JETS OL ODAY ABOUSHI DEFENDS HIMSELF AGAINST EXTREMIST CLAIMS - New York Jets rookie offensive lineman Oday Aboushi, is one of the few Palestinian-Americans to play in the NFL, and on Friday Aboushi defended himself against a website’s article that called him a “Muslim extremist.”
Aboushi was angered by the story, published Tuesday by FrontPage Magazine, as well other comments in response to the piece.
“It is upsetting to see people try and tarnish my reputation without even knowing me,” he said in a statement issued by the team. “But I appreciate all the support I have been getting from people of all backgrounds across the city and country.”
Aboushi was born in Brooklyn and now lives in Staten Island. He was drafted of Virginia in the fifth-round by the Jets. He is one of just a small handful of Palestinian-American players to enter the NFL, including former linebacker Tarek Saleh, former quarterback Gibran Hamdan, and former defensive lineman Nader Abdallah.
The story by FrontPage Magazine said Aboushi’s “latest infraction” came last month when he was in Virginia and “gave a speech at a radical Muslim conference sponsored by a group denying Israel’s right to exist and associated with blatantly anti-Semitic and terrorist propaganda.”
The Anti-Defamation issued a statement in Aboushi’s defense, saying “there’s a lot of exaggeration and hyperbole in all the talk about” the player.
“Absolutely nothing in the public record suggests Aboushi is anything other than a young American athlete who takes pride in his Palestinian heritage,” ADL director Abraham H. Foxman said. “His participation in a conference organized by the El-Bireh Society, a Palestinian community organization that was until recently defunct, should not be used to tar him as an extremist.”
Foxman added that being pro-Palestinian “does not mean you’re an anti-Semite or an extremist. The record simply does not show that Aboushi has crossed that line.”
In an interview with the Associated Press in May, Aboushi said being a Palestinian-American in the NFL was an honor and added that being able to break that mold and sort of open the door for other people and show them that it is possible, it’s a great feeling.“
The Jets, addressed the situation in a statement, saying they "strongly believe in diversity, inclusion and tolerance of others.” (Photo: Steve Helber/Associated Press)
Palestinian-Americans are split on a fundamental American issue: football. Many of those from my father’s generation of immigrants are simply confused by the whole concept. They came from a land and time where “football” meant kicking a ball with your foot into a goal. Trying to divorce them from this word association is extremely difficult. The children of these immigrants, like me, who grew up in this country see football as the beautiful American tradition that it is. I have tried to explain to my father that a touchdown is basically a goal, and each team is trying to get more touchdowns than the other. I told him it is “soccer with helmets,” or “football with helmets,” if, to you, “football” actually means “soccer.”
But football is also a violent sport with fierce impacts, armor, and screaming. It brings men together in a passionate, non-sexual way. And it includes barely dressed women on the sidelines jumping up on down and sometimes even climbing on top of each other. Once my father learned these things, he became interested.
Oday Aboushi is a Palestinian-American. A few months ago, he was drafted by the New York Jets to play professional American football. I am sure this was a dream come true for him. Of course, we Palestinians all immediately heard the news. We were proud. We didn’t know him, but we were proud.
Then last week, Yahoo! Sports published an article by Adam Waksman accusing Oday of “anti-Semitic activism.” At just about the same time, an employee of Major League Baseball, Jonathan Mael tweeted, “The @nyjets are a disgrace of an organization. The Patriots have Aaron Hernandez, the Jets have Oday Aboushi.” Of course, Aaron Hernandez was a star NFL tight end who has been arrested for murder. Oday is just a Palestinian.
Adjacent to Ramallah lies the city of El-Bireh in Palestine. Thousands of El-Bireh’s descendants live in America. A couple weeks ago, they held a convention in a hotel outside of Washington, DC. It is a sort of big family reunion. And I really mean that. When cousins start marrying each other, family reunions need to be held in a hotel. A big hotel. But on the bright side, Ancestry.com loves Palestinian customers. Coming up with their report takes like five minutes. “Dear customer, your father is your mother’s cousin. Your grandfathers are brothers, which also means they are each your great uncle. Your father is your father, but he is also your first cousin removed. Same goes for your mother. Your brothers and sisters are also each your second cousin. And you are also, in fact, your own cousin. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Oday Aboushi attended this convention as an invited guest. Waksman used his attendance as evidence of Oday’s anti-Semitism. Oday was not quoted and none of his actions were detailed. He was just there… at a big family reunion. See, to supporters of Israel like Mael and Waksman, and to many Jews unfortunately, Palestinians are by default anti-Semitic. But labeling us all as anti-Semitic has a few problems. First, it’s not true. I can easily prove that I’m not anti-Semitic. I love bagels, cheesecake, and Seinfeld. And Jews invented the weekend, so those are my kind of people.
