Home / Top Story / In Jerusalem speech, Mayor de Blasio decries anti-Semitism

In Jerusalem speech, Mayor de Blasio decries anti-Semitism

ABIR SULTAN/EPA

“The cancer of anti-Semitism has grown again,” Mayor de Blasio said in a speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

JERUSALEM – As his visit to Israel drew to a close, Mayor de Blasio decried the resurgence of anti-Semitism Sunday – calling for a “broken windows” approach to acts of hatred around the world.

“The cancer of anti-Semitism has grown again,” de Blasio said in a speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, citing attacks in France and cemetery desecrations from Poland to Hungary.

De Blasio said hate would flourish unless confronted head on – drawing a parallel to New York’s experience fighting rampant crime in the 1990s.

“It can’t be stopped by an indifferent society,” he said. “It takes consistency, sending a signal at every turn that no act of hate is acceptable, that even acts that appear small must be addressed.”

De Blasio noted that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was able to turn the tide on crime by aggressively enforcing low-level offenses. Similarly, even small gestures of intolerance against Jews or other targeted communities should provoke an aggressive response from city and national governments, he said.

“That very simple notion of not looking away when the law was broken started to change us,” he said. “That’s what we have to strive for in fighting prejudice and bias…The theory’s quite simple: If we don’t attend to one broken window, we implicitly extend an invitation to break another and another after that, and another after that.”

The keynote address to a group of visiting mayors from around the world was a centerpiece of de Blasio’s two day trip to Israel, which wrapped up Sunday evening. While originally planned because of the mayor’s conference, the trip came among a spate of attacks against Israeli civilians, carried out mostly by knife-wielding Palestinians, that have heightened tensions in the country.

Hizzoner met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the prime minister’s Jerusalem office Sunday afternoon.

De Blasio has been critical of Netanyahu’s hawkish approach in the past. When Netanyahu suggested during his reelection campaign he didn’t think a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was possible, de Blasio called it a “step away from a principle that has been pretty universally acknowledged all over the world as the goal-a two-state solution.” He also called the Israeli leader’s speech before Congress a mistake.

ABIR SULTAN/EPA

Mayor de Blasio lay a wreath in the Hall of Remembrances at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem.

The mayor voiced no such views while on the ground in Israel, instead playing it safe throughout the trip. He forcefully denounced the recent terrorist attacks, but was careful not to assign political blame or advocate a particular policy solution.

“I think it’s important as an outsider to not claim to know more than I do,” he said.

De Blasio and Netanyahu exchanged only pleasantries in public. “God, you’re tall,” Netanyahu told de Blasio. “I’m glad you are [here], and it’s an act of solidarity. I’m very glad that you’re here, and I look forward to having a good discussion with you.”

Before de Blasio entered the room, the Israeli prime minister took a chance to plug his views to visiting reporters, pointing out the window to the area of Gilo, a neighborhood within Jerusalem’s city limits that the United Nations considers an illegal settlement because it is outside Israel’s 1967 borders. Israel does not consider it a settlement at all.

ABIR SULTAN/EPA

Mayor de Blasio looks at pictures of Jewish Holocaust victims at the Hall of Names.

“Did you see the ‘settlements’ right there outside? See that?” he said sarcastically. “A kilometer and a half away in Jerusalem – that’s described as a settlement. That’s the thing you read about.”

A spokeswoman said the men met for nearly an hour and discussed the security situation, New York’s solidarity with Israel, and their hopes for peace.

De Blasio’s trip was financed privately by businessman Baruch Eliezer Gross, an arrangement criticized by the Center for Constitutional Rights but approved by the city Conflicts of Interest Board. The publicity-shy donor stayed scarce through much of the sojourn, and met privately with de Blasio Sunday morning.

“No comment. I paid him enough,” he quipped to reporters, referring to his PR rep.

Mayor de Blasio touches the Western Wall during a visit in Jerusalem's Old City.AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

Mayor de Blasio touches the Western Wall during a visit in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Before his speech, de Blasio visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall, where he donned a yarmulke, recited a psalm, and inserted a prayer on a rolled up piece of paper into one of the wall’s cracks.

After touring the wall’s tunnels, where he peppered guides with questions about the destruction of the Temple, he signed the site’s guest book with the note: “It is a profound honor to be in this holy place. We are reminded here of the power of faith. Thank you for preserving this for all future generations.”

Hizzoner ran into a number of New Yorkers while touring Israel, though a group of Staten Island students who spotted him at the wall weren’t impressed. Asked if he preferred de Blasio or his predecessor, one said, “Bloomberg, obviously.” Another chimed in, “This guy’s a bum.”

Despite his busy schedule, the mayor managed to catch up on the Mets’ game 1 victory over the Cubs, which happened in the middle of the night Israeli time.

“The first thing I did this morning, I reached for my Blackberry, I saw the score and I was overjoyed. I’m thrilled for the Mets. I’m thrilled that Matt Harvey’s back in the swing. And it didn’t surprise me that Daniel Murphy hit a home run, because something very special’s going on with Daniel Murphy,” he said. “I expect to arrive [back in New York] and find out about another victory.”

Asked if he’d rather see the team take it all or peace in the Middle East, de Blasio laughed, “We need both.”

edurkin@nydailynews.com

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bill de blasio

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