Like many others, I have been distressed this week by recent events in Israel. This blog is meant to address issues relating to interfaith relationships; the ins and outs of Israeli government policies, how best to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, etc. — those are issues on which we don’t claim expertise and on which InterfaithFamily.com as an organization does not take a position.
That being said, I believe that the criticism of Israel’s enforcing the Gaza blockade has not been fair, and the perception of Israel has been skewed as a result — including possibly among the interfaith couples and families about whom we are concerned. US Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) had a compelling exchange with Chris Matthews on yesterday’s Hardball on MSNBC which I want to share with our audience. The interview is pasted in below; it can be found at this link, starting at approximately 4:00 into the segment.
Rep. Frank Interviewed on MSNBC
June 2, 2010
MATTHEWS: Let’s turn now to Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Congressman Frank, what do you — this is — how do you find objective truth in the Middle East?
FRANK: You know, first of all, we ought to be very clear that the blockade has not simply been an Israeli blockade. It’s been an Israeli/Egyptian blockade. And I think that’s very important, because I do think the Israelis have a legitimate concern about being unfairly blamed and double standards.
By the way, I don’t remember quite so much worldwide outrage when the North Koreans sank a South Korean submarine and 46 people were killed. There are people now very upset about Israel on a much more ambiguous situation as to what could and should have happened.
We had an unprovoked attack by North Korean on a South Korean submarine, 46 people killed, and a great deal of silence and — and — and equivocation.
Look, you have this fundamental problem with Israel, for them. They gave up Gaza voluntarily. I was one of those who for a long time was arguing they should. What happened was, Gaza was then occupied by a group of people who think Israel shouldn’t exist and who are in fact on our terrorist list for good reason.
Now, what you then have is a blockade. And the argument is, well, there were no weapons in this shipment. But a blockade that allows some things in and not others has to maintain control over the ports of entry, so you can know what is in or not.
Given that, I think it was irresponsible of the pro-Hamas people who organized this set of ships to go in there to do that, and obviously understood the potential for violence. That does not mean that everything the Israelis did in this situation was right. When military people are in a situation where they have to use force, as they had to do here, not everything will be done well. Not everything will be done correctly. I do agree it would be in Israel’s interest to have an independent inquiry, appointed by Israelis.
By the way, the Israeli government, the Israeli judiciary, has a very good record of holding the Israeli government to account. The Israeli Supreme Court has been much tougher on the Israeli government on security matters than the U.S. Supreme Court has been on our government, or the French or the others have been.
MATTHEWS: I know.
FRANK: So I think in interest to have — to look at specifics. But the context is relevant, that Egypt and Israel both said, look, we have terrorists running a piece of territory here. We do not trust them to be peaceful. And we’re going to monitor what goes in.
I agree things could be done better. But in this particular situation, I think it would be in everybody’s interest for there to be an independent inquiry, which Israel has shown itself capable of having internally, to figure out who did what, when. But the basic concept — I do believe — put it this way, if Hamas were in Canada, America would have a tougher blockade than Israel has.
MATTHEWS: I hate it, congressman, when I completely agree with somebody, but I do. The only question to add to that is what’s the international community, the smart people in Europe that are watching it — don’t they see the movies we see? Don’t they see, in this particular situation, the Israeli IDF guys getting beat up on that ship? Don’t they see it?
FRANK: One more thing, Chris — and it’s true, this is causing — the blockade hurts people in Gaza. And by the way, again, it was an Egyptian/Israeli blockade. So let’s be clear. The Egyptians, for their own reasons of self-preservation, were doing this. Blockades hurt people. The blockade of North Korea hurts North Koreans.
I remember when we were fighting Apartheid in South Africa, being told by Ronald Reagan, who vetoed the sanctions bill — you remember this, Chris. And we overrode Ronald Reagan’s veto to impose tough sanctions, economic, on South Africa. And the Reaganites said to us you’re hurting the poor black people of South Africa. And Nelson Mandela later stood in the Capital of the United States and said, thank you for doing that, because you need to put pressure on them.
So again, if the blockade can be done better, I’m not an expert on that. Yes, humanitarian aid should get in. Food should get in. The Israelis say it has been. If there’s a dispute there, let’s work to make — to increase it. And an inquiry — look and say what we’ve done with the American military. You put military people in a position where they have to use force and it’s not going to be done perfectly.
But on the fundamentals, on the right to a blockade, again, we have to go back to the fact this doesn’t happen in the West Bank. It happens in Gaza because a terrorist group that’s opposed to Israel’s very existence took physical control from the elected government at the time, the president, who won the parliament and have used it as a base of attacks.
MATTHEWS: You know what? I think when you let the Europeans judge Israel, you’re not letting them be judged by a panel of their peers. It does seem a totally prejudicial situation. Go ahead, one last thing.
FRANK: About Turkey and Iran, unfortunately — and getting sanctions against Iran is very important. I’m willing to show a little slack to the Chinese for that that. But the Turks and the Brazilian just undermine our efforts to deal with Iran a couple weeks ago. So turkey can’t blame this, and the Turks should not have been allowing themselves to be used in this situation by Hamas. But the Turks can’t blame this for the fact that they’ve already been out of sync with us on Iranian sanctions.
MATTHEWS: Well, they’ve got an Islamic government. Thank you so much, Islamist government, perhaps. Thanks you very much, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.