The job of the mayor of NY: to defend Israel
The article by Philp Weiss on the leaked report of Bill de Blasio’s speech to AIPAC is followed by one by Omid Safi.
Bill de Blasio during his successful campaign as a ‘progressive’ to become Democrat Mayor of NYC. Here with his son Dante, daughter Chiara and wife Chirlane.
By Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss
January 24, 2014
My goodness. Here’s a tape of NY Mayor Bill de Blasio praising Israel at a closed-door function for the Israel lobby group AIPAC in Manhattan last night, reported by Sally Goldenberg of Capital NY.
De Blasio said that the U.S. should boycott Saudi Airlines, and that the Israeli-Cornell campus that his predecessor Michael Bloomberg set in motion in NY is “an extraordinary transcendent development” that will go forward under his administration.
He described deep connections between Israel and New York: The city has no greater alliance across borders than with Israel, Israel and NY share philosophical and democratic values, Israel has inspired NY being on the frontlines of terrorism, and Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer should move to NY after he’s done his job.
And that de Blasio’s “mission” and “job description” is to fight for Israel:
Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel…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 will answer it happily, because that’s my job.
Who knew? The Times is calling it a “private” speech. “The speech [at the Hilton in Manhattan] was not included on de Blasio’s public schedule, and a Capital reporter who attempted to report on the event was escorted by event security from the third floor to the lobby,” Goldenberg reports.
Excerpts of the tape:
De Blasio asks Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer to move to NY after his term as Israeli ambassador. “Always looking to bring more talent to NY.”
The mayor says he feels a “special obligation” to support Israel.
Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel. … There is a philosophical grounding to my belief in Israel… but it is also something that is elemental to being an American, because there is no greater ally on earth… no deeper connection across boundaries than this connection we share. For a lot of reasons.
These include the largest Jewish community outside Israel living in NY. But: “It’s also about values. Israeli society, the belief in democracy.” And we also value open discourse in NY, and have great pride in this place.
Israelis know the constant fear, the constant horror of terror. They refused to let it stop them. We take inspiration from Israel for how it has stared down terrorism and kept moving forward… As mayor I am committed to not just maintaining an alliance but strengthening an alliance between Israel and New York and Israel and the United States of America.
Reports Goldenberg: “Two attendees even joked that he ever once used the word ‘progressive,’ a mainstay in most of his public speeches.”
An image of the TechnionCornell campus being built on Roosevelt Island. The NYC administration hopes it will infuse the city with Israeli technical know-how and Israelis hope it will embed its outpost in American business and political life.
He mentions three trips to Israel, including one he made with his wife Chirlane McCray and son Dante a few years ago.
We saw the challenges at each of the borders….It was when we went to Sderot that I was most moved…. You can’t have an experience like that and not feel solidarity with the people of Israel. And know that they’re on the front line of fighting against so many challenges.
De Blasio says that “our mission” in NY is to fight against the “prejudice” against Israel. In that connection, he denounced Saudi Airlines for discriminating against Israelis. And called for a boycott of Saudi Airlines– it should not be allowed to use American airports.
Our ties could not be deeper, and our job is to deepen them. I want to commend my predecessor Michael Bloomberg and what he achieved with the Applied Sciences Center [Technion-Cornell partnership on Roosevelt Island].
The science center is “an extraordinary transcendent development.” It is going to enrich our lives, and the people of Israel. And it is one example of a deeper economic relationship.
You have a friend and an ally at city Hall. That 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 will answer it happily, because that’s my job.
My comment: The lobby is structural. Bill de Blasio went to Nicaragua to support the Sandinistas and he hates racism and he can spend political capital to fight for economic justice and scrimp on snow-removal on the Upper East Side, but: he’s hamstrung on this issue. The most progressive forces in the U.S. have been corrupted by the Israel lobby. The most leftleaning/realist public figures one can imagine getting into important offices, from Barack Obama to Bill de Blasio to Samantha Power to Chuck Hagel, and they have no choice but to truckle to the lobby, because the lobby is so enmeshed in our (political/financial/media) Establishment, and because the party needs the money. It’s that simple.
By Omid Safi, Religious News Service (RNS)
January 24, 2014
Newly elected mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, who has been championed as a new model of populist progressivism, gave an unannounced talk to AIPAC, American Israeli Public Affairs Committee: “part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel.”
De Blasio said:
We went to the children’s center in Sderot,” Mr. de Blasio said, “and we saw what it meant for everyday families. If they wanted to have time for their kids to play, they have to be in a missile-proof, bomb-proof play area, because you could not know otherwise if your children would be safe.
You can’t have an experience like that and not feel solidarity with the people of Israel and know that they’re on the front line of fighting against so many challenges.
Fair enough. Feel solidarity with the children of Israel, Mr. de Blasio. I wonder if the mayor also went to Gaza, to sit with children of Gaza who are under siege, under-employed, under-fed, and living in what’s described as the world’s “largest open air concentration camp”? Did mayor de Blasio visit the Palestinian children in occupied West Bank? Did he visit the Arab children barred from Jews-only settlements, connected by Jews only roads?
In short, one wishes for the Mayor to have pondered about the fate of Palestinian children upon whom American-paid bombs and missiles fall, and who have no bomb-proof shelters to hide in. Who visits those children? Who speaks on behalf of these children?
I am not questioning the Mayor’s solidarity with children of Israel. We as human beings are called to identify with the pain and suffering of fellow human beings. In particular, that has been a hallmark of the ethical dimension of the progressive movement. What I wonder is the selectivity: why visit only children of Israel, and not the children of Palestine? Why give a speech in front of AIPAC—and do so secretly—and not give a talk in front of human rights organizations that uplift the dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis?
The answer is that popular progressivism, even the beautiful tradition that gives rise to Bill de Blasio, still has moral spots. There are human beings who remain the “non-persons” of history, since they are not connected to political lobby groups that champion them.
If de Blasio wanted to be consistent about the tradition of popular progressivism that many of us are looking to, he would have needed to champion the children of Israel, but to not stop there. He should have made a point of connecting the dignity of the lives of Israeli children to the dignity of lives of Palestinian children. He could have questioned why American tax dollars go towards arming one of the most heavily militarized societies on earth, rather than investing in a peaceful resolution of a 66-year conflict. Then, and only then, could we have a type of progressivism that actually honors and acknowledges the innate sanctity of all human life, regardless of the political lobby attached to some but not all of us.
The mayor mentioned to the members of AIPAC that “that City Hall will always be open to Aipac,” adding, “When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call, and I will answer it happily, because that’s my job.”
Here’s hoping that someday we as a people will demand, and deserve, leaders who will conceive of their job as not answering to special interest lobby groups, but the dignity of all of us.