Sami Merhi is a businessman, Democratic fund raiser, and the first Arab-American to be a Democratic candidate for freeholder. At least he was until new Jersey's Democratic Governor Corzine and Senator Robert Menendez issued statements in opposition to Merhi's candidacy.
According to the Associated Press, the "little tent" Democrats are unhappy about comments Mehri said at a September 2002 fund-raiser for U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell:
Merhi condemned the Sept. 11 terrorists as "cold-blooded murderers." When asked if he would apply the same label to Palestinian suicide bombers who target Israelis, Merhi said, "I can't see the comparison."
A week ago, the editorial page editor of the Herald News Alfred P. Doblin, wrote that while there is no known recording of Mehri's remarks at the Pascrell fundraiser, Pascrell says at no point did Merhi qualify any form of terrorism as justifiable. Doblin went on:
Democratic leadership knew of Merhi’s 2002 speech, yet they supported him.
[. . .]
Too many state politicians have rushed to raise the American flag as they denounce an Arab-American because of what he may have said four years ago. No one took the time to talk to Merhi. That is inexcusable.
[. . .]
In America, people are judged by words and deeds. In the absence of a transcript, what was said at an April 2002 fundraiser remains murky. Four years later, memories blur. But there is nothing in four year’s worth of Sami Merhi’s history to suggest he supports or advocates any form of terrorism.
Today, in The Record Mehri rises to his own defense.
Mehri writes about his godson, Jude Safi:
BORN AND RAISED in Brooklyn, Jude Safi was an ambitious and assertive young man. An avid sports fan, he rooted for his beloved Yankees and Knicks. He graduated from Staten Island College with a degree in business finance. Jude's diligence and determination were rewarded when he secured a position with Cantor Fitzgerald as an equity trader.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Jude was among the approximately 3,000 people to perish at the World Trade Center. Jude was one month shy of his 25th birthday. A life full of promise and potential was tragically taken away. He was my godson. His family and I miss him dearly.
The heinous acts perpetrated by a bunch of thugs, or more appropriately, a band of cowards, on that ill-fated day were abhorrent and unforgivable. I vehemently condemn terrorism because it goes against everything I believe in.
Merhi came to the United States from Lebanon, seeking the American Dream:
Back in my native country, I fell in love with what John Locke and later Thomas Jefferson would espouse: life, liberty, and what I refer to as the pursuit of justice. Upon arriving on America's shores, I was eager to raise a family and fulfill the American Dream.
Merhi is motivated by the Biblical imperative, "to whom much is given, much is required." Eventually Merhi chose politics as a way to abide by the Biblical directive:
My commitment to seek joy in what I can give and not in what I can get inspired me to get involved in politics. As an immigrant who pulled himself up from his bootstraps, I believed it could be a noble profession.
For more than 20 years I volunteered my time and money to various Democratic campaigns. In 2004, I decided to toss my hat in the ring and seek a seat on the Passaic County Board of Freeholders.
After the screening of all of the candidates, I fell one vote short of winning the nomination. Some members of the party attributed my defeat to remarks I made at a fund-raiser for Rep. Bill Pascrell. My detractors quickly cast aspersions and erroneously accused me of making statements in support of terrorism. I moved to clarify any confusion or misinterpretation of my remarks. I was under the impression that the situation was rectified.
Two years after my unsuccessful bid to represent my party, I decided to try again. I was duly selected by my party's leaders to become the first Arab-American to be a Democratic candidate for freeholder.
Within 24 hours Merhi became the object of the Democratic party's new McCarthyism:
The party that I had given my blood, sweat and tears to for 26 years was trying to take away what I rightly earned.
The week was the worst of my life. Excessive pressure was applied for me to withdraw. I repeatedly and resoundingly declined. I was elected by the party's leaders fair and square.
On March 25, they removed me as the party's nominee.
I feel betrayed by the very people I believed in and supported. The party that gave us the New Deal and the Fair Deal, gave me a raw deal.
It is troubling that Democrats would do something so undemocratic. They made a mockery of democracy.
Why were Corzine and Menendez so quick to pass judgment on me? Neither of the two ever spoke to me before issuing their statements. They were not interested in hearing my side.
I would never have imagined that the Democratic Party would use fear and smear to derail my candidacy. I will certainly recover but I am not sure the party will. I anticipate severe political repercussions for those responsible.
What a shame! Instead of celebrating the nomination of the first Arab-American to be a Democratic candidate for freeholder, Arab-American leaders are telling Governor Corzine that the dumping of a Lebanese-born candidate amounts to a "political lynching."
At The Moor Next Door, Nouri Lumendifi comes down hard on the Democrats:
Arabs are not PC right now, not even American ones. It seems that to Democrats, Arabs are continually equated with terrorism. I'm not sure if their racist view of Arabs, Arab-Americans and other things associated with Arabs extends beyond politics, but it doesn't really matter because, to me, actions matter more than sentiments. Sure, they may not think they're racists, or they may not hold any ill will towards Arab-Americans, but their actions say otherwise and their actions are what Arab-Americans see. It doesn't much matter if you oppose slavery and you refuse to help free a slave when given the opportunity. Actions are more important than words.
Nouri has more to say read the whole thing.