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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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Is Mayor de Blasio Too Pro-Israel For Liberal Jews?

We trust New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s heretofore solid support for Israel will not be significantly affected by the sharp criticism aimed at him from his “progressive” base over news of his January speech to AIPAC.

“City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or elsewhere, I will answer the call and answer it happily,” Mayor de Blasio had said.

The backlash soon came from ultra-liberal quarters. (The criticism only came to light this month, after the New York Daily News obtained private e-mails sent by some of those involved.)

New York State Senator Liz Krueger e-mailed de Blasio senior aide Emma Wolf: “I am actually getting as many angry messages from Jewish non-AIPAC folks than I did on the East Side snow problems. I think [the mayor] needs a broader education on NY/Israel issues to avoid future blow ups.”

Ms. Wolf responded with “Yup we are trying to figure it out.”

A prominent board member of J Street, Victor Kovner, weighed in with a request for a personal meeting to discuss the relative merits of J Street versus AIPAC.

And so it went, leading to a 10-minute conference call between the mayor and leaders of J Street and an appearance by Ms. Wolf’s deputy at a town hall meeting hosted by the liberal Jewish group.

There was also a raging editorial in The Nation magazine, a leading leftist publication. After noting its support for the mayor in his electoral campaign because of “his commitment to reimagining the city in boldly progressive, egalitarian terms,” the magazine expressed dismay over the mayor’s having expressed support for AIPAC:

 AIPAC’s dominion – reinforced by Christian Zionists and the usual cast of neocon hawks – is destructive on many fronts. Not only has it prevented a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict by enforcing lockstep US support for the most retrograde elements in Israel; in recent years it has, in league with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, been doing everything it can to provoke US conflict with Iran….

The editorial went on to declare that “AIPAC is no longer the only lobby game in town,” pointing to J Street as a positive countervoice on the issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

As for Mayor de Blasio, the editorial said “he has a unique opportunity to help end the stranglehold of AIPAC…. By publicly welcoming groups that promote genuine peace in the Middle East, his foreign policy would be far more consistent with the progressive policies he promotes at home…”

J Street has long touted itself as having redefined what it means to be pro-Israel, but opposing virtually all the key positions taken by the Israeli government and supported by a solid majority of Israelis hardly qualifies an individual or organization for the pro-Israel label.

Most progressives, including and perhaps especially Jewish progressives, have long embraced the Palestinian narrative. Mayor de Blasio is a leading progressive and his support for AIPAC therefore has particular resonance. We hope the mayor will continue to run against that tide.

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