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A month later, de Blasio’s AIPAC declaration continues to roil New York

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Photo by Chiu Ng

New Yorkers protested Bill de Blasio’s AIPAC speech outside City Hall in February. Photo by Chiu Ng

New Yorkers organized by Jews Say No! slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in a letter delivered to City Hall yesterday. 700 people signed on to a missive calling the main U.S. Israel lobby group a “right-wing organization that strong-arms elected and other government officials to support brutal Israeli government policies.”

The letter was sent a month after New York City Mayor de Blasio delivered a speech to AIPAC where he said part of his “job description is to be a defender of Israel” and that “City Hall will always be open to AIPAC.” The secret speech, revealed first by Capital New York‘s Azi Paybarah and Sally Goldenberg, has riled up the left-wing Jewish activist community.

The Jews Say No! letter needles de Blasio over how a progressive politician is supporting a right-wing lobby group. “The story of Israel and Palestine is, without question, a tale of two different realities—with its inequalities fully supported by the power of the Israeli government, the disproportionate political influence of AIPAC, and the U.S. government,” the letter states.  “We believe these fundamental inequalities should resonate with you, who campaigned against the idea that NYC should no longer be ‘a tale of two cities.'”

De Blasio’s AIPAC speech was supposed to be run-of-the-mill–just another routine stop where the mayor can proclaim his love for the Jewish state.  Instead, it’s turned into a bit of a headache for the new mayor.

On Wednesday, MSNBC host Chris Hayes questioned the mayor on whether defending Israel was his job.  “I got to say as a New Yorker, I thought ‘I don’t know if that’s true. I voted for this guy, and I don’t know if it’s part of the job description for him to be a defender of Israel,'” Hayes told de Blasio, according to a transcript posted by reporter Jacob Kornbluh.  In response, the mayor said:

“Look, I said something that was personal. I said something that was about my belief that we have to defend the state of Israel. And I think that has everything to do with the alliance that we have with Israel, the history have and particularly as New Yorkers, the deep, deep connection with have personally with Israel. I think it’s also a matter of protecting democracy.”

Here’s video of the exchange:

In the immediate aftermath of de Blasio’s AIPAC speech, a group of 58 prominent Jews–including Peter Beinart, the Jewish Communal Fund’s Karen Adler and feminist icon Gloria Steinem–penned an open letter telling the mayor, “no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so.”

That letter, in turn, sparked right-wing pushback in the form of printed advertisements. It also caused a contretemps within an important Upper West Side Jewish institution: B’nai Jeshrun.  Two rabbis from the synagogue signed the letter. But some of the members of B’nai Jeshrun were angry at the rabbis for doing so, as Beinart noted in a recent Haaretz column. In response, a group of B’nai Jeshrun congregants issued their own open letter, criticizing the rabbis for signing a missive that included “a leader of the boycott divestment and sanctions movement” (presumably Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rebecca Vilkomerson).

“Instead of signing the letter to the Mayor,” the upset congregants told the rabbis, “you should have stood by Israel and urged its authors not to send it because it ran counter to the truth and to the tenets of tolerance that you have often preached.”

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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  1. urihoresh on February 21, 2014, 12:28 pm

    Alex, I’m sure you didn’t *mean* to say “Jewish state,” unless you were quoting or paraphrasing the mayor himself, were you?

    • on February 21, 2014, 4:02 pm

      What a gutless liar. He told AIPAC that it is his job as mayor of NYC to defend Israel. Here he claims it was a personal belief, the goes into “the only democracy in the middle east” nonsense, then goes right back and says since a lot of Jews live in NYC it is his job.

      This guy really sucks

  2. Justpassingby on February 21, 2014, 12:43 pm

    HE comes out even more stupid. Why didnt MSNBC challenged him on his pro-israel propaganda?

    • paabrhm on February 21, 2014, 2:42 pm

      Hayes really dropped the ball, giving this guy a pass. I guess that is what happens when you make it to prime time. After all, the mayor is sooo good on all the ‘important’ issues. Lost a lot of respect for Hayes watching his pandering.

      • narcissist on February 21, 2014, 9:07 pm

        I am no expert but the fact we are engaging, is a credit to All In. A mayor of a major City appear on prime time to address “job description”, in a segment 1m:20sec, only make him look like a fool. Then again I see what I want to see.

  3. a blah chick on February 21, 2014, 1:00 pm

    “I think it’s also a matter of protecting democracy.”

    And what better way to protect “democracy” than to arrest a few five year and burn of few olive groves. Then there was this:
    “the upset congregants told the rabbis, “you should have stood by Israel and urged its authors not to send it because it ran counter to the truth and to the tenets of tolerance that you have often preached.” What are they talking about?

  4. The JillyBeans on February 21, 2014, 1:25 pm

    Mayor de Blasio has truly lost me now. I was shocked when he tweeted about Rabbi O Yosef, which many pointed out was a bigoted man. It’s as if de Blasio is politically bi-polar; left wing in America, right wing in Israel. He’s like the anti-Breyer and become rather right winged after getting into office.

  5. pabelmont on February 21, 2014, 2:42 pm

    Did I ever tell you the story about the 4 rabbis who walked into a bar at night?

    Each one got asked a question, you know. One was asked if doing AIPAC’s bidding was part of deBlasio’s job. One was asked if defending Israel is more important than defending Judaism, democracy, human rights, etc. And so forth and so on.

