Aides for the New York mayoral hopeful tried to shut down voters in Queens who were outraged by his support for Israeli airstrikes that killed dozens of Palestinians.
Andrew Yang’s full-throated support for the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza on Monday was praised by Republicans like Stephen Miller and Sen. Ted Cruz but outraged progressive New Yorkers, including a pair of voters who confronted the candidate to be the city’s next mayor during a campaign stop in Queens on Tuesday.
Video of the confrontation, posted on Twitter by NY1 reporter Emily Ngo, showed the voters demanding an explanation from Yang for the statement he posted on Twitter — which notably made no mention of Palestinians killed by the strikes, or the Israeli use of force against Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem, which triggered the military escalation.
When pressed to defend his tweet by a woman who was outraged by it, Yang responded only with the vague platitude that “what’s happening in the Middle East” is “heartbreaking.” “It is: People are dying, civilians are dying, children are dying; we all want it to end,” Yang said.
When a second voter, who was filming Yang’s response, interrupted to ask, “Do you condemn Israel for that? Do you condemn Israel for their unjust acts against the innocent Palestinians?” an aide to the candidate stepped in to try to end the exchange. That in turn prompted the woman who began it to comment, “We got the publicist over here. We got the guy coming in saying, ‘Don’t say anything that’s going to fuck up your campaign.’”
Yang’s campaign, which is run by the lobbying firm of Bradley Tusk — a venture capitalist who ran Michael Bloomberg’s deflating third mayoral campaign, who recently described the candidate as an “empty vessel” — did indeed seem to be protecting him from the risk that he might alienate even more voters by continuing to talk about Israel.
If Yang is elected, “Tusk could essentially be the shadow mayor for New York, while he is representing the interests of big corporate clients,” John Kaehny, the executive director of the government transparency group Reinvent Albany recently told the New York Times.
“That’s why you don’t have my vote,” the woman told Yang, “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 said before his aides finally ended the appearance, according to more video of the confrontation recorded by Madina Touré of Politico New York.
As Ngo also reported, Yang had acknowledged to reporters just before the confrontation in Astoria that his scheduled appearance at a Muslim charity there to mark the Eid holiday had been canceled by the group following his tweet.
That led Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to criticize Yang for even attempting to go ahead with his visit to the Astoria Welfare Society event marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The progressive Democrat, who represents that part of Queens, also expressed pride in the locals who called out Yang for his hypocrisy.
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.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 11, 2021
But then to try that in Astoria? During Ramadan?! They will let you know. https://t.co/r721mHyfri
Yang’s tweet was posted one day after Politico New York reported that he was close to “locking down almost universal support among leaders of New York City’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community — a loyal bloc of voters that can make or break a campaign.”
Another Democratic mayoral candidate, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, is competing with Yang for the support of the same community. Minutes after Yang’s tweet supporting the Israeli military raid on Gaza was boosted by Stephen Miller on Monday, Adams tried to one-up his rival with a tweet of his own — which also erased the Palestinian victims and portrayed Israel as a blameless victim.
Today on Yom Yerushalayim, Israel came under attack from Hamas-fired rockets in Gaza. Israelis live under the constant threat of terrorism and war and New York City's bond with Israel remains unbreakable. I stand shoulder to shoulder with the people Israel at this time of crisis.— Eric Adams (@ericadamsfornyc) May 11, 2021
Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, offered a clear example of how possible it is to issue a statement that assigns blame for the violent escalation to Israel’s far-right and the state’s attempt to continue to rule over millions of Palestinians denied equal rights in the territories it has occupied since 1967.
Israeli children should not have to spend the night scared in bomb shelters, as many are doing tonight. Palestinian children should not have to grow up under the constant violence and oppression of occupation, as so many do, and have done.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 11, 2021