When Israel was attacked by Hamas on October 7, Rep. Dan Goldman was with his family on a visit to Tel Aviv. Upon hearing the sirens, they hid in a shelter with their hosts.
“It was a harrowing experience,” the Brooklyn lawmaker said in an interview with ABC Channel 7. “Obviously, very difficult to explain what was going on to my three young children who were with me. But it just pales in comparison to what the families in southern Israel had had to endure. Just the brutality and absolute atrocity of what Hamas did to innocent families, children, grandparents, concert goers celebrating peace.”
Goldman’s district runs from Greenwich Village to Borough Park, encompassing downtown Manhattan and Park Slope. This past Thursday evening, the sidewalk outside of Goldman’s Brooklyn office was vandalized with red paint that read “Free Palestine” on the window, “Let Gaza live” on the wall underneath, and “Blood on ur hands” on the sidewalk.
Their anger was simmering from the night when he won his seat, and it boiled after he was among the 22 House Democrats who joined the Republicans in censuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib for falsely claiming that “from the river to the sea” is an “aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence.” It erupted in anger as he refused to call for a ceasefire amid continued protests, letters, and phone calls to his office.
“Harassing, intimidating, and outright attacking the staff of a Jewish elected official at a time of rising violence and rampant anti-Semitism is dangerous and unacceptable,” said his spokeswoman Simone Kanter.
The act of vandalism was egregious enough that Comptroller Brad Lander, an outspoken progressive and critic of the Israeli government, condemned the act. “This is a rotten crime,” he tweeted. “And also pretty dumb: It did not advance the cause of Palestinian safety or freedom. Instead, it just confirmed many Jews’ fears & stoked more division.”
The damage left in red paint on the office of a Jewish lawmaker who was a witness to the rocket attacks should have been a moment for reflection. How can a self-described anti-racist movement not condemn vandalism that hints at blood libel? Instead, organizations such as Jews for Racial and Economic Justice have doubled down on the lie that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza and led another protest against Goldman this past Sunday at the Grand Army Plaza.
Next to Goldman’s Tenth District, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries was also targeted with racist tropes by anti-Israel activists. Following his speech at the March for Israel in Washington on November 14, in which he stood alongside the Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, DSA activists announced a protest outside Jeffries’ downtown Brooklyn office for last Friday evening. The poster for the event included an image of a watermelon slice, which was quickly condemned by pro-Israel voices as a racist trope whose history is rooted in Jim Crow minstrel plays.
“The use of racially inflammatory imagery should come as no surprise given the role NYC-DSA and other gentrifiers have played in aggressively attacking black elected officials,” said Jeffries’ spokesman Andy Eicher. “They have zero credibility in the communities Leader Hakeem Jeffries proudly represents.”
The Crown Heights native has been representing District Eight in Congress since 2013, and serves as the Minority Leader in the House, making him the most high-profile Black lawmaker in the country. His district covers Brooklyn’s historically Black neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, and East New York; and conservative-leaning places in the south of the borough such as Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, and Brighton Beach.
Defending their poster, DSA members spoke of the watermelon as a protest symbol because it has the colors of the Palestinian flag. “It’s pretty racist to say that Palestinians can’t use a watermelon symbol because only Black people eat watermelon,” tweeted State Sen. Jabari Brisport, a DSA lawmaker in Prospect Heights.
What Brisport’s tweet really shows is that only the leftists can define what constitutes racism, anti-Semitism, and genocide. Looking at public opinion polls, young voters in the Democratic Party overwhelmingly support an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, based on Israel’s superior firepower and the higher casualty numbers among Gazans, along with social media as their leading source of news, where anti-Israel tweets and videos far outnumber pro-Israel content, expressed in progressive terms designed to evoke sympathy among news consumers.
Recognizing that politicians are more responsive to voices within their district, I called my aunt in Sheepshead Bay. “You voted for Trump in the last election, and I know that you’re not happy with the Democrats, but I must tell you about your Congressman,” I told her. “He spoke at the rally in Washington, and right now the leftists are raging mad at him because they cannot accept that a Black man can be pro-Israel. He is more than your Congressman. He is a party leader who literally stood with us in a bipartisan manner. You must write to him.”
Together we wrote a letter to Jeffries, expressing thanks and urging him to stay the course. Amid the incessant phone calls and protests on social media and in person by anti-Israel activists, what is the likelihood that my aunt’s letter would receive a personal response from her Congressman?
My aunt is not an activist, she does not represent any organization. She is a voter who has family members in southern Israel and in the Israeli Army. In light of the vandalism and protests aimed at these two Brooklyn lawmakers, my aunt recognized that the Democratic Party is not led by Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. With courage, her own Congressman refuses to back down from his support of Israel.
In the neighboring borough, Reps. Grace Meng and Greg Meeks have also stood by Israel, despite an ongoing harassment campaign by leftists who have been picketing their district offices.
Earlier this month, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards was among the 13 local lawmakers flown to Israel by the Jewish Community Relations Council, where they visited the battle-scarred kibbutzim on the Gaza border. Looking at Richards’ tweets, it left an impression:
“The Israelis that were murdered were the most sympathetic to the plights of Palestinians and still are. Let that sink in.” Indeed, among the murdered and kidnapped were activists who supported the two-state solution and provided humanitarian assistance to Gazans.
“If we truly want a two-state solution, Hamas has to go. Every hostage must be returned to their families and communities,” he later wrote.
For my Republican friends, they are entitled to disagree with these Democratic lawmakers on economic and social policies. But as my aunt recognizes, when they are targeted with racist tropes for supporting Israel, the least that they deserve for standing with us, is recognition for taking an unpopular but correct position. That’s exactly what it means to be a Zionist, always outnumbered at the UN, on the street, and on social media, but knowing that our cause is just.
By Sergey Kadinsky