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Queens socialist lawmaker denounces Mideast violence but slams Israeli government following Hamas attack

Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani speaks during a western Queens town hall discussing the Not On Our Dime Act at CUNY School of Law on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023.

Oct. 8, 2023 By Robert Pozarycki

While most New York City officials are universally condemning Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel Saturday, one Queens lawmaker chose to play the both-sides game in reacting to the conflict.

Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani issued a statement Sunday reacting to the outburst of war in the Middle East, some 36 hours after Hamas launched the assault out of the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of Israelis have been either killed or captured by terrorists, while hundreds more Palestinian residents have died in counter-assaults.

While Mamdani said he mourned those who have died “across Israel and Palestine,” he nonetheless criticized Israel’s defensive efforts.

“[Israel Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s declaration of war, the Israeli government’s decision to cut electricity to Gaza, and Knesset members calling for another Nabka will undoubtedly lead to more violence and suffering in the days and weeks to come,” said Mamdani in the statement posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

The term “nabka,” Arabic for catastrophe, is also used by critics of Israel to describe the displacement of Palestinians.

Mamdani added that, “The path toward a just and lasting peace can only begin by ending the occupation and dismantling apartheid.” The term “apartheid,” which described discriminatory oppression in South Africa in place before 1994, is often used by critics of Israel to describe occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

A self-described socialist, Mamdani has come under fire before for taking public positions that critics see as being anti-Israel or antisemitic. He previously introduced legislation that, if passed, would give the state attorney general power to defund groups building or supporting Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Hamas rockets fired from Israel to Gaza

Rockets are fired toward Israel from Gaza, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

The legislation seems to mirror language in the Boycott Divestment and Sanction movement (BDS), a Palestinian-led campaign to pressure Israel into ending settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Earlier this year, a group of Mamdani’s Democratic colleagues denounced his legislation, calling it a ploy to “demonize Jewish charities with connections to Israel.”

In August 2020, after stunning Democratic incumbent Aravella Simotas in the pandemic-impacted primary for the Assembly seat he now holds, Mamdani again referred to “apartheid in Palestine” in a post on Twitter denouncing white supremacy.

Mamdani is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, and was their keynote speaker at their 2023 convention.

The DSA’s members have championed far-left policies in government, but on Saturday, they seemed to announce support for a march in Midtown in support of Palestine a day after Hamas’ attack. Mainstream Democrats denounced the rally, with Governor Kathy Hochul calling the demonstration “abhorrent and morally repugnant.”

AOC, Bowman denounce Hamas

Other DSA members, unlike Mamdani, have denounced Hamas by name.

Congress Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of the Bronx and Queens, condemned the terrorist groups attacks “in the strongest possible terms” on Saturday, though she called for a “ceasefire and de-escalation.”

“Today is devastating for all those seeking a lasting peace and respect for human rights in Israel and Palestine. I condemn Hamas’ attack in the strongest possible terms,” said Ocasio-Cortez in her statement sent to amNewYork Metro. “No child and family should ever endure this kind of violence and fear, and this violence will not solve the ongoing oppression and occupation in the region. An immediate ceasefire and de-escalation is urgently needed to save lives.”

Her colleague, Congress Member Jamaal Bowman of the Bronx and Westchester County, also denounced Hamas’ attacks. He also called for “a way to end this deadly violence that is killing and traumatizing generations of Israelis and Palestinians alike — including the blockade of Gaza.”

“I have been to the Gaza border and know that Israelis and Palestinians are constantly living in fear,” Bowman stated in an X post. “We must work harder to ensure peace in the region.”

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