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NYC mayor urges local candidates to reject DSA pledge against Israel trips

The DSA is a left-wing political organisation with growing influence in NYC's local elections [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 August, 2020

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New York City's mayor called on candidates for municipal office to reject a pledge by the Democratic Socialists of America to decline visits to Israel.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday urged municipal candidates to reject a pledge by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) not to visit Israel if elected.

The New York chapter of the DSA - a left-wing political organisation with growing influence on local elections - sent a survey to candidates seeking its endorsement for next year's City Council races, NY1 reported last week.

One question in the survey reads: “Do you pledge not to travel to Israel if elected to City Council in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation? Even though foreign policy falls outside the purview of municipal government, gestures like travel to a country by elected officials from a city the size and prominence of New York still send a powerful message, as would the refusal to participate in them."

The question generated controversy once made public by NY1's report, with members of New York's Jewish community calling the DSA antisemitic.

The DSA has defended its survey, citing the military aid Israel receives from the US, as well as New York officials' visits to the Jewish state sponsored by pro-Israel organisations, according to NY1.

During an interview with NY1, Mayor de Blasio said he shared some of the DSA's overall progressive policies, but disagreed with the survey.

“You can dislike the Israeli government at this moment or its specific policies, but to suggest that people shouldn’t visit there, I think is wrong,” he told NY1.

“To support the BDS movement is wrong. That would rob Israel of its economic ability to allow people to have a livelihood," he alleged, in an attack on the peaceful pro-Palestinian boycott movement.

According to NY1, the DSA has seen a number of recent victories in New York, where at least five of its endorsed candidates won State Senate and Assembly races.

The DSA has also known success at the federal government level, with members such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib winning seats in Congress.

In June, Ocasio-Cortez was among four progressive lawmakers who, in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urged Washington to slash military aid to Israel if it goes ahead with plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a DSA endorsee during the US presidential race, was among the signatories.

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