After telling a crowd of young Jewish leaders that they are statistically unlikely to ever be victims of a terror attack, and that the government uses terrorism “to scare people,” former congressman Anthony Weiner was in for a surprise Wednesday night.
Sarri Singer, founder of the victims’ support group Strength To Strength, begged to differ.
Singer was aboard a Jerusalem bus on June 11, 2003, when a suicide bomber detonated his charge near the Machane Yehudah market, killing 16 and injuring 100 passengers and pedestrians. Hamas claimed responsibility. Singer, who was in her late 20s at the time, spent weeks undergoing treatment for shrapnel wounds, a broken clavicle and damage to both her eardrums.
Following the forum sponsored by the Council of Young Jewish Presidents, an affiliate of the Jewish Community Relations Councll, Singer approached the Democrat mayoral candidate and reminded him that they had met years ago at a press conference. Singer is one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Arab Bank alleging that the institution facilitated wire transfers from terrorism supporters that enabled attacks, including the one that could have killed Singer.
“I told him we can’t just sit back and believe that nothing is going to happen. I told him I survived an attack 10 years ago, and my biggest concern is to make sure the city of New York and the rest of the country are protected.”
Terrorism came up in the context of remarks about security and crime prompted by Weiner’s aggressive stance against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices.
According to a recording of the event made by Weiner’s campaign, one of the 25 participants asked what would happen if the controversial street searches were ended, and as a result a “some jerk” was able to bring a bomb onto a subway train.
That’s when Weiner said “I believe we need to change our posture or at least our public posture as it [pertains] to terrorism. You know, we have to stop as leaders, as elected officials using it as a thing to scare people.” He later added “You are not going to be a victim of a terrorist attack. You. You are not going to be. OK? Statistically speaking none of us are going to.” The context of the discussion makes clear that he was referring to New Yorkers within the city.
Singer, who lives on the Upper West Side and works in career services at Touro College, said she interpreted Weiner’s remarks as being “laid back” on the topic of terrorism.
The recording shows that he stressed his view that concern about terrorism was not a legitimate reason to oppose stop-and-frisk. “So, we have to stop allowing ourselves to say how willing are you to dismantle the constitutional protections that other people experience?” Weiner said, insisting that “in my New York” there is no need for a choice between safety and civil liberties. “You can have both.”
He stressed that in Israel, leaders do not make promises of better security in exchange for sacrifices from the public. “They say that we are going to do everything to keep you safe, we are not always going to be successful, we are in a very dangerous part of the world.”
Singer’s organization, Strength to Strength, works to unite terror victims around the world.
Another participant in Wednesday’s meeting, who asked not to be identified, said Weiner’s terror remark was “a reckless statement when speaking to Jews involved in Israel-related causes.”
Also appearing at the forum were Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Weiner’s chief rival, and Republicans John Catsimitidis and Joe Lhota. (Council of Young Jewish Presidents has also met with mayoral candidates Bill Thompson, John Liu and Bill de Blasio at its previous board meetings.)
Quinn reportedly was a hit with the audience when she spoke of a recent trip to Sderot in southern Israel, during which it fell under rocket attack from Gaza.