Hochul Apologizes After Implying Israel Has a Right to Destroy Gaza

Gov. Kathy Hochul apologized on Friday night for remarks she made at a Jewish philanthropy event in New York City that implied that Israel would be justified in destroying Gaza because of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

In a speech on Thursday at the event, for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York, Ms. Hochul began by calling out Hamas for being a terrorist organization that “must be stopped,” saying that Israel could not continue to live with “that threat, that specter over them.” She then attempted to make an analogy to the United States, relating the war to her hometown, Buffalo.

“If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day,” Ms. Hochul said in a video of the speech posted on social media. “That is a natural reaction. You have a right to defend yourself and to make sure that it never happens again. And that is Israel’s right.”

In a statement provided to The New York Times on Friday night, after the speech began circulating on social media, Ms. Hochul said that she regretted her “inappropriate analogy.” She apologized for her “poor choice of words.”

“While I have been clear in my support of Israel’s right to self-defense, I have also repeatedly said and continue to believe that Palestinian civilian casualties should be avoided and that more humanitarian aid must go to the people of Gaza,” she said.

In a post on X, Assemblyman Zohran Kwame Mamdani said: “Governor Hochul justifying genocide, while laughing. Disgusting.”

The backlash to the governor’s comments represented new territory for Ms. Hochul, who has rarely courted controversy during her time in office, in stark contrast to her predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo.

Ms. Hochul had been addressing the annual U.J.A. lawyers division event at the Pierre Hotel. The event was geared toward supporting the foundation’s “critical work in response to mounting needs on the ground in Israel and ongoing needs in New York and around the world,” according to its website.

The foundation posted about Ms. Hochul’s remarks later Thursday night on X, thanking her “for always standing with the Jewish community and against antisemitism and hate in New York.”

The governor’s speech comes as the war in Gaza is escalating. Israel ramped up its military operations this week along the Gaza-Egypt border, where the vast majority of Gazans have fled during the war. International leaders have warned that the operation could end in catastrophe, with President Emmanuel Macron of France saying that the situation could become an “unprecedented humanitarian disaster.”

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