Barney Frank slams Israel, NOT!


I really want to pick up this Boston Herald interview with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Honestly I do.

But look at what they’re doing:

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank had harsh words yesterday for the Israeli Navy after a bloody raid on a pro-Palestinian flotilla outside of Gaza, describing nine activists killed in the conflict as “innocent” and calling for an independent inquiry into the showdown.

Frank, in a wide-ranging interview with the Herald, went on to say that “as a Jew,” Israeli treatment of Arabs around some of the West Bank settlements “makes me ashamed that there would be Jews that would engage in that kind of victimization of a minority.”

The comments rankled some local Jewish leaders, who said activists on the largest vessel of the six-ship-flotilla sparked the deadly confrontation by attacking Israeli Naval commandos as they rappelled onto the ship.

“They weren’t innocent at all, it’s pretty clear,” said Nancy K. Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston. “There’s something called self-defense and (Israeli officials) have a right to use it. As usual, everyone’s jumping on Israel and blaming Israel.”

Get that? Frank says some settlers shame him — not the commandoes, not even the flotilla action — and with an "innocent" thrown in devoid of context,  the Herald extracts from this thin gruel what looks like antagonism between the state’s premiere Jewish legislator and its top Jewish spokeswoman.

So where does the "innocent" come in? Further down:

Once you have a combat situation and innocent people die, I mean, you know, look at our problems in Afghanistan, and we have an obligation to try and avoid it.

Is he saying innocents died in the flotilla melee? I don’t see it, but that’s because I don’t see enough. (What I do see is that he’s contextualizing the incident against American sins, which seems to me to send pretty much the opposite message of the Herald’s tone suggesting that he has turned on Israel.) One might infer from Frank’s quote, which trails off, that should it be shown that innocents have died, there needs to be an investigation.

In fact, from the subsequent paragraph, that seems to be exactly what he is saying, but the Herald screws it up again:

Frank called for a “genuinely impartial” inquiry, while local Jewish leaders questioned whether any international panel will be impartial toward Israel.

Frank is not necessarily calling for an international inquiry; he is calling for an independent inquiry. My bet is he’s calling (as the Obama administration is calling) for an independent Israeli inquiry. Israel has a history of conducting such inquiries, from the 1973 Yom Kippur War through to the Second Lebanon War; they are independent in that they are free of army influence, and have often drawn conclusions that have damaged the careers of the principles at the center of the controversies..

So what is Frank calling for? Likely nothing more than what the Obama administration has called for after consultations with Israeli officials — an independent Israeli inquiry. [UPDATE : Need more proof that Frank’s words were twisted? Watch the video of the interview, which is posted to the right on the same page as the Herald story.]

Maybe it’s a small news story, but it isn’t the break with pro-Israel orthodoxy the Herald is suggesting.

And this Huffington Post top-of-the-page hed, linking to the Herald story, doesn’t help:

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