Aug. 14, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Several Queens elected officials have condemned a Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) questionnaire that calls on New York City council candidates to forgo official travel to Israel.
The New York City chapter of DSA (NYC-DSA) questionnaire asks council candidates if they “pledge not to travel to Israel if elected to City Council in solidarity with Palestinians living in occupation.”
A screenshot of the question was tweeted by a NY1 reporter Thursday night, which created an uproar on the social media platform.
— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) August 13, 2020
Several Queens politicians condemned the NYC-DSA request and called it anti-Semitic.
Members of the City Council have made trips to Israel in the past, including delegations under current Speaker Corey Johnson as well as former speakers Melissa Mark-Viverito and Christine Quinn, according to reports.
The trips were funded by the Jewish Community Relations Council, a nonprofit that connects New York City Jewish organizations.
Council Member Robert Holden, a long-time critic of the DSA, condemned the political group and said he’d happily take a trip to Israel with the City Council.
Assembly Member David Weprin, who represents northeast Queens, called the NYC-DSA request “a brazen act of hate.”
State Senator Joseph Addabbo also called the NYC-DSA request anti-Semitic.
“No matter your political leanings, for many, a visit to Israel is a visit to their family’s homeland, a holy site of their religion or to improve important relations,” he said in a statement. “We do not ask people not to travel to China or other countries that suppress human rights.”
Several members of the Jewish Caucus of the New York City Council — including Queens Council Members Karen Koslowitz, Barry Grodenchik and Rory Lancman — also noted that Israel was “the only such country awarded this dishonor” and called the pledge “rank anti-Semitism.”
“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 the support of an organization that does,” the caucus members wrote in a statement.
However, a spokesperson for the NYC-DSA said Israel is the only country that council members are regularly taken to visit.
“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 spokesperson said. “It is the only country that Council Members are regularly taken on delegations to visit for this purpose.”
The spokesperson also said the DSA request of candidates to avoid travel to Israel doesn’t apply to personal trips.
“We are in no way opposed to trips in a personal capacity to visit family or for other personal reasons,” the spokesperson said.
NYC-DSA said that elected officials should represent New York’s large Palestinian community just as much as they represent other communities.
“Palestinians have lived under military occupation and siege, been displaced from their homes and denied freedom of movement for decades,” NYC-DSA said in a statement.
“Given that there has been an explicit call from Palestinians to not go on such government junkets and to put pressure on Israel to end the occupation and discrimination through boycott, divestment, and sanctions, we asked prospective candidates whether they would respect that call.”