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Brooklyn legislator’s Jewish constituents feel ‘abandoned, betrayed, endangered’

Shahana Hanif, who co-chairs the New York City Council's Taskforce to Combat Hate, wrote a few days after Oct. 7 that “the root cause of this war is the illegal, immoral and unjust occupation of the Palestinian people.”

Shahana Hanif, a member of the New York City Council, speaks alongside MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber announcing the opening of accessible elevators at the 7th Avenue station on the F/G lines on Nov, 21, 2023. Credit: Marc Hermann/Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Shahana Hanif, a member of the New York City Council, speaks alongside MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber announcing the opening of accessible elevators at the 7th Avenue station on the F/G lines on Nov, 21, 2023. Credit: Marc Hermann/Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Shahana Hanif, a New York City Council member and co-chair of its Taskforce to Combat Hate, is ignoring antisemitism and leaving her Jewish constituents in Brooklyn’s 39th District feeling unsafe, according to an op-ed in the New York Daily News.

When Hanif was elected in 2021, “progressives throughout the district were excited and optimistic. A Kensington-born daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants, Hanif was the first Muslim woman elected to the City Council, with a promise and commitment to represent every resident of the district,” wrote Andres Spokoiny, Leonard Petlakh and Lisa Silverstein Nelson, each of whom runs a Jewish organization.

“Two-and-a-half years later, however, many of her Jewish constituents feel abandoned, betrayed and endangered,” the trio wrote.

Hanif, 33, was one of two council members to vote against a resolution to end Jew-hatred, offering a “weak excuse,” the three wrote. They noted that her first post on social media after Oct. 7 came days later when she blamed Israel for being attacked.

“There is nowhere for the people of Gaza to go. The international community cannot stand by while the IDF indiscriminately attacks unarmed civilians and critical infrastructure. There must be a ceasefire to ensure that the already astronomical death toll does not rise,” Hanif wrote on Oct. 13.

“The root cause of this war is the illegal, immoral and unjust occupation of the Palestinian people. The occupation has brought violence toward Israelis and Palestinians for over 75 years. There will be no peace unless the rights of all people in this region are respected,” she wrote.

“We cannot be distracted in this call. The Palestinian people demand our solidarity, and we cannot let harmful rhetoric toward our Jewish neighbors, seen at the Times Square rally last week, obscure our calls for justice,” she added.

Hanif “has participated in demonstrations in which genocidal chants like ‘from the river to the sea’ were commonplace, not once disassociating herself from them,” the three heads of Jewish organizations wrote. “She hasn’t condemned the antisemitic graffiti or vandalization of property in her district, nor the ripping of hostage posters.”

“In a city in which antisemitic hate crimes increased 170% between the end of 2022 and the end of 2023, Hanif’s attitude is a blatant dereliction of duty,” they wrote. “To add to the harm, Hanif is given cover by fringe anti-Zionist Jewish groups, which do not represent the Jewish community, allowing her to ignore, if not condemn, the 95% of Jews who believe Israel has a right to exist.”

A group of 16 Jewish communal leaders from Hanif’s district met with her recently, but the council member’s “callous response” left the group “shocked, rattled and more afraid than before,” the trio wrote.

“During that meeting, the council member outright stated that she refused to condemn Hamas, she refused to say whether Israel had a right to exist and told us that she was generally fine with the anti-Israel graffiti,” they wrote.

“It is inconceivable that someone who refuses to condemn Hamas and denies Jews the right to decide what constitutes antisemitism could be appointed co-chair of the council’s Task Force to Combat Hate,” they added. “It is time for people of goodwill in District 39, and across New York City to stand with their Jewish neighbors by demanding Hanif takes affirmative actions to protect her Jewish constituents, end her biased approach to constituent services and be removed as co-chair of the Task Force to Combat Hate.”

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