Update: On Wednesday, Andrew Yang responded to backlash following his tweet about Israel with a new statement, backtracking his previous stance and voicing concern for Palestinians. "I mourn every Palestinian life taken before its time as I do for every Israeli. Suffering and pain and violence and death suffered by anyone hurts us all. All people want to live in peace. We all want that for ourselves and for our children," Yang wrote. The mayoral candidate said that he came to this realization after members of his staff voiced their concern over his previous stance. "I join with millions around the world in praying that the current situation be resolved as quickly as possible, peacefully and with minimal suffering," he said.
This story was originally published on May 11, 2021.
New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang is once again trending on Twitter — but this time, it isn't because of his rehomed puppy or his thoughts on bodegas. On Monday, May 10, Yang shared a staunch pro-Israel stance amid the attacks and forced expulsions in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The attempted displacement of six Palestinian families led to increased violence and tension between Israeli forces and Palestinians, which culminated in deadly airstrikes in the Palestinian territory of Gaza on Monday. In response to his tweet, #YangSupportsGenocide began trending Monday night.
"I'm standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists," Yang tweeted. "The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere."
I'm standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists. The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere.— Andrew Yang🧢🗽🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) May 10, 2021
Yang was widely criticized by users on Twitter, many of them American and some Israeli and Palestinian, for misrepresenting the violence in East Jerusalem, disregarding the full context of the Hamas rocket attacks, and failing to speak out in support of the Palestinians facing police violence. For decades, Israeli settler organizations have attempted to displace Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, but tensions between Palestinians and the Israeli government escalated this week in light of an expulsion order currently being contested in court.
The order, which would forcibly expel six families from the homes they've had for generations, has prompted ongoing confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli police: On Monday, officers stormed a mosque, fired rubber bullets and tear gas, and wounded over 300 unarmed Palestinians.
In response, Hamas fired several rockets at Israel. Israel responded with air raids on the Gaza Strip, killing more than 21 Palestinians, including children, reported the Gaza health ministry. Yang's tweets have come under fire in light of the attacks.
"This is a disgustingly cynical move," tweeted Marc Lamont Hill. "You've said nothing about Sheikh Jarrah. Nothing about evictions. Nothing about the gross violations of human rights and international law. Nothing about the violence of an occupying force. You are awful."
Professional wrestler Sami Zayn also criticized Yang's statement. "Maybe not the most tasteful statement to make within hours of Israel bombing Gaza and killing 20 Palestinians, 9 of whom were children," he commented. And many others drew attention to the fact that far-right conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz and former Trump advisor Stephen Miller are showing their support for Yang.
Polls indicate that Yang is currently holding a lead in the mayoral race's Democratic primary. His stance on Israel has been a point of controversy since he entered the race in January: In an op-ed for The Forward, he loudly denounced the anti-Zionist Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, and then backtracked, while attempting to clarify his position. As Politico's Sally Goldenberg noted, Yang's flip-flopping has frustrated people on both sides of the issue.
Yang isn't the only mayoral candidate who's wading into this conversation, though. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the other frontrunner in the race and a "gun-toting Republican," according to Yang's team, released a similar statement in support of Israel. "New York City's bond with Israel remains unbreakable. I stand shoulder to shoulder with the people Israel at this time of crisis," Adams wrote on Twitter.
Progressive candidate Dianne Morales acknowledged the violence against Palestinians in a broader statement about the conflict. "Our world needs leaders who recognize humanity and the dignity of all lives. Whether in NYC, Colombia, Brazil or Israel-Palestine, state violence is wrong," she wrote early Tuesday morning. "Targeting civilians is wrong. Killing children is wrong. Full stop."
Although it might seem unusual that candidates for a local office are commenting on international conflicts, the violence has reverberations felt worldwide, especially in New York, a city with the world's largest Jewish population outside of Israel. The U.S. has also been involved in the dispute since World War II: Like former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, President Joe Biden has spoken in favor of a two-state solution, while Former President Donald Trump created another plan that would have shrunk Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
Now, New Yorkers are making it clear where they stand. "I'm Jewish. I'm a New Yorker," one user wrote. "But I'm also a member of the many Jews who understand that what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is a genocide. We cannot let Andrew Yang get the Democratic nomination for NYC mayor." Yang has yet to respond to the backlash.