If he had to do it all over again, Jets rookie offensive lineman Oday Aboushi wouldn’t change a thing when asked about his recent speaking engagement at a conference run by the El Bireh Palestine Society.
Held in late June at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va., the El Bireh convention was billed as an opportunity for young Palestinian professionals to network and hear several high-profile speakers. But the society was labeled by the conservative outlet FrontPage Magazine as one that “denies Israel’s existence and associates with those involved in violence against her citizens.” The article further questioned Aboushi’s political leanings and his Twitter feed was scrutinized.
The Brooklyn native tells Metro New York the conference was not about terrorist politics.
“It was pretty much a group just celebrating young Palestinian accomplishments. There was a director of films there and I was a speaker there and it was an opportunity to hear great people speak there,” Aboushi said. “I knew it was a good conference to speak at -- a safe conference. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary when I went there. I mean, it was held in the Marriott in D.C. Everything checked out for me.”
The El Bireh website features a photograph of Aboushi on its front page and a message of support for the Jets rookie after the recent media attention for his participation at the conference. The website labeled him “as an excellent role model and inspiration to our youth.” FrontPage magazine was called “fringe hate media” for their story.
Aboushi said he did his homework on the group and the conference and felt comfortable speaking before the young people who were gathered there. Attempts by Metro New York to acquire a copy of Aboushi’s speech went unanswered by El Bireh.
He said his message was a motivational one for the audience and not one of hate. In fact, he talked about the opportunities found in America as something that would be beneficial for young Palestinian emigrants.
“[I said] pretty much that you have as much freedom and rights as anyone else, even if you’re a different race or religion,” Aboushi said. “It doesn’t mean it has to restrict you with anything you want to do. This is America, the greatest country in the world. To be in this country, the sky is the limit for anybody who puts in some effort and work.”
Personally, he is holding up well after the attacks and credits his family and the local Palestinian community and Jets organization for supporting him during the media firestorm that followed. There are no regrets on his part and, in fact, said he would do it all over again.
“I wouldn’t do anything different. I am proud of who I am and what I do and what I did,” Aboushi said. “I didn’t do anything wrong, didn’t break any laws [and] I didn’t disrespect anybody. I don’t have any regrets.”
Aboushi is more than a lightning rod for political scrutiny. The team’s fifth-round pick, he was an outstanding offensive lineman at Virginia, who earned All-ACC honors his senior year.
On the field, his first training camp is progressing. He is currently running with the second-team offensive line and is looking relatively solid. At the beginning of camp, he weighed in at 322 pounds and he said the medical and coaching staff are pleased with his weight.
Now it is all about learning and doing his best to progress.
“It starts with your mentality -- get your assignments down, get your position down [and] that way you’re able to play fast. That way you can be physical,” Aboushi said. “Once you’re able to play fast, you just want to roll with it.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.