JTA — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the State of Israel “a fundamentally progressive concept” while criticizing the boycott Israel movement in an interview.
In an interview with Bloomberg, de Blasio was asked if he was concerned about a rise in support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement “on the left.” He said the vast majority of liberal Democrats oppose the movement.
Speaking of the BDS backers, he said, “I respect their First Amendment rights, but that doesn’t stop me from profoundly disagreeing with what they’re doing.”
“Israel is a fundamentally progressive concept. It is about having a homeland for a people who’ve been oppressed for millennia and who still have to wonder if they will have safety in the rest of the world. I don’t know what could be more progressive than a homeland for oppressed people,” he said.
“You can disagree with Benjamin Netanyahu, but still understand why Israel matters so much in the world. So I’m happy to take on the discussion anytime, anywhere. It is about our values as Democrats and progressives,” de Blasio said.
He said he believes Democrats should stand by Israel and that he supports the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
“I consistently disagree with Netanyahu and I look forward to the day when he’s no longer prime minister,” he added.
De Blasio, who will leave office next year following this fall’s mayoral election, has been a leading pro-Israel voice in the progressive movement during his tenure.
The younger wave of progressive New York City lawmakers recently elected to Congress has largely staked out a pro-Israel, anti-BDS position. Representative Ritchie Torres, whose 15th District is in the Bronx, has the backing of mainstream pro-Israel PACs for his outspoken support of Israel.
Representative Jamaal Bowman, who upset longtime leading pro-Israel voice Eliot Engel last year in a Democratic primary, has been vocally critical of some Israeli policy under Netanyahu, but he does not support the BDS movement and has spoken about his process of trying to get closer with his Jewish constituents.