Commentary Magazine


Not Following the Talking Points Part Three

Like Adam Schiff and Robert Wexler, Barney Frank is another liberal Democrat and steadfast congressional supporter of Israel who was endorsed by J Street. And like his Democratic colleagues, Frank is completely and utterly at odds with the pacifist leanings of that organization and its hostility to Israeli sovereignty and self-defense. Here is a portion of the statement he released on December 31st:

This use of Gaza as a base from which to attack Israel left Israel with no choice except self defense, particularly after Hamas refused to continue the imperfectly observed ceasefire, and made clear its intention to resume attacks.

As it exercises this right of self defense, it is important for Israel to make clear its willingness to accept a genuine ceasefire–meaning an end to attacks from Gaza, and also Israel’s continuing commitment to a two state solution negotiated with Palestinians genuinely committed to that goal.

According to Frank, Israel had “no choice” but to launch Operation Cast Lead, a far cry from J Street’s suggested solution of Israel sitting there and taking it. Unsurprisingly, like those of Wexler and Schiff, Frank’s comments are not on J Street’s website, presumably because they are not sufficiently condemnatory of Israel and because Frank, that infamous neoconservative, refused to draw a moral equivalence between the war crimes of an Islamic supremacist gang that throws people off of buildings and a democratic state that risks the lives of its soldiers so as to minimize civilian casualties.

Frank went further in an interview with New England Cable News, and I’m excerpting his remarks at length not only because they are a brilliant distillation of the situation (and of the nuttiness of J Street’s prescriptions), but because they sound not altogether different from the “neocon Likudniks” J Street and its capitulationist supporters frequently malign.

Reporter: …I want to talk, first about the situation in the Middle East, a happening situation right now. It continues to develop. Three hundred more people dead as a result of Israel [pause] sending in, ah, air attacks into the Gaza strip. …[Livni clip]…Now we’ve heard the President of the United States, George Bush, call on Hamas to stop its attacks before any kind of process can begin here. What’s your impression of what’s going on over there, and what needs to be done?

Rep. Frank: Well, I essentially agree with that. It’s a terrible thing to have happen but I think Americans ought to think about this frankly, as analogous to what we did in Afghanistan…

But Congress voted with only one dissent in the House and none in the Senate to go to war with Afghanistan and what we did in Afghanistan is analogous to what Israel is doing in Gaza, namely, responding to that area where people were attacking us. America went to Afghanistan because Osama Bin Laden had been murdering people from Afghanistan, attacking America. We said to the Afghan government, “Give him up.” They refused. I then voted to go to war…

Israel under Ariel Sharon, a great hawk, withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and said lets have some negotiations. People then took over in Gaza who say they shouldn’t be in Israel and who said we have a right to attack it whenever we want to and who in fact had been firing rockets into Israel.

And I don’t think frankly if this had been Mexico or Ontario, firing rockets into America, that we would have sat back. Now I think that’s unfortunate. I do think Israel should be accompanying this by making clear that it’s ready to make peace. They should be at this point even more dismantling settlements in the West Bank where they have a more reasonable group of Palestinians to deal with.

Reporter: Do you think that will come?

Rep. Frank: I hope it will…But, ah, here’s a country, and remember that had been at truce and Hamas said, “no more truce,” and began to fire rockets into Israel. I don’t think America would sit back and not retaliate and they did; look, unfortunately in war, not unfortunately, tragically some civilians get killed. Israel does seem to have done a better job here frankly then we’ve done in Afghanistan in targeting combatants. They were aiming at the people who were firing the rockets and providing the physical security for the rocketeers.”

Frank draws a direct analogy between the near-universal support among Americans for the war against the Taliban and Israel’s current operation against Hamas. That would make J Street the Barbara Lee of American Jewish politics. As I wondered about Schiff and Wexler, why did Frank accept the endorsement of this organization, and why has he not renounced its support?

The only way that the J Street crowd can believe its pretension of representing the “broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews and their allies,” as Jeremy Ben-Ami once had the gall to claim, is by lying to themselves. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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