Many Bronx politicians, from local to national representatives, have come together to declare their support for Israel in the wake of the terrorist attacks Saturday that have left more than 1,000 Israelis dead.
U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, who represents the Bronx’s 15th Congressional District, which includes the Bronx’s largest Jewish population in Riverdale, has been one of the most outspoken in his support for Israel since the militant group Hamas launched its attack on Oct. 7. In a statement Saturday, the congress member said the Israeli government is doing what the U.S. would do under similar circumstances to defend itself.
“I unequivocally stand with Israel as it rightly defends itself and condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions of Hamas — a terrorist organization that has long sought the destruction of the Jewish state — and extend my deepest condolences for the innocent Israeli lives lost thus far,” Torres said.
The conflict between the Palestinians in Gaza and the Israelis goes back about 75 years, although Saturday’s attack was the worst in decades — with some U.S. politicians comparing the massacre to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Lower Manhattan.
Gaza is a coastal strip of land southwest of Israel along the Mediterranean Sea. Formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire and then ruled by the British, Egyptians and Israelis — the fenced-in, 25-mile-long enclave is inhabited by around 2 million Palestinians, most of whom are Sunni Muslims.
Given the Israeli occupation and the ongoing battle for the Holy Land, Palestinians and Israelis have had a long history of warfare. For instance, the armed Palestinian branch Hamas is dedicated to ending the Jewish state and restoring Islamic rule. It was formed in 1987 and has slowly gained power in the Gaza Strip. The organization is responsible for many suicide bombings and other assaults on Israeli citizens, and the U.S. State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997.
The conflict reached a boiling point Saturday (Oct. 7) when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel during the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah — storming the blockade separating the two nations and gunning down Israeli civilians and soldiers, taking others captive, and firing rockets from Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded by launching massive airstrikes and declaring war on Hamas.
As of Wednesday, the war had already resulted in more than 2,200 deaths on both sides, according to the Associated Press.
Multiple other Bronx politicos have joined Torres in denouncing Hamas and offering support for Israel.
We must stand firmly with Israel and provide whatever resources are necessary for it to defend itself and protect its people against Hamas terrorists. pic.twitter.com/HfkJwXyFVE
— Rep. Ritchie Torres (@RepRitchie) October 10, 2023
“I stand with Israel today and always,” said Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz, who represents the Northwest Bronx in Assembly District 81. “I support Israel’s response to the savage attacks against civilians by the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists. We must continue to unequivocally stand with Israel and their right to eliminate terrorists who have attacked the Jewish state.”
Dinowitz, along with Torres and other pols, also condemned a recent New York City Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA) demonstration in Times Square — arguing the rally supported Hamas’ killing and kidnapping of Israeli civilians and troops.
“NYC-DSA gathers to celebrate the kidnapping and murder of Israeli civilians,” said Council Member Eric Dinowitz, who represents the Bronx’s 11th Council District, on social media. “The DSA is nothing more than a vehicle for antisemitic violence here in NYC and across the nation.”
In a social media thread, the DSA said it stands in solidarity with Palestine, arguing that the Oct. 7 attacks were “a direct result of Israel’s apartheid regime.”
“We unequivocally condemn the killing of all civilians. It is imperative for international human rights law to be respected,” DSA posted on social media. “But we cannot forget that the Israeli state has systematically denied Palestinians the right to self-determination for decades.”
Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the NYPD warned the public about potential threats in the city in the wake of the conflict in Israel, telling residents to “not let their guard down,” according to Bronx Times affiliate amNewYork Metro.
Hate crimes by bias motivation citywide showed that anti-Jewish complaints were the highest among all other groups in 2022 with 261 reports, according to data from the NYPD. Earlier this year, a man threw a concrete slab through the window of woman’s apartment in Pelham Parkway, which adorned a large Israeli flag and other pro-Israel sentiments. The incident was later deemed a hate crime by the NYPD.
“We have to be high alert; we cannot let our guards down,” Adams said at a press conference Tuesday. “We cannot believe that it happened thousands of miles away in Israel. We are the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, and we want our synagogues, our personnel to be extremely conscious.”
U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a member of the DSA, said in a statement that while he condemns Hamas’ actions, he supports innocent civilians on both sides. Bowman represents the Bronx and Westchester in Congressional District 16.
“The events that unfolded in Israel and Palestine over the last few days are horrific,” he said. “We must remember that Palestinian civilians are not responsible for Hamas’s actions. We must ensure we center human rights and be clear-eyed about the loss of life that will unnecessarily be inflicted upon all innocent civilians. This deadly violence has been killing and traumatizing generations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Other Bronx politicians who have denounced attacks launched by Hamas include U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is also aligned with the DSA, and Adriano Espaillat, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer and Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, among others.
The Bronx Jewish Center at Pelham Parkway, located at 900 Pelham Parkway South, is planning to hold a prayer and vigil for Israel on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes