Editorial of Progress New York Photo Illustration/Progress New York

In wake of Cuomo’s anti-Semitic mailer, MTA must both dismiss Larry Schwartz and endorse BDS

MTA Board Member Larry Schwartz signed off on a notorious anti-Cynthia Nixon mailer : report.

By the Editor

The political fallout continues after a news report linked an explosive campaign mailer, which was issued by the State Democratic Party committee that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) controls, to one of Gov. Cuomo’s top underbosses, Lawrence Schwartz. The controversial campaign mailer sought to portray Gov. Cuomo’s political rival, the actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, as anti-Semitic on the grounds, in part, that she supported the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that aims to end apartheid in Israel. Ms. Nixon does not support BDS, as the movement is known, but she has made clear that she opposes efforts to blacklist supporters of BDS, a controversial move that was promulgated in an Executive Order signed by Gov.Cuomo. Thus far, nobody has been held accountable for the smear campaign that the mailer represented. Mr. Schwartz, who reportedly signed-off on the mailer, is a member of the Board of the Directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Government Agency that oversees public transportation in New York City. Mr. Schwartz was appointed to his post by Gov. Cuomo.

Whereas most the criticism of the mailer has so far focused on how sleazy it was for the Cuomo campaign to launch a political attack behind a proxy that argued that Ms. Nixon was anti-Semitic. On the contrary, Ms. Nixon has close ties to the Jewish faith. As an editorial published by the New York Post has noted, “For the record, she’s raising two Jewish children and belongs to a Manhattan synagogue.” But what has been overlooked is that supporting BDS is, itself, not inherently anti-Semitic, because supporters of BDS are seeking an end to apartheid in Israel that is leading to a violent form of state-sponsored discrimination against Palestinians. Opposing apartheid does not automatically make one anti-Semitic. Also overlooked has been that when Mr. Schwartz approved a flyer that opposed BDS, even if on false grounds, what Mr. Schwartz was telegraphing was he approved of the violent, apartheid conditions in Israel that Palestinians have been forced to endure.

Public authorities receiving Federal funds cannot violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis national origin.

According to critics of Israel’s state-sponsored apartheid and war crimes, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is rooted in a heightened and violent form of discrimination that is based on national origin or national identity. Critics of Israel’s apartheid regime see the passage of the “nation-state bill” as proof that national origin discrimination against Palestinians is state-sponsored, since the law codified that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people,” according to a report published by the Atlantic.

Employees of the M.T.A. are prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from discriminating against others based on people’s national origin, even if it is perceived, amongst other protected classes or attributes. Because Mr. Schwartz supports state-sponsored discrimination based on national origin and because the M.T.A. cannot, as a public authority receiving Federal funds, sanction any form of discrimination, the M.T.A. has no choice but to dismiss Mr. Schwartz from its Board of Directors.

In years past, the M.T.A. has been called upon to reject support of apartheid Israel’s systemic discrimination against Palestinians. For example, in 2016, former TWU Local 100 Executive Board member Marty Goodman demand that the M.T.A. embrace the tenets of the BDS movement. Since the Cuomo campaign refuses to accept responsibility for the offensive campaign mailer that one of the M.T.A.’s own Board members approved, the M.T.A. must affirm its commitment against discrimination by dismissing Mr. Schwartz and by endorsing the BDS movement. Anything less would mean that the M.T.A.’s record on Title VI is on par with Gov. Cuomo’s reputation for using smear campaigns to try to win elections : immoral and corrupt.