Menu JTA Search

Controversy over Crown Heights Follows New York Mayor to Israel

New York Mayor David Dinkins began a high-profile visit here Monday night by stating that Israel should retain control over a united Jerusalem.

Just minutes after arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport, Dinkins told a large contingent of reporters, “I have always supported the right of Israel to exist in secure borders, as determined by Israel, with Jerusalem as its undivided capital.”

The mayor, who is here at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry, spent most of his first day in the country visiting sites in Tel Aviv.

Dinkins toured a mixed Arab-Jewish neigh-borhood in Old Jaffa and talked about coexistence with its residents.

He also paid a return visit to the Hatikvah neighborhood of Tel Aviv, where Iraqi Scud missiles landed during the Persian Gulf War. Dinkins made his first visit to the working-class community in the winter of 1991, soon after the missiles damaged homes and a community center.

Though Dinkins’ aides stress that the visit was planned months ago and is in no way connected to the coming election, they admit that the mayor is seeking strong support from New York’s Jewish voters.

Wherever he went, Dinkins was dogged by questions about the tensions between the Jewish and African American communities in New York, and about his handling of the August 1991 riots in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section.

Asked whether he was frustrated that people were asking such questions thousands of miles from New York, he replied, “No, I expected it.”

Journalists were eager to know his response to an “Open Letter to Mayor David Dinkins” from New York activist Rabbi Avi Weiss that appeared in Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post.

In the letter, Weiss wrote, “The divisive wounds of Crown Heights still fester. The world watched as hundreds of New York police held back, allowing gangs to ‘vent,’ allowing Jews to be injured, thereby creating an atmosphere in which Yankel Rosenbaum could be murdered because he was a Jew.”

“The buck has to stop with you, Mr. Mayor,” the letter said.

“In New York, I’m used to such ads,” Dinkins responded. “They run all the time.”

He then added: “The police made tactical errors, and they have acknowledged it,” he said.

He said he had “maintained all along” that “I am accountable for what goes on in my administration. I’ve said the buck stops here.”

NEXT STORY