Anthony Weiner was a hero during the health care reform debate, standing firm on the side of the public option--and of the public in general. He was an eloquent and impassioned advocate for progressive health care reform.
So his comments today in defense of the IDF's raid on the Turkish flotilla are almost painful. Hell, they are painful to me. I expected better of Anthony Weiner than for him to sound like the politicians from my youth in Alabama, who blamed "outside agitators" for the violence that greeted them during the Civil Rights Movement.
Specifically, these are the comments Weiner made that trouble me:
It's worth reading Greg Sargent's entire post, but here, according to Sargent, are Weiner's words:
"This was about instigating an altercation and they succeeded," Weiner, one of Israel's leading allies in Congress, told me.
"If you want to instigate a conflict with the Israeli navy it isn't hard to do," Weiner continued. "They were offered alternatives. Instead they chose to sail into the teeth of an internationally recognized blockade."
"If they were truly interested in providing aid, there were ways," Weiner said. "This was about instigating an altercation and they succeeded."
"Anything that israel does would create an international outcry," Weiner said. "This entire effort was intended to create an international outrcry."
I can't help but flash back to hearing the adults in my native South defending segregation by blaming "outside agitators" and "troublemakers" for the reception that some thugs gave them as they engaged in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.
When Bull Connor ordered police dogs and fire hoses be used to disperse schoolchildren who were marching downtown, his actions were defended on much the same grounds Weiner uses: what did they expect? They wanted a confrontation, and they got it!
When the courageous Freedom Riders suffered vicious attack after vicious attack as they rode through Alabama, then-Governor Patterson first refused to provide them with police protection, as demanded by then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. (Kennedy won that showdown.)
Patterson had this to say:
"...You just can't guarantee the safety of a fool, and that's what these folks are, just fools."
The accent is different, but Patterson and Weiner are reading off the same page. And that saddens me.
I expect better from him.
I hope he reconsiders this sort of defense. One can support Israel's right to exist and its right to defend itself without supporting the gunning down of civilians engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience. Surely, Weiner knows this.