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Pro-Palestine protesters tell New York City Mayor Eric Adams: ‘Shame on you’

Mayor Adams tweeted on Sunday that protestors are a 'group of extremists'
Pro-Palestine protestor at a rally near Israeli Consulate in New York City, on 8 October 2023 (AFP)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is facing backlash from Muslims, Palestinians, and Jewish people after he likened pro-Palestine protestors to “extremists” who support “terrorism”.

In tweets posted on Sunday, he wrote: “Throughout the day, I’ve been monitoring the protest that started in Times Square and that moved through our streets to outside the Israeli Consulate General’s Office in New York.”

“At a moment when innocent people are being slaughtered and children kidnapped in Israel, it is disgusting that this group of extremists would show support for terrorism. I reject this. New York City rejects this. 

"Do not use our streets to spread your hate.”

Middle East Eye asked Mayor Adams how he felt about the criticism he's received for his tweet likening pro-Palestine protestors to "extremists" who support "terrorism", and if he felt his tweet was appropriate.

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His office responded by saying: “The Mayor stands by his words.”

Sunday's rally in Manhattan brought more than 1,000 protestors backing Palestine, a day after the surprise Hamas attack on Israel where at least 700 Palestinians and 900 Israelis were killed.

Ibrahim Mossallam is an activist and former board chairman at the Council on American–Islamic Relations (Cair) - New York. On Sunday, he marched in Manhattan with his two teenage children. While the rally began at Times Square, they arrived late and caught the end of the march down to the Israeli consulate.

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Mossallam described it as a peaceful march. There were people shouting slogans like, “Resistance is justified when people are occupied”. 

“I wanted my 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter to attend and see for themselves what is happening as they build the understanding of what this occupation is and how it has resulted in the dehumanisation of Palestinians in the West,” Mossallam told Middle East Eye.

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“They got a first-hand experience after coming home and seeing the mayor of the greatest city in America label them as extremists and terrorists.”

He said Adams’ comments are promoting violence and Islamophobia against “members of his constituency as he succumbs to Zionist political power influence on US (government) office servants to advance their anti-Palestinian messaging.”

He explained that Palestinians want all loss of life to end. But to do so, “the root of the problem, which is Israel’s decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the denial of Palestinian human rights, must end”.

The rally was condemned by many elected officials, including New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who said it was “abhorrent and morally repugnant”.

But many New Yorkers don’t see it that way.

'A slap in the face'

Rebecca, who didn’t want her last name used, is a Jewish college student in New York. She attended the rally on Sunday with two of her friends, proudly wearing a keffiyeh and chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

Rebecca said she would travel to Israel with her family every summer and grew up believing that Israel belongs to the Jews. But once she went to college, she said she learned about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

“Israel doesn’t belong to the Jews. It’s literally stolen land. Stolen land that was accomplished by literally ethnically cleansing hundreds of thousands of Arabs,” she told Middle East Eye.

“Me and everyone else at the march yesterday were there supporting Palestinian resistance. To call us extremists, that is what is truly abhorrent.”

In August, Adams' three-day trip to Israel, including a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a "senior settler leader", caused a backlash among New York leaders, Jewish Americans and Palestinian Americans. His critics said he was "siding with oppressors".

It was Adams’ first official trip to Israel since taking office last year. He has visited Israel two times in the past and once said that he wants to retire in the occupied Golan Heights.

“I am going to try to find a plot of land so it can be my retirement place,” Adams told Mishpacha magazine in 2021. 

“I love the people of Israel, the food, the culture, the dance, everything about Israel.”

In a statement on Monday, Cair-NY executive director Afaf Nasher said Adams is abusing his authority when he refers to protestors as extremists.

“Not only does Mayor Adam’s reckless rhetoric cater to a one-sided agenda, but blatantly undermines the constitutional right of all Americans to protest and engage in free speech.”

She added that his “irresponsible” response also fuels Islamophobic rhetoric, and called on him to renounce his words

The City University of New York Jewish Student Law Association put out a statement condemning Adams’ remarks, calling them “cowardly yet unsurprising… [that Adams] who discounts the fact that much of NYC’s Jewish population REJECTS Israeli apartheid and stands with the Palestinian people!”

Maryam Musa, a Palestinian New Yorker, attended the rally on Sunday with her cousins. She said she was upset when she saw Adams' comments, especially considering that she was one of the thousands of Muslims who helped vote him into office.

“I supported him for a long time. He’s done good things, sure. He did the right thing with the public adhan. But after his comments on this? I cannot find it in my moral compass to support this man,” she told Middle East Eye. 

“Shame on him for ignoring the Palestinian struggle. For comparing us to extremists. For telling us not to use streets that are ours,” she said. “This was a changing point in history. Back in Palestine and here, too.”

Over a thousand protesters attended another rally on Monday outside the Israeli consulate in New York City organised by Within Our Lifetime (WOL), a Palestinian-led advocacy organisation. 

Abdullah Akl, a Muslim activist with WOL, told Middle East Eye that it’s appalling and dangerous to see elected officials coming out and making statements supporting an apartheid state “and ignoring the years of ethnic cleansing that the Palestinian people have been subjected to.”

“It’s a slap in the face to every Muslim New Yorker that advocates for this issue beyond just politics, as it resonates with us religiously,” he added.

“This puts the Muslim community in danger, as people see these elected officials making remarks that align terrorism with supporting Palestinian resistance.”

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