Live

Watch CBSN Live

Barney Frank Criticizes Some Israel Settlers, Disputes Newspaper Account of Interview (UPDATED)

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on "Face The Nation," March 22, 2009.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on "Face The Nation," March 22, 2009. CBS

Updated June 4, 8:30 a.m. ET with further clarification from Barney Frank's office

A story in the Boston Herald gave the impression that Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts has broken ranks with many of his colleagues and criticized Israel for killing "innocent people" in Monday's deadly raid on a flotilla attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza strip.

But Frank's office later disputed the Herald's characterization of its interview with him. 

Frank, who is Jewish, did say Israel's treatment of Arabs around some West Bank settlements "makes me ashamed that there would be Jews that would engage in that kind of victimization of a minority."

But the story's suggestion that Frank described the activists killed in the flotilla raid as "innocent" does not appear to be a fair characterization.

Frank's office emailed over a transcript of the interview. After saying he needs to get the facts on the raid, Frank said the following, according to the transcript: (FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW)

Part of the problem -- I wish Netanyahu had been able to make a coalition with Tzipi Livni from the Kadima party, rather than people to his right. People who work closely with him tell me that he would like to do that. I think she may be making the mistake that better he looks worse from our standpoint so she can beat him. I am troubled by that.

On the other, I've got to say, once you have this combat situation, innocent people die. I mean, look at our problems in Afghanistan. I mean, you have the obligation to try to avoid it. Mostly, we've got to root for peace.

Accounts of Monday's raid differ, with Israel claiming its forces were acting in self defense after having been attacked and activists on the flotilla countering that Israeli soldiers were the aggressors. Both sides have released video to bolster their argument, but they have lacked context and failed to provide much clarity. In the interview, Frank defended Israel from the widespread criticism it has received in the wake of the raid. He said there are people "howling for Israel to pay a price that don't seem disturbed that North Koreans killed 46 South Koreans by torpedoing a South Korean boat. I think we have a right to ask for some consistency."

He also called for an impartial inquiry into what took place in the raid.

As Hotsheet reported yesterday, politicians from both parties, including Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner and Republican Sarah Palin, have largely backed Israel this week. One Israel-backer not mentioned in yesterday's post is Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is complaining that Israel "is being called upon to apologize" despite having been attacked by activists on the flotilla.

Bachmann also used the incident to criticize the Obama administration, which signed on to a U.N. Security Council statement condemning the "acts" that led to the deaths on the flotilla without signaling out Israel specifically. Many in the Muslim world are calling on the United States to take a harder stand against its longtime ally.

"The Obama administration, through its word and its actions, has been sending the world mixed signals at best," Bachmann told Politico. She complained that the administration has shown "less than clear, full support for the state of Israel."

UPDATE: On Wednesday evening, Frank's office contacted Hotsheet to take issue with the Herald's characterization of the interview. His office emailed a letter to the Herald from the Congressman in which he complains that the article "is inaccurate in saying that I 'had harsh words yesterday for the Israeli Navy.'"

"The harsh words I spoke were specifically aimed at some non-governmental settlers in the West Bank who I believe have treated Arabs very badly, and, it should be noted, in contradiction to official Israeli government policy," writes Frank. "But I had nothing critical to say about the Israeli Navy. Indeed, I noted that I was not familiar with the specifics of the incident, and I talked about the U.S. experience in Afghanistan as an example of the difficult problems that occur when military organizations are required to use force."

Here is the relevant portion of the interview, according to a transcript provided by Frank's office:

BOSTON HERALD: Congressman - you mentioned a few minutes ago your support for Israel. What do you think the U.S. action should be in the wake of this raid?

FRANK: I don't know, I don't know. I'd have to get the facts on that.

Part of the problem -- I wish Netanyahu had been able to make a coalition with Tzipi Livni from the Kadima party, rather than people to his right. People who work closely with him tell me that he would like to do that. I think she may be making the mistake that better he looks worse from our standpoint so she can beat him. I am troubled by that.

On the other, I've got to say, once you have this combat situation, innocent people die. I mean, look at our problems in Afghanistan. I mean, you have the obligation to try to avoid it. Mostly, we've got to root for peace.

My own view is this -- I think we made a mistake by focusing on the Jerusalem issue, as opposed to the non-Jerusalem settlements. I think the best thing we can do is to insist on a much better activity to get rid of all the West Bank settlements.

For one thing, if you're an Israeli military man, you don't want these settlements. They are bad from your defense standpoint; they don't help the defense; they spread you out; they commit you to places you shouldn't be. And I think that undermines them politically. And you have cases where the settlers clearly are abusive to the Arabs in ways that as a Jew makes me ashamed that there would be Jews that would engage in that kind of victimization of a minority and others. So I think the answer is as long as the bigger context is bad it's hard to fix that. I would have to look at the other individual cases.

But the other thing I will say is this - there will be nations in the world howling for Israel to pay a price don't seem disturbed that the North Koreans killed forty-six South Koreans by torpedoing a South Korean boat. I think we have a right to ask for some consistency.

QUESTION: Do you think there should be an impartial inquiry?

FRANK: I think that would be in Israel's interest. Yes, genuinely impartial.


Israel Expels Activists as Gaza Fallout Spreads

Seven Things You May Not Know About the Raid

Washington Unplugged: Israeli U.S. Ambassador and Free Gaza Movement on Raid

Israel Raises Concerns Over Relationship with Turkey After Raid

Free Gaza Movement Vows Future Missions

Politicians from Both Parties Rally Behind Israel Following Raid

Gazans Rush to Egypt Border after Israeli Raid

Photos: Protests against Israeli Flotilla Raid

View CBS News In