Anthony Weiner is running for mayor of New York and despite progressive positions on a number of issues, he is a rightwinger on Palestine, identifying himself with the pro-settler faction of the Israel lobby.
Three years ago at a debate over the Goldstone Report at the New School, the then-congressman denied there is an occupation:
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 —
[Roger] COHEN: No occupation in the West Bank, did I hear you right? WEINER: Yes.
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 ya 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?
Scott McConnell at the American Conservative was at that event and asks about the failure of New Yorkers to make these intolerant claims a political issue. Is the city bigoted on Palestinian rights?
He stunned the audience, and no doubt pleased his supporters, by making the most hard-right Zionist claims one could imagine. He claimed there was no Israeli occupation of the West Bank, he claimed Israel’s eastern border was the Jordan River. He wasn’t smooth or even educated on the subject, there was no phony hasbara about how he really desired a Palestinian state if the Palestinians only had better leadership. He simply claimed all the land for the Jews, Palestinians be damned.
I haven’t lived in New York in over ten years, but it is surprising to me this kind of thing isn’t a deficit in city politics. Evidently it’s not. A few months ago mayoral candidates outdid themselves to get on record as opposing Brooklyn College’s decision to allow BDS supporters to hold an event. Mayor Bloomberg finally punctured the suck-up frenzy by stating that New York shouldn’t really aspire to be North Korea, and as much as he might deplore BDS he really wasn’t bent out of shape by a forum at Brooklyn College. That was good enough, but the sad thing is that the other mayoral candidates, avowed liberals to man and woman, did want the city to be North Korea as far open debate on Israel-Palestine is concerned.
I have a question for readers who may be closer to the city’s political culture than I am now. The city’s demographics are more Asian, more Hispanic, fewer ethnic whites of any sort, probably a slightly smaller number of white “Protestants”—once the catch-all category for young people who came from elsewhere in the country to work in advertising or finance or any industry which hired nationally.
I know there are genuine progressives on Palestine in the city; I’ve demonstrated with them. I know also the issue is debated intensely among liberal Jews, and that a figure like Peter Beinart, an eloquent liberal Zionist, has a considerable following. I know also that 30 years ago, any mayoral candidate who was an out-and-out apartheid advocate, as Weiner is, would be outed, hounded by the left, and wouldn’t have a chance to be elected mayor. I know also that in the enclaves of “old” New York, in the pockets of Irish, Poles, Italians and the neighborhood church, most people would be respectful of Israel, and ready to think, vote, and act as if it should be defended. But they wouldn’t go so far as denying there are two sides to the question or think the other side should wiped out and not even heard.
So, really, a question. Has New York become oddly extremist in my absence? What if a candidate for mayor said, simply (as Henry Kissinger once did) I’m strongly committed to protecting Israel’s existence, but not its conquests? Would that now be a losing proposition in a Democratic primary?