update deskIsrael at War

Rooted in their ‘deepest Jewish values,’ five NYC, state officials accuse Israel of ‘mass destruction’

"We make no excuses for terrorists or their defenders, but we cannot support the actions of the current Israeli government," wrote two state senators and three other officials.

New York City. Credit: Pexels/Pixabay.
New York City. Credit: Pexels/Pixabay.

Two New York state senators and three city officials—an assembly member, a comptroller and a council member—penned an open letter claiming that their “deep” Jewish faith compels them to denounce Israel for “indiscriminate” bombing, among other war crimes.

“As New Yorkers, many of us have deep connections to Israel and are committed to the existence of a democratic Jewish state,” the five wrote on Tuesday. “We make no excuses for terrorists or their defenders, but we cannot support the actions of the current Israeli government.”

The signatories are senators Liz Krueger and Brad Holyman-Sigal, assembly member Harvey Epstein, city comptroller Brad Lander and city councilmember Lincoln Restler.

The five referred in the letter to Hamas’s “horrific” and “monstrous and indefensible” attack on Oct. 7, and said their position “is rooted in our deepest Jewish values—honoring the life, dignity and safety of all people.”

“We feel deep anguish over the insurmountable loss of life in the region—notably the tens of thousands of civilians,” they wrote. “Judaism teaches that all people are created in the image of God and all people are infinitely valuable.”

The quintet said that Hamas must release all the hostages. “The reality is that this will only happen through the same active negotiations that brought home the first 112 hostages,” they wrote. “Those negotiations must be the critical highest priority.”

The 112 number includes two hostages, whom Israel freed from Rafah earlier this month despite the Biden administration repeatedly putting public limits on what it considered acceptable Israeli military action in Rafah.

The quintet who signed the letter and the Biden administration have presented no evidence that negotiations were responsible for the two hostages whom the Israel Defense Forces freed, apparently based on intelligence about their whereabouts in Rafah.

In their letter, the five New York city and state lawmakers accused Israel of “the mass destruction of Gaza and the killing of civilians who are trapped in a war zone with no possibility to flee to safety.”

“Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in shocking numbers by indiscriminate, large-scale bombing, and the rest live in a state of constant fear, hunger and vulnerability to disease,” they stated. “The war there has also led to increased persecution against Palestinians living in the West Bank and violence from some Israeli settlers who are using the Gaza war to hasten the evictions of Palestinians from their land to expand settlements that are illegal under international law.”

They also appeared to blame the Jewish state for at least some Jew-hatred worldwide.

“Others throughout the mid-east, looking for reasons to destroy Israel, are attacking from the north and fomenting antisemitism and anti-Zionism throughout the world,” the five wrote.

The five lawmakers also stated that they stand in “solidarity with Israelis who are organizing to replace this historically unpopular government with one that stands for universal human rights, for democracy in Israel and for peace with its neighbors.” And they claimed that there is a “rapidly increasing number of antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents occurring right here in our diverse city.”

Extensive recent data has shown that Jew-hatred, which was already disproportionately high before Oct. 7, has been surging since Hamas’s attack. Anti-Muslim hate incidents have also risen in many places, but at significantly lower levels than have antisemitic incidents.

The five also said that the “extreme right in this country” is endangering life for Jews in the United States. Per recent data, the number of far left and of far right anti-Jewish incidents was nearly identical in 2023.

“As Jewish elected officials in both the City and State of New York, we thank President Biden for all his efforts to date, and we call upon the federal government of the United States to push for an end to this war as soon as possible,” the quintet concluded.

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