State Visit

Cuomo: Israel trip is ‘personal’ message of solidarity with Jewish community

Jacob Kornbluh

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is making his way to Israel for a short, 24-hour trip starting Thursday afternoon. Leading a delegation of business and community leaders, the trip will focus on economic development. It’s also aimed at sending a message of solidarity to the Jewish community, Cuomo told reporters in New York.

“The focus of our trip really has two messages. Number one is that New York is open for business and continuing the economic synergy between New York and Israel,” Cuomo said in a press conference at the governor’s office in Manhattan on Wednesday. “[The] second message is a message of solidarity. There has been a scourge of antisemitic activity in this country, and I believe it is a symptom of the division and intolerance that is being spread throughout this county… I want the people of Israel to know that it is personally offensive to me. Not as governor of New York, not in my professional, official capacity. As a New Yorker it is personally offensive, and personally repugnant and that all New Yorkers are outraged at this rash of antisemitism.”

The Democratic governor insisted that his travel to Israel — the third such trip as governor — is “personal,” not political in any way. “This is not a political trip,” Cuomo told Jewish Insider. “It is an official trip for economic development, and my message of solidarity is a personal message, not a political message. I am not going there to get involved in anyone’s politics.”

The rise of antisemitism in New York “horrifies me,” Cuomo continued, “I am embarrassed by it. I am disgusted by it. And I want the people of Israel to know from my lips, from my mouth, and look in my eyes, that antisemitism has no place in New York, and I speak for the 18 million beautiful New Yorkers who celebrate diversity. I want them to have my word that my family is offended and that we will stand with them one hundred percent, and I am personally committed to doing whatever has to be done… That is a personal message.”

Asked what advice he would give his colleagues and 2020 Democratic candidates for president when it comes to criticism of Israel, Cuomo told JI, “I can only speak for myself, and what the Dmeocratic Party in this state (New York) believes — which [is that] we are strong supporters of Israel, always have been, always will be.”

At the same time, Cuomo drew a sharp line between legitimate criticism of the Israeli government’s policies and using antisemitc language against the Jewish state. “I would say to the critics of Israel: You can have political disagreements. We have political disagreements all the time. Where did we get to a point where political disagreement transferred into hatred and violence, when did that start? Where did that happen? You want to disagree with Israeli policy, God bless you. We are a democracy, they are a democracy. Argue your opinion. When did it become okay to take a political difference and turn it into anger and hatred, and violence, and antisemitism? That is what is shocking to me. New Yorkers have differences. We disagree about everything. We’re an argumentative group. We like to argue. I like to argue, frankly. That’s okay. But it has gone to an extreme that is frightening and destructive to the fabric of society.”

Cuomo also criticized Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for comparing detention facilities at the border to “concentration camps” in the Holocaust.

“I think it’s a wholly inappropriate comparison,” Cuomo said.”‘The Holocaust, you’re talking about a tragedy of biblical proportion and one of the greatest tragedies in history. Six million Jews died during the Holocaust. There is no comparison to the Holocaust, period, and to draw an equivalency suggests one does not understand what happened in the Holocaust.”

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