NJ Governor in Israel before midterms: It’s essential to vote

Gov. Murphy vowed to use the full extent of law to fight antisemitism.

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October 23, 2018 10:26
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and New Jersey Governor Philip Dunton Murphy, October 23, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and New Jersey Governor Philip Dunton Murphy, October 23, 2018. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

 
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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy encouraged US citizens in Israel to vote in the November 6 election, during a visit to Israel this week.

“I encourage everybody I meet to vote,” Murphy said on his way to Jerusalem to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, the third day of his trip. “Participation is going to be key.”

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Despite New Jersey’s usually- reliable status as a blue, or Democratic, state, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has a relatively narrow lead. Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has a pro-Israel voting record and is one of only four Democrats who voted against the previous administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. His poor approval ratings are due in part to a 2015 indictment on corruption charges over alleged favors to a donor. That episode ended in a mistrial and Menendez’s acquittal.

Murphy said, “There is no better friend of Israel in the US Senate than Menendez.”

While he believes Menendez will win, he cautioned, “This is an election where you can take nothing for granted. Turnout matters here. This is pass-fail, and we are doing anything we can to get him over the goal line.”

The New Jersey governor’s visit – his sixth trip to Israel in the past four years, but his first as governor – is mostly about trade, not party politics. Trade between Israel and New Jersey amounts to about a billion dollars a year. Murphy signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israel Innovation Authority and HackerU, a hi-tech studies institute. Murphy also met with university presidents and expressed hope of building partnerships in higher education.

Building connections with Israel is a “no-brainer,” Murphy said. “This is a place with enormous ties to New Jersey, and lots of opportunity to build on those ties... I got elected to make the economy right, which means to grow it and make it fair again.”

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After a series of recent antisemitic incidents in his state, Murphy took to Twitter to speak out: “Antisemitism cannot and will not be tolerated in New Jersey, and we will continue to stand with all of our communities of faith. Groups that target religious communities do not represent the values of the Garden State.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Murphy pointed out that New Jersey has the fourth-largest Jewish community in the US and the second-largest per capita. He also expressed concern about a rise in antisemitic incidents.

The Anti-Defamation League reported a 32% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2017, and in recent months, antisemitic flyers were distributed and graffiti sprayed in New Jersey towns with Jewish communities such as Cherry Hill and Long Branch.

“We have to stand strongly against antisemitism. We stand with the Jewish community, full stop,” Murphy said. “I am working with the attorney-general to aggressively use the full extent of the law. I am sending word from my bully pulpit that this behavior is unacceptable.

The more people are educated, the more awareness there will be, and the less these things will happen. It’s a multipronged initiative.”

New Jersey is one of the states that has an anti-BDS law; it requires state public worker pension funds to divest from companies that boycott Israel.

“We stand with Israel on all the BDS stuff,” Murphy said, referring to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that targets the Jewish state..

On the day before coming to Israel, while Murphy was in Germany, his father-in-law, Edward Brown Snyder, who was Jewish, died.

“As a proud member of the Jewish faith, his final ask of us was to continue on our trip to Israel,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “Ever the mensch, he left specific instructions for services to wait until our return.

With heavy hearts and tears in our eyes, we will dedicate our presence in this Holy Land to his memory.”

Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan said Murphy’s visit was very important, and pointed to him as an example of bipartisan support for Israel in the US.

“We’re glad that the governor of New Jersey sees the significant value of a partnership with Israel as a means of growing New Jersey’s economy,” Dayan said.

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