The wrong words at the wrong moment

We’ve seen our fair share of political gaffes over the years, but Gov. Kathy Hochul made a comment this past Thursday that rendered us momentarily speechless.

“If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day,” Hochul said. “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.”

She made this analogy about the Israel-Hamas war in front of a crowd at a Jewish philanthropy event in New York City for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York. She said Hamas must be stopped and that Israel couldn’t continue with “that threat, that specter over them.”

The backlash was swift, as were comments in support for Hochul — evidence of just how sharply divisive this issue is. The Israel-Hamas war is steeped in decades of religious history, bloodshed, long-simmering conflicts and tension. More than 29,000 Palestinians and at least 1,200 Israelis have been killed since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and Israel’s foreign ministry, respectively. Hamas continues to hold Israeli citizens hostage. As the war rages on, innocent civilians will continue to be caught in the crossfire.

A poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released on Feb. 2 found that half of American adults — 63% among Democrats, 33% among Republicans — believe that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has gone too far. That, of course, means that more than half of Americans believe that Israel’s campaign has either “been about right” or has “not gone far enough,” according to the poll.

In a statement to the New York Times, Hochul later apologized for he comments, saying it was a “poor choice of words” and that she regretted her “inappropriate analogy.”

Her statement further illustrates how politics can sometimes cross common sense lines to an absurd degree. It also shows the danger of oversimplification. In reality, we know that in this theoretical scenario, Hochul would not have the authority to launch an international war. We know that despite all attempts by politicians to make war seem like a cut-and-dry solution — or a “natural reaction,” as Hochul put it — that each conflict is different, each conflict has nuances, and declaring war may not always be the right response. We also know that the lives of innocent civilians are not dispensable. In this time of extreme political divides, the last thing we need is for our leaders to stoke the flames of division for their own political gain.

Hochul was wrong to make the analogy. She was right to apologize for it.


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