We have long predicted that the British Labour Party’s battle over alleged anti-semitism is coming to the States, and yesterday it reared its ugly head, when the New York Democratic Party all but accused Cynthia Nixon, the actress who is challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming September 13 primary, of being anti-Semitic. The party did so in a mailer to Jewish voters a day before Rosh Hashanah. The party later apologized for the mailing amid a storm of criticism.
The mailer cites BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, saying that Nixon “supports BDS, the racist, xenophobic campaign against Israel.”
Nixon is said not to support BDS, but the boycott word points to a real difference between the candidates. Andrew Cuomo has made it illegal for the state to put public money into groups that support BDS and bragged about being the first governor in the country to do so.
Nixon supported a boycott targeting an illegal settlement in the West Bank in 2010.
The Jewish press predicted when Nixon entered the race last spring that the campaign would divide New York Jews over policy in the West Bank. But that has not happened, yet anyway.
The mailer was sent to Jewish voters. It states that it was paid for by the New York State Democratic Committee, and reads:
With anti-Semitism and bigotry on the rise, we can’t take a chance with inexperienced Cynthia Nixon, who won’t stand strong for Jewish communities. Cynthia Nixon:
–Against Funding Yeshivas.
–Supports BDS, the racist, xenophobic campaign against Israel.
–Silent on the rise of anti-Semitism.
The NY Post reported that Nixon has actually dodged the yeshiva funding question and says that the mailer “falsely accuses” her of being silent on anti-Semitism, and of supporting BDS.
The Post quotes a lot of Dems responding angrily, saying that the mailer was beyond the pale– among them Randi Weingarten, a bigtime Israel supporter. NY City Council member Brad Lander is vigorously defending Nixon:
Smearing @CynthiaNixon (whose kids are being raised Jewish, BTW) as soft on anti-Semitism & lying about her position on Israel in order to fearmonger and shill for votes is a shameful dead-end for our party.
Geoff Berman, executive director of the NY Democratic Party, apologized for the mailer at 8 o’clock last night:
Let me be very clear: This mailer was a mistake and is inappropriate and is not the tone the Democratic Party should set — it will not happen again.
Cynthia Nixon is angry.
The mailers that Governor Cuomo and the NY State Democratic Party have sent out are not only an attack on my family, but on all New Yorkers. At a time when anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and other hate crimes are on the rise, it’s sickening to exploit people’s real fears like this.
Our children’s grandparents escaped the Holocaust but many of their family members did not. The accusation that my family promotes anti-Semitism is deeply offensive. Democrats should be coming together, not engaging in Trump-style tactics.
Later Berman said:
The state Party sent out a wrong and inappropriate mailer — we will work with the Nixon campaign to send out a mailing of their choosing to the same universe of people.
What’s that “universe”? Jewish voters.
Lis Smith, a Cuomo spokesperson, said the governor had nothin to do with it.
Governor Cuomo didn’t approve of or have any knowledge of the mailer in question. He disagrees with the language in it, believes it is inappropriate, and urges voters to focus on the real issues in this race.
Brad Lander isn’t buying:
Classic dirty politics. Send a mailing you know is heinous & false at the last minute. Hope you don’t get caught. If you do, promise “it will not happen again” when it’s too late to matter. This is indeed, “not the tone the Democratic Party should set.” But you set it.
Pretty convenient for the Governor to use the NYS Democratic Party to do the dirty work of his dog-whistle attack politics and then “condemn” it.
Back before Nixon announced, Alan Dershowitz called her “anti-Israel” because she had signed on to a petition approving boycott of the Ariel settlement in the West Bank. He tweeted:
Cynthia Nixon may run for Gov of NY. She has collaborated with Israel haters Jewish Voice for Peace and Vanessa Redgrave in boycotting Israel. Do not support her bigotry.
Dershowitz was referring to a September 2010 letter Nixon signed, joining together with 150 American actors, writers, directors and other artists to voice support for Israeli actors who had declared they would not perform in the settlements, refusing to take their productions to a newly-built cultural center in the West Bank city of Ariel.
The petitions signatories included Redgrave – along with actors Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn and playwright Tony Kushner, and was organized by the Jewish Voice For Peace group that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is on Israel’s BDS blacklist.
When she announced, the NY Jewish Week predicted that the two candidates, Nixon and Cuomo, would battle over just this issue, boycott of the West Bank. It quoted Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
Sheinkopf said that although Nixon “probably believes she will win the East Side and the West Side, she should rethink that because the Jews there are mostly Israel supporters and not boycotters. A boycott is a boycott and that is what she supported, whereas Cuomo has been against BDS and is pro-Israel.”…
“Cynthia Nixon will try to be in two places at the same time,” Sheinkopf added, “which means she is nowhere at all. She can’t run away from her past. Cuomo is against the boycott, she is for the boycott.”
Nixon had a long-time Jewish partner; their two children were raised Jewish. Her current partner and she are members of a NY city congregation. The Forward has written of Nixon’s Jewish life that she has
a deep and abiding connection to Judaism through her family. Her two eldest children from a previous relationship with English professor Danny Mozes are Jewish… Nixon’s son with her current partner, education activist Christine Marinoni, is expected to become bar mitzvah at the synagogue they now attend, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in midtown Manhattan, which describes itself as the world’s largest LGBT synagogue.
Beit Simchat Torah is led by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who is married to Weingarten. Last night the two, who have stayed neutral in the race, issued a statement:
Tonite we saw a mailer from the NYS Democratic Party directed to Jewish Voters. We are both used to rough and tumble political advertising, particularly this close to Election Day, but this piece was beyond the pale.
Amongst other distortions, it suggested Cynthia Nixon was ok with anti Semitism, stating she was “silent on the rise of antisemitism”…
Cynthia is no anti Semite. It’s a baseless lie.
Norman Finkelstein points out that the incident recalls a dirty trick in the 1977 NY mayoral primary, when signs appeared on city streets saying “Vote For Cuomo Not the Homo.” Mario Cuomo was battling Ed Koch in the race, and denied any connection to the signs, though Koch, who was rumored to be gay, held it against Cuomo for years. Memo to Cynthia Nixon: Koch won that race. Cuomo was elected governor five years later.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.