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Thursday, October 22, 2020

NYC DSA Chapter Asks City Council Candidates If They’ll ‘Pledge to Not Travel to Israel’

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New York City’s Democratic Socialists of America (NYC DSA) chapter’s questionnaire included a question asking city council candidates if they will “pledge to not travel to Israel,” which various Jewish groups have condemned as anti-Semitic.

The question states, “Do you pledge not to travel to Israel if elected to City Council out of solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation? Even though foreign policy falls outside the purview of municipal government, gestures like travel to a country by elected officials from a city the size and prominence of New York still send a powerful message, as would the refusal to participate in them.”

 

The NYC DSA later explained in a statement that City Council members “are regularly taken on an expenses-paid trip to Israel,” which is what prompted the topic on the questionnaire, and it’s not opposed to people taking personal trips to Israel.

Jewish groups denounced the question.

“We live in a world where scores of countries actually & flagrantly persecute minorities and serially abuse human rights: China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, etc. Why is the only nation that troubles @NYCDSA the Jewish state?” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “Double standards are a hallmark of #antisemitsm.

“Litmus tests that prohibit candidates from traveling to Israel or force them to delegitimize the only Jewish state in the world through BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions], certainly don’t solve problems or advance the cause of peace, but do reveal a deep, ugly bias. Hostility helps no one but the bigots.”

The American Jewish Committee similarly tweeted, “Of all the countries in the world, @NYCDSA has chosen to target only one — Israel, the Jewish state. This reeks of bigotry and New Yorkers will not stand for it. NYC-DSA: apologize and rescind this deeply offensive questionnaire immediately.”

 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center described the NYC-DSA’s question as “straight from Stalinist and Nazi-era Jew hatred.”

“Their racist bigotry should disqualify candidates,” the Jewish group added. “Await condemnation from Mayor and all NYC leaders.”

StandWithUs Director of Combating Anti-Semitism Carly Gammill called on all NYC-DSA endorsed candidates to condemn the chapter.

“NYC DSA’s hateful agenda would ban council members from visiting Israel even to see friends and family or connect with Israelis as people,” Gammill said in a statement. “Why are anti-Israel extremists so desperate to prevent political leaders from seeing the region for themselves? Because they’re trying to dehumanize Israelis and dismantle Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

She added: “We call on all candidates endorsed by the DSA to unequivocally denounce this antisemitic litmus test.”

New York political leaders also condemned the DSA chapter’s question.

“Last week a DSA leader wouldn’t say if Israel had a right to exist. Now this,” Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) tweeted. “This is anti-semitism. Plain and simple.”

The Jewish Caucus of the New York City Council called the DSA chapter’s question “rank anti-Semitism” in a statement.

“It exceeds even the demands of the notorious Boycott/Divest/Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Jewish people, which every mainstream Jewish organization in the United States has appropriately labeled anti-Semitic and which the New York City Council itself condemned by resolution in 2016 and all ‘efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement boycott, divest from, and sanction its government and people,’ ” the statement read. “No political organization should etch into its platform such blatant anti-Semitism as a pledge not to visit the Jewish state, and no candidate for public office should seek support for an organization that does.”

 

The NYC DSA chapter issued a statement on Aug. 13 addressing the controversy.

“Members of the City Council are regularly taken on an expenses-paid trip to Israel that functions primarily as a political junket to foster ties between local officials and the Israeli state,” the statement read. “It is the only country that Councilmembers are regularly taken on delegations to visit for this purpose. Yet, Palestinians have lived under military occupation and siege, been displaced from their homes and denied freedom of movement for decades.”

It added that the question was if candidates would respect Palestinians’ call to boycott Israel “to end the occupation and discrimination.”

“New York has a large Palestinian community, and elected officials in NYC should represent those communities just as much as they represent others,” the statement concluded. “We are in no way opposed to trips in a personal capacity to visit family or for other personal reasons.”

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