NEW YORK (JTA) – A New York City lawmaker told a Jewish audience that she knows what it was like for Israeli soldiers to fight in the Six Day War because she’s “a Republican in New York City.”
Nicole Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island in New York’s state Assembly, made the comments on Thursday night during a Zoom meeting hosted by the Staten Island Jewish Community Center to celebrate Jerusalem Day, the Daily News reported.
“When you think about the small army at the time that Israel had and that they were confronted with five armies — I mean, I’m a Republican in New York City so I can kind of understand what they may have been going through or thinking,” Malliotakis said, according to the report, which included a link to the recorded Zoom call.
Malliotakis is working to unseat Democratic Rep. Max Rose in the November congressional election. Rose, who is Jewish and is a U.S. Army combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan, spoke before Malliotakis. “She owes the Jewish community an apology,” he told the newspaper.
Another unnamed participant told the newspaper that the comparison was offensive and “stupid.” But a Malliotakis spokesman told the newspaper that three participants on the Zoom event, including Israeli U.S. consul general Dani Dayan, reached out afterward to compliment her.
Dayan’s office later contacted the Daily News and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to clarify that his message to Malliotakis did not represent an endorsement of her comments.
“My courtesy text messages yesterday to Congressman Rose and to Assemblywoman Malliotakis following the event referred to their words about Israel and Jerusalem and not to any partisan statement about which I would never opine,” he said in a statement. “It is well known that as a foreign diplomat I never intervene — publicly or privately — in partisan issues.”