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'Drop out': NYC mayoral candidate Andrew Yang slammed for pro-Israel tweet

The far-right has rallied around Yang, praising the former Democratic presidential hopeful for standing with Israel
Andrew Yang
Andrew Yang has come under fire for his support of Israel, hours after Israeli air strikes killed children in Gaza (AFP)

New York City mayoral candidate and former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has again provoked anger for questionably timed comments in support of Israel, which came just hours after Israeli air strikes killed at least 20 people, nine of whom were children, in the Gaza Strip. 

"I'm standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists," Yang tweeted on Monday evening in New York.

"The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere," he continued. 

While Yang highlighted Hamas rockets that came in response to Israel's days of violent attacks on Muslim worshippers in al-Aqsa Mosque, he made no mention of Israel's deadly air strikes, or the forced evictions in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah which triggered the latest upheaval. 

Once dubbed radically liberal for his support of a nation-wide universal income, on Monday Yang garnered praise from right-wing figures such as Republican Senator Ted Cruz, former Trump aide Stephen Miller, and conservative columnist Meghan McCain. 

"@AndrewYang is exactly right, @IlhanMN is outrageously wrong," Miller tweeted, referring to Representative Ilhan Omar's criticism of Israel's attacks against Palestinian protesters and air strikes on Gaza. 

Omar's deputy communications director, Isi Baehr-Breen, retweeted Miller's praise with a message for Yang. 

"If I were Andrew Yang and Stephen Miller was saying I was exactly right, I would pause and reflect," she said. 

"Conversely, Stephen Miller calling my boss 'outrageously wrong' is a great sign that we're doing everything right."

'Times change, and Yang hasn't'

This is not the first time Yang has sparked controversy over his support for Israel. In January, Yang published an op-ed in Forward, a Jewish American webzine, comparing the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement "to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses" in the past, seemingly a nod at Nazi policies of the 1930s and 1940s.

The article sparked a whirlwind of criticism and he later backtracked on his comments during a mayoral forum hosted by the Muslim-American organisation Emgage, only to later double-down again on his comparison during a segment on the New York-based podcast The Brian Lehrer Show. He also once told the New York Times that he supported the Palestinian Right of Return, but later retracted.

Sheikh Jarrah: US Congress members decry push to displace Palestinians
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Yang's tweet on Monday again garnered criticism from human rights advocates and left-leaning Democrats. 

"Have people seen the posts from people like Andrew Yang on Israel? Not only are liberals moral hypocrites but Yang proves once again that one does not have to be white to be a white supremacist," tweeted Ajamu Baraka, the national organiser for Blacks For Peace, a US-based anti-racist group. 

Beth Miller, the government affairs manager at Jewish Voice for Peace Action, called on Yang to "drop out". 

"It was pretty mainstream until around 2017 or so for leading New York Democrats to be absolute Israel hawks… But times change, and Yang hasn't changed with them," tweeted author and social commentator Ross Barkan. 

Once unheard of in mainstream US politics, over the years a collection of vocal Democrats have started to publicly question Washington's unwavering support for Israel, with a handful of left-leaning lawmakers calling for human rights conditions to be placed on the billions of dollars in US military aid sent to Israel each year. 

"We cannot just condemn rockets fired by Hamas and ignore Israel's state-sanctioned police violence against Palestinians - including unlawful evictions, violent attacks on protestors and the murder of Palestinian children," Representative Mark Pocan said on Monday. 

"US aid should not be funding this violence," he continued. 

Democrats pressure Israel

Last week, Democratic House members Marie Newman, Cori Bush, Chuy Garcia, Rashida Tlaib, Andre Carson, Betty McCollum, Debbie Dingell, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pocan and Omar all shared social media posts expressing solidarity with Palestinians as Israeli forces cracked down on protests in Sheikh Jarrah. 

Pocan and Newman were circulating a congressional letter to Blinken at the time, calling on the State Department to "exert diplomatic pressure" to prevent the displacement and demolition of Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood.

Sheikh Jarrah

The current upheaval started in Sheikh Jarrah on 2 May, when Israel's Supreme Court issued eviction notices to 40 people, including 10 children. Their homes will be given to Israeli settlers. 

Since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and subsequently annexed it in 1980, settlers have been trying to displace Palestinians from their homes in the area, based on claims of Jewish ownership dating back to the Ottoman era.

After decades of legal battles, Israeli courts have frequently ruled in favour of settlers to expel several Palestinian families from the neighbourhood, raising tensions each time. The most recent decision is set to be appealed, but Israeli courts have repeatedly postponed scheduled hearings.