Over at Open Zion, Ali Gharib has video of Anthony Weiner trying to brush off a questioner who asks him about his claim there is “no Israeli occupation” of the West Bank. A couple of weeks ago I wondered whether New York voters would care about or even notice this issue, whether Weiner’s opponents in a liberal Democratic primary would see Wiener’s far-right Israel politics as a point of potential vulnerability. The verdict is not yet in, but the fact that someone (a pro-Palestine activist? someone linked to one of the other campaigns?) is trying to publicize the issue is a sure sign of progress.
Weiner is in a bind: he wants to appeal to that segment of the electorate which is really far right on Israel, while hoping the rest of the primary electorate doesn’t notice or care. It’s a balancing act that can only work if no one brings up the issue in public. Why should voters care what a mayoral candidate’s position on Israel-Palestine is? If you’ve lived through a New York democratic primary, you know that much of the campaign consists of every candidate trying to “outliberal” one other in pandering to New York’s very large array of liberal constituencies. The issues are often fairly technical, and it’s hard to get a fix on how candidates would actually govern if elected — when there are real restraints on how liberal they can be.
So the question of Israel-Palestine becomes a sort of window into the moral judgement of the candidate. I don’t expect great things, but Weiner’s far out position clearly exposes himself as both ignorant and bigot — personality traits which are not irrelevant to his capacity to govern the city. No wonder he looks peeved in video.