Bill Thompson, a candidate for mayor, has garnered the support of Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a follower of Meir Kahane and the Jewish Defense League (Photo via Dov Hikind’s website)
One of the leaders of the push to intimidate student organizers and the Brooklyn College administration over this evening’s boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) event at the school is a politician with links to a far-right Jewish group labeled a “terrorist” organization by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And a progressive candidate for mayor, Bill Thompson, is standing right by his side.
Dov Hikind, the Orthodox Jewish power broker who represents Borough Park in the New York State Assembly, has been railing against the BDS event and organized a January 31st press conference against the panel discussion. The conference was attended by a number of New York politicians who spewed falsehoods and smears about the boycott Israel movement. Notably, Thompson, a current mayoral candidate and former Comptroller who is considered a progressive, was happy to help Hikind out. Following the lead of Hikind’s rants, Thompson said the BDS movement expresses “hate.”
At the January 31 press event, Hikind claimed that Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler, the two speakers at tonight’s event, are supporters of Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. But it’s the height of irony for Hikind to be claim to be worried about terrorism. Hikind was a close follower of Meir Kahane, who founded the Jewish Defense League and the racist Kach political party in Israel. The FBI has labeled the JDL a “violent extremist Jewish organization” and a “right-wing terrorist group.”
Writing in The Nation, Max Blumenthal has more on the JDL’s violent past and Hikind’s ties to the group:
Hikind gained his earliest experience in the early 1970s in local New York politics as an acolyte of Meir Kahane, the fanatical rabbi-turned-Israeli Member of Knesset who called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and establishment of a theocratic state of “Judea” in the West Bank. “I’m proud of every single moment, let me make that very clear. Rabbi Kahane had a great influence on me,” Hikind declared in 2008. Under Kahane’s guidance, Hikind became active in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a nationwide extremist network that attacked Arab-American and Soviet targets while rallying vigilante squads to “protect” working-class Jews living in African-American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods…
In their book on the plot to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, journalists Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman reported that Hikind had been arraigned in a federal court in 1976 for tossing a smoke bomb into the Ugandan mission after the Israeli rescue of passengers kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists on an Air France jetliner in Entebbe, Uganda. “A decade later the FBI suspected him of involvement in planning a string of six bombings against Arab targets in NY, Massachusetts and California—in which one man was killed and seven were injured—but no evidence was found against him,” Karpin and Friedman wrote. Two JDL members who fled from FBI prosecution to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank had been involved with Hikind in a campaign to undermine the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to Karpin and Friedman.
The most significant figure the JDL was suspected of killing was Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) western regional director Alex Odeh. However, the FBI was never able to apprehend the likely perpetrators. After the murder of Odeh, more assaults followed on ADC offices, including a pipe bomb attack in Boston that critically wounded a member of a police bomb squad. In an interview with Robert I. Friedman, Hikind said he supported forming a group of “intelligent professionals” to assassinate Nazis and Arab-American supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
But before you dismiss Hikind as some kind of fringe crackpot better ignored, take a look at his influence. Blumenthal notes that Hikind has “established himself as one of the most influential Jewish politicians in New York, delivering pivotal support to candidates from former Senator Alfonse D’Amato to former Governor George Pataki”:
These days, political upstarts from across the spectrum are eager for Hikind’s endorsement. In the 2011 special election held after Representative Anthony Weiner’s embarrassing resignation, Hikind helped deliver victory to Bob Turner, a Republican gentile running against David Weprin, an Orthodox Jewish Democrat. Hikind said he backed Turned in order to “send a message to President Obama” about his supposedly insufficient support for Israel. There was also the fact that Weprin supported same-sex marriage, an absolute faux pas for the ferociously anti-gay Hikind, who has compared homosexuality to incest.
In a Democratic congressional primary last year, Hikind threw his weight behind Hakeem Jeffries, a youthful African-American Democrat running against Charles Barron, a veteran black nationalist community organizer and unapologetic supporter of Palestinian rights. At a press conference convened in support of Jeffries, Hikind joinedtop local Democrats, including Representative Jerry Nadler and the late Mayor Ed Koch, in denouncing Barron as “hateful,” a “scary monster” and an “anti-Semite”—the same language directed against organizers of the Brooklyn College BDS forum. “I really feel that Hakeem Jeffries is a superstar,” Hikind gushed. Weeks later, Jeffries cruised to an easy victory over Barron.
So Thompson, a candidate for mayor, is clearly looking to secure votes from New York’s politically influential Orthodox Jewish community. And to do that, he is standing by Hikind. In fact, they have a longer history together. In 2009, Hikind endorsed Thompson’s mayoral run, and said that he has known him for “more than 30 years.” Hikind also decried “politics of fear” and “divisiveness.” You can watch the endorsement here:
Thompson is a man who claims to be against racism. He has come out strongly against the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” practices that have targeted communities of color in the city. “We have to end stop-and-frisk in New York City as we know it. It is wrong what is occurring right now,” Thompson said last year.
But Thompson clearly operates on a double standard: he remains silent about the NYPD’s blanket surveillance of Muslim communities. And he’s thrown his lot in with Dov Hikind, an anti-Muslim, anti-Arab bigot who wants the NYPD to profile Muslims in the subway system and was part of the smear campaign that took down Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of the city’s first dual-language Arabic public school. Additionally, in 2006, Hikind supported a group of Jewish teenagers who beat up a young Pakistani man in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.
Thompson’s hypocrisy is now out in the open, and it’s clear his statements against the BDS movement are about pandering for votes. So the next time you hear Thompson rail against “stop and frisk,” remember that he has no qualms about virulent racism directed against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. When it comes to Hikind’s racism, Thompson turns a blind eye.