Moran Can't Keep His Tongue Tied
by John Berlau
Jim Moran is sorry. Not for what he said, really, but for the way it came out. As he put it, "I've got to be more careful in the future to not say things I don't believe."
After a series of statements that were insulting and offensive to Jews and that attacked Israel, this seven-term Democratic congressman from the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington managed to top them all. At a March antiwar rally in Reston, Va., he blamed Jews for the impending war with Iraq. As reported by The Connection newspapers of Northern Virginia, Moran said that "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."
After other press outlets picked up these remarks, Moran attempted to backpedal, saying he was sorry if he "unintentionally offended with my insensitive remarks." In a still subsequent apology, he said he "should not have singled out the Jewish community" and regretted "giving any impression that its members are somehow responsible for the course of action being pursued by the administration." In fact, Moran said, he couldn't be anti-Semitic because his daughter is marrying a Jew and in the process of converting to Judaism.
That was not enough for six rabbis in Northern Virginia, who issued a statement calling on Moran to resign. "We have reached the end of our patience with Congressman Jim Moran and his treatment of the Jewish community and its concerns," the statement read. "[F]rom the floor of the House of Representatives to public meetings with various constituent groups, Congressman Moran has regularly singled out the Jewish community and its historical support for the state of Israel for criticism that echoes the most scandalous rhetoric of the last century."
Jack Moline, the rabbi at the Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, part of Moran's district, tells Insight that the congressman's actions and rhetoric have gone too far. "I find most of his politics to be parallel with mine, but this is about his suitability for office," Moline says. As for Moran's apology, Moline says it's part of an all-too-familiar pattern. "He apologizes and then does it again," Moline laments. "He doesn't learn from his mistakes; only apologizes for them." In addition to Moran's offensive comments, Moline also is troubled by the congressman's inappropriate behavior, such as "the shoving match on the floor of the House" in 1995, in which Moran assaulted Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), the highly decorated Vietnam war hero.
Dan Drummond, Moran's spokesman, declined to comment on behalf of his boss and did not respond to any of Insight's questions by press time.
Moran's embarrassing remarks, temper tantrums, association with individuals allegedly sympathetic to terrorism, and taking of questionable loans from lobbyists may leave him politically vulnerable in 2004, even though he represents a safe Democratic district. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California has removed Moran from his Democratic leadership post, and six Democrats in the House of Representatives - Henry Waxman and Tom Lantos of California, Martin Frost of Texas, Sander Levin of Michigan, Nita Lowey of New York and Ben Cardin of Maryland - have written to Pelosi saying they will not support him if he runs for Congress in 2004. Virginia state Sen. Leslie Byrne and Fairfax County (Va.) Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kate Hanley have told local newspapers they will consider challenging him in the Democratic primary in 2004.
And don't rule out a strong Republican challenge should Moran make it through the primary, says Mike Lane, chairman of the Republican Party in Moran's 8th Congressional District. Lane notes that with just $60,000 in campaign funds Moran's 2002 GOP challenger, Scott Tate, managed to hold him to 59.5 percent of the vote in the heavily Democratic district. Incumbents who finish below 60 percent are considered to be vulnerable by both parties, Lane says.
Even though Tate did not have Moran's most recent embarrassments with which to campaign against him, use was made of other inflammatory statements Moran had made about Jews and Israel as well as the voting record that has made him one of the most anti-Israel members of Congress. Most infamous of his past remarks was a speech in Alexandria at the June 2001 convention of the American Muslim Council (AMC), which has just announced its merger with the American Muslim Alliance, founded by former Pakistan Communist Party chief Agha Saeed. Moline recalls that at the AMC convention Moran "defamed [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, gave a revisionist history of the state of Israel and made snide comments about Jewish intelligence gathering." As Moline says, "It was a remarkable accomplishment for a 10-minute speech."
Mentioning that Sharon was coming to Washington that week, Moran charged that the Israeli prime minister was "probably seeking a warrant from President [George W.] Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for." Commented Moline, "I'm no supporter of Sharon, but that was defamatory."
Moran also told the AMC that Israel was betraying the original Zionist vision, which he said was a "socialist vision" in which Jews "would undoubtedly always be a minority." In contrast, Moran declared, "The newest vision is one that is based upon might and power." In a thinly veiled reference to Jews, he then announced, "I know in every room where I speak there is always somebody who before the sun goes down will report to your cousins exactly everything that I've said." The reference "before the sun goes down" refers to Jews observing the Sabbath and other holidays that begin at sundown. The remark was greeted with laughter and applause.
In his speech Moran also directed friendly references to individuals who have made a point of attacking Israel and supporting terrorist groups. One of these is Abdurahman Alamoudi, board member and former executive director of the AMC, who is famous for exclaiming at a 2000 rally across from the White House: "Hear that, Bill Clinton? We're all supporters of Hamas! i I am also a supporter of Hezbollah!" Hamas and Hezbollah are listed as terrorist groups by the U.S. State Department and take credit for suicide bombings of innocent civilians, including children.
Moran also had high praise for Alamoudi at a January 2001 event put on by the Muslim Public Affairs Council at Washington's National Press Club. According to IslamOnline.net, when asked if Alamoudi should be someone the U.S. government speaks to about Muslim affairs, Moran said : "Absolutely, yes he should be. i We need every voice that is willing to be constructive." And Moran offered this specious defense for Hamas: "Hamas was established initially to provide social services and with the backing of the Israeli government." In 2002, after the Sept. 11 attack and with bad publicity surrounding Alamoudi, Moran finally gave back a $2,000 contribution from the Muslim activist. Presidential candidate Bush and Senate candidate Hillary Clinton had returned Alamoudi contributions to their campaigns two years earlier.
Moran also lauded former congressman Paul Findley (R-Ill.) in his AMC speech. Findley has defended Hamas and Hezbollah and has railed against Jewish groups he said caused his defeat in 1982. "It's nice to be on the podium with Paul Findley, who's a real hero," Moran said, "and he looks good i for all the people that have been beating him up over the years." Stephen Schwartz, senior policy analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and author of The Two Faces of Islam, says, "Paul Findley is a liar and a propagandist for terrorists, and anybody who thinks that Paul Findley is a hero is unsuitable to serve in the United States Congress."
Like Findley, Moran has made a point of voting against popular resolutions renouncing terrorism and affirming Israel's right to exist. In 1999, Moran was one of only 24 members to vote against a congressional resolution expressing opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state without a negotiated peace settlement. In 2000, he was one of only 20 members who voted against a resolution condemning the new wave of Palestinian terrorism against Israel.
And Moran continues his affinity with militant Islamic groups. Officials of the U.S. Customs Service initiated Operation Green Quest in 2002 to search the Northern Virginia homes and offices of dubious Saudi Arabia-based charities, such as the Saar Foundation and the Muslim World League, associated with what Schwartz calls the "Wahhabi lobby." Moran responded by condemning the Customs agents for "acting like cowboys." He told the Falls Church News-Press of Virginia, "Just because someone has an Islamic last name or marginal association with someone who may have an association with someone who had an association with someone, it is not sufficient justification to break in, ransack and make a shambles of a home."
But Customs had obtained search warrants approved by a federal court for every one of the locations searched, and copies of the warrants were provided to Insight and other media. "It is an outrageous and despicable slander or libel against conscientious, professional and ethical U.S. government employees to suggest that the Green Quest operation was based on anything other than a correct investigation into the funding of terrorism," says Schwartz, a Sufi Muslim. "Jim Moran is a protector of the worst elements in the American Islamic community: Wahhabi fanatics, supporters of terrorism and extremist gangsters."
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