Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended her foreign policy record to a pro-Israel group in Manhattan tonight and advocated for a nuanced–but tough–approach to Iran as tensions in the Middle East remain high.
Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed today to be more transparent after drawing criticism for delivering a fiery pro-Israel speech at an AIPAC event last night that was not disclosed on his public schedule and closed to press.
Ever since Brooklyn College’s political science department made the controversial decision to co-sponsor a forum promoting BDS–boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel–New York City’s elected officials have thoroughly condemned them and even hinted that the publicly-funded institution could suffer financial consequences as a result. At a press conference today on Hurricane Sandy relief, however, Mayor Michael Bloomberg passionately defended the university’s right to sponsor the event.
“I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS,” Mr. Bloomberg explained. “As you know, I’m a big supporter of Israel–as big of a one as I think you can find in the city. But I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.”
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch died earlier this morning at the age of 88 after being hospitalized for congestive heart disease. Mr. Koch served as the 105th Mayor of New York City for three terms from 1978 until 1989. With a larger-than-life personality, Mr. Koch relished a position that allowed him to become something of a national ambassador for New York City.
Though critics accused Mr. Koch of worsening racial tensions in the city and not doing enough to fight the AIDS crisis that was particularly devastating to the gay community, Mr. Koch was fiercely proud of his legacy, specifically, what he saw as his efforts to save New York from the financial crisis of the late 1970’s, his vast expansion of public housing and programs and efforts he saw as bringing a more meritocratic approach to local government. Politicker conducted one of the final interviews with Mr. Koch on January 17, just two weeks before his death, and he characterized his administration as paving the way for his successors.
The Israel-Palestine conflict once again reached New York’s political scene today as elected officials and other activists gathered to denounce Brooklyn College’s political science department for their controversial decision to sponsor a February forum calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. To say the press conference was heated would be an understatement as it was chocked full of charged rhetoric including multiple references to anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and al-Qaeda.
“Let me tell you, it brings back a lot of memories,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the emcee of today’s denunciation, began. “I studied here towards my B.A. and got my Master’s at Brooklyn College, a lot of very fond memories. I stand here very, very disappointed, … students and the organization [are] holding a lecture next week with two viciously, viciously, anti-Israel [speakers]. And when I say ‘viciously,’ I mean they call for the destruction of the state of Israel. They think Hamas and Hezbollah are good organizations. I would assume they feel the same way about al-Qaeda. These are individuals who are extreme radicals.”
Like other pro-Israel groups, the National Jewish Democratic Council has long been critical of former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel’s record on Mideast policy. However, with the news that President Barack Obama will nominate Mr. Hagel to be secretary of defense, the group is towing the party line and is now firmly in the pro-Hagel camp.
“President Barack Obama’s unprecedented pro-Israel credentials are unquestionable, and setting policy starts and stops with the President,” the NJDC said in a statement this morning. “While we have expressed concerns in the past, we trust that when confirmed, former Senator Chuck Hagel will follow the President’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel — on strategic cooperation, missile defense programs, and leading the world against Iran’s nuclear program.”