Ed Koch, a political commentator and former New York City mayor, encouraged students to “speak up” on two counts at a Thursday master’s tea.
Koch, 86, first asked the approximately 50 students filling the Jonathan Edwards College master’s house to project their voices when asking questions since he is hard of hearing, and to voice their opinions on social and political issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to illegal immigration. Koch spent the bulk of the tea explaining his own staunch positions on these problems.
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“I am a big supporter of the state of Israel,” Koch said in his first remarks. “President Obama is ready to throw Israel under the bus. I’m not.”
Koch said that President Barack Obama’s vision for the United States suggests that he wants the nation to ally with Muslim countries. Such a shift might damage the nation’s relationship with Israel, he said, adding that he would strongly oppose such a compromise.
Obaid Syed ’14 asked Koch to explain his view of the Muslim people and Muslim politicians and which form of government he would suggest for Muslim countries.
“Muslims are the largest religious group. I believe 10 percent are strong supporters of al-Qaida,” Koch said. “I believe terrorist leaders are heroes for kids who were brought up with the notion that Jews should be killed. And I don’t care which government regime you take, so long as you don’t try to injure me. If you want Sharia, give it to them. But don’t try to impose that on me — don’t kill me.”
At times, Koch’s interactions with audience members grew tense.
When a student asked whether Koch believed that America’s relations with Israel are more important than the nation’s economic crisis, Koch responded that the question was “stupid.” He said that while the diplomatic relationship of the two nations is “a major issue,” other problems — such as Social Security reform — are also pressing.
Conversation turned to domestic politics, as Koch discussed the 2012 presidential race. Koch said he believes that Mitt Romney is the strongest Republican currently in the race, though President Obama will likely win another term next November.
“Obama is a very lucky guy because of the candidates the Republicans have,” he said, to laughter from the audience.
After the talk, Yale Political Union President Jonathan Yang ’13 said his organization co-sponsored Koch’s visit with Jonathan Edwards College as part of a continuing effort to put its members in contact with important policymakers.
David Skophammer ’12 and Reid Magdanz ’12 both said that Koch overgeneralized in reference to the Muslim world, and painted an unfair picture of Muslims.
Still, Skophammer said, he appreciated Koch’s passionate take on politics.
“He sounded a lot like my grandfather,” he said. “I certainly think there is a generation gap between older generations who refuse to be compromising and us.”
Koch served as mayor of New York from 1978 to 1989.