BY STATE SENATOR
When I was first elected to the state legislature, I had the honor of visiting the Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Being raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, I was taught about one of our clergy leaders during World War II named Metropolitan Chrysostomos who peacefully led his community on the island of Zakynthos- at least until the Nazis invaded, demanding a list of the town’s Jewish residents. The Metropolitan returned with a list with only one name on it- his own- which is why he is listed among the “Righteous” at Yad Vashem.
It is a timely and timeless lesson. Words have meaning, hate speech is dangerous, and the time for standing up against anti-Semitism, especially by those outside the Jewish community, is now. With anti-Semitism on the rise at home (up 21 percent in New York last year according to the Anti-Defamation League) and abroad, it is critical that we confront hatred at its inception and send a strong message that New York will stand against hate and discrimination.
That is why I am proud to have introduced legislation in the New York State Senate that would prevent our state from conducting business with entities that engage in the organized boycotting, divestment or sanctioning (“BDS”) of Israel.
The BDS movement is nothing more than an effort to undermine and delegitimize a nation, cloaked in a shroud of false pretense and yet, it does nothing to mask that it is a thinly veiled political weapon, aimed squarely at our closest ally in the Middle East, while simultaneously maligning members of the Jewish community across the world.
At a time when crimes of an anti-Semitic nature are the leading religious-based hate crime in the United States, with New York seeing the most such incidents, it is incumbent upon those of us in government to act decisively.
The BDS Movement, which resists a peaceful, two-state solution, is opposed by numerous American leaders including President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton, but also by thoughtful commentators including, most recently, J.K. Rowling, the non-Jewish author of the Harry Potter book series. However, unlike in her story, this movement cannot be undone by the stroke of a wand. It will take an sustained effort by all New Yorkers and as long as I am a leader in the Democratic Party, I will remain committed to standing up for Israel and the Jewish community.
It is my hope that the words of this legislation will also have a strong meaning and that the Jewish community in New York and the State of Israel will continue going from “strength to strength” in years to come.
Michael Gianaris represents the 12th District, including Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and parts of Woodside, Elmhurst, West Maspeth, Ridgewood, Glendale, Woodhaven and Ozone Park, in the New York State Senate.