Bader Qarmout defeats Senator Menendez and other long shots

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By: Dr. Aref Assaf

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Born in Jordan, Bader Qarmout, 43, is new to politics. He so readily admits his novice political pedagogy. Interestingly, the two Republican candidates who are hoping to unseat entrenched Democratic Senator Bob Menendez are Arab Americans. One is Mr. Qarmout who identifies him as a Christian who was born in Jordan before migrating with his family to the United States. The other, who seems intent on keeping his Arab heritage a secret, is Joseph Kyrillos, the powerful NJ State Senator with close ties to our Governor Chris Christie.

Mr. Qarmout caught my interest for the statements attributed to him about his ethnic background and his declared support for Israel. For an Arab American, basing your ‘right’ to seek public office on proclaiming allegiance to Israel is a novel political first. It was a political calculation that earned him a couple of mentions in Jewish papers but little else. He also claims the endorsement of at least one NJ Tea party organization. He describes himself as a ‘real’ common sense Republican who is committed to limited government and free markets. His business dealings have become the subject of serious speculations such as his alleged sale of illegal tobacco. Kenneth Ellman questions Qarmout’s support for Israel and provides details about his ‘selling of counterfeit cigarettes.” Another ‘conservative’ portal, adds to the attacks on Qarmout’s ‘conservative’ credentials. He is portrayed as a fake conservative whose amnesty plan for illegal immigrants would allow them to remain in the United States.

I reached out to Mr. Qarmout and sought to have him clarify his positions on matters dear to Arab and Muslim Americans.

We share below the text of his written answers to our questions. No editing was utilized. In a future post, if he wins the June 5 Primary elections, I will comment on his answers as they reveal unambiguously troublesome undertones. Take for example his answer to the question on the NYPD spying on Muslim citizens: “I don’t have enough information to form a position.” Such a response portends either true ignorance of a national story or a moral complicity with the illegal spying spree. And I will elaborate on why I believe that Mr. Menendez’s political and financial cache are certain to retain him as NJ’s next Democratic Senator. I, of course, have serious issues with Mr. Menendez’s positions on the Middle East.


Dear Mr. Qarmout: Serving the residents of our state is a commendable endeavor. We salute you for your desire to serve.

Thank you for agreeing to respond to questions on the minds of Arab and Muslim residents in NJ.

Do you believe all American citizens deserve the same protections afforded by our US Constitution?

YES (Mr. Qarmout chose red and underlined his answers.)

If yes, what is your position on the NYPD espionage activities of American Muslim citizens?

I do not have enough information to form a position.

Do you agree with Gov. Christie’s views on the NYPD spying?
Once again, I do not have all the facts to form a position on the issue.

Do you agree with the call for an external investigation by the NJ AG and the US AG?
I would need more information on the intelligence the FBI was utilizing.

In your view, is profiling an acceptable tactic to prevent crimes? Please elaborate. Blanket profiling is not acceptable.

Do you agree with those who argue that Islam is a threat to America’s existence? Islam is NOT but Muslim extremism and Sharia law are not compatible with the U.S. Constitution.

Do you support the call by some to limit the legal immigration from some Muslim countries?
I would support to limit legal immigration from all countries at this time. All immigrants must be able to not only support themselves, but also sign a {n} allegiance to America. I also support English as the official language of this country.

According to many, Islam is the second largest religion in America. Do you agree with Cong. Peter King (R-NY) who is calling for more congressional hearings into the radicalization of American Muslims?

Do you believe that American Muslims should be held responsible for 9-11? NO,

Do you support efforts to legislate the banning of Sharia in American courts and why? Are you aware of specific examples where Sharia laws were used in violation of our Constitution?
I do NOT support any laws other than U.S. laws and the U.S. Constitution. Please see:

Can you elaborate further on your statement that appears on your website: “I was born to Christian parents? Being Christians in any Arab nation is not easy.” What were your experiences as Christian in Jordan? How is this experience relevant to your political aspirations?
I remember being called a kafar and spit on. I believe this helps me make sure that as an American I work for religious freedom and equality for all law abiding citizens.

