On February 4, 2014, the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) sent New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio the letter reproduced below. In it we invited the city’s new “progressive” mayor to tour Palestine/Israel, meet with Palestinian representatives, and witness Palestinian reality with his own eyes. The letter was prompted by Mayor de Blasio’s recent, behind-closed-doors meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in which he declared to the largest pro-Israel lobbying organization in the United States that part of his new job as mayor is to defend Israel. The idea behind the letter was to take the mayor up on his campaign promise to bring greater transparency and community accountability to New York City government–qualities which had significantly diminished under the previous administration of Michael Bloomberg and which are once again severely challenged by Mayor de Blasio’s veritable declaration of fealty to, and secretive behavior respecting, AIPAC and the foreign government it serves. As of this writing, CODZ has received no response from Mayor de Blasio to our kind invitation. We encourage others to communicate with him about his clearly very skewed views about the role and function of a city mayor as well as about Palestinian reality and the struggle in Palestine/Israel.
COMMITTEE FOR OPEN DISCUSSION OF ZIONISM
Honorary Co-chairs: James Abourezk • Kathleen Chalfant • Richard Falk • Ghada Karmi • Michael Ratner • Howard Zinn (in memorium)
February 4, 2014
Honorable Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York, New York 10007
Dear Mayor de Blasio:
The Committee for an Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) is a New York City-based, fiscally sponsored organization established in 2007 by a group of concerned Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist and agnostic professionals and activists. Our aim is to combat the unremittent efforts to stifle open public discussion or criticism of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians—including those who are citizens of Israel, those who live under actual or de facto occupation, and those who are part of the worldwide Palestinian diaspora.
Members of CODZ followed with great interest and much support your campaign for the mayorship of the city, and we have applauded your successful effort to bring to the spotlight of electoral politics the growing social, economic and political disparities in our city. We congratulate you now on becoming the 109th Mayor of New York City and pledge to work with you to try to overcome the gross inequities and inequalities it faces. We strongly agree that New York should be a city that works for everyone in it.
In your position as Mayor you have and will continue to be called upon to support numerous constituencies who are concerned about a wide variety of issues. Along the way, you will no doubt be besieged by conflicting requests, and at times you will have to make difficult decisions as you adjudicate the merits of competing arguments. Inevitably, your opinions will be framed by the groups whose interests and experiences have been most compellingly brought to your attention.
CODZ regards itself as part and parcel of the growing peace and justice community in New York City, and we are concerned that, while you have visited Israel and been exposed to the copious perspectives, for example the position of AIPAC, which have been advanced on its behalf both there and at home, you have not gained an equivalent familiarity with Palestine, its people and the dire situation that endures there, decade after decade. You may well have heard about the checkpoints and other barriers to movement and travel, water restrictions, school closures, sewage crises, house demolitions, olive grove decimations, military attacks on nonviolent protesters, the Wall that separates many people from their livelihoods as well as their relatives inside Israel, arbitrary arrests, the massive unemployment and impoverishment created by the occupation, and many other features of Palestinian life. Unless you have confronted this situation up close, it will certainly be hard for you to be moved—to the point not only of sympathy, but of alliance and action—by the conditions in which Palestinians are forced to live, just as your own personal experience with Israel, its supporters and the vast media attention it has received in our own country have surely affected your response to Israel’s pleas and contentions on its behalf.
Toward that end, we extend you an invitation to visit, at your early convenience, the West Bank and—if you can get in!—Gaza, both of which have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. We would be delighted to consult with your schedulers to arrange the details and itinerary for such a trip, including its duration and the persons from various walks of life with whom you could meet and talk—among them ordinary Palestinians, representatives of Palestinian civil society and cultural organizations and of Israeli human rights organizations—to gain a more complete perspective on this critical region. We are convinced that anyone who feels as strongly as you do about the needs of pre-Kindergarteners in New York City will be moved by the desperation of their counterparts in Jenin and Rafah.
We know how busy you are, having just been sworn in to office, so we would be more than happy to start the preliminary planning for you just as soon as we receive your acceptance to our invitation. With great respect for your humanity and the intelligence that informs your decision-making, we sincerely hope that you will take this opportunity to expand your scope of knowledge and experience so as to be optimally responsive to the concerns of all of the people of New York City.
Abdeen Jabara, Esq., Board member, Center for Constitutional Rights
Professor Harriet Malinowitz, Long Island University-Brooklyn
Terri Ginsberg, Ph.D., Board member, International Council for Middle East Studies
Michael Steven Smith, Esq., Co-host, Law & Disorder radio show
Joel Kovel, M.D.
Nina Felshin, Board member, Deep Dish TV
Jonathan House, M.D., Columbia University
Dennis James, Esq.