Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
Governor Kathy Hochul traveled to Israel in mid-October for three days. Invited to join Hochul was David Greenfield, CEO of the Manhattan-based Met Council. Hochul (right) met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Israel President Isaac Herzog.

Now that the war between Israel and Hamas, which is committed to destroying the Jewish people in Israel, enters its second month of combat, professors and politicians have sharpened their pencils and are gathering their notes to speak out with their analysis of the armed conflict.

Union College Professor, Dr. Stephen Berk of Schenectady, New York, gave a lecture about the war between Israel and Hamas at a college in Albany. He was part of the program where Hank Greenberg of the global law firm Greenberg Traurig spoke about his Reflections From The Solidarity Mission.

Israeli supporter Dr. Stephen Berk, a professor at the prestigious Schenectady, New York-based Union College, offered a balanced approach in a speech before the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York.


“Hamas chose its time very, very well. Give the devil the credit that it is due. Hamas looked upon Israel polarized over the issue of judicial reform. Hamas also looked at thousands of reserves who said they would not serve. In the end, as we all know, they did serve,” Berk, 77, told the audience of approximately 150 attendees. “Perception is reality. It’s not really what happened that’s important, it’s what people believe happened. In fact, Hamas saw Israel was vulnerable.”

Berk reminded his audience about Hamas’s goal for the past 35 years.

“In 1988 Hamas was founded and a charter was prepared. That charter said no peace with Israel, no recognition, no compromise, and Israel has to be wiped off the face of the Earth,” Berk said. “The charter also called upon Muslims everywhere to kill the Jews. On October 7, that is exactly what they did. Hamas is a genocidal organization. There should be no illusions about it.”

Berk, who is a Russian and Soviet historian by training, has been considered an expert on Middle East politics and policies. He is currently the Henry and Sally Schaffer Professor of Holocaust and Jewish Studies at the venerable institution. He has taught history for more than 55 years.

When its followers say, “We want a Palestine from the river to the sea,” the river is the Jordan and the sea is the Mediterranean. That means there is no place for the state of Israel. It means that Hamas is hell bent on eliminating close to 10 million people,” Berk concluded.

Even devotees of Berk admit there is enough criticism left over for the many educators who are advocating an anti-Israel course curriculum.

“In addition to moving to the left, college professors support the underdog. Once they get their tenure, they have an easy living. They don’t have to produce anything. They don’t have to generate any income,” Peter Rosenfeld, 77, a resident of the Saratoga County town of Clifton Park, told The Jewish Press.

Attorney Henry “Hank” Greenberg spent a few days in Israel in mid-October on a trip with other Jewish federation leaders from across the country to see firsthand the damage Hamas has caused in Israel. Greenberg spoke at a community event in Albany to brief area residents about what he witnessed.

“These college professors are not living in reality. They are not reality-based for the most part. They’re book smart and they’re idiots. Let them see what’s really going on. Let them stop supporting the underdog all the time and support who is right. Israel is right. When parts of Gaza City are parking lots right down to the tunnels, that will be a good day.”

Rosenfeld offered his personal feelings and emotions about the Israel-Hamas War, where he was trapped from returning home for two weeks when the war broke out.

“You want vengeance and you don’t want Israel to stop until they kill everyone associated with Hamas. I’m angry. I’m really, really angry. The fence in the back of the high school in Eshkol runs up against Gaza. The universities in Israel are closed. One-third of the students at the University of Tel Aviv are called up to fight in the war, so college is canceled.”

In New York state, acts of antisemitism are on the rise, and New York’s chief executive has stepped up with a plan to try to quell the hate, which sometimes has led to violence.

Former Chief Judge of New York and Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, Judge Jonathan Lippman, will conduct an independent third-party review of the City University of New York’s policies and procedures related to antisemitism and discrimination.

“We will take on the antisemitism we have seen on college campuses,” Hochul said in prepared remarks. “The problem didn’t begin with the weeks following the October 7 attacks. It’s been growing on a number of campuses and seen most acutely in the City University of New York. While his [Lippman’s] assessment will be focused on CUNY, his recommendations will be a roadmap for institutions across the state and the country. This cruelty by New Yorkers against New Yorkers must stop. Violators will be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Hochul made a whirlwind, impromptu trip to the Holy Land in mid-October. She referred to her excursion when she returned calling for unity among New Yorkers.

“I traveled to Israel so I could bear witness to the atrocities of October 7 and send a message of support from the United States,” Hochul said. “I called for the protection of innocent life and support for the immediate flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza. I also called for the release of hostages, especially those with a New York connection. The terrorists who seek to divide and create anarchy are winning every single day that we lose respect for opposing views and voices. For Jewish and Muslim New Yorkers alike, the pain is deep. We cannot allow hate and intimidation to become normalized.”

In her remarks Hochul, 65, kept trying to relate the conflict in the Middle East with the New Yorkers’ need to respond to that military action.

“You can vigorously oppose Israel’s response following the attack on their people but still be vigorously opposed to terrorism, Hamas, antisemitism and hate in all of its forms. We cannot allow any New Yorker to live in fear. For the day we are willing to accept that is the day that our moral compass has broken and spun out of control. Let me restate in the strongest of words: Every single New Yorker has a right to feel safe and to be safe as they go about their daily lives and we must accept nothing less.”

On Sunday, former Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke before a Brooklyn congregation where he espoused his thoughts on the dangerous times in which we live.

“We have great growing racial divisions. We have growing antisemitism that is only going to get worse,” Cuomo said. “We know we have to handle these situations intelligently and competently, not emotionally or politically.

In a speech that lasted less than 10 minutes, Cuomo called for unity over dissonance.

“We see a growing social divide in this country. We see forces of anger. We see forces of fear. They are defeating fairness and common sense. I know firsthand how dangerous and toxic these extremes can be,” Cuomo said. “The cancel culture is on the far left and you have election deniers on the far right. They are the minority but make no mistake they are loud and they are powerful. Too many politicians fear the extreme and they either pander to them or they are paralyzed by them. Pandering or paralysis. A government of overreaction or inaction. You see it here and you see it all across the country. Now is the time for people with good will and common sense to speak up and get involved.”

Cuomo offered two such examples. First is the migrant crisis.

“Their [The federal government] latest plan is to build a tent city for 7,000 migrants at Floyd Bennett Field [in southern Brooklyn]. Floyd Bennett Field is an old airstrip. It’s a flood plain,” Cuomo said. “It’s a transportation desert. It will effectively isolate thousands of migrants who need our help and deserve our help. It is going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars. It defies common sense.”

The other example is about firearms.

There is an “increase in gun violence, which is out of control. We have seen terrible police brutality. We need serious reform of the police department, but calls to defund the police are just disconnected from reality,” Cuomo pointed out. “Most politicians are like weather vanes. They point wherever the political wind blows. Now the extremist forces are blowing us off-course. Remember what Thomas Jefferson said: We don’t have a government by the majority but by the majority who participate. Remember, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said our lives begin to end the day when we become silent on the things that matter,” Cuomo concluded. 


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].