If the Anthony Weiner scandal has an upside, let us hope that it will unearth the countless lies, stretchers, and bodacious and rabid falsehoods that the congressman told three months back at the New School in a debate about the Goldstone Report that we set up between him and former Congressman Brian Baird, moderated by Roger Cohen of the New York Times.
Here are five of those lies: There is no Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Goldstone Report was not based on the laws of war, Israel is at war with 20 neighbors, American progressives should support the absence of free speech in Israel when it comes to its character as a Jewish state, and Egypt is an Islamic state. To the videotape:
Lie #1. There is no Israeli occupation of the West Bank, no Israeli military presence there:
WEINER: You can see a difference in the development in the West Bank with 11 percent year over year growth, with no Israeli occupation there either, with increasing access to checkpoints...
COHEN: No occupation in the West Bank, did I hear you right?
COHEN: Have you been to the West Bank lately?
COHEN: You didn’t see the IDF there?
WEINER: In Ramallah? No. In Nablus? No. Now can I tell you there might be some people in this room who think Jerusalem is occupied.
COHEN: Well hold on a second there, let’s stick to the West Bank. You’re saying there is no IDF presence there?
Lie #2. The Goldstone Report was not based on the laws of war.
COHEN: Do you accept the idea that [Israel's] self-defense can become grossly disproportionate?
WEINER: I will say that whether or not grossly disproportion-- it is not something that is subject to the rules of international law. It is subject ot the rules of war. The Geneva Convention was followed scrupulously and I didn’t see anywhere in the allegations that even the rules of war were even considered for this report. Because quite the opposite. Goldstone said we’re looking at this through the laws of justice. Unfortunately and this pains me to say, when you’re at war it’s because the laws have broken down…
This is a flatout misrepresentation.
The Goldstone Report repeatedly invokes the laws of war. The largest body of law on which it is based are the numerous conventions of international humanitarian law (IHL) how states are supposed to behave toward non-combatants. For instance, paragraph 270:
All parties to the armed conflict are bound by relevant rules of IHL, whether of conventional or customary character. International humanitarian law comprises principles and rules applicable to the conduct of military hostilities and provides for restraints upon the conduct of military action so as to protect civilians and those that are hors de combat. It also applies to situations of belligerent occupation.
And Goldstone repeatedly cites violations of the Geneva Conventions. Paragraph 1919.
The intentional strike at al-Quds hospital using high-explosive artillery shells and white phosphorous in and around the hospital also violated articles 18 and 19 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Lie #3. Israel is at war with 20 neighbors.
WEINER: We have a problem, we being progressives, have a problem that large numbers of us have come to turn the story of David and Goliath as relates to Israel on its head and have lost sight of the fact that Israel is the democracy in the middle east, in that region which is at war with 20 of its neighbors. Not that she declared war, the 20 neighbors declared war against her. She is the one with the judiciary, she is the one that puts out reports... that are critical of its own military
This is an absurd statement. Egypt and Jordan have treaties with Israel that permit trade and travel. And as Brian Baird promptly pointed out, the Arab League has repeatedly offered to recognize Israel on the '67 lines. "This idea that Israel is surrounded by countries intent on driving it into the sea is just not accurate."
Lie #4 American progressives should support Israel limiting free speech about its character as a Jewish state.
Weiner said that he had come to the debate to show that progressives in New York must support Israel. "We have to start pushing back on the notion that it is somehow anathema to progressive thought to support a democracy in the middle east, that is Israel, and im proud to be a progressive that supports that."
Baird said, "It is an inequal democracy by any standard," and said that when he was at the Knesset, he watched a bill being passed on first reading to make it a criminal offense to suggest in public that Israel should not be a Jewish state. "A criminal offense. Just to say it. So much for first amendment, so much for separation of church and state. All the things that we value as progressives. You can't even say it, or you go to jail..."
WEINER: I do see discussions and debate and votes in the Knesset, the democratically elected legislature of Israel, I do see good ideas and crazy ideas. When my friend Brian Baird describes the First Amendment, it’s a Jewish state... The idea of a First Amendment, that shows a little bit of a blind spot…The idea that somehow Israel is not a jewish state is part of the problem here. Some people believe that it shouldn’t be. They have their rights, but it is, it’s going to be..
Whatever these ideas are, they are not progressive.
Lie #5. Egypt is an "Islamic state."
WEINER: It’s a Jewish state and that’s the way it’s created to be, and it’s a right to be that, just like in Egypt it’s going to be an Islamic state... [hooting from the audience] Let me stipulate that Egypt probably will be... It’s going to have many of the precepts of Islam and I'm sure that’s going to be the prevailing religion. It’s not? [to Roger Cohen] You were there. I'd certainly be surprised if it emerged as a Coptic Christian state.
Egypt's official religion is Islam. It does not have the same separation of church and state that we have in the U.S., but it is not an "Islamic state." Till recently, Egypt sharply limited the role of Islamist parties. Israel, by contrast, does little to limit religious political parties.