New York has no business investing in Israel until it complies with UN resolutions regarding the Palestinians, says a long-shot contender for state comptroller.
The Green Party’s Howie Hawkins says one of his first acts in office would be to divest from bonds he says were purchased by Comptroller H. Carl McCall out of a “political need to support the Israeli occupation.”
A Syracuse Teamster who works for the United Parcel Service and runs a nonprofit that helps promote worker cooperatives, Hawkins, 49, said New York “should only invest in securities that meet both social and financial criteria.” He said Israel met neither condition because “they are in a poor fiscal condition and in violation of UN resolutions. I don’t think we should be associated with that.”
Hawkins estimated New York investments in Israel at $178 million, but the total figure is substantially higher, including $78 million in State of Israel Bonds, $600 million in U.S. Agency for International Development bonds earmarked for Israel, and $135 million in bonds sold by other Israel-based companies.
Although the country is in recession, Israel’s bond rating was expected to remain stable for “the foreseeable future” because of recent economic reforms, said a spokesman for State of Israel Bonds, Raphael Rothstein.
McCall, the Democratic candidate for governor, is the first New York State comptroller to buy Israel bonds. He has said that the bonds not only helped Israel but also were a sound investment because Israel has never defaulted.
Hawkins’ declaration comes at a time when there is a growing movement, mostly on college campuses, calling for an end to U.S. investment in — and foreign aid to — Israel due to the ongoing violence with the Palestinians.
“The divestiture campaign is nothing more than a slanderous, hateful campaign to isolate Israel as a pariah state,” said Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “I view it as a successor to last year’s vile UN conference on racism in South Africa.”
The national Green Party has been consistently critical of the Jewish state and has called on the United Nations to send an international force to protect Palestinians.
The party’s state chairman, Mark Dunlea, said that while Hawkins was not alone in his view, it was not an official platform in the New York chapter.
“The state committee itself has not voted on this issue, although an assembly of Green groups has,” said Dunlea.
Hawkins said his Green running mates agreed with his policy. But Stanley Aronowitz, the party’s gubernatorial nominee, said that while he supported ending “every dime” of military aid to Israel, he would not stop funding that “could be used for social development.”
An anti-Israel plank is generally considered a non-starter in New York political campaigns given the large share of Jewish voters. But with virtually no chance of winning, Hawkins has little to lose other than sacrificing the ballot position of his party if it fails to win 50,000 votes for governor.
“We don’t come out with positions to get votes but because they are good policies,” said Hawkins, adding that he supported a two-state solution in the Middle East and believed many Israel supporters oppose the Sharon government.
Both major party candidates for comptroller, Republican John Faso and Democrat Alan Hevesi, support continuing investments in Israel. City Comptroller William Thompson also has indicated that he will be making a major Israel Bonds investment in the near future.
In other comptroller’s race news, Hevesi is slamming Faso for voting against Holocaust education in public schools as an assemblyman.
“To say that public school kids should not be taught about this era … is to deprive our youth of the abilities they need to prevent that history from ever repeating itself,” said Hevesi, who served with Faso in the Assembly before he became city comptroller.
Faso, of upstate Kinderhook, formerly the Assembly Minority Leader, voted against a bill that would have required “instruction on subjects of human rights violations, genocide, slavery and the Holocaust.”
But Faso spokesman George Arzt said it was “outrageous” to suggest that the candidate opposes Holocaust education. “What he doesn’t support is legislative interference in the curriculum of our schools,” said Arzt.
# In comments from the Assembly floor at the time, Faso said the bill “gets us into very thorny issues” by opening the door for Holocaust deniers and others to be given equal time. The bill became law in 1994.
In his new memoir “Al On America,” the Rev. Al Sharpton writes that he made a deal in 1991 with then-Mayor David Dinkins to help end the riots in Crown Heights if Dinkins would appeal to police to be “evenhanded” in making arrests.
“We reached a meeting of the minds,” Sharpton wrote, referring to a conversation with the mayor as the rioting continued. “I agreed that I would hit the streets to restore peace if he would appeal to the Police Department to be fair and evenhanded in their treatment of blacks and chasidics in Crown Heights. At the time, police were only arresting blacks … The violence was clearly coming from both sides.”
Sharpton said two rocks were thrown at him by chasidim during a protest march.
In another chapter, Sharpton describes a dilemma over whether to shake Yasir Arafat’s hand as news cameras clicked when he paid a call on the Palestinian leader earlier this year. “If I shake hands, I know it’s going to be used by some. If I don’t … they can say, ‘How are you here to promote peace and then snub this guy in his own place?’ ”
Sharpton adds that when the two emerged from the meeting for a press conference, Arafat, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, held the reverend’s arm for balance. The resulting headline was “Arafat and Sharpton Arm In Arm.”
Meanwhile, the soon-to-announce presidential candidate is keeping his distance from the controversy involving New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka and his anti-Israel verse.
“I have not really taken a position,” Sharpton told The Jewish Week recently. He said he had not read the poem, which accused Israel of prior knowledge of 9-11 and warning 4,000 Israelis to stay away from the World Trade Center.
Unlike Baraka, Sharpton said he had seen “no evidence that Israel [was] engaged in 9-11.” But he declined to say whether Baraka should be fired.
In his bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Conservative Party candidate Alan Jay Gerber is hoping to benefit from the congressman’s unpopular vote against military action against Iraq.
Nadler’s district, which stretches from Brooklyn through Manhattan, includes the former World Trade Center site.
“I find it incredible that on the heel of last year’s attack on our district … our federal representative would vote to give comfort and encouragement” to opponents of the war, said Gerber, a public high school teacher who lives in Borough Park.
Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Nadler said he opposed the resolution on Iraq because it handed the president a “blank check” and does not require him to seek international support for the war. He also said he opposes the president’s stated goal of regime change in Iraq.
“America should not be seen as an international bully, arrogating to ourselves the right to depose and impose regimes on other countries,” said Nadler.
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side has been appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the city’s Commission on Human Rights, it was announced Tuesday.