Eye on the Middle East May/Jun 2014

Sometimes it boggles the mind to see who some of the people are who withhold support from the State of Israel.

The controversy is starting to die down now, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s remarks in January at a private meeting with American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) board members drew fire from some unexpected places. De Blasio told AIPAC, “There is a philosophical grounding to my belief in Israel and it is my belief, it is our obligation, to defend Israel. But it is also something that is elemental to being an American, because there is no greater ally on earth.”

The meeting was closed to reporters; none of the regional AIPAC meetings are open to the press. But a reporter for the online news site Capital New York (a subsidiary of the Capitol Hill newspaper POLITICO) taped it and released its content. The release created a firestorm of controversy for the newly elected mayor.

De Blasio is New York City’s first Democratic mayor in two decades and the most liberal in its history. Yet most of the furor over his remarks came from those who helped elect him, including many prominent Jewish people.

The New York Post asked, “An Israel lover––in the closet?” The New York Times headline read, “After Private Speech on Israel, de Blasio Is Pressed on Openness Pledge.” Michael Ratner of therealnews.com said de Blasio’s “statements in blanket support of Israel” enable “its violations of Palestinians’ rights.” The Progressive Democrat called the speech “dismaying and depressing.” Thenation.com, a self-described “flagship of the left,” called it “deplorable.”

In fact, 58 leading liberal Jewish rabbis, philanthropists, and cultural figures reacted by signing an open letter to de Blasio saying, “AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.” One Reform rabbi called the speech “a mini-crisis and a major embarrassment.”

De Blasio’s position on Israel is not new. His support is well known and well documented. When he served as public advocate, he called for tough sanctions against Iran until it gives up its quest for nuclear bombs. He stood in solidarity with Israel’s consul general in New York, Ambassador Ido Aharoni, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York to declare publicly his support for the State of Israel.

As a councilman from the borough of Brooklyn, he visited Israel and made it a point to express his solidarity with the city of Sderot, an Israeli town whose citizens are constantly bombarded by missiles launched from Gaza. When he was running for mayor last year, he declared, “If anyone doesn’t like my stance in favor of Israel, they can vote for someone else.”

About a week after the AIPAC meeting, Brian Lehrer interviewed de Blasio on WNYC (public radio) and asked him to clarify his position on Israel. “Given your general politics, I might not have figured you for such an ambiguous supporter of Israel, as opposed to someone who’d speak more about a balance between Israeli security and Palestinian conditions and self-determination,” Lehrer said.

De Blasio corrected him: “You said ambiguous. I assume you meant unambiguous.“

Lehrer was shocked that a self-described Democratic socialist did not fall in step with the well-known progressive stance against Israel.

“I’m unabashedly pro-Israel,” de Blasio said, “meaning: the state of Israel, the survival of Israel, the sense of alliance that this country needs to have with Israel. I think Israel is in constant danger. I think, bluntly, there’s been some real indications of sustained anti-Semitism all over the world.”

How refreshing. At least on one day, a politician—in this case a liberal one—stood proud and strong for his convictions and did not crumble to political correctness. God promises to bless those who bless the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12:3). Let’s pray He blesses de Blasio mightily.

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