This Again!

06.27.13

Anthony Weiner Stands By Claim That West Bank Isn't Occupied By Israel

Anthony Weiner launched his mayoral candidacy with an apology tour for sending pictures of his privates out over Twitter. "I apologized to the people that supported me," he told WNYC after starting his run. "I have apologized many, many times to my wife, and frankly I know that part of this process is going to be doing a lot of apologizing." He even expressed "regret" for sending anonymous mailers in his first race, for City Council in 1991, that critics said "played the race card" by attacking an opponent's ties to local black figures. (A private apology note from the time was later unearthed.) But there's one group that shouldn't hold its breath for a Weiner apology: Palestinians.

At the celebration in downtown New York last night marking the Supreme Court's ruling against anti-gay marriage legislation, Weiner told a questioner that he still believes Palestinian territory of the West Bank isn't militarily occupied by Israel. A tipster, who asked to remain anonymous, sent a video of the notoriously anti-Palestinian politician to Open Zion. In the exchange, outside of the famous Stonewall Inn, the questioner asks, "Do you still believe the West Bank is not occupied?" 

Weiner quickly responded: "Yes, I do. The status of that area is left to be decided by the people who're there."

"So it's not occupied by Israel?" the questioner persists.

"I gotta tell you: there are disagreements about what constitutes the West Bank," Weiner said, before walking away to gladhand Stonewall revelers.

You can watch the video here:

Video screenshot

The questioner asked about the West Bank because of Weiner's now-infamous appearance in New York in March 2011—three months before he resigned in disgrace from Congress for sending photos of his member to a Twitter follower. In the debate with the New York Times's Roger Cohen, Weiner remarked that there was no occupation in the West Bank

"No occupation in the West Bank, did I hear you right?" Cohen exclaimed incredulously.

"Yes," Weiner replied.

After a moment of further debate, Cohen asked again: "Let’s stick to the West Bank. You’re saying there is no [Israeli military] presence there?"

"Yes," said Weiner curtly.

Throughout the past decade, Weiner embraced many far-right pro-Israel positions. In 2006, he attacked the New York Times for having an anti-Israel bias, something liberal commentator Alex Pareene wrote "makes sense only if you consider any criticism of any action taken by the state of Israel to be out of line." Later that year, he celebrated passage of a House bill to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority by calling Palestinians terrorists. "They should start packing their little Palestinian terrorist bags," he said of the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations, which he tried to boot from New York with legislation. In his 2010 post, Pareene noted that the anti-Palestinian rhetoric was apparently hot enough that one of New York's sleaziest pro-Israel flacks Ronn Torossian—whom Jeffrey Goldberg said "represents the lunatic fringe" of the Israeli political right—threw a "breakfast reception honoring" Weiner.

Weiner's comments yesterday at Stonewall—with all the attendant irony of coming during a celebration for equal rights—serve only to solidify what we already know about Weiner's pro-Israel views: they're either a deeply cynical move to garner support from the pro-Israel right, or a testament to Weiner's deep-seated ignorance of the conflict. When Weiner says people "there" should decide the land's fate, he's almost certainly not speaking about the Palestinians in the West Bank, who live in stateless subjugation. And he's wrong that there are disputes about "what constitutes the West Bank": right-wing pro-Israel advocates call the area by a different name—Judea and Samaria—and claim the land as part of Greater Israel, but no one disputes what the actual area in question is.

Whether Weiner's falsehood was borne of cynicism or ignorance, it reveals a sad truth about the politics of Israel in America: there's no downside to trashing Palestinians, to saying they don't exist, to saying they ought to be denied basic rights in perpetuity. In fact, saying those things about the Palestinians can even get your campaign coffers filled by the biggest donors in the pro-Israel world. No wonder Weiner's sticking to his position.