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
Michael S. Smith
Michael L Spiegel
Rosza Daniel Lang/Levitsky
Alice Sturm Sutter
Linda J. Arkin
Blanche Wiesen Cook
Lana Dee Povitz
Ellen Rachel Davidson
Major Ken Mayers
Allen J. Zerkin
Judith Eisenscher Schaffner
Brian A. Kates
Joyce Iskowitz Rosenthal Gaffney