A candidate survey question asking New York City Council candidates if they would boycott traveling to Israel if elected to office is "offensive" and "ridiculous" to ask, the state Democratic Committee chairman on Friday said.
The New York City Democratic Socialists of America's questionnaire, first reported by NY1, asks candidates: "Do you pledge not to travel to Israel if elected to City Council in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation? Even though foreign policy falls outside the purview of municipal government, gestures like travel to a country by elected officials from a city the size and prominence of New York still send a powerful message, as would the refusal to participate in them."
The question was broadly condemned as anti-Semitic by Democratic officials.
"I found it offensive," said New York State Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs in an interview to air on Capital Tonight this evening. "It's just another reason why I'm not joining the Democratic Socialists of America."
Jacobs added he supports a two-state solution for the Palestinians, but said it was absurd to query candidates for municipal office on foreign policy.
"Israel has been our strongest ally, Israel has been our only democracy in the region," Jacobs said. "I think that making City Council candidates adhere to that is ridiculous because the City Council has nothing to do with foreign policy and it's provocative unnecessarily."
Formal trips to Israel featuring elected officeholders in New York is not uncommon. But the question on the DSA questionnaire was broadly worded to include any travel.
“Members of the City Council are regularly taken on an expenses-paid trip to Israel that functions primarily as a political junket to foster ties between local officials and the Israeli state," the DSA NYC said in a statement.
"It is the only country that Councilmembers are regularly taken on delegations to visit for this purpose. Yet, Palestinians have lived under military occupation and siege, been displaced from their homes and denied freedom of movement for decades. Given that there has been an explicit call from Palestinians to not go on such government junkets and to put pressure on Israel to end the occupation and discrimination through boycott, divestment, and sanctions, we asked prospective candidates whether they would respect that call. New York has a large Palestinian community, and elected officials in NYC should represent those communities just as much as they represent others.”