Daily Israel Report

Leftist Jews Oppose NYC Mayor Over Pro-Israel Stance

58 liberal Jews write open letter condemning de Blasio's speech at AIPAC; conservative leaders issue angry response.
By Ari Yashar and Ari Soffer
First Publish: 2/5/2014, 9:29 AM

Bill de Blasio
Bill de Blasio
Reuters

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has raised the ire of leftist Jews by expressing his support of Israel in a closed meeting with AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) last month.

During the January 23 meeting, de Blasio told AIPAC members "City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job."

58 Jewish leftist leaders from New York responded on January 29 in an open letter to de Blasio, in which they denounced his statement as not representing the views of his constituents - namely those signing the letter.

"Your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us," reads the letter.

The letter was signed by a range of leftists, from leaders of the Reform sect, to "liberal Zionist" Peter Beinart, to Rebecca Vilkomerson, who heads the radical anti-Zionist "Jewish Voice for Peace".

It is worth noting that Israel's "hard-line government" has proposed having Jews live under the Palestinian Authority (PA), proposed leasing Judea and Samaria from the PA, has repeatedly released terrorist murderers as a "gesture," and is in negotiations that include talks to create an Arab capital in Jerusalem.

In speaking later about his AIPAC talk, de Blasio said “as the mayor of the city that has this extraordinary deep tie to Israel, and the huge Jewish population we have, I do think it’s incumbent upon me to defend the state of Israel in the context of a very hostile world.”

At the same time, he stated “I think the deal that has been struck with Iran is an incredible first step. So I’ll obviously have my differences with any given organization or any given foreign government.”

Israel has been fiercely opposed to Iran's nuclear program, fearing its use within the context of regular threats by Iran to destroy the Jewish state. Iranian lawmaker, cleric, and Majilis (council) member Mohammed Nabavian stated in early January that "having a nuclear bomb is necessary to put down Israel." Israeli leaders have been highly critical of the recent deal struck between Iran and western powers over the program, which they feel let the Islamic regime off lightly.

The backlash by liberal American Jewish leaders to de Blasio's pro-Israel statements triggered an angry response from several conservative figures, who issued their own ad. In a joint letter, penned by seven Jewish academics and communal leaders, the response compare the liberal stance with that of US Jews during the Holocaust, who according to some historical analysis "did nothing" to stop the genocide, even as the US government reportedly chose intentionally not to bomb Nazi death camps to avoid an influx of Jews.

"The State of Israel faces an existential threat from the Islamic fascist dictatorship of Iran," the response began. "If, God-forbid, the State of Israel were destroyed, it will mean the end of the Jewish people worldwide."

"In 1943, Rabbi Stephen Wise urged President Franklin Roosevelt not to meet with the group of rabbis who marched to the White House in a vain attempt to save some of the Jews not yet exterminated by Germany and its collaborators.

"In 2014, “leading Jews” have written to New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, following his eloquent speech at AIPAC in defense of Israel. They counsel him that it is not his place to speak at AIPAC and that AIPAC does not speak for them."

Speaking to New York's Jewish community, they continued: "We ask that you make your opposition known regarding the position of American Jews who publicly oppose the basic, mainstream demonstration by elected officials of support for the State of Israel. AIPAC, like the JCRCs and the Federations are the backbone of the American Jewish community and they represent mainstream America Jewry. Mainstream Jewry expects and appreciates support for Israel from its elected officials and the primary organ which manifests this support: AIPAC.

Some of de Blasio's remarks from the AIPAC meeting can be heard here: