply with the people of southern Israel who have suffered from abhorrent rocket and mortar attacks. We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups.
"This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. Truly, fulfilling the needs of civilians in Israel and Gaza are mutually reinforcing goals.
"The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts. The current blockade has severely impeded the ability of aid agencies to do their work to relieve suffering."
Boteach said he wants Pascrell to explain or repudiate the letter.
He insisted he's not trying to make the general election campaign Jews versus Arabs.
"I don't want that narrative," he said. "I have been condemning Arab tyranny over its people."
Pro Arab people, he said, Boteach condemns Obama's resistance to using the presidency more forcefully against Arab regimes that support terrorism.
"I am the candidate who should be the Arab candidate," said the orthodox Jewish rabbi. "Four hundred million Arabs live under tyranny. Obama has been silent."
An opponent of Obama's healthcare reform, Boteach said he favors personal health savings accounts. He jeered at Rothman's and Pascrell's primary efforts to prove their more loyal devotion to the estate tax.
Following an animated speech that held the attention of his audience, Boteach told PolitickerNJ.com that he talked to Pascrell on Friday and the congressman agreed to meet with him and break bread with him in the spirit of good fellowship and as a sign that the coming campaign need not be rancorous.
"It's noting personal, Bill Pascrell, but I'm going to beat you," said the candidate. "I am not afraid of the Democratic machine."
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