De Blasio’s double standard for Jewish community inspires a revolt
Almost anything can get someone branded a racist these days. Show public support for the American flag, police officers, or even “Gone With the Wind,” and you can be shunned for demonstrating inadequate support for black Americans.
But as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shows, it seems no big deal, at least for Democrats, to openly flirt with Antisemitism.
On Monday, just days after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said children could be allowed back into playgrounds, city workers chained shut parks in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, home to a large Orthodix Jewish community.
De Blasio reportedly ordered the entrances to be closed to enforce social distancing measures.
Accordingly, some angry members of the Orthodox community rebelled. State Sen. Simcha Felder, state Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein and City Councilman Kalman Yeger led a delegation that cut the locks off of three parks, the Jewish publication Hamodia reported. Lawmakers also led with bolt cutters at fourth community park.
“Individually, each of us exhausted every avenue of diplomacy in our effort to open our playgrounds for the families and children in our city,” the trio said in a statement.
“The people have spoken and they are sick and tired of being ignored. With everything going on in the world, why is our mayor intent on making criminals of mothers and children in need of a safe space to play? If they lock these gates, we will cut them open again tomorrow, because we serve the people. Who do you serve, Mr. Mayor?”
In reply, de Blasio said, “We’re not going to allow people to take the law into their own hands. It just doesn’t work. So people are not allowed to open up a playground that is not yet available to the public.”
The revolt in the Brooklyn parks was triggered partly by coronavirus-lockdown frustration, but also by the hypocrisy emitted by the mayor’s office.
De Blasio has endorsed the mass protests in his city, which sometimes became violent, following the death of George Floyd, the black Minneapolis man who died in police custody on Memorial Day.
Beyond that, the day before the parks were closed, de Blasio’s office tweeted a photo of him in Brooklyn, shoulder to shoulder with other activists while painting a slogan on a street to support the Black Lives Matter movement. The day before in Brooklyn, the LGBTQ community sponsored a massive “Black Trans Lives Matter” protest with a throng of thousands literally standing side by side. De Blasio did not criticize that event for risking the spread of COVID-19.
Yet to answer the legislators’ question, since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, it would appear de Blasio serves everyone but his Jewish constituents.
When Jewish residents gathered along a Brooklyn street in April to pay homage to a rabbi who died from COVID-19, de Blasio tweeted: “My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”
While de Blasio mentioned “all communities,” Jewish activists rightly felt singled out because they prominently called out.
They reacted similarly a month before that when the mayor threatened Jewish worshippers about continuing services: “If you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to,” he said, “our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services.” He added that might mean “permanently” shut down.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal after de Blasio’s April fiasco, Jeff Ballabon, a lawyer and former CBS News executive, and Mark Goldfeder, a law professor at Georgia State University, noted how de Blasio and the media were feeding a blame-the-Jews mentality for rising coronavirus cases by focusing on the behavior of the Jewish community.
“Stereotyping a group based on the actions of a few people is never appropriate, and blaming Jews as a ‘community’ for individual wrongdoing, real or imagined, is by definition anti-Semitic,” he wrote.
“Politicians such as Mr. de Blasio should quell dark impulses, not fuel them,” they added. “The media and the mayor need to stop looking for scapegoats.”
Yet after this week, and after de Blasio, like many others, endorsed the ridiculous idea that was OK to violate social-distancing guidelines in order to protest racism, the mayor clearly seems unwilling to dial back on insulting, threatening and alienating New York’s Orthodox Jewish community.
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