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Zoom-generated transcript of Hochul press conference from Israel on October 19, 2023.
Good evening from Jerusalem. I want to take this opportunity to report to New Yorkers on the experience I've had since my arrival. It's been a whirlwind 24 hours of seeing people in their darkest pain,
but also hopeful that there could be a peaceful resolution of this long -standing conflict. What I witnessed was, in many senses, more horrific than I had imagined.
First, there's the personal stories of searing pain to see a loved one strip from your arms and taken hostage or shot in front of you. A young woman in a hospital who was crushed under the weight of five or six family members who perished and she hid under them while the terrorists were trying to amass more casualties and she is obviously traumatized in the hospital and has broken ribs.
I spoke to a young soldier who, 19 years old, almost lost his leg. He just wasn't even on duty. He ran back to try and save his fellow citizens and was able to extract a 95 -year -old woman who was trapped in her safe house surrounded by people who had been murdered and she couldn't get out and they got her out a small window and were able to get her with her wheelchair.
He kept fighting and fighting, trying to save people and almost lost his own life. I met a young man who also was severely, severely injured,
brought to the hospital and his very pregnant wife was able to join him as she gave birth to the baby after a week of intensive therapy ICU.
The young man survived and was able to hold that newborn infant. I did see some joyous images. I also saw people with a strong sense of defiance and resiliency.
People that would say what happened was an act of terror. We agree with that assessment. It was an act of terror by Hamas and I also came to not just hear the stories but also bear witness to the scene of one of the most horrific texts on the Ghaffar az -Qabbutz,
which was one of the first places that the terrorists breached and the slaughter of innocents, the smells, the sights were difficult to process.
There was blood all over the walls, the floors, the mattresses, safe rooms that became a house of horrors.
I saw where a hostage had been held until he was shot in the head, saw two, three or two young women,
found naked and been butchered. I spoke to the military. I also had a chance to speak to Israel's leaders,
reconfirming New York State's solidarity with Israel, but also our strong desire to see a safe return for the hostages. I specifically spoke to President Herzog and showed him a picture of Omar Nutra,
whose parents I met at a rally in New York City. I saw his aunt and uncle and cousin here in Israel and spoke about the other ones who had a connection to New York, about the need to bring them home safely.
I spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu about our support for Israel, but also reinforcing President Biden's desire, request that there be a flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza to make sure that there's no further loss of innocent life there either.
These are my messages, solidarity, deep concern for the people who Israel through the aftermath. Bring home the hostages as well as get that humanitarian aid flowing.
People need it. I'd be happy to take any questions. It's obviously been a life changing experience for me to come into a war zone so quickly after the assault,
the attack, the massacre. We were literally one mile from the Gaza border. You could hear rockets, smoke in the air. I need to go process this in person because I have so many people back in New York who stand with the Jewish people and their right to live free,
to coexist with others, a right that's been conferred upon them for 75 years. We respect that. And there's a strong Jewish community in the state of New York that has deep ties,
many concerned about loved ones, their own stories of lost hostages, the unknown. So as representing the largest Jewish population outside of Israel,
it was important for me to come and experience this and be able to report firsthand of the atrocities but also our support for Israel this time. Any questions?
Yes, Governor. Before we get started, just please raise your hands, press to notify us if you'd like to take any questions. Governor, your first question comes from Marcia Kramer at CBS in New York.
Marcia, your mic is open. Governor, can you hear me? Yes, I can, Marcia. And so I have sort of a double barrel question.
Number one, I saw the video of you praying at the Western Wall, praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I know that your recent loss of your dad must have been on your mind as well,
and that made me have played a part in the emotional response to the trip. trip. So I wonder, like, is your trip there to reaffirm the right of Israel to exist?
Well, at the same time taking into consideration to New Yorkers and others in the region, as well as your own voters who are less than happy with what Israel's doing and don't support the right of Israel to exist.
There's been a lot of protests here. And I guess what you want to say to the, I mean, what do you want to say to the protesters here about your trip? Is it about Israel's right to exist? And is it about the humanitarian aid as well?
- I came here for many reasons. One is to, again, reinforce our commitment to supporting Israel's right to exist, a right that has had for 75 years, not always peaceful, but also condemn the terrorist act of Hamas.
There have been conflicts in the past, but always before it's been military against military, government against government. And this is more akin to the Holocaust,
the slaughter of innocent people. These were not people who got in harm's way during a military conflict between armies. These are people that were targeted. There was an intentionality,
which is so cruel and depraved. And to the people who are protesting, I know there's been anti -Semitism for a long time. People reject Israel's right to exist.
I don't agree with that. And they have a right to peacefully protest. But there can be no denial of what happened or any kind of equivalency with this particular attack because it was so Hamas.
And I am concerned about humanitarian aid getting to Gaza. We're all human beings. And this is a moment of moral clarity. All people of good conscience should condemn attacks of terrorism wherever they occur.
And if they're not stopped here in Jerusalem and in Israel, they will find their ways to the streets of our own country country and other countries. That has to be the warning and the lesson from this.
This is not a fight over boundaries at this time as other conflicts have been. This is a different level. I respect Israel's right to protest.
