"As Jewish New Yorkers committed to racial justice, we believe apartheid is indefensible," said one protester. "Palestinians deserve to live with dignity and freedom."
A pair of democratic socialist New York state lawmakers joined more than 250 Jewish demonstrators and allies on Friday afternoon outside United Nations headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's General Assembly speech defending his far-right government's apartheid policies.
New York state Sen. Jabari Brisport (D-25) and state Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani (D-36) joined activists from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Adalah Justice Project, and other human rights defenders as Netanyahu—whose government is widely considered the most extreme in Israeli history—addressed world leaders inside the U.N. building.
During his speech, Netanyahu displayed a map of the Middle East without Palestine, while claiming he has "long sought to make peace with the Palestinians."
The protesters said there can be no peace under apartheid.
"As Jewish New Yorkers committed to racial justice, we believe apartheid is indefensible," asserted JVP's Jay Saper. "Palestinians deserve to live with dignity and freedom."
Brisport—who in May introduced the Not On Our Dime! Act, which would prevent state-registered charities from funding violations of the Geneva Convention by Israeli settlers—said: "In Brooklyn we have a saying, 'Spread love, it's the Brooklyn way.' Netanyahu has spread hate and displacement. And that has no place in our city."
The senator has previously drawn attention to the more than 700,000 Israelis living in over 250 illegal settlements built on Palestinian land in the unlawfully occupied West Bank, with the backing of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Many of the illegal colonies are funded by New York-based organizations.
Last year, the Israeli government forcibly displaced more than 1,000 Palestinians from their homes in what many critics have called acts of ethnic cleansing. Hundreds more Palestinians have been displaced this year to make way for Jewish settler-colonists.
There have also been multiple deadly settler rampages through Palestinian towns this year, revenge attacks that a wide range of critics—from Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to conservative U.S. Jewish groups and an IDF general—called "pogroms."
"We should refuse to host a man who has openly lauded the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, who gave the green light for bombing campaigns that left large parts of Gaza uninhabitable, a man who approved killing sprees that riddled streets with Palestinians wounded and killed," Adalah Justice Project communications and strategy director Sumaya Awad told the demonstrators.
According to the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed at least 200 Palestinians this year, making it the deadliest year for Palestinians since the final year of the second intifada, or general uprising, in 2005. The advocacy group Defense for Children International Palestine says 45 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis so far this year. At least 30 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian militant attacks in 2023.
Through it all, the U.S. continues to give Israel—the 13th-wealthiest nation in the world per capita, according to the International Monetary Fund—billions of dollars in nearly unconditional annual aid.
"Earlier today, someone asked me, 'Why should New Yorkers care about what's happening halfway across the world in Israel?'" said Mamdani, a co-sponsor of Brisport's bill. "There are 3.8 billion reasons for us to care: Same as the number of dollars that go from the U.S. to Israel in military aid every year."
"As Americans," he added, "this is a fight that recognizes our complicity in this apartheid regime in Israel."