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GOTHAM: Stephen Miller, a former top adviser to President Trump, inserted himself into the New York City mayoral election on Monday night with praise for Democratic candidate Andrew Yang’s position on Israel.
Violence between Israeli soldiers and protesters this week has left more than 700 Palestinians injured in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip sent a barrage of rockets on Monday night, reportedly injuring six civilians. Israel responded with air strikes that reportedly killed 24 people, including nine children, in Gaza.
Yang weighed in with an expression of support for Israel on Monday night.
“I'm standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists,” Yang said on Twitter. “The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere.”
Miller, who was known as the top architect of some of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies including child separation and the Muslim immigration ban, shared Yang’s message while contrasting Yang’s comments with expressions of support for Palestinians from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a member of the progressive “Squad” on Capitol Hill.
“@AndrewYang is exactly right, @IlhanMN is outrageously wrong,” Miller wrote.
The moment provided a stark example of how Democrats — in New York and nationally — are divided on Israel and its occupation of the Palestinian territories. Miller’s comments showed how Republicans are eager to capitalize on those differences.
Yang’s team did not respond to a request for comment about the exchange.
Omar had posted a tweet suggesting Americans should be as vocal about standing up for Palestinians as they are in defending Israel.
“Many will tell you Israel has a right to defend itself, to safety and security, but are silent on whether Palestinians have those rights too,” Omar wrote. “Until we can defend the rights of Palestinians just as we do Israelis, we have no leg to stand on when it comes to justice or peace.”
Omar, who has an active leadership role on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government since she arrived on Capitol Hill in 2018. As she addressed the violence, Omar also highlighted comments from a State Department spokesperson who refused to clearly state that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to self defense or to condemn the killing of children in the occupied territories.
While Omar did not directly respond to Yang or Miller, she re-tweeted a message from progressive MSNBC host Mehdi Hassan that criticized Yang for expressing support for Israel without addressing the damage to Palestinians.
“100s of Palestinians injured, other Palestinians dead, one of the holiest sites in Islam raided, and zero mention or solidarity from Yang,” Hassan wrote. “Total erasure of Palestinians here from the leading Democratic mayoral contender in New York.”
Omar also posted a tweet from MSNBC’s Joy Reid that criticized another leading mayoral candidate, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, for expressing support for Israel without also mentioning the violence against Palestinians.
Dianne Morales, a progressive candidate who is polling behind both Yang and Adams, was the only major mayoral hopeful to specifically condemn violence against Palestinians.
“Whether in NYC, Colombia, Brazil or Israel-Palestine, state violence is wrong. Targeting civilians is wrong. Killing children is wrong. Full stop,” Morales wrote in a tweet.
The latest violence has occurred as Jewish settlers seek to evict Palestinian residents of a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, a Muslim enclave in the city. Many of the clashes have taken place at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, one of the holiest sites to Muslims. President Biden has expressed concerns about the violence and condemned Hamas. while affirming Israel’s right to “self defense.”
The issue is particularly fraught in New York City, which has substantial numbers of Jewish voters in addition to influential orthodox blocs that are staunchly supportive of the Israeli government. At the same time, the city is also home to a surging progressive wing, including Democratic Socialists of America groups who support sanctioning Israel and have swayed local races in the outerboroughs.
One New York City Democratic operative said it’s “incredibly hard” to weigh in on Israel due to the local landscape. They described the tightrope for Democratic candidates amid a rising activist base and the assumption Jewish voters are largely supportive of the Israeli government.
“There’s a ‘third rail’ perception associated with it even as progressive entities like J-Street and newer lefty-Jewish groups have become emboldened,” the operative said. “The play here is to say enough pro-Israel stuff to see like a normal Democrat without inciting backlash from the left activity crowd.”
As Democrats make that calculation — in New York and nationally — Miller’s attempt to pit Yang and Omar against each other shows it’s an issue where Republicans see vulnerability. One GOP operative told The Uprising the fact her fellow House Democrats have condemned some of Omar’s statements in the past shows “the political ground is ripe” for a “narrative” where Democrats are tied to progressives’ criticism of Israel.
“For all the chatter about the divisions in the Republican Party in recent years, standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel has remained an issue of remarkable solidarity in their ranks,” the operative said. “Theoretically, the Democratic Party should take its cues from the White House on this matter, but it’s an open question whether President Biden is capable or willing to have this fight within his own party where there are clear and differing points of view.”
911: This afternoon, family members of Andrew Brown Jr. are going to see more unreleased footage of his shooting by sheriff’s deputies last month. The viewing was scheduled for 3 p.m. by the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Department.
Brown Jr.’s family members and their attorneys have pushed for the release of all police footage showing the shooting, which took place as the deputies attempted to serve a felony drug warrant. A judge has ordered some of the footage to remain unreleased for at least 30 days to avoid interfering with ongoing investigations into the shooting. The judge has implied that footage shows the deputies rather than Brown.
National civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is one of the family’s lawyers, has pointed to evidence indicating Brown was shot from behind as the deputies opened fire in his neighborhood.
PUNCHLINE: Former U.S. Senator and “Saturday Night Live” writer Al Franken dropped in to do some standup at the famed Comedy Cellar in Manhattan on Saturday night. Stephen Calabria, who produces podcasts with the comedy club, posted a picture of the “surprise” appearance on Facebook. He said Franken, a Democrat, did impressions of Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and was “warmly” received by the audience.
The Comedy Cellar is one of the most prestigious venues within the world of standup and aspiring comedians fight to earn time on the stage. It is known for “drop ins” from famous comics.
Franken’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether he is working on new standup material. He stepped down from the Senate in 2017 under pressure after a conservative radio host accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO comedy tour. Franken denied the allegation and some Democrats — including Franken himself — expressed regrets about his resignation when later reporting documented inaccuracies in the story.
Based on Calabria’s account of Franken’s standup set, it didn’t touch on the scandal.
“He didn’t address the elephant in the room,” Calabria wrote.
FUN FACT: The “Brood X” Cicadas are already beginning to invade the D.C. area,
According to the University of Florida’s Entomology and Nematology Department, the “mass emergences” of periodical cicada populations “ reminded early American settlers of biblical plagues of locusts.”
Cicadas make their distinctive sound through structures along the sides of their body. They apparently have different “calling songs” for moments of danger and courtship.
The University of Florida scientists also tried to argue there’s a silver lining to the periodic mass emergences:
“On the positive side, it should be noted that cicadas do not bite or sting and harbor no organisms known to be harmful to vertebrates. They provide food for many kinds of wildlife, including birds, small mammals, and other insects. Newly emerged adults are easily caught and have been used for food by humans, either raw or cooked, and are even credited with having saved some family groups from starvation early in the history of North America.”
I did not include any photos of cicadas in this newsletter. You’re welcome.
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