Obama and the Jews


The Jerusalem Post

February 22, 2008

Less than two weeks before the critical primary elections in Ohio and Texas, Democratic voters have made it very clear: Barack Hussein Obama is for real.

Leading in the popular votes cast, delegates pledged and total delegates (meaning principally the back-room machers euphemistically referred to as "superdelegates"), Obama has a decent chance to become the 2008 Democratic candidate for President of the United States. Obama has become a rallying point for millions of disgruntled voters who yearn for a new style of politics in the world's greatest democracy.

Since the Republican race is all but over and Senator John McCain will likely win the nomination of his party in Minneapolis in early September, it is not idle speculation to consider an Obama-McCain contest in the November general election. Such a contest has potentially enormous consequences for Israel and the Jews.

It is no secret that Obama's candidacy has been supported financially and politically by many prominent members of the American Jewish community. Even previously outspoken Clinton-supporting spokespersons for Democrats Abroad here in Israel have been hedging their bets recently in articles and interviews, suggesting that an Obama Administration would augur well for Israel. Incredibly, citing unenthusiastic, canned pro-Israel campaign statements, these dyed-in-the-wool Democratic sycophants would urge Jewish voters to cast their fate and Israel's with Obama rather than with the Republican candidate, McCain.

With all due deference to the Obama celebrity supporters like Steven Spielberg and George Soros, can Jews herein Israel and in America and other friends of Israel risk a vote for Obama in November? A quick look at the facts should switch on a big red light in most peoples' minds.

First and foremost among the considerations that should trouble friends of Israel is the foreign policy team Obama has selected to advise him. The composition of a candidate's advisory panel is usually a very good indicator of where the candidate will come out on the issues if elected.

This was the test this writer applied to George W. Bush in 2000 at a time when most pundits in Israel and in the Jewish community predicted that his Middle East policy would be a carbon copy of his father's, meaning trouble for Israel. But Bush, the son, had selected a blue-ribbon team of pragmatic and conservative advisors whose views on the Middle East were markedly pro-Israel and pro-democracy. Subsequently, the W. Bush Era became among the closest allies of Israel in her 60-year history.

The opposite is the case with the Obama team. Headed up by Jimmy Carter's ("Israel is an apartheid state") national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama's team includes such problematic figures as Anthony Lake, Robert O. Malley and Susan Rice.

One commentator, citing an article by the staunchly left-wing Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, has noted that an Obama presidency including a foreign policy team that included the foregoing and their ideological soul-mates, "would likely have an approach towards Israel radically at odds with those of previous Presidents (both Republican and Democrat)" and is the candidate apt to be "least supportive" of Israel.

Brzezinski has been disseminating vitriol about Israel for three decades and recently publicly defended the Walt-Mearsheimer study which concluded that US policy towards Israel was the result of Jewish pressure and inconsistent with American interests. More recently Brzezinski called for the US to initiate dialogue with Hamas, described Israel's action in the Second Lebanon War as a killing campaign against civilian hostages and earlier this month made a trip to confer with Syria's President Assad, ostensibly unbeknownst to the Obama campaign.

Robert O. Malley, another former Carter Administration diplomat and President Clinton's special advisor on Arab-Israeli affairs, is an unabashed advocate for the Palestinians, co-authoring a spate of anti-Israel propaganda with former Arafat advisor, Hussein Agha, including a tract that blames Israel for the failure of the 2000 Camp David talks and another piece which blames the Bush Administration for continuing Israeli-Palestinian strife.

And then there is Susan Rice, foreign policy advisor to the ill-fated John Kerry presidential campaign in 2004, where she concocted the idea of solving the Middle East problem by appointing none other than Jimmy Carter and James Baker as negotiators, an idea which was later repudiated by her own boss as being unbalanced against Israel. Nor are these the only "bad apples" in Obama's foreign policy bin…

Another problematic indicator is candidate's close association with Jeremiah Wright, Jr., pastor of the Trinity United Community Church (a member of the United Church for Christ, which itself has been rebuked for anti-Israel bias), who is well known for his virulent anti-Israel remarks, including a call for a divestment campaign against Israel for the "injustice and the racism under which the Palestinians have lived because of Zionism."

Nor should bring much solace to Jewish voters and friends of Israel that Reverend Wright counts among his closest friends, the nefarious anti-Semite, Louis Farrakhan for whom Judaism is a "gutter religion" and Jews are "bloodsuckers." Obama could have picked any one of hundreds of churches in Chicago's South Side; he picked Jeremiah Wright's parsonage, which awarded Farrakhan with the Jeremiah Wright Lifetime Achievement Trumpeteer Award in 2007. And Wright's church is the single largest beneficiary of Obama's charitable giving. Even Jewish columnist Richard Cohen of the Washington Post felt compelled to ask Obama to clarify his relationship with these anti-Jewish and anti-Israel community leaders, questioning why Obama has stayed steadfast in his allegiance to Pastor Wright over the years.

Obama is only a first-term senator and has therefore only participated in a handful of votes that bear upon Israel and the Middle East. He also has a penchant for missing controversial votes where he would have to put his personal policies in the public record. However, his public statements on a variety of issues present a number of troubling issues for Jews and friends of Israel. Here are a few samples:

1)Obama openly advocates outreach toward and diplomatic engagement of Iran even though Iran has recently referred to Israel as a "filthy bacteria" and has repeatedly called for the annihilation of the Jewish State, including recent hints that this will be accomplished by a nuclear attack
2) "Nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people."
3)"[T]he creation of a wall [referring to Israel's security fence] dividing the two nations is yet another example of the neglect of this [the Bush] Administration in brokering peace… ."
4)"I am opposed to the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in the administration to shove their ideological agenda down our throat." [note that only Jews are singled out despite the fact that the policies in question were promoted by the entire Administration]
5)"Reverend [Al] Sharpton is a voice for the voiceless, and a voice for the dispossessed. What [Reverend Sharpton's] National Action Network has done is so important to change America, and it must be changed from the bottom up." [National Action lead a protest against the Jewish owner of Freddy's Fashion Mart in New York in which picketers, sometimes joined by Sharpton himself, repeatedly screamed epithets about "bloodsucking Jews" and "Jew bastards."]

Obama was the only Democratic candidate who said the onus was on Israel to change its policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians in order to achieve peace.

Barack's problematic and unrecanted public statements and associations raise enough serious questions that should cause Jewish voters and friends of Israel to think twice about supporting him in November.

But there is one other troublesome factor that voters in the Democratic primaries have thus far failed to credit seriously, viz.: Obama aspires to become president of the greatest democracy and still the only remaining superpower on the planet, having held a senate seat for less than five years and having had no previous administrative or national experience.

While it may have suited Democratic voters to cast their votes for Obama during the primaries as a protest against the Democratic political establishment (much as they did in 2006 to deny (now Independent) Senator Joseph Lieberman the nomination of his party for the Senate seat from Connecticut), one would like to think that the American electorate will again demonstrate its maturity and seriousness during the General Elections in November 2008, when their votes really count.

The Presidency in this day and age is no place for a neophyte, however charismatic. Those of us Americans who live in the Jewish State clearly understand what is at stake and what kind of risk Obama poses to the region and the world. There is every reason to hope that our compatriots in the United States and friends of Israel and freedom generally would agree.