In 2012, Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Coop held a vote over whether or not to support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. One of those responses came from Michael Bloomberg, who was the Mayor of NYC at the time. “I think it has nothing to do with the food,” he said after being asked about the vote at a press conference. “The issue is there are people who want Israel to be torn apart and everybody to be massacred, and America is not going to let that happen.”
Despite Bloomberg’s characterization of boycott supporters, he’d later go on to defend Brooklyn College’s right to host a BDS event in 2013. State lawmakers had threatened funding cuts over the fact the the school’s political science department sponsored the event. “If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg went on to criticize the controversy for giving BDS supporters even more exposure. “If you want to promote views that you find abhorrent, this is exactly the way to do it,” he said.
“What the protesters have done is given a lot of attention to the very idea they keep saying they don’t want people to talk about!” he said at the same press conference where he addressed the Brooklyn College drama. “If they just shut up, it would have gone away! It would be a bunch of kids on a campus. Nobody would have gone to listen to them and nobody [would have] seen it. Now they’ve created the very monster that they say they’re opposed to.”
BDS wasn’t nearly as well known in 2012 as it is now, but some of its exposure is surely connected to the hysterical reactions it generated from lawmakers. Recent polling suggests that support for the movement is increasing as more people learn about it. In 2014, Bloomberg addressed BDS again, dismissing it as an “outrage” that is “totally misplaced.”
Bloomberg has been a staunch supporter of Israel for years. During Operation Protective Edge, he defied a flight ban to show support for the country and later defended its targeting of a United Nations school.