The co-manager of Andrew Yang’s campaign to become mayor of New York City made controversial comments about Israel in 2012 that could complicate the candidate’s recent outreach efforts to the Orthodox communities of Brooklyn and other Jewish voters.
Yang, who recent polls show is the current frontrunner in the crowded June primaries of the NYC mayoral race, has taken a bold stance labeling the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as antisemitic. But Sasha Neha Ahuja, the campaign’s co-campaign manager, in a series of Tweets in 2012, criticized both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over their position on Israel, disparaged Zionism and invoked what some see as an antisemitic trope.
Ahuja, currently chair of New York City’s Equal Employment Practices Commission, was hired last month to serve as head of the campaign along with Chris Coffey, a political consultant at Tusk Strategies. Her appointment has already sparked questions because of her longtime ties to Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist who supports BDS; Ahuja also criticized Yang himself last year over reports of gender discrimination on his presidential campaign.
In the 2012 tweets, she ridiculed Romney’s assertion while accepting the Republican presidential nomination that Obama “has thrown allies like Israel under the bus,” saying: “Romney pulling out the Zionist shit.”
A few months later, Ahuja complained that the third presidential debate, had turned into an “Israel love fest” because both candidates touted their support for Jewish state. “#changethedebate,” she added to several tweets.
And after watching the Sunday morning “Melissa Harris-Perry Show” on Nov. 18, 2012, where the topics included Israel’s war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, Ahuja tweeted: “Nerdland time. #Gaza, Israel and politrix. Guns and money y’all.” (“#Nerdland” is a nickname Harris-Perry gave to her show.)
Asked about Ahuja’s Tweets on Sunday, a spokesman for the Yang campaign did not answer directly. Instead, the spokesman said that Yang’s relationship with the Jewish community “speaks for itself” and that his “positions on the issues affecting Jewish New Yorkers are clear.”
“As I’ve stated before, I strongly disagree with Linda Sarsour on various issues including BDS and Israel,” Yang said in a statement provided by the spokesman. “I’m proud to have pro-Israel Congressman Ritchie Torres as my campaign co-chair and advising me on issues important to the Jewish community, including Israel. I’m a proud supporter of this community and always will be.”
The campaign official also pointed out that Yang appointed David Schwartz, a member of the Hasidic community in Brooklyn, as the campaign’s Jewish community outreach director last Thursday.
Ahuja declined to comment, saying the campaign’s statement speaks for itself.
Coffey, campaign’s other co-manager, tweeted on Saturday that Yang “plans to fight hard for [the] Jewish vote.” He said he was proud of the candidate’s “support of Israel, his commitment to go there first as Mayor, and his opposition to BDS.”
Yang campaign official at odds with candidate on Israel