New York governor apologizes after implying Israel is justified to destroy Gaza

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 9:47 PM

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday apologized for remarks she made at a Jewish philanthropy event in New York City that went viral on social media and which suggested Israel had justification to destroy Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

“If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day,” Hochul said in a portion of her speech on Thursday at an event for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York.

“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.”

On Friday, in a statement cited by the New York Times, she said she regretted her “inappropriate analogy” and 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 the statement.

Israel launched its offensive in Hamas-governed Gaza following the Palestinian Islamist group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s subsequent military action and strikes have flattened much of the densely populated enclave and displaced nearly all its population.

The humanitarian crisis has left Gaza’s population of more than 2 million people on the brink of starvation. Nearly 29,000 have died in Israel’s offensive, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The United Nations has called for a humanitarian ceasefire, which the U.S. has opposed, saying it would let Hamas regroup.

American society has also had to deal with the impact of the war. Rights advocates have noted a rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias in the U.S. since the start of the war.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Srephen Coates)