Dear Mayor de Blasio:
We are New York Jews who are dismayed by your speech to AIPAC and the unqualified support you offered them, especially since you ran your campaign as a progressive. There is nothing remotely progressive about AIPAC. We do not believe that AIPAC’s unconditional support for the Israeli occupation is consistent in any way with the values of fairness and justice that you articulated during your campaign—values that led to your receiving an overwhelming election mandate.
AIPAC is a right-wing organization that strong-arms elected and other government officials to support brutal Israeli government policies and actions that are dangerous for Palestine/Israel, the Middle East, and the United States. These policies are also in violation of international law, including of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying country from moving its citizens into the occupied area as residents.
As a result, more and more Jews are questioning and opposing AIPAC and Israeli government policies. Indeed, many Jewish groups in New York City, across the U.S.A., and in Israel have organized with Palestinian and other groups–through such non-violent means as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)–to forge a more just, equitable, and yes, progressive future for Israel and Palestine. This would also mean a very different kind of relationship between Israel and the United States, which now funds Israel and its military occupation to the tune of at least $3.1 billion a year.
Many of us have crossed the Israeli borders into the areas of military occupation and have seen with our own eyes the conditions of Palestinians living there. We have met parents in Gaza and the West Bank who have faced attacks by the Israeli military, which uses missiles, drones, tanks, helicopters, tear gas grenades, “stink” bombs, and sound bombs.
- Do you know that Israel holds nearly five thousand Palestinian prisoners, many not charged with any crime and without access to legal assistance?
- Do you know that Israel has created hundreds of checkpoints, where Palestinians are routinely harassed and humiliated?
- Do you know that the Israeli government’s occupation policies, involving roughly half-a-million settlers, have involved extensive expropriation of Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinians’ homes, and uprooting of their olive trees?
- Do you know that roads exist that only settlers and other Jewish Israelis—but not Palestinians—can use?
- Do you know that many Palestinian children are arrested in their homes in the middle of the night by armed Israeli soldiers, typically without being told where they are being taken or for how long?
Further, AIPAC’s support of virulent Islamophobia does not represent those of us who work for a city and country in which members of the Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities can be safe and respected. We support your announced plan to stop the NYPD program that has long engaged in secret surveillance, including the use of informants in mosques, that target people because of their religion, ethnicity, or native language. Do you know that AIPAC supports such anti-Muslim programs? AIPAC has, for example, repeatedly included anti-Muslim speakers at its annual Policy Conferences, including one who claims that Islam “sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine.” These views are totally inconsistent with the values expressed by your administration.
Do you also know that veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in this country have condemned Israeli policies that make such legal disparities possible and have likened them to the conditions that African Americans in the South experienced for many generations? The story of Israel and Palestine is, without question, a tale of two different realities—with its inequalities fully supported by the power of the Israeli government, the disproportionate political influence of AIPAC, and the U.S. government. We believe these fundamental inequalities should resonate with you, who campaigned against the idea that NYC should no longer be “a tale of two cities.”
We look forward to the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the issues raised by your statements about Israel and AIPAC.