New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is retreating from his earlier attempts to blame President Donald Trump for a rash of threatening phone calls and vandalism attacks aimed at Jewish centers across the nation.
“This is not a partisan atmosphere or a partisan moment,” de Blasio said at a Tuesday press conference on Staten Island, responding to a reporter’s question about his earlier claim that Trump is responsible for the increase of anti-Semitic crimes. “We are all united in defense of the community,” he added.
That’s a different tone from Feb. 17 when the mayor declared on his weekly WNYC “Ask the Mayor” segment that Trump is responsible for the rise in threats and vandalism directed against the Jewish community across the nation.
“The horrible, hateful rhetoric that was used in this election by candidate Trump and by a lot of his supporters directly connects to an increase since the election in anti-Semitic incidents, anti-Muslim incidents, and anti-LGBT incidents,” de Blasio said. “It is clear here, and it is clear around the country.”
The anti-Trump claim was undermined on Friday when the FBI, in coordination with the NYPD, arrested leftist journalist Juan Thompson after several threats were made to JCC centers nationwide.
Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told reporters at the news conference that Thompson is allegedly responsible for two of eight threats, one on Jan. 28 to a Jewish museum and one on Feb. 22 to the headquarters of Anti-Defamation League. However, Boyce said he believes Thompson is not responsible for the majority of the threats. “There’s still phone calls coming to JCCs around the country, and we’ll work with our federal partners to identify that person – or persons,” he said.
The Mayor is facing an election in November, and this was his first public event on Staten Island, a county which voted overwhelmingly for Trump. In January, de Blasio attended a private campaign fundraiser on the island.
Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli, who represents the area where the conference took place and is a former New York Trump campaign co-chair, was asked to comment about the Mayor’s statements linking the president to crime incidents.
“I think the Mayor and I have different worldviews on a lot of things,” Borelli responded. “What it comes down to is that the Mayor is certainly not my enemy or even adversary when it comes to standing against hate here on Staten Island or citywide and especially so when it is the JCC in my community.”
“There’s a push on the left to conflate anti-Semitism with Trump, while at the same time criticizing him for having Jared Kushner, who wears his Jewishness as proudly as anyone, as his most trusted confident and in the highest echelons of the White House staff,” Borelli told Breitbart News after the Mayor’s press conference. “It is mind-boggling,” he said, adding:
The mayor and I have a different worldview, for sure, and I am glad to stand with him in response to hate crimes in my community, but we need to be cognizant that a lot of modern anti-Semitism stems from the actions of the UN, the EU, and the global BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement, which has taken hold of many on the far left. I just spent a week in Israel and met with both members of the government and the opposition and found there was a tremendous amount of support for President Trump with respect to his Israeli agenda.
Since March, there has been over 120 bomb threats nationwide made against Jewish institutions, with last week alone seeing 20 threats throughout the country, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Ninety-five institutions, including a dozen Jewish day schools and multiple ADL offices in New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida, have been threatened.
“These are coming in at an unprecedented rate,” Boyce said. “We had five this morning and we will handle each one of these investigations.”
“New threats are coming in literally as of today, directed at other Jewish Community institutions and this is a very troubling reality,” de Blasio added.
In New York, media reports say there has been an 113 percent increase in hate crimes in 2017, with a spike of anti-Semitic hate crimes increasing from 19 to 55 incidents over the same period last year. Over the past week, New York has seen a number of threats and swastikas tags in subways, synagogues and Jewish centers. “Oy Vey, we are coming to spray your synagogue with pig’s blood, the goyim. That’s right you Kikes, take a hike,” said a voicemail left at a Brooklyn’s East Midwood Jewish Center, according to Gothamist.com.
“We’ve never seen such a period of concentrated threats against the Jewish community,” de Blasio said. “Just the last few weeks are more troubling than anything I’ve seen in many, many years. And I think members of the Jewish community have every reason to be concerned and to be very worried that forces of hatred have been unleashed in our nation.”