Boston city councilor won’t lose election after Israel-Hamas remarks, observers say

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Boston City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson is expected to sail through in next month’s election, but political observers say her comments on the Israel-Hamas war could be a factor in two years if she faces a stronger opponent.

Her description of the Hamas terrorist organization as a “militant group” and characterization of the Oct. 7 attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis as a “military operation” last Wednesday was heavily criticized, but isn’t expected to turn off a majority of voters in District 7, two former city councilors said.

“Do I think it’s going to impact her election? Probably not,” Michael McCormack, an attorney who served five terms on the City Council, told the Herald. “I think she wins with so few votes that the people who vote for her are probably just as uninformed as she is with respect to what she filed and her comments.”

Also working in her favor is the “very weak” opponent she’s running against, McCormack said, referring to Althea Garrison, a perennial candidate who was trounced by Fernandes Anderson in the September preliminary.

He noted that Fernandes Anderson benefited from facing another weak opponent two years ago, stating that had she faced strong opposition like the other district councilors, “she probably would not have been elected in the first place.”

“She’s probably the one who does as little as possible and who in her representation of her constituents is the weakest of the district city councilors,” McCormack said. “But she’s running against someone who historically just runs and runs, and that’s Althea Garrison who will not beat Fernandes, in large part because no one votes in her district. Simple as that.”

The progressive Fernandes Anderson was elected to represent District 7, which includes Roxbury, Dorchester, Fenway and part of the South End, in 2021.

She was heavily criticized by some of her colleagues for her description of Hamas and the terrorist attack it carried out on Israel, in a resolution she filed calling for de-escalation and a cease-fire in Israel and “occupied Palestine” at last week’s City Council meeting.

Comments made by Fernandes Anderson as part of a discussion on the resolution were also described by two Jewish groups as “antisemitic.”

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“I think the likelihood of this impacting her is slim,” Larry DiCara, a former city councilor and longtime observer of Boston politics, told the Herald. “But that does not mean that two years from now, there may be an effort to move her out, and then some people may step up and put some money behind it.”

He said he wasn’t surprised by the comments, however, saying that Fernandes Anderson identifies as a Muslim, who has a tendency to speak from the heart and a different way of viewing things going on in the Middle East.

“Certainly my Jewish friends are all up in arms about it,” DiCara said. “It may be just one of many things that will hurt her down the road.”

Both McCormack and DiCara said the City Council should have stayed away from weighing in on the Israel-Hamas war, with DiCara stating, “I wouldn’t have touched it with a 10-foot pole.”

“We have enough problems that we don’t have to delve into the problems of the rest of the world,” DiCara said.

Fernandes Anderson filed her resolution in response to one made by Councilor Michael Flaherty, who wanted to condemn “Hamas and their brutal terrorist acts against Israel,” and express solidarity with the state of Israel and Israeli people.

McCormack said he didn’t like Fernandes Anderson’s comments “on a personal level,” but was more broadly struck by how she “has no idea what her role is as a city councilor,” which is to deal with city issues, “not make comments that are at best just fatuous and a waste of time.”

Michael Ross, an attorney who served for 14 years on the City Council, declined to comment on the upcoming election, but did speak to the councilor’s remarks, and other left-leaning criticism of Israel in the wake of this month’s attack.

“As a progressive Jewish person, I am heartbroken that some on the left are incapable of standing with the Jewish people during the worst attack against them since the Holocaust,” Ross told the Herald. “Israel is not perfect, but what happened on Oct. 7 defies geopolitics, and demands humanity’s collective outrage for the perpetrators and support for its victims.”

Boston City Hall (Amanda Sabga/Boston Herald, file)

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