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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Congressman Ritchie Torres Brings Pro-Israel Message to NORPAC New Rochelle

On Sunday, June 6, NORPAC’s Westchester chapter welcomed Bronx freshman Congressman Ritchie Torres at the home of Adina and Lawrence Garbuz. Torres has risen to the national stage for his outspoken support of Israel.

In comments to nearly 100 bipartisan guests including New Rochelle’s Mayor Noam Bramson and White Plains City Councilmember Justin Brasch, Torres explained, “There are those on the left who only speak out against antisemitism from the right and there are those from the right who only speak out against antisemitism from the left. I am one of the rare public servants, who has enough integrity to speak out against both.”

Torres continued, “I worry about the radicalization of progressive politics against Israel. Not only does it have implications for Israel, which is a profoundly important cause on its own terms, but I’m convinced it has implications for American politics.”

When the conflict broke out between Hamas and Israel, Torres delivered a speech at UJA’s virtual rally. “I thought the speech was uncontroversial. I simply pointed out, Israel’s a sovereign country, and out of sovereignty comes the right of self-defense.” He added, “I was denounced as a supporter of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide. A white supremacist? Have you ever seen a picture of me?”

Torres continued, “The misinformation is shocking, like claiming Israel’s an apartheid state. Israeli Arabs have equal rights and infinitely more rights than Arabs elsewhere in the Arab world. Anyone who calls that apartheid is fundamentally redefining the word. ‘Genocide’ of Palestinians? Their population has risen to a historic high of 1.3 million. Israeli Arabs have gone from 100,000 in 1948 to 2 million; anyone who calls that genocide is also redefining these terms.”

He noted, “We live in a world where truth no longer seems to matter. It’s not enough for me to be pro-Israel behind the scenes, in spaces like these. I should be visibly and vocally pro-Israel when it matters the most, in the public square. I’ve said repeatedly that one need not be Jewish or Israeli to see the antisemitic double standard against Israel, the only country targeted for destruction and delegitimization, baseless, disproportionate scrutiny from the media and the international community. It boggles the mind that the UN has passed more resolutions against Israel than the international community combined.”

As if Israel were the root of all evil, I often ask myself, Why is there no BDS movement against China for committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs, against landmark ethnically cleansing, against Turkey occupying Northern Cyprus or Iran for being the lead sponsor of terrorism? If the selective delegitimization of Israel is not explained by antisemitism, then what exactly explains it? I’ve never heard satisfactory answers, because none exist. Rather than turning a blind eye to antisemitism, I have chosen to speak out as an elected official. When you see something wrong, you can stand by passively, turn a blind eye and remain silent or stand up to speak out. I’ve chosen to stand up and speak out.”

Torres explained, “I had an encounter a few years ago that led me to an epiphany. When I announced that I was going on a delegation to Israel, I became a target of vitriol both online and in-person. There was a BDS activist rally against me on the steps of City Hall.”

Torres continued, “I remember an LGBTQ activist wore a shirt saying ‘LBGTQ for Palestine,’ which caught my eye. I said to this activist, as a fellow LGBTQ person, what do you think of Hamas, which is violently, vehemently anti-LGBTQ? This activist said, ‘I support Hamas.’ LGBTQ activists defending terrorist organizations systematically and savagely executing LGBTQ people? There’s something wrong. … What’s causing people to think and behave so irrationally? I came to realize it’s antisemitic intersectionality, the most influential idea in politics, the organizing principle of the new left.”

Torres added, “I think of myself as a traditional liberal Bill Maher Democrat. Linda Sarsour once said, ‘You cannot be both progressive and pro-Israel,’ a vicious lie. I’ve seen at immigration reform rallies, ‘No wall from Mexico to Palestine,’ and at criminal justice reform rallies, ‘From Ferguson to Palestine.’ A normal person would ask, ‘What does Mexico have to do with Israel? What does Ferguson have to do with Israel and Palestine?’ The answer: One has nothing to do with the other. The purpose of antisemitic intersectionality is to transform every progressive cause into delegitimization against it. … For me, that’s not true progressivism; that’s a perversion of progressivism and I’m committed to fighting it at every turn.”

Torres concluded, “I’m here to send an alternative message: Someone like me: LGBTQ Black Latino millennial progressive from the Bronx and, I say it every time, I’m pro-Israel.”

To learn more about Ritchie Torres, visit his website at https://ritchietorres.house.gov/

By Judy Berger

 

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