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An open letter to Mayor de Blasio From your Jewish constituents

on 8 Comments

Dear Mayor de Blasio,

Your recent statements about Israel and about antisemitism at AIPAC and, before that, in NYC on Feb. 14th, are extremely troubling and damaging.

Just some of your remarks:

At AIPAC“That reinforces my commitment to the survival and the security of the State of Israel. Because the Jewish people cannot be safe without the state of Israel…. Israel at its core is there to shelter an oppressed people.”  In your attack on BDS, you said it is: “contrary to the progressive imperative to protect all oppressed people everywhere and always” and “affronts the idea of Israel as a guaranteed refuge for the Jewish people.”

On Feb 14th, while addressing a rally in NYC about combatting antisemitism, you said: “Democrats and Republicans with equal fervor need to say – Israel must exist so the Jewish people know they are always protected.” And you added: Maybe some people don’t realize it, but when they support the BDS movement, they are affronting the right of Israel to exist and that is unacceptable.”

You speak about Israel providing Jewish safety. Standing up for Israeli apartheid, as you have repeatedly done, does not promote safety. Quite the contrary. Our notion of safety is a city and a world in which all people feel and are safe. Yes, that means safety through solidarity with one another. That means safety by opposing all forms of injustice, which very much includes the injustice of occupation and the denial of a people’s right to live freely in their homes and their land.

Further, making blatantly false accusations of antisemitism, as you have done, toward those supporting Palestinian rights through Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)—which is a call made until Israel complies with basic principles of human rights and international law – does not promote safety for anyone – not for Palestinians, not for Jews, not for anyone. Those false accusations also do a grave disservice to the real struggle to challenge actual antisemitism when it occurs, and to the rise of white nationalist antisemitism (and Islamophobia and anti-Black racism), which is what we should be paying attention to.

In all your remarks, your lack of recognition of the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) of 1948, which refers to the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land during the creation of Israel, reveals a gross disregard for the rights and well-being of the Palestinian people. That is also true about your lack of recognition (and denial) of the ongoing Nakba that Palestinians endure at the hands of a brutal Israeli government that disregards their basic civil and human rights.

As you know, a NYC council member just made an unconscionable statement on twitter that “Palestine doesn’t exist….Also, Congresswoman Omar is an anti-Semite.” It is your responsibility as Mayor to ensure that this kind of racist rhetoric is not permitted, and part of that means, through your own words and actions, you have to set a very different tone and leadership than you have done until now.

We do not know whom you think you are representing by your remarks, but please know you do not – do not – speak in the name of thousands upon thousands of Jews like ourselves whose notion of Jewish safety is inseparable from the safety of all our communities from NYC to Palestine.

We call upon you to think about, and to take action to ensure, the well-being of all our communities.

Signatories (list in formation)

Dorothy M. Zellner
Gail Miller
Carol Horowitz
Donna Nevel
Jane Hirschmann
Alan Levine
Sherry Gorelick
Helaine Meisler
Elly Bulkin
Nic Abramson
Leslie Cagan
Hannah Mermelstein
Rosalind Petchesky
Ira Glasser
Richard Levy
Michael S. Smith
Jenny Heinz
Deborah Sagner
Nina Felshin
Linda Gordon
Sarah Sills
Marjorie Fine
James Schamus
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Judith Solomon
Kathleen Peratis
Michael Letwin
Emmaia Gelman
Anita Altman
Elena Stein
Shaina Low
Terry Weber
Richard Blum
Jay Schaffner
Talia Baurer
Ellen Gurzinsky
Michael L Spiegel
Nora Eisenberg
Michael Glick
Daniel Strum
Tami Gold
Renate Bridenthal
Wendy Scribner
Robert Greenberg
Alan Barnes
Rosza Daniel Lang/Levitsky
Alice Sturm Sutter
Ann Cook
Jeremy Pikser
Luise Eichenbaum
Dave Lippman
Rasha Hamid
Ethan Young
Allison Brown
Linda J. Arkin
Carol Bloom
Laura Kogel
Ari Wohlfeiler
Blanche Wiesen Cook
Gayle Kirshenbaum
Mindy Gershon
Karen Smith
Thelma Markowitz
Mike Stein
Lana Dee Povitz
Naomi Brussel
Nina Mehta
Fania Smith
David Cornelius
Laurie Arbeiter
Sheldon Ranz
Alexis Stern
Naomi Allen
Jane Toby
Jake Ratner
Carol Weinshenker
Pierre Stambul
Joel Doerfler
Denise Rickles
Katie Unger
Rosemary Gelbach
Cheryl Qamar
Tzvia Their
Eleanor Bader
Gloria Brandman
Shelly Wise
Esti Marpet
Doreen Shapiro
Eric Jacobson
Tarak Kauff
Ellen Rachel Davidson
Martha Livingston
Irene Siegel
Elena Schwolsky
Michael Zigmond
Stuart Shapiro
Laura Wernick
Ann Rubin
Major Ken Mayers
Meredith Tax
Alicia Kaplow
Linda Cooper
Antonia Weidenbacher
Charles Rosen
Judith Pasternak
Allen J. Zerkin
Sarah Schulman
Audrey Bomse
Peter Belmont
Ann Shirazi
Jeff Olshansky
Nate Goldshlag
David Berger
Michael Myerson
Irena Klepfisz
Judith Eisenscher Schaffner
Ned Rosch
Elizabeth Block
Ellen Cantarow
Jerry Levin
Eli Kassirer
Brian A. Kates
Susan Sherman
Stacy Kaufman
Carol Marsh
Jarret Wolfman
Nick Cooper
Joyce Iskowitz Rosenthal Gaffney
Stuart Waldman

Open Letter

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8 Responses

  1. Keith on April 1, 2019, 4:44 pm

    I count 66 signatures. But how many “Benjamins” can these folks bring to the fight? After all, this is capitalism!

