Andrew Yang, one of the leading candidates for mayor of New York City, faced backlash on Tuesday for a statement he published on Twitter in support of Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.
“I’m standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists,” Yang wrote hours after Hamas launched a barrage of missiles from Gaza aimed at Jerusalem and other major cities. “The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere.”
Yang’s tweet was retweeted by more than 38,000 people, and earned praise from former Trump political advisor Stephen Miller and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. The tweet also sparked the hashtag #YangSupportsGenocide.
More than 1,000 rockets were fired towards Israel beginning on Monday evening. At least 32 Palestinians, including 10 children, were killed in retaliatory airstrikes by Israel. Israeli officials said at least 18 were terrorists.
On Tuesday Yang scrapped from his schedule an appearance at a food distribution event ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, in Astoria, a neighborhood in the New York borough of Queens.
Yang told reporters that he was asked by the organizers, the Astoria Welfare Society, not to come. He said he believes it was because they didn’t like his tweet on the situation in Gaza.
Following the campaign stop at Astoria Park, Yang was approached by a couple of pro-Palestinian activists who expressed their disappointment that he hadn’t addressed Palestinian casualties in the latest exchange of fire. Yang explained that it’s “heartbreaking” to see people dying in the Middle East conflict, but he refused to criticize Israel for lives lost as it retaliated against rockets launched by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terror organizations.
“Don’t say anything that is going to f**k up your campaign,” one woman was heard reprimanding Yang in a video published by NY1 journalist Emily Ngo.” That’s why you don’t have my vote and I guarantee you you don’t have the vote of a lot of New Yorkers.”
“Like everyone else, I want to see an end to the bloodshed and violence,” Yang told another person confronting him about his tweet.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Yang’s statement supporting Israel “chest-thumping” and questioned his judgement. “Utterly shameful for Yang to try to show up to an Eid event after sending out a chest-thumping statement of support for a strike killing 9 children, especially after his silence as Al-Aqsa was attacked,” Ocasio-Coretz said in a tweet, referring to Israeli action against Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.
Yang has also been challenged about his strong opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
A Yang campaign official, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely about the matter, told the Forward that while the negative reaction was not surprising, candidates should probably refrain from weighing in on foreign policy issues that could cause such significant backlash.
Only four of the eight leading mayoral candidates in the June 22 Democratic primary issued public statements about the situation.
Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who is battling Yang for first place according to recent polls, also came under fire for a tweet defending Israel, before deleting it and re-publishing it an hour later.
Kashif Hussain, a Muslim-American activist who works in the office of the city’s public advocate, posted on Facebook that he was told the campaign staffer who published the tweet without authorization got fired. But a campaign spokesperson denied that claim.
Ray McGuire, a former Citigroup executive, was the first candidate to express his support for Israel, and Dianne Morales, who is backed by leading progressive groups, accused both Israel and Hamas of wrongdoing.
Scott Stringer, the only leading Jewish candidate, condemned the “horrific acts of terrorism against innocent Israelis” in a statement to the Forward on Tuesday. “I support Israel’s right to defend its people from organized, extremist groups that sow division and fear through violence,” said Stringer, the city’s comptroller. “I also urge the Israeli government to cease the wrongful evictions of Palestinian families, and for all parties to exercise caution and restraint to prevent further suffering and loss of precious life.”
Stringer added, “As we have seen throughout history, when terrorism is allowed to fester unmet and unchecked, both Israelis and Palestinians suffer the deadly and heartbreaking consequences.”