Have you reached out to leaders from the Arab and Muslim community in NJ? Yes

Will you accept an invitation for a debate or maybe an informal meeting with members of the community to share your positions on the various issues? Yes

State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos is also running against Sen. Menendez. Kyrillos does not want people to know of his Arab Lebanese heritage. Do you think you stand to gain the support of the Arab community as result? If so, why should the community choose you over Mr. Kyrillos?
I am not ashamed of who I am. I did not vote for Ralph Nader for president because I did not agree with him, Arab or not. Being an American of Arab descent should be a part of the equation, not the sole motive.

Senator Menendez has had a friendly relationship with many in the Arab and Muslim community. What would you want to say to these people to change their vote in your favor?
I support a smaller and less intrusive government. I support School vouchers. I would be more business-friendly and support a lower corporate tax and a flat tax. I would also support 0 tax on American manufacturers for 5 years. I also support Right to Work. etc.

Some in the Jewish media are portraying you as pro-Israel. Do you see yourself as such? Yes

Does this label mean you are anti-Palestine?
Absolutely NOT, I believe Arab moderates need to speak out against the extremists among them. I am against a mother that would allow and celebrate the murder/suicide of her son.

Do you equate being pro-Israel with being pro America? Would you like to be described differently, i.e. pro American or pro-peace? I am Pro American.

You describe Israel as the only stable democracy in the Middle East. Do you then condone the treatment as second-class citizens of more than a million Israeli Arabs?
I would not condone such reality. At the same time most Israeli Arabs prefer to live under Israeli law than an Arab government.

Israeli laws favor Jews over other faiths and many Christian Arabs including Bishop Hanna Attalla strongly critiques Israel’s practices that among others prevent Christians and Muslims from freely praying in Jerusalem. Would you speak up for or against this reality?
Just as I would like to see more Arabs speak up against the terrorists who are terrorizing both Arabs and Jews.

Do you support the call by some politicians to move the Israel embassy to Jerusalem and to declare occupied east Jerusalem as part of Israel’s capital? Yes.In your statement on Israel, you state that the Palestinians are not ready to make peace with Israel. Do you believe the Palestinians really want to drive the Jews into the sea? MANY extremists would love nothing more. The majority of moderate Arabs are silent and allowing the extremist to speak for them, silence is agreement.

Do you accept the argument that Israel has a biblical right to the entirety of Palestine/Israel? YES

In your view, what is the most practical solution for the conflict?
When both sides love their children enough to reach a peace together and with one another. I believe that two parties MUST reach their own peace, without pressure from outside forces.

Do you support conditioning foreign aid on whether it serves America’s national interests? If so, how do you see our close to $4 billion to Israel serves our national interests?
Israel is the only stable democracy in the region and a reliable American ally. Israel also provides America with priceless intelligence.

Israel nuclear weapons capability is an open secret. In your view, why should only Israel have such weapons in the Middle East?
The fact that Israel has nuclear weapons for almost fifty years and its still a secret, in it self says a lot. If Iran had nuclear weapons for one day, it would not be a secret.

While Iran is a member of the NPT, Israel is not, Iran has allowed international inspectors to visit their nuclear sites. Israel has never done so, Should we demand of Israel to reveal its nuclear arsenal? No need

Are you in support of Israel’s declares intentions to attack Iran?
Israel is a sovereign nation that is being threatened by Iran.

Do you support the call for a nuclear free Middle East?
The problem is not Arab vs. Jew, it is stable vs. unstable. I do not trust Iran with a pack of matches.

We have sent the same set of questions to all the republican and democratic candidates for NJ Senate. A review of and commentary on their answers is forthcoming. Mr. Qarmout will have to work hard to earn my vote.

Aref Assaf, PhD, is president of American Arab Forum, a think tank specializing in Arab and Muslim American affairs.

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