Asking if Palestine is a state is a lot like asking if hip-hop is music. The younger and more liberal you are, the more likely you are to answer yes. If you oppose random violence and indiscriminate attacks, you’ll probably say no. (About Palestine, not hip-hop.)
Between February and May 2013, an estimated 24 rockets and five mortars have been fired from the Palestine territories by militant Islamic groups, landing in civilian areas of Israel. In a recent UN action, 138 of 193 General Assembly members voted to give Palestine Non-Member Observer State status. But Palestine is not officially recognized anywhere as a real state. For this and other reasons, many Americans agree that Palestine does not deserve to be called a legitimate state.
Except in Paterson, NJ, that is. On May 19, 2013, only four days after Israeli Independence Day, Mayor Jeffery Jones read a proclamation that declared May 19 as Palestinian American Day in the city and honored the group’s heritage and contributions. (Far as I can tell, Palestine’s biggest contribution to the world is that their rockets are so badly made that they make the North Koreans look like actual rocket scientists.)
In front of a crowd of some 150 enthusiastic supporters, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, made a short speech thanking the city for its gesture. He also urged local Palestinians to be good citizens and to continue supporting the struggle in Palestine. He did not mention sending rocket bucks to the folks back home, but that probably went without saying.
They then proceeded to raise the Palestinian flag over City Hall. Actually, since Palestine is not a state, they made do with the wannabe flag of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Why Paterson, of all places? Reportedly, it has the highest concentration of Palestinians in the US. To celebrate diversity, Paterson has a tradition of raising the flags of nearly a dozen different countries a year at City Hall. It is difficult to find a list of the other countries, but it is almost 100% certain that none of them routinely lob rockets at Israeli citizens.
Just to add one more level of outrage, who would organize a celebration like this in the first place? His name is Khader Abuassab. He has served on the Paterson Board of Education and has run for City Council. He did not succeed at the latter effort. He did succeed at becoming a felon.
In 2002, Abuassab pled guilty to having racked up more than $615,000 in credit card fraud. He used 40 different credit cards to duck the credit limits on individual cards, then filed for bankruptcy to erase the debts. Abuassab admitted he had not intended to pay for the things he charged.
In 2004, he was sentenced to 13 months in prison, with two additional years of supervised release. In addition, a federal district court judge ordered Abuassab to pay $620,000 in restitution. It is not known what he originally used the money for, or if it has been paid back.But as a matter of public record, it is known is that after sentencing, Abuassab requested a delay of his date with the slammer so he could “travel to Mecca.” In one of the few sensible decisions made in the vicinity of Paterson, that request was denied.