  2. brent on April 1, 2019, 9:48 pm

    This may be a textbook case of how BDS, when perceived as standing alone, the primary tactic, has undesired results. When perceived as being in conjunction with a campaign for human rights, such undesired results would be mitigated. A sustained and organized campaign for equality would have this advantage.

    • echinococcus on April 2, 2019, 12:17 am

      Your comment wasn’t immediately clear, at least to me What’s the “undesired result” here?
      That a number of fine citizens of New York spoke up and told De Blasio where he gets off?
      As for a sustained campaign for equality, it would help to mention who you want to be equal to whom.
      Like, do you mean equality of the robbers and invaders with the owners of the country?
      With what right?

  3. Greta on April 2, 2019, 2:53 am

    The most dangerous country in the world for Jews is Israel. More Jews have died there violently than all other countries put together since WW II. It’s become a huge ghetto for a people who once had an opportunity to do something really noble. Instead, they have done to the Palestinians what was done to them.

    • Misterioso on April 2, 2019, 10:33 am


      “It’s become a huge ghetto for a people who once had an opportunity to do something noble.”

      A “ghetto” indeed, as predicted:
      “Then Secretary of State for India and the British cabinet’s only Jewish member, Lord Edwin Montagu’s response to Prime Minister Lloyd George following issuance of the illegal** (see below) 1917 Balfour Declaration: “All my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto. You want to force me back there.”

      Let’s be honest, like those who dispossessed and expelled well over one million indigenous Palestinian Christian and Muslim Arabs between late 1947 and June 1967, the early Zionists had no intention of doing anything “noble.”

      To wit:
      “We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border…. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” (Theodor Herzl, diary entry, 12 June 1895)

      Israel Zangwill, the influential Anglo-Jewish essayist and Zionist, 1901: [W]e must be prepared to either drive out by the sword the [Arab] tribes in possession…or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population….”

      In May 1911, Arthur Ruppin, one of early Zionism’s leading figures proposed to the Executive of the Zionist Organization, a “population transfer” of the Arab peasants from Palestine.

      In 1918, David Ben-Gurion, described the future borders of the Jewish state as: “to the north, the Litani River; to the northeast, the Wadi’Owja, twenty miles south of Damascus; the southern border will be mobile and pushed into the Sinai at least up to Wadi al-`Arish; and to the east, the Syrian Desert, including the furthest edge of Transjordan.” (Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs)

      In the February 1919 issue of the League of Nations Journal, Zangwill proposed that the Palestinians should be “transplanted” in Arab countries and at a public meeting in the same year he remarked that “many [Palestinians] are semi-nomad, they have given nothing to Palestine and are not entitled to the rules of democracy.” (Jewish Chronicle, Dec. 12 1919).

      Although its origins can be traced back to Herzl and other early Zionists, Plan Dalet (Plan D) began to take concrete form in 1937, when the Jewish Agency’s Transfer Committee was established by Yosef Weitz and others. The committee’s purpose was to devise a plan that would lead to the “transfer” of the Arab population out of Palestine so that Jews would become a large majority. This would be accomplished by “promoting measures designed to encourage the Arab flight.” Weitz did not mince his words: “…there is no room for both people together in this country….The only solution is a Palestine…without Arabs. And there is no way than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe, should be left.” (Yosef Weitz, My Diary and Letters to the Children, 1965).

      Ben-Gurion, 1937: “”[a] partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish state will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety.”

      During a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive on 12 June 1938, Ben-Gurion again advocated expulsion of the Palestinians: “I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see in it anything immoral.” (Benny Morris, “Refabricating 1948”)

      In 1944 and 1947, the basis of Plan D was formulated by Israeli staff officer Yigal Yadin. He described its top priorities as “the destruction of Arab villages near the Jewish settlements and the expulsion of the inhabitants [along with] the domination of the main arteries of transportation that are vital to the Jews and the destruction of Arab villages near them. [Plan D also called for the] siege of Arab towns that are located outside the [Jewish] state created by the UN resolution [e.g., Acre and Jaffa].”

      In December 1947, a Jewish official with the Palestine government was asked by Glubb Pasha, the British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion if he was concerned about the fact that the Jewish state would have so many Arab inhabitants. The official replied: “Oh no! That will be fixed. A few calculated massacres will soon get rid of them.”

      **The 1917 Balfour Declaration was in violation of the well established legal maxim, “Nemo dat quod non habet” (nobody can give what he does not possess) i.e., in 1917, Palestine was a province of the Ottoman Empire. The Balfour Declaration did not call for a Jewish state or homeland in Palestine, only a “national home.” Although the declaration was incorporated into the British Mandate, there was no call for a Jewish state or partition. The British Mandate was a Class A mandate, giving Britain authority to administer Palestine as a WHOLE until it could assume self-government. Churchill made it absolutely clear in a subsequent white paper that a Jewish state or homeland was not in the cards.

      • jackal on April 7, 2019, 8:36 pm

        I believe you have said all this before, but it is well worth repeating.

  4. Elizabeth Block on April 2, 2019, 12:08 pm

    I’ve just asked to add my signature.

  5. Mooser on April 2, 2019, 1:32 pm

    Speaking of New York.

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