Phil Murphy’s statement is a big mistake

Phil Murphy’s statement is a big mistake

Is it abandonment? Capitulation? Ignorance? Bias? Negligence? Is it just misguided?

It’s all of this — and then some.

Last week, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement calling for a ceasefire to the Hamas war in Gaza.  In his statement, he primarily focuses on the Palestinian narrative and fails to acknowledge the horrific events of October 7, which were celebrated in Gaza and is still supported by more than 80% of Gazans. In fact, recently senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said publicly that “we will do this again and again. The October Al-Aqsa Flood is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.” (Al-Aqsa Flood is what Hamas calls the barbarism of October 7.) Sadly, it seems plausible that Governor Murphy has accepted the propaganda promulgated by mainstream and social media.

The reaction of many Jews, including me, is disappointment and frustration. But the statement has been applauded and praised by supporters of Hamas, an organization that our great country defines as terrorist.

The governor’s statement is reckless and quite frankly dangerous. The governor did not have to say anything — but he chose to appease only one side in this debate.  It is not lost on any of us that a mere few days before the statement, Muslims publicly called for a boycott the Governor’s annual Ramadan gathering at Drumthwacket (the historical and symbolic home of New Jersey governors).

The timing and correlation of the threatened boycott and the statement raises some questions. One of them is whether the governor has consciously chosen to ignore the more than 600,000 Jewish residents of the Garden State. And if the governor truly believes in his call for a ceasefire, then it raises further questions about his understanding of the situation on the ground in Israel and the Gaza Strip, and of our state’s role in international affairs.

No matter how Governor Murphy arrived at his statement, it is almost irrelevant, as in many ways it merely adds salt to an already open wound.  According to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office Bias and Incident Report, in 2022, the most recent year for which statistics were released, published confirmed statistics show that nearly 20% of statewide hate and bias incidents were directed toward the Jewish community. Only 2% were directed toward Muslims.  This is an enormous discrepancy, and one that can no longer be ignored by the governor or the press. The governor’s statement will only serve to encourage an already hostile and aggressive antisemitic mob.  Just look at what is happening in Teaneck and Englewood.

At the end of the day, the governor showed both a lack of understanding of the issues as Jews see them and poor judgement.  He used Hamas-generated statistics as facts, failed to use the word Israel until the very end of the statement, refused to acknowledge that Hamas has sworn to repeat October 7 over and over again, and by trying to be balanced leaves me and many other Jews dismayed.

With regard to balance, to me it is crystal clear.  Hamas is a terrorist organization and deemed as such by the United States federal government – providing it with the same considerations that you would to a moral democracy such as Israel is demeaning. It will just open the door to more violence and destruction. The Jewish community in New Jersey has every right to be angry, and no amount of reference to pro-Jewish rhetoric from the past can offset the damage done by this statement.

In addition, ironically, Governor Murphy has always claimed to be a champion of women’s rights. But in this statement, he ignores the heinous sexual assaults and rape of Israeli women by the organization he is suggesting we negotiate with. The stories of sexual assault, abuse, and rape of hostages alone make a ceasefire statement like this feel hypocritical.

If you are defined by the company you keep, then issuing a statement lauded by those who support a terror group speaks volumes. Next time, I suggest reaching out to key Jewish leaders first.

Jason Shames is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

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