Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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The COVID-19 Standout Commander: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

de Blasio Sarsour.jpg

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and social distancing guidelines are getting more strict, many in Jewish communities express concern about the increased antisemitic rhetoric implying that Jews are causing the spread of the disease and also profiting from this crisis. 

NY Mayor, Bill De Blasio, who was supported by many in the Jewish community of New York, including the ultra-orthodox, was elected again to Mayor 2017 in a landslide victory after positioning himself as champion of global Jewry, particularly in the fight against antisemitism. The love affair however did not last too long.

Amid the rise in Jew-hatred throughout the country, Mayor de Blasio, sparked an outrage this week when he openly and publicly targeted the city’s Jewish community

Following an Orthodox Rabbi’s funeral in Brooklyn during which some attendees apparently breaches social-distancing rules, Mayor de Blasio issued an angry tweet, saying: “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio's tweet April 28, 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tweet April 28, 2020

The tweet was met with outrage from Jewish and non-Jewish leaders and organizations, who criticized the Mayor for singling out the entire community of 1.1 million Jews living in the New York City area and spewing hatred at a time when antisemitic conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus are rampant and antisemitic hate crimes are at an all-time high. 

Mayor de Blasio’s statement was not only antisemitic but also unfounded as the New York City Police Commissioner, Dermot Shea, confirmed that the funeral at issue was in fact coordinated and approved by the NYPD.

Photo (Forward): Two officers from NYPD's 90th Precinct meeting with the Williamsburg Shomrim Jewish community to go over funeral arrangements on Tuesday April 28, 2020
Photo (Forward): Two officers from NYPD’s 90th Precinct meeting with the Williamsburg Shomrim Jewish community to go over funeral arrangements on Tuesday April 28, 2020

With one single statement, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio managed to unite nearly every Jewish community and group in calling out his antisemitism.

The World Jewish Congress announced it would formally censure the mayor for his remarks that “painted the Jewish community as lawbreakers and unconcerned about the city’s public health.” Furthermore President Ronald Lauder said in a statement that “Mayor de Blasio should know better than to throw gasoline on a smoldering fire.”

In addition, users on Twitter pointed out that on the same day the Jewish funeral took place, thousands of New Yorkers gathered to see the Flying Angels fly over New York City, yet the massive crowd received no condemnation from Mayor de Blasio.

New Yorkers gathering at Domino Park in Williamsburg Brooklyn on Tuesday April 28, 2020
New Yorkers gathering at Domino Park in Williamsburg Brooklyn on Tuesday April 28, 2020

Another response to the fiasco came from over 100 Jewish leaders who signed a letter to the Mayor stating: “In the midst of an historic wave of antisemitic hate violence in New York City, our community has been feeling the pain of being singled out and blamed for the spread of this deadly disease. This singling out is especially potent because it aligns with longstanding antisemitic tropes that have, for millennia, blamed Jews for societal ills.” 

The letter continued “Laying blame upon Hasidic communities, among the most visible members of our Jewish family, will not stop the spread of COVID-19, and referring to these particular communities as ‘the Jewish community’ both flattens a diverse group of New Yorkers into a single bloc and fuels the antisemitic hatreds that bubble beneath the surface of our society”. 

The letter further noted that Jews and Jewish groups, especially the Orthodox community, are working hard to fight the coronavirus in whatever way they can, and have “overwhelmingly led and acted responsibly in this moment of social distancing.”

The signatories represent a wide spectrum of Jewish religious and political groups including a new Progressive group Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, a number of assembly members and state legislators, a plethora of Synagogues and Rabbis, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism-New York.

This sadly wasn’t the first controversy surrounding the Mayor. In 2016, Mayor de Blasio was highly criticized for awarding antisemite Linda Sarsour  and her non-profit, the Arab Association of New York, one of the Mayor’s Fund $10 million grants. New York City has also seen unprecedented antisemitic incidents under the Mayor in 2019, many pointing their fingers at him specifically. 

As usual, some members of the Jewish community are calling to meet with the Mayor and re-educate him and/or asking him to issue a strong apology, while others have published an online petition asking for his resignation.