But using the “anti-Semitic” label so freely also does something else. It kills the conversation. Once someone is called a vicious racist, his opinion is less worthy. And so is his existence. And for Palestinians, we cannot end the conversation. We need to tell our story. So maybe those calling us “anti-Semitic” know exactly what they’re doing.
Now I wouldn’t mind being labeled, if only it were done accurately. Palestinian-Americans are some of the most successful and most educated citizens living in this country. We always do extremely well in whatever we path we choose. Now, that might be because we don’t have a country to go back to, but whatever. So none of us were surprised that Oday made all the way to the NFL. We expect excellence. Plus, for his own sake, he had to succeed. I don’t even want to imagine what his mom would have done if he didn’t get drafted.
Being Palestinian follows us wherever we go and whatever we do. Oday is now in the limelight. He will be seen as suspect. Fans will hold up signs. His existence will be highly politicized. Everything he does, good or bad, will have a lot of gravity to it. For every person praising him, there will be another expressing outrage. He is a Palestinian, and so he will be seen as some sort of threat to the working order of things. And whether he likes it or not, his entry into the NFL will mean more than just football. He is not a football player. He is a Palestinian football player.
Being Palestinian is relentless. Racism and media misrepresentation are things we are used to. There are no breaks. And just when it looks like everything’s OK, someone calls us “barbaric,” “resentful,” “hateful,” or invented. Our relatives who live in Palestine have to deal with daily killing and humiliation. Those of us who live everywhere else have to explain it.
Basically, Palestinians spend most of our time trying to explain to everyone that we are, in fact, human beings.
But don’t feel bad for us. When we meet each other, we get excited. We share stories. We laugh and cry at the same things. When we say goodbye, we can’t wait to see each other again. We have a connection to one another that no one else could ever understand.
And so Oday, when you were drafted, we were all drafted. And while my dad might not really understand football, he understands that.
New York Jets fifth-round draft pick Oday Aboushi, the 22-year-old offensive lineman from the University of Virginia, is a physical freak. He’s 6-foot-6 and weighs over 300 pounds, which is one of the main reasons why he’s in the NFL. He’s also a Palestinian Muslim, which is why the worst of us—the idiots, the trolls, the bigots—want him out.
Frontpage Magazine, a website started by David Horowitz, one of the nation’s foremost Islamophobic clowns, were first to alert Americans to Aboushi’s presence in the NFL when theypublished a story Tuesday painting the lineman as a Muslim extremist and anti-Semite. They supported their claim by linking to an Aboushi tweet, in which he shared a photo of an 88-year-old, Palestinian woman standing outside of her house in Jerusalem after being evicted to make room for Orthodox Jews.
That’s tragic. I think that’s tragic, at least, and some of you may, too. That doesn’t make us anti-Semites or terrorists of course, but most of us aren’t Muslim.
As Dave Zirin of The Nation points out, Aboushi was never quoted in the Yahoo piece. He was hardly even mentioned. Waksman used Aboushi as a stand-in for all potential Palestinians in the NFL. Waksman just rolled with FrontPage, because he didn’t know enough, or didn’t care enough, and was too lazy to report for himself. He didn’t pick up the phone and give Aboushi a call. In his mind, there is no doubt: Aboushi is a Muslim, and is therefore is taking taking part in “anti-Semitic activism.” In his mind, Aboushi is a Muslim, and already a criminal.
And sometimes, guys like Oday Aboushi, a Brooklyn-born Palestinian-American who beat all the odds and was rewarded by being drafted by his hometown team, has to suffer the consequences. He’ll have to his entire career. Because the scariest, saddest, and most tragic thing about all of this is that someone who read FrontPage’s article, or shared Yahoo’s article, or stumbled upon Mael’s tweet will sit back, think for a second, and say, “He’s got a point.”