Editorial: Playing politics with Israel, Part II

Editorial: Playing politics with Israel, Part II

Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral said he recently signed an agreement for the village to become a sister city with two towns in the Israeli-occupied West Bank because he wants to “build bridges” with communities around the world.

Bral said officials from both territories reached out to him a week before a planned trip to Israel

Other international municipalities, Bral said, have already reached out to establish these agreements and he told village residents during last month’s Board of Trustees meeting that more will be coming.

“To hear that people are actually approaching us, wanting to make friendship agreements and build bridges…I think it’s extremely heartwarming,” he said. “I was more than happy to meet with them and it’s really my honor and privilege to sit here and announce these sister cities.”

We appreciate Bral’s support for building bridges with cities from around the world.

But the two towns with which the Village of Great Neck reached an agreement seem like a curious place to start.

One town, The Town of Mitzpe Yericho, is a religious Israeli settlement and the second, Township of Eli, is a large mixed Israeli settlement. Both are located on the West Bank.

The international community considers all Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law as well as being cited in several UN Security Council resolutions.

The U.S. government has long opposed the construction of settlements, saying they represent an obstacle to peace with Palestinians based on a Palestinian state roughly comprised of the occupied territories.

The Israeli government disputes that the settlements are illegal.

The world is a big place with many large, free-market economies. Why not build bridges in a less politically fraught place? Even in Israel itself, a vibrant free-market economy that is considered one of the world’s innovation hubs?

The timing of Bral’s announcement raises other questions.

His announcement comes on the heels of County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s announcement that Nassau would sign an economic and cultural agreement with Judea and Samaria, an area that encompasses the entire Israeli-occupied West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem.

And Blakeman did nothing to hide his use of the Israeli-Palestinian issues for political purposes.

The release announcing the agreement included Congressman Lee Zeldin among the supporters.

Zeldin’s congressional district does not represent any part of Nassau County, only Suffolk. But he is the state Republican Party’s choice for governor.

In case anyone missed how he was using the office of Nassau County to further his political agenda, Blakeman concluded his press release by noting that “Nassau County is home to approximately 230,000 Jewish residents, including some of the largest synagogues in the United States.”

Not coincidentally, Blakeman was the Republican Party’s liaison to Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign and Bral has strongly promoted “conservative” values as mayor of Great Neck Plaza that align with Trump.

Bral recently congratulated newly elected County Legislator Mazi Pilip, a Republican, during her swearing-in ceremony, calling her victory over Democratic incumbent Ellen Birnbaum one that was “long overdue to the conservative values we all celebrate and cherish.”

If Bral wants to use his position as mayor of  Great Neck Plaza to change U.S. foreign policy, he should say so.

He should also explain how Israel can remain both a Jewish state and a democratic state if the occupied territories are annexed.

The Arab and Palestinian populations are expected to surpass the Jewish population in the not-too-distant future.

If the West Bank was annexed by Israel, Israel would likely cease to be a Jewish state if Arabs and Palestinians were given the same rights as Jews. And if they weren’t given the same rights as Jews, then Israel would no longer be a truly democratic state.

The alternative is the status quo——an occupation that began in 1967, more settlements and violence that flares up from time to time.

To be clear, there is fault on both sides in the failure of Palestinians and Israelis to reach an agreement.

The Palestinians, to borrow a quote used often by Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Their leadership has often been corrupt, incompetent or both.

And Bral and Blakeman have not been alone in defending, if not encouraging, Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank. Or failing to draw a distinction between Israel and Israeli-occupied territories.

Last July, town and county officials in Nassau reacted swiftly to the news that Ben & Jerry’s would no longer be sold in the Israeli-occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem as of 2023, citing concerns about the treatment of Palestinians there.

Palestinians living in the territories occupied by Israel live with severe restrictions on their access to jobs, land and public services.

The founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Merrick natives Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, were quick to point out that the company’s policy applied only to the territories Israel had occupied since 1967. Not to Israel itself.

But that made little difference to local officials in Nassau County, both Democrats and Republicans.

Republican Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said he had directed every department and commissioner to make sure that not only was the town not selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream but any other product of the company that owns Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever Corp.

This covers 400 brands, including Dove soap, Lipton tea, Breyers ice cream, Klondike Bars and Hellman’s mayonnaise.

Hempstead officials said their actions followed legislation approved in 2016 prohibiting the town from doing business with any company boycotting Israel in what is known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS movement.

The BDS movement calls for countries, businesses and universities to sever ties with Israel unless it ends its occupation of all land captured in 1967, grants “full equality” to Palestinian refugees and assures the right of return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who have been displaced in wars that led to the establishment of Israel.

Hempstead Republicans were joined by then Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judy Bosworth, both Democrats.

Curran said she was “disappointed by Ben & Jerry’s decision to align itself with the anti-Israel BDS movement, which unfairly and dangerously singles out the world’s only Jewish state.”

Bosworth sounded a similar note.

“It is incumbent upon all of us to join together in solidarity and resilience against intolerance and bigotry,” Bosworth said. “North Hempstead’s anti-BDS legislation ensures that taxpayer money is never used to do business with or support any company that engages in a boycott of Israel.”

We’d like to think that Nassau County officials are motivated by a desire for peace in the Mideast.

But we can’t help thinking about the number of Jewish residents in Nassau cited by Blakeman and wonder if political advantage was not a bigger reason.

When it comes to the Mideast that can be very dangerous.

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  1. Contrary to the author’s assertion, the BDS movement seeks Israel’s destruction under the so-called “right of return” which would Arabize Israel and obliterate the Zionist enterprise.

  2. Your news paper is fake news I know from experience you made a bs story about me with out even asking me any questions. You are what’s wrong with democracy . Change your name to CNN or NY times of insanity. Sad how you write garbage about people. I say fire the whole team. We need real news.
    By the way the mayor is doing a great job. G-d bless him.


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