There was no way candidates in New York’s 10th Congressional District were going to be able to walk away from a Tuesday forum without being asked to weigh in on Israel and Palestine.
Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou’s expression of support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement targeting Israel earlier this month – which she defined as support for the right to protest – drew quick scrutiny in the Democratic Party primary, with other candidates in the hotly contested race sharing more critical words for BDS.
At Tuesday’s forum, hosted by the Congregation Beth Elohim, the Forward, New York Jewish Agenda and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, candidates were asked a multipart question about whether they support the BDS movement, whether they would visit Israel or ever boycott Israel, Israelis or Israeli products as a member of Congress, and what they would do to advocate for the end of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the creation of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.
Niou was the first to answer, reiterating that she supported the movement’s right to protest. “When it comes to Israel and Palenstine, I support the BDS movement’s right to political speech. This includes boycotts and economic pressure,” Niou said. “I do not support calls to oppose the BDS movement. At the same time, I do not always agree with every single statement that’s made or all of its demands, nor do I embrace all of its tactics.”
Niou’s answer, which was preceded by her stating her commitment to the safety and security of all Jewish people, contrasted with each of the other seven candidates’ answers on BDS. Rep. Mondaire Jones, New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, former House impeachment counsel Dan Goldman, former Rep. Liz Holtzman, attorney Maud Maron and former small-business owner Brian Robinson all said they oppose – or in Robinson’s case outright “condemn” – the BDS movement. All but Maron and Robinson mentioned their support of a two-state solution in their answer. “A two-state solution for Israel is up to Israel,” Robinson said. “We have no right to tell them how to run their country.”