Bumbling Bill de Blasio is all thumbs, and not just on Twitter. Slow to respond when Orthodox Jews suffered an unprecedented wave of violence on his streets, the mayor of New York City quickly ejaculated a blanket warning of mass arrests to ‘the Jewish community’ after several hundred members of a Hasidic sect attended a funeral — a funeral, de Blasio now admits, that his office and the NYPD’s commissioned knew of in advance.
My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 29, 2020
COVID-19 is full of nasty surprises. But who would have put ‘mayor of New York City rounds up the Jews’ on their pandemic bingo card? The mayor now threatens to ‘summons or even arrest’ Jews if they gather in ‘large groups’. You have to wonder if de Blasio is a bigot, bullying an already vulnerable minority at a time when the COVID plague already has the conspiracy theorists blaming the Jews.
I take the generous view. The mayor of New York City is an idiot. Only an idiot would gratuitously insult one in every eight of his voters. Only an idiot would be the mayor of more Jews than the mayor of Jerusalem, yet single out only them out and imply that they’re spreading the plague. Only an idiot would, as Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, put it, use ‘stereotyping that is dangerous and unacceptable at any time, and particularly pernicious while the world is gripped in fear and the worst among us are looking for scapegoats’.
‘Would DeBlasio have sent this identical tweet with the word “Jewish” replaced by any other religious minority?’ bearded patriarch Ted Cruz asked. The answer is no. No other religious minority — and the Satmar sect are a minority within the minority of Haredi Jews within a minority that number about two percent of the American population — would be insulted like this.
Just swap in the name of any other minority and see how ugly it sounds: ‘My message to the black community…is simple: the time for warnings has passed.’ On Wednesday, de Blasio semi-demi-apologized to the ever-so touchy Jews, saying he’d spoken out of ‘frustration’ and ‘anger’, with a bit of ‘passion’ and ‘emotion’ thrown in. All the qualities of intelligence and judgment the economic engine of the nation needs at a time like this.
The law is the law, and small but significant numbers of the ultra-Orthodox have broken it. But the law, like Dickens’s Mr Bumble said, is ‘a ass – a idiot’, when ‘experience’ shows it to be unenforceable. One rule for the hipsters who crowd Williamsburg’s Domino Park without a care for masks and social distancing while the NYPD looks on. One rule for the crowds in Central Park who gather to watch the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds flyover while the police look up along with them. Another rule for the three men who were ‘caught’ sitting on the roof of their own building and were hunted down with a helicopter and an Alsatian. Another rule for the ultra-Orthodox at whose funerals the police blast sirens. Justice cannot be blind when the law is selectively enforced.
De Blasio is an ass. This is the same mayor who continued taking a limo to the gym as the COVID tide rose around him. The mayor who misinformed his public by claiming that only ‘prolonged exposure’ transmitted COVID-19, that ‘a single contact’ was insufficient and that ‘you don’t get it from a surface’.
The mayor who blamed Chinese Americans for bringing the virus to New York City: ‘It’s probably here in the form of individuals who in the, you know, existing in individuals who have been to Wuhan or have family members who’ve been to Wuhan and have had some prolonged exposure and the symptoms.’
The mayor who on February 25 stood shoulder to shoulder on a crowded stage for the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Chinatown, without a mask. The mayor who encouraged New Yorkers on March 2 to ‘go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus’ and go to a movie.
The mayor who on March 11, four days before New York City’s schools closed, told New Yorkers to ‘not avoid restaurants’ and ‘not avoid things that normal people do’ — then attacked President Trump for ‘minimizing’ the seriousness of the problem.
Clearly de Blasio is a COVID skeptic. So are ultra-Orthodox Jews. The Satmar, the sect whose next funeral the mayor intends to break up, are reclusive even by Haredi standards. People who refuse to shake hands and avoid social contact with outsiders are unlikely to be super-spreaders among any community but their own. They prefer to take the word of the Almighty over orders from Hizzoner, and who, given his lamentable performance, would disagree with that? They have paid a disproportionate price in lives for maintaining their social bonds. De Blasio should accept their quixotic drive for herd immunity.
He should also support religious freedom. Instead of criminalizing religion by ordering churches and other places of prayer to close, he should have issued regulations that were both sensible and enforceable. Now, having flipped from lazy under-reaction to authoritarian overreaction, de Blasio talks of exit strategies but threatens New Yorkers with further punishment.
Meanwhile, New York’s economy is collapsing. On Wednesday, de Blasio announced that he expects the federal government to ‘bail out the largest city in the country’. Many Jews now think he’s more than an idiot. I reckon he’s less than one.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of Spectator USA.