But also, I call on people to understand that there is no equivalency in the way this originated. But I don't want anyone who's an innocent victim,
who's not part of Hamas, to lose their lives in the process. That's not right either. And bringing home these hostages is so critically important to sit there and hold the hands of loved ones who are weeping because they don't know what happened to someone who is completely innocent who did nothing wrong.
I want to reinforce to the government here, as President Biden did, their lives are important. They need to be brought home. That's what the purpose of this trip was. And I'm happy to have conversations with anyone about this.
Free debate is a hallmark of democracy. Israel is a democracy. The United States is a democracy. These are not terrorist organizations like Hamas.
There can be no equivalency when speaking about the atrocities of one and the right to defend another. Thank you, Governor. Your next question comes from Nick Bryseman of Politico.
Nick, your mic is open. Hi, Governor. Can you hear me? Yes, I can, Nick. Governor, first of all, my condolences for your loss. I'm wondering kind of a two -part question here.
First, when it comes to the hostages and the casualties in Israel, has it been confirmed confirmed or determined if there were any people who have ties to New York or were New Yorkers themselves among those casualties?
And secondly, has there been any discussion about any further needs that New York state has when it comes to increasing security and bolstering security around some potentially vulnerable sites?
- Well, I see, as far as hostages, we do know that Omer Neutra is definitely a current New Yorker. I mean, dual citizenship, but his parents live on Long Island. And there are others who have connections.
These were individuals, I spoke to a man today, his son, I think he was 19 years old. He had also grown up in New York City, another family's from Rochester,
another family from New Rochelle. So there are many connections. They weren't necessarily people living in America today, but their families do or did. So yes, there is a strong connection of New York to these hostages,
don't have confirmation of loss of life with respect to New Yorkers, but certainly Americans have lost their lives. We are working very hard, particularly in vulnerable places,
New York City with the large Jewish population to protect all sites that have been determined to have vulnerabilities. Those would be the synagogues, the yeshivas,
places of worship as well as museums and cultural centers, but also mosques. We wanna make sure that all individuals feel safe in their ability to practice the religion freely.
I gathered with Jewish leaders before I left. I also met with Muslim leaders and talked to them about my commitment as the governor of New York to ensure that all New Yorkers are safe and we have deployed extraordinary resources.
Our monitoring of social media to ensure there's no credible threats is on a heightened level right now. And I'm glad I was able to reinforce those activities after the mass shooting in Buffalo where information was being telegraphed and the signs were not picked up in time to prevent that deadly massacres.
So we are doing a lot of the intelligence gathering, getting words out. I said, if we know there is a threat, I wanna know that the people of New York will know it instantaneously.
And whether it's reverse 911 messages coming out, certainly on all way we can broadcast it, I wanna make sure people feel safe and protected in the state of New York. But we will not coward to the terrorists,
because otherwise they win. So what we do is beef up security, prepare for the worst and hope for the best in the situation. But the mayor and I, my teams are working very closely together to restore some sense of security in our state.
It's difficult and times may get even tougher as the war unfolds. As I sit here in Israel, there's rockets coming in from Hezbollah in the North. This could be an all out war on multiple fronts and that escalates here,
it'll escalate in other countries and certainly in New York state, is aware of the presence of Hezbollah just above the border in Canada and other places. I spent time on the Armed Services Committee,
Homeland Security Committees in Congress and was aware of some strongholds here in North America as well. So no, we are ever vigilant. We have no choice. - Thank you,
Governor. Your final question will come from John Campbell, the Gothamist. John, your mic is open. - Well,
I learned about my father shockingly when I was finally able to get internet connection on the plane early morning, our time. And I literally talked to him from the JFK terminal,
talked to him in his rough Irish way when he said, "I'm proud of you, Dolly, but keep your goddamn head down." And so that's how my dad talked. But I'll tell you something my dad did for me,
he had been a steelworker, rose up when he was able to get his college education. I've told his story many times, his parents were impoverished immigrants from Ireland.
So that story has made me more sensitive to the plight of others who come to this country in search of their life, because it changed my own family's life. But my mother and father were great social activists back in the 60s.
They tried to integrate white neighborhoods. They challenged the Vietnam War at a time when I had uncle's serving. They brought in people with disabilities into our home and people from exchange students.
We had kids that came out of lower income situations in the city of Buffalo and spent summers with us. So my dad instilled in me and our family, and my mother was right at his side,
the two of them did this together, a strong sense of responsibility to others, embedded in my faith, but also in the lessons of my own parents. And then one perhaps life -changing thing my dad did was when I was 17 years old,
looking at colleges. And we looked at a couple of colleges, some girls' colleges and others, and he made a comment after I looked at those and looked at Syracuse University, he said that other college,
it seems to be the place you go to learn to be maybe the wife of a congressman, but Syracuse is where you go to be a congressman, because they have a strong political science department.
And I was 17 years old. I volunteered on campaigns, but never dreamed I'd ever, ever run for Congress. I was always behind the scenes. And to know that a 17 -year -old girl had that kind of confidence and thought of a future that she had not even envisioned for her father,
I told that story the night I was elected to Congress and we left together. So my dad had it being influenced on my life. - Thank you,
Governor. And thank you everyone for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your Thursday. - Thank you, everyone.