By Ezra Friedlander
The Mayor of New York City is primarily responsible for the crucial services that keep the city running properly. But the city does not exist in a vacuum. And in many ways his political voice is widely recognized all over the world and his views and opinions are acknowledged on an international platform. That’s why his recent remarks which strongly defended the US – Israel relationship are not to be taken lightly. It reaffirmed the close bond and the enduring relationship between this city and the State of Israel in a very public manner.
At an appearance he made at a recent AIPAC event, the Mayor unequivocally stated, “It is our obligation to defend Israel but it is also something that is elemental to being an American because there is no greater ally on earth.”
As the saying goes, “You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy bagels and lox.” Similarly, you don’t have to be Jewish to be a supporter of the US-Israel relationship.
Israel is certainly a strong and powerful country in many ways. Yet it faces more than its fair share of enemies and those who seek its physical and economic destruction. And while many Americans share the opinion that the threat of Iran’s pending nuclear capabilities are a great danger to Israel, most don’t realize that there are other equally sinister and nefarious enemies out there who seek the delegitimization and economic destruction of the Jewish State.
Level headed and sensible individuals will find it difficult to give credence to those who belong to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) Movement whose false and dubious concerns over human rights thinly veil their true intentions of doing their utmost to prevent mainstream society from supporting the State of Israel My blood boils when I watch these continuous attempts to chip away at the sensibilities of the American people. They are achieving their goals in a limited way by both delegitimizing Israel and by intimidating others who are fearful of expressing their own robust support of the Jewish State.
And yet the facts speak for themselves. Show me a country anywhere in the world that has accomplished what Israel has. In less than a hundred years it has managed to establish itself as a state with a vibrant democracy that is both multi-lingual and multi-cultural, and where all are free to practice their chosen religion. They achieve all this in a region where they are under constant threat of aggression since the very day they celebrated their Independence as a nation.
This little country has made countless contribution to the welfare of society. Just recently, Israeli medical technology created the PillCam, an ingestible camera that can photograph the human colon, allowing millions to benefit from this procedure rather than undergoing a more invasive and costly colonoscopy. This biotech breakthrough, developed by two doctors by miniaturizing missile technology, is just another example of how Israel utilizes every opportunity to advance the quality of life for all mankind. It’s no wonder, then, that the Prime Minister of Hamas sent his own granddaughter to Israel for medical treatment.
Which brings me to a renewed appreciation of the recent remarks of Bill de Blasio and especially his refusal to back down from his statements even under extensive condemnation. When criticized for his statements, he responded again by saying that he is “unabashedly pro-Israel.” The Mayor, who is considered politically Progressive has made a clear and unambiguous statement that even Progressives like him can proudly identify with Israel. This despite the fact that many in the Far Left who also identify themselves as Progressive have been at the forefront of undermining Israel’s legitimacy. These are the people who are now taking the Mayor to task for his proud identification with the Jewish State in context of his role as Mayor of New York City.
For all these reasons we need to rally behind Mayor de Blasio at this time, and publicly show our appreciation and support for his principled stand. Not just because he has expressed his friendship so clearly and unequivocally. But also because his statements can be seen as a catalyst for the development of continued support for Israel in the social and ideological sectors where the Mayor is so popular. If he can be so bold in stating his opinion, perhaps this will encourage others to come out of the woodwork as well.
Just for the record, let me be clear. It’s okay to disagree with some Israeli policies or criticize some of their actions. I, too, often disagree with Israeli government policy in several areas including the secular-religious divide. And that’s fine. Just as you don’t have to be Jewish to have your bagel and lox, you don’t have to be Jewish to realize that our support of Israel can be a rational, coherent, balanced, and unemotional recognition of Israel’s success as a State. Certainly there is friction within us, but it’s mostly inter-familial, not unlike the disagreements one may have with close family members. When these relatives are attacked from outsiders, that’s when we all band together in a united front against a common threat.
All this reminds me of a story that I heard from Rabbi Chaim Moshe Stauber. In 1968, then-Vice-President Hubert Humphrey went to visit the Satmar Rebbe of sainted memory. Presumably, the Vice President was not aware of Satmar policies and graciously expressed his support for the State of Israel. The Rebbe listened respectfully. He did not mention a word about his personal feelings regarding the establishment of the Medinah. When the visit was over, the Rebbe turned to his followers and said: “I’m sure some of you may be wondering why I didn’t teach him a chapter out of my Sefer, ‘V’yoel Moshe’ (which outlines the Rebbe’s position against the establishment of the modern State of Israel based on Torah sources). It’s because I chose not to.” The Rebbe was telling them it’s important to know when to share one’s opposition to the State of Israel and when to remain silent.
Similarly, it’s important for all of us to put our differences aside and rally behind Mayor Bill de Blasio in appreciation of his very positive statements. Jews of all stripes and all persuasions and all ideological backgrounds should rally behind the Mayor at this critical time. It’s our duty to firmly support his leadership and his friendship. New York City must remain a stalwart, dependable, and everlasting defender of the Jewish state.