    Rabbis should stay out of bars at night. Unless the night is different from all other nights.

  6. Shingo on February 21, 2014, 3:10 pm

    “I think it’s also a matter of protecting democracy.”

    Because we all know that being a democracy means never having to say you’re sorry.

    I would like to ask this political hack if he supported the Vietnam and Iraq wars, seeing US is a democracy.

  7. on February 21, 2014, 3:23 pm

    All well and good — but how many of de Blasio’s top aides quit after that groveling performance? A speech BY THE MAYOR not mentioned on his public schedule?? A speech BY THE MAYOR wherein a reporter was thrown from the room??? Did a single one of de Blasio’s aides show any integrity by, say, resigning?

    Of course not. So why don’t they just shut up. They’re as much of the problem as he is.

  8. radii on February 21, 2014, 4:29 pm

    hopefully it is the last time a powerful U.S. political figure feels the need to scrape and grovel before the zionists for all to see … what a disgusting spectacle and really it harkens to an era that has now passed

  9. Krusty on February 21, 2014, 4:31 pm

    A few points here:

    a) I live in NYC and I’m not unengaged with the progressive left. I don’t sense any real dismay with the mayor’s policy, feelings, or rhetoric vis a vis Israel at all.

    b) de Blasio’s statements to AIPAC were nothing new. Starting at :37, you’ll notice rhetoric directly in keeping with this from a mayoral debate. Moreover, listen to GOP candidate Joe Lhota for similarly intense rhetoric.

    “There is no closer relationship on earth — literally no closer relationship — than that between New York City and the state of Israel.” Mr. de Blasio declared. “As mayor, It’s my sacred responsibility to speak out and defend the State of Israel.”

    c) Mayor de Blasio’s campaign and time as Public Advocate was full of deep throated supported for Israel. All politics is local, right? Bill de Blasio favors Likudnik policy. There is no practical downside to that in NYC beyond offending voters who may well be to the left of his base, and it would seem that the Mayor is simply ardent in his views There is nothing secretive about this, nothing weird, and certainly nothing nasty. It’s likely that the worst case here is just that he’s pandering to his base.

    • Citizen on February 21, 2014, 6:30 pm

      @ Krusty

      If his base is in Israel, why’s he the mayor of NYC?

    • piotr on February 22, 2014, 4:41 am

      “There is no closer relationship on earth — literally no closer relationship — than that between New York City and the state of Israel.”

      It is high time for NYC to pay attention to the relationship with New Jersey. Or Yonkers. And as his sacred responsibilities go, this reminds me a policeman in Florida who thought that it is his responsibility to arrest a women who told him that she is recording him. Later the legal adviser of that police department informed the troopers that citizens actually can legally record them.

  10. Kathleen on February 21, 2014, 6:28 pm

    Glad you picked up the Hayes link. Hayes started to play hard ball and then folded.

  11. David Doppler on February 21, 2014, 8:32 pm

    Phil described the phenomenon of “valuable hatred” by Slavers toward “radical” Abolitionists creating public fireworks through which the broader community gradually developed a school of thought that found the slave culture to be unacceptable. Romney got taped pandering to the one percent. De Blasio to AIPAC. House of Cards, Scandal depict thoroughly corrupt, highly deceptive politics in DC. AIPAC’s fellow travelers forced Secretary Hagel to fellate the donkey. Perhaps “Valuable pandering” may be an analogue, by which a school of thought is growing up that finds pandering to special interests, giving AIPAC and those who pander to it a free pass to corruption, unacceptable.

  12. Shuki on February 21, 2014, 11:11 pm

    MSNBC took a break from prison reality shows and spent all of 1:17 asking the mayor a single question on a barely watched broadcast.

    How groundbreaking

  13. gingershot on February 21, 2014, 11:46 pm

    I’ve had it with Blasio.

    No more KY for him and the donkey

  14. anthonybellchambers on February 22, 2014, 7:27 am

    If America is the global superpower that exerts a financial and political controlling interest within world capitals, and the US Congress is the elected body that controls the White House, the presidency and legislature: but the AIPAC lobby in Washington ,’a de facto agent for a foreign government’, has a stranglehold on Congress – then who effectively exerts global control?

    Is it the UN, the US or a non-elected, privately financed, political pressure group acting for a small state on the eastern Mediterranean that also happens to possess an undeclared arsenal of up to 400 nuclear warheads and a covert fleet of cruise-missile-armed submarines?

    Answers please, on a postcard, to the UN Security Council with a copy to the EU Parliament, the NY Times, WSJ and the Washington Post. Oh! And to Pravda, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, London Times, Pravda, Gulf News and the South China Morning Post.

    (1st prize – one box of 1000 potassium iodate tablets)


  15. Talkback on February 22, 2014, 2:28 pm

    The Jews that say no are AWESOME.

    “Instead of signing the letter to the Mayor,” the upset congregants told the rabbis, “you should have stood by Israel and urged its authors not to send it because it ran counter to the truth and to the tenets of tolerance that you have often preached.”

    What about the tenets of tolerance when it comes to the right of return for Palestinian refugees, you racist hypocrits?

  16. Shaco on February 23, 2014, 1:44 am

    “There is no closer relationship on earth — literally no closer relationship — than that between New York City and the state of Israel.”

    Ohh, so that’s why 9/11 happened.

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