Two prominent Jewish defense agencies this week came to the defense of Oday Aboushi, a rookie member of the New York Jets football team who is a practicing Muslim from a Palestinian-Arab family.
Aboushi, 22, an offensive lineman and sociology graduate of the University of Virginia who is one of the few Palestinians to play in the National Football League, came under fire from some members of the Jewish community after a recent story in FrontPage Magazine criticized him for appearing at a “radical Muslim conference.” The article, which called the player “a Muslim extremist,” hinted that the Jets should release the fifth-round draft choice.
FrontPage did not cite any anti-Israel or anti-Semitic remarks Aboushi said at the conference last month sponsored by the El-Bireh Palestine Society, but quoted him as tweeting after the gathering that “Proud Palestinians is always a good sight.”
Following subsequent comments by some voices in the Jewish community – usually identified with right-wing Middle East politics – that identified Aboushi as an extremist, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee called for an end to the criticism of the player.
Aboushi, said a statement issued by the AJC, “was maliciously targeted” for speaking at the El-Bireh conference. “Maligning Oday Aboushi because of his ethnic background should be widely condemned by all Americans,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We look forward to seeing him play in the NFL and wish him every success.”
“Absolutely nothing in the public record suggests that Aboushi is anything other than a young American athlete who takes pride in his Palestinian heritage,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. His participation in the El-Bireh conference “should not be used to tar him as an extremist. Being pro-Palestinian does not mean you’re an anti-Semite or an extremist.”
In an interview this week in the New York Post, Aboushi denied that the accusations. “I have plenty of friends who are Jewish. I have teammates who are Jewish, and I was brought up with Jewish kids. I don’t think I’m a radical at all. I have never done any radical behavior.”
The Jets did not respond to a request for comment by Aboushi on this topic.
His parents immigrated about four decades from Beit Hanina, part of mostly Arab East Jerusalem. They ran a grocery store in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn before moving to Staten Island.
Aboushi, like his three brothers, attended Xaverian High School, a Catholic institution in Brooklyn.