NYC mayor ‘proud to sit’ with apartheid prime minister

Michael F. Brown

The Electronic Intifada  /  August 24, 2023

Democratic Party leaders continue to provide comfort to right-wing Israeli politicians and the apartheid state they direct.

Rather than condemn anti-Palestinian discriminatory policies, these Democrats are visiting Israel and applauding the connection between the two countries.

Earlier this summer, Hakeem Jeffries – Democratic leader in the House of Representatives – headed a delegation of 23 other House Democrats. The visit was organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, the “educational” wing of AIPAC.

Now, this week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has visited Israel and occupied East Jerusalem – an occupation he doesn’t recognize – as he seeks to improve economic ties between New York City and the apartheid state.

The Times of Israel covered Adams’ meeting with Binyamin Regional Council chair Yisrael Gantz. The newspaper provided a charged title: “Meeting settler leader, Eric Adams talks cooperation between NYC and the settlements.”

The meeting was coordinated by Eli Cohen, Israel’s foreign minister.

According to the office of Gantz, who is a top settler leader, Gantz and Adams discussed cooperation in tourism and education.

Gantz’s office added that Adams agreed to tour settlements with Gantz the next time they meet.

All settlements are illegal under international law.

Adams, however, denied that the word “settlement” came up in his discussions with Gantz.

He stated to journalists: “At no time did we talk about settlements. That is not why I’m here.”

The question must then be asked whether Gantz invited the mayor to visit “communities” or “neighborhoods” in “Judea and Samaria,” the name Israel uses for the occupied West Bank.

Questions from The Electronic Intifada about whether Gantz’s office misrepresented the meeting, or if Adams failed to understand what was being offered, went unanswered by the media office of the mayor.

Whatever the truth of the matter, someone is lying – or, at best, obfuscating.

Nor is this the first time Gantz has invited Adams to the occupied West Bank.

In June, according to The Judean – a publication whose logo indicates Israel includes the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights – Gantz invited Adams to the region he administers. The Binyamin area includes numerous settlements in the occupied West Bank, although the Binyamin Regional Council describes them as towns.

Adams reportedly said at the time: “Hearing the stories about the history of the Jewish people, who came out of Shiloh in Benjamin [Binyamin], and seeing what is happening today is fascinating and exciting. The many stories I heard about Benjamin are worthy of praise and I would love to visit such a special place for the Jewish people soon.”

This comment from June suggests the mayor is not being entirely forthcoming now about his ongoing conversation with Gantz.

Echoing a frequent assertion from Jeffries that “back home in New York City we consider Jerusalem to be the sixth borough,” Adams wrote for The Jerusalem Post that Israel “feels like a second home to me.”

Both Jeffries and Adams are evidently very comfortable with Israeli apartheid and looking away from rampant anti-Palestinian discrimination.

One Democrat to express concern was Tiffany Cabán, a New York City Council member, who called the trip “outrageous and irresponsible” while noting that Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers have this year killed over 170 Palestinians in the West Bank.

Meeting with Netanyahu

Adams also met Benjamin Netanyahu despite the fact that the Israeli prime minister oversees a government of anti-Palestinians that includes notorious racists such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

Adams tweeted that “New York City and Israel share an unbreakable bond … Proud to sit with Prime Minister Netanyahu today to deepen those bonds.”

This is like sitting down in the 1960s with a leader of apartheid South Africa or the Jim Crow South and declaring pride in deepening connections. Leaders of the Democratic Party are time and again demonstrating just how supportive they are of the Israeli occupation and racial subjugation of Palestinians.

A former New York City police officer, Adams also toured Israel’s National Police Academy in Beit Shemesh.

The tour came despite the fact that Ben-Gvir, a disciple of the racist extremist Meir Kahane, supervises the Israeli police and the paramilitary Border Police, both of which have used overwhelming and discriminatory violence against Palestinians.

Adams made sure to visit religious sites in occupied East Jerusalem as well. He has claimed that God told him he was going to be mayor.

Hundreds of Palestinians were expelled in 1967 from the Moroccan Quarter to make way for Israel’s Western Wall Plaza.

A “diverse perspective”

The mayor highlighted on social media his meeting with two leaders of Israel’s protest movement against the judicial overhaul Netanyahu is pushing.

“Had an honest conversation with two leaders in Israel’s protest movement this morning about numerous issues at play here.”

He added, “I appreciate the opportunity to hear their diverse perspective.”

Adams told journalists he “listened,” but “I didn’t weigh in. I think the people of Israel will determine their destiny.”

For Adams, diversity here extends just so far as diversity of opinion within Israel’s Jewish community which is fighting over different forms of anti-Palestinian discrimination.

Palestinian rights aren’t a serious consideration in the debate over the judicial overhaul. Changing the judicial system simply means moving from a high court which discriminates against Palestinians to one that could discriminate even more.

Adams did not mention meeting with any anti-apartheid Palestinian leaders. Nor did he cite learning about the discriminatory nation-state law of 2018 that entrenches Israeli apartheid.

But he was willing to hear about a court that could limit democratic rights for Israeli Jews, even as that has long been the case for Palestinians subject to the court’s decisions.

A “diverse perspective” from anti-apartheid Palestinians appears to be a bridge too far for Adams.

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist