Bill de Blasio Challenges Progressives to Oppose BDS

NEW YORK – NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has a message to his fellow progressives: rejecting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a progressive cause.

“There are plenty of people who support BDS who have advanced degrees and who call themselves progressives. I look forward to challenging them because it’s ahistorical,” De Blasio, a prominent progressive leader, told congregants in an address after Shabbat morning services at the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, New York on Saturday. “I think it’s one of the most ahistorical things I’ve ever seen.”

Taking pride in serving as mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population of any city in the world, de Blasio said that defending Israel as a progressive “is a matter of being consistent with progressive values” and “an understanding that we must always learn the painful lessons of history and do something about it.”

According to the mayor, the BDS movement “seeks to undermine the economy of the State of Israel and makes it harder for Israel to exist – therefore, renouncing the very notion that the Jewish people need a homeland in a still dangerous and unsettled world.”

“We in the United States, or in any nation, you can disagree with a particular government’s policy at that moment in time, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in that nation, or its right to exist, or its founding ideals,” de Blasio asserted. “Israel, in good times and bad, tough times and easier times, has been a beacon. The ideas running through this still young nation, the nation that actually sought to be a beacon to the world. And then did so many good works, including this very day where there are disasters around the world Israel is one of the first to be there in defense of those in need, regardless of their background regardless of [faith].”

A recent Pew poll showed that the share of liberal Democrats who side more with the Palestinians than with Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nearly doubled since 2014 (from 21% to 40%) and is higher than at any point dating back to 2001. Only 33 percent of Democrats who consider themselves liberal sympathize more with Israel.

In June, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that orders state agencies to divest themselves of companies and organizations who support the BDS movement. “In New York, we lead by example. We are also a place of action. We want to take immediate action because we want Israel to know that we are on their side,” Cuomo said at a signing ceremony in New York City.“If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”

A spokesperson for de Blasio did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Jewish Insider whether the mayor would issue a similar order to all city agencies.

In his address, de Blasio also addressed the 25th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots – as the community showcased the growing cooperation and unity between the Orthodox Jewish and the black community in a series of public events – as evidence of how the city has come together in terms of tolerance and understanding of each other.

“Go to Crown Heights today,” he said, “is it perfect? No. Are all the tensions gone? No. But has there been an extraordinary, and consistent, and emphatic effort by the black community and the Jewish community to find each other, to work with each other, to listen to each other? Yes. Have the leaders made it common to meet with each other and look for ways to amplify harmony? Yes. Is there extraordinary understanding that everyone is in it together in that community? Yes.”

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