New York City mayor Bill De Blasio just appeared on MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes” and was asked in the last few minutes about his January 23 speech to an AIPAC gathering at the New York Hilton, where he told the pro-Israel lobby he would “stand by you” whenever he’s needed “’cause that’s my job.” His response to Hayes was pretty eloquent. (The show is rebroadcast at 11 p.m. Eastern; look for this segment around 11:57.)
My transcription of the exchange, enabled through the magic of DVR, appears below.
The mayor’s 6-minute AIPAC speech (audio recording after the jump) drew some pretty sharp criticism from the left (and, less noticed, from the right as well). It even got Jon Stewart in trouble with the left for interviewing De Blasio and not grilling him about it.
Hayes, a former Washington editor of The Nation, makes it fairly plain in the way he poses the question that he sympathizes with the critics. But De Blasio stands tough: It’s not just that Israel deserves support as a “pluralistic society” that’s “been under attack.” Perhaps just as important—and legitimate—he’s the mayor of a city that “has one of the largest Jewish populations of any city on earth.”
New York City has had a foreign policy of its own for more than a century, going back through the legendary Fiorello LaGuardia and police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, representing the interests and values of the peoples that make up this melting pot. And an immigrant metropolis, like a nation, has underlying overseas interests and commitments that can transcend the personal views of an individual chief executive. Yes, that’s part of Hizzoner’s job.
Final question. I want to ask you how you see your job. You gave a speech to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The speech wasn’t on the schedule, it was off the record, but the contents were reported. And one of the things you said was that it was part of your job description to be a defender of Israel. Obviously we’re not going to resolve the very complicated issues vis a vis Israel and Palestine, but I gotta say, as a New Yorker I thought, I don’t know if that’s true. I voted for this guy and I don’t know if it’s part of the job description for him to be the defender of Israel. He’s got enough on his plate. I mean, is he the defender of Ukrainians in the streets who are crying out for their rights? Is he, you know, the defender of the Taiwanese against the One China policy? Is it – is it really your job? Is that your job description?
All right, look – I said something that was personal. I said something that was about my belief that we have to defend the state of Israel. And I think that has everything to do with the alliance that we have with Israel, the history we have, particularly as New Yorkers, the deep, deep connection we have, personally, to Israel. And I think it’s also a matter of protecting democracy. I think Israel stands as a pluralistic society that deserves respect, and it’s been under attack. And I think it is our job to support it. So that’s me speaking as the mayor of a city that is the closest to Israel of any city on earth and has one of the largest Jewish populations of any city on earth. And I think it is a fair role for me to play.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).