The Civic Scene: Mideast policy, health care dominate Weiner town hall

The Brooklyn Paper

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) recently held a town hall meeting concerning Iran and Israel. While the initial questions concerned Iran, Israel and the United States, questions about health care reform were later asked.

People expressed concern about the policy the Obama administration was going to take toward Israel. Some people believed the United States’ pressure to stop the building on the West Bank was contrary to past U.S. policy. Weiner said in the past 10 years Israel had removed as many settlements as it built. It might be that pressure against settlements is a way to pressure Israel about what it might do to Iran.

During a discussion about Hamas and Hezbollah, it was said they were elected democratically by the people of the areas where they are situated. Hamas said it would get tougher with Israel and sent rockets and mortars into Israel until stopped by an Israeli attack. The land in Gaza was used by terrorists to fire rockets. The view was expressed that it seems when people first vote democratically they pick radical leaders who mellow over time but whose charters call for Israel’s destruction.

There was discussion about our policy toward Saudi Arabia. Some believed the Saudis are a bridge to more moderate Arabs in the Middle East, but Weiner contended the Saudis have an anti-American policy.

Weiner, who has traveled to the Middle East a number of times, believes we should do four things to improve conditions in the Middle East:

1. Stop giving aid to the Palestinians, namely the Fatah group, which he believes is not working toward peace.

2. The United Nations has to stop the smuggling of weapons from Syria via Lebanon and Egypt into Gaza.

3. Stop sending high-tech equipment to the Saudis.

4. We need an agreement with Israel about an attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities if necessary in the future.

There was discussion about the current U.S. administration not respecting enough the need of Israel to protect itself from Iran, whose leader has said the Holocaust never happened and that Israel must be destroyed.

Not everyone was pro-Israel at the meeting. One person said Iran was not bad and that it had never attacked anybody. No one mentioned the Iran-Iraq war, where children were used to detonate mines so Iranian soldiers could advance during battles. Another person said the land was peaceful and all groups lived together in peace prior to the formation of Israel, but another person pointed out some of the massacres of Jewish settlers in the l920s.

When a person said a wall was being built and that there were checkpoints in Israel, it was pointed out there have been few suicide bombings since the wall was built and that America is building a wall in the Southwest.

Weiner said it is early in the Obama administration, so a firm policy is not necessarily a must right now. It was pointed out Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, so we have to respect its decision-making as it fights terrorists.

Questions about heath-care reform brought up the issue of our $10 trillion debt. Weiner retorted that part of our debt is from the Iraq war and tax cuts for the wealthy. The tax cuts did not help the economy but permitted excesses which may have brought on the recession. Weiner said one way of saving money on health care was to pay for people to put handrails in their bathrooms. It would cost $50, but it costs $600 a day when a person is in the hospital for a broken hip.

There was a discussion on whether a new health-care system would be socialism. The argument against this idea was that the Obama bailout gave money to private industries and banks to stimulate the economy. Is lending money to banks socialism? When Social Security was first stared, it was called socialism, but people complain today if it is juggled around.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The city builds cement malls on turnpikes and boulevards and plants trees on them. These trees look nice when their leaves grow in April and May, but in September there is grass growing in the tree pits and cracks separating the cement slabs and around our fire plugs and street sign poles.

The trees look nice but the grass looks terrible. Why must I call at the end of each summer when the city does not take care of the pits? They want to plant a million more trees by 2030 but do not take care of the ones we already have on our streets. Local groups cannot take care of the pits if they had the volunteers because many are on malls, busy turnpikes and boulevards.

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