Mayor Michael Bloomberg is standing behind an appointee to the city’s Human Rights Commission who works for a radical anti-Israel group accused of supporting terrorism.
Omar Mohammedi was one of 14 appointees last week to the little-known commission, which enforces human rights laws and is rarely the subject of controversy.
But some Democratic officials, as well as the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League, are calling on Bloomberg to dump Mohammed from the panel because he is a lawyer for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The organization has organized anti-Israel programs on college campuses, and its leaders have been tied to a slew of statements viewed as supportive of terrorism.
“CAIR’s primary purposes are to perpetuate ancient stereotypes of Jews, to demonize the State of Israel and to serve as apologists for Palestinian terrorism,” wrote Rory Lancman, a Democratic state committeeman from Queens, in a letter to Bloomberg decrying the appointment.
Lancman said CAIR had helped perpetrate the “big lie” that Israeli troops massacred civilians in the Jenin refugee camp last spring.
Bloomberg’s press secretary, Ed Skyler, insisted that Mohammedi’s background had been thoroughly researched and that he was nominated by a Muslim activist, Habibi Brown, of the Arab American Family Support center, who is “well respected” in the Jewish community.
“The mayor is equally troubled, as many in the Jewish community are, as to the statements made by officials at CAIR,” said Skyler. “However, in the case of Mr. Mohammedi, we are not aware of any controversial or offensive statements attributed to him that would preclude his serving as a member of the Human Rights Commission.
“We appointed an individual, not an organization.”
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who said he has called City Hall to express outrage over the appointment, said he didn’t buy Skyler’s explanation.
“I don’t think we would appoint anyone who is associated in any fashion with the neo-Nazi party or the KKK,” said Hikind. “There’s got to be one standard.”
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who was also appointed to the rights panel, told the New York Sun that he would view Mohammedi’s serving on the board as “problematic” if CAIR “does have close ties to known terrorist organizations.”
Mohammedi, who since 9-11 has been representing Muslims who are questioned by federal authorities, could not be reached for comment.
But the president of CAIR’s New York chapter, Al Haaj Ghazi Khankan, called the campaign against Mohammedi “un-American.” He added: “New York is a mosaic of all communities. People have to exchange ideas in a diverse society … We don’t go around calling on the mayor to remove others we think might be anti-Muslim.”
Khankan insisted his organization “does not condone terrorism whatsoever” and said he has condemned the 9-11 attacks, suicide bombings in Israel and the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Pakistani militants.
Asked about a statement attributed to him that seemed to support attacks against Israelis over the age of 18 who serve in the army, Khankan said, “We believe that the Palestinian people have a right to defend themselves. But killing civilians is not Islamic and therefore we don’t condone it.”
The prospect of Independence Party candidate Thomas Golisano winning the governor’s race is far-fetched, at best, but the more feasible scenario of a second-place finish is causing angst for many politicos.
Golisano has had little to do with the workings of the amorphous and bizarre party, the fastest growing in the state, when he’s not running for office. The New York Times slammed him in an editorial for founding the state Independence chapter and then allowing it to be taken over by extremists such as the Marxist activist Lenora Fulani.
If Golisano manages to come in second, state election law requires not only that Independence be bumped up to the second most prominent spot on voting machines, but that its leaders have a say over who sits on the Board of Elections.
“Imagine state election policy being set by Republican leaders and Lenora Fulani,” said one nervous Jewish official.
In attempting to dilute the power of the major parties and the state Legislature, Fulani has been backing initiatives that would allow citizens to place legislation on the ballot and creating nonpartisan elections.
“They’ve created a monster,” said former Mayor Ed Koch, referring to politicians who have empowered the Independence Party. “They will do it again and again, but meanwhile you have Fulani as a major factor, and that means you have to sit down with her.
# “When you lay down with sleaze, you wake up with sleaze.”
Some supporters of Gov. George Pataki had less than kind intentions when they showed up to heckle a Golisano event in Brooklyn last week. But they claim an aide to the Rochester billionaire crossed a line by using an offensive epithet.
The Pataki backers had come to Avenue J in Midwood in response to ex-Councilman Noach Dear’s endorsement of Golisano.
Greg Menken, Pataki’s Jewish outreach coordinator, said he was standing with a crowd of chasidic supporters of the governor when the Golisano aide approached.
“He asked us if we would be acting like savages and monkeys,” Menken claimed, adding that when he protested the characterization, the aide disappeared.
Menken later identified the aide through a TV appearance as Erik Mullen, a media advisor. Mullen did not return several calls for comment, nor did Golisano campaign manager Charles Halloran.
Menken said the incident “calls into question [Golisano’s] judgment as to who he hires.”
An anti-Israel platform by the Green Party’s candidate for state comptroller has become an issue in the hotly contested battle for state Senate in Manhattan’s silk stocking district.
Republican Andrew Eristoff, a former councilman and city finance commissioner, is calling on Democratic Sen. Liz Krueger to drop the Green endorsement to prove her pro-Israel credentials.
Krueger’s response: Forget it.
In an open letter to Eristoff’s campaign, Krueger campaign manager Nathan Smith said that by the same logic Eristoff should refuse to run on the Republican and Independence lines because of the GOP’s position on abortion and Fulani’s positions on Jews.
It’s all hyperbole. Neither candidate can be removed from any ballot this close to the election.
Smith noted that Krueger supported continued investment in Israel, unlike the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins, and said that “as a board member of the American Jewish Committee … Senator Krueger’s record of support for Israel is clear.”