The silent cowardice of Democrats over the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero has earned them a lot of heat from the progressive blogosphere, who point out that the Democratic Party has ceded the floor to Islamophobes in the Republican Party looking to exploit the issue for political gain. Specifically, most of the ire has been directed at Democrats from New York City, given that the city is where the center will be.
With the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and others from the pro-Israel establishment weighing in with opposition to the community center or questioning its funding, it’s safe to say that New York Democrats’ position on the Cordoba House are at least somewhat related to their views and political interests on Israel/Palestine. As Steve Kornacki of Salon writes, embracing the center “would represent a real political gamble”–a gamble that could cost them the support of the Israel lobby. The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League are two influential groups that police discourse about Israel, ensuring that no one steps out of line with the Israel-can-do-no-wrong-even-when-it-destroys-and-occupies message. They know how to wage campaigns to take down politicians.
Representative Anthony Weiner, a Jewish New York Democrat who represents parts of southern Brooklyn and south central Queens, is someone who has been curiously silent on the Islamic community center. Although he released a letter on Friday afternoon praising Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his outspoken defense of the Cordoba House, he didn’t really take a strong position. Instead, he speaks out of both sides of his mouth, as Kornacki notes:
Weiner praises the mayor, who on Tuesday calmed the growing firestorm over the mosque with a brave and unusually stirring defense of it, for putting “this controversial issue in context” — but stops short of endorsing the project himself. Instead, he writes of his hope that “as this process goes forward,” it will be handled with “transparency and tolerance for all viewpoints,” and that “fair questions” will be raised.
Notably, Weiner is married to an Arab women who is Muslim, making his wishy-washy letter to Bloomberg even more curious. While in Congress during the Obamacare debate, he was a passionate advocate for a single-payer health care system, an issue that is the progressive left’s darling. But he has been simply atrocious on Israel/Palestine. Weiner is associated with the radical and racist right-wing group the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). The ZOA is an ardent supporter of the colonization of both the West Bank and Gaza (they opposed Israel’s “unilateral disengagement” from the Gaza Strip in 2005). Since 1998, Weiner has received over $65,000 from pro-Israel related entities during campaign seasons, according to the website Open Secrets.
One can’t know for sure what’s driving Weiner’s apprehensiveness over a simple issue of discrimination and Islamophobia. Is he afraid of the political backlash from pro-Israel groups that support him lavishly and who have chosen to take the anti-Muslim side of this debate?