Monday, March 27th | 6 Nisan 5783

March 15, 2023 2:58 pm

Disgraced Former NY Governor Announces Pro-Israel Advocacy Group


avatar by Andrew Bernard

Former New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Reuters/USA Today.

Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced that he’s forming an advocacy group in support of Israel and against antisemitism.

“I’m going to call the question for Democrats: Do you stand with Israel or do you stand against Israel?” Cuomo asked. “Because silence is not an option. My friends, never again is not a prayer. It is a call to action. It is not passive. It is active. It will never happen again, because we will never allow it to happen again. And we will do it together.”

Cuomo’s remarks came in a pre-recorded message to Rabbi Shmuely Boteach’s World Values Network, which was hosting an 80th anniversary commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising at Carnegie Hall. Cuomo announced that he was calling his organization “Progressives for Israel” and cited his father’s childhood work as a shabbos goy as his example.

“Friends tonight my father, the late great Governor Mario Cuomo, is sitting with [Rabbi Boteach’s mother] the great Eleanor Esther Elka Paul right now,” Cuomo said. “And I will tell you what he is saying. He is saying it is time for the shabbos goy. The shabbos goy can do the work that benefits both the Jewish community and the non-Jewish community. The shabbos goy can turn on the lights on the Sabbath because it benefits everyone. It is time to turn on the lights.”

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Mario Cuomo, who was Catholic, recounted to his biographer how his parents’ grocery in Queens was across the street from an Orthodox synagogue where he served as a shabbos goy.

Andrew Cuomo resigned as governor of New York in 2021 over allegations of sexual harassment and that he concealed Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes. In 2022, Cuomo returned to public life with the introduction of a podcast and the launch of a political action committee. 

New York Jewish Agenda, a liberal pro-Israel organization, condemned Cuomo’s announcement as misguided.

“The chutzpah. One of the last things the Jewish people, progressives, or Israeli democracy need is a disgraced, not-actually-progressive, former Governor inserting himself into this critical moment for Israel in a dangerously misguided attempt to stay relevant,” they wrote.

That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

“Perhaps Mr. Cuomo doesn’t understand that there are a number of progressive, pro-Israel organizations-like New York Jewish Agenda (NYJA)-right here in New York, doing just fine without his ‘help,'” he said.

As governor, Cuomo positioned himself as strongly pro-Israel, officially visiting the country four times and backing tough legislation against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Those positions stand in contrast to the cool relationship that fellow Democrats in the Biden administration have with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides saying that the Israeli government needs to “pump the brakes” on its judicial reform plans.

In his speech on Monday, Cuomo also expressed his views on why antisemitism is “exploding.”

“It’s not just because people don’t like Jewish people.” he said. “There are reasons why antisemitism is increasing. Yes, that’s what they have always said throughout history. There was a reason. Hitler said he had a reason. Hitler said Jews were genetically inferior and that’s why Jews had diseases and that’s why. They always said that they had a reason. For many antisemites today that reason is Israel. They try to distinguish between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. But you must ignore history in order to make that differentiation.”

Cuomo added that criticism of Israel should not extend into antisemitism.

“We can have political disagreements with Israel. Fine!” he said. “We have political disagreements with many allies. Disagreements are part of what it means to be allies, so long as we respect each other’s viewpoints and find a mutual path forward. But that doesn’t mean we condemn the people for the politics.”

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