Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Israel or Palestine - Where do Senator Obama's Loyalties Lie (updated 3/4/08)

Israel or Palestine – Where do Obama’s Loyalties Lie?

Ned Barnett © 2008

Updated 3/4/2008

Introduction: This is not (quite) a typical blog in the ongoing series, Barnett on PR and Politics – however, I was asked to write this by a friend who shares my political views and passions regarding Israel. Following Senator Obama’s triple-defeat earlier tonight, and following publication of the item covered in #7 below, issues of his support for issues dear to the hearts of Democratic voters will move to center stage, and none is more potentially volatile than that of his position on Israel. Here is what I come up with:


Ralph Nader – notoriously no friend of Israel – made some intriguing comments while talking to Tim Russert on Meet the Press on February 24th. His comments have raised the question of Obama’s stand on Israel, a stand he’s been careful to obscure since he began his run for the Presidency.

Nader said: “… on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates – so don't touch that, even though it's central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He (Obama) was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran – during the state Senate.”

Going beyond Nader’s comments, there are some questions that every Democrat who supports Israel should be asking themselves about Senator Obama. Once they’ve satisfied themselves on the truth behind the facts of his life story, they should ask the Senator, in light of his life-experience and his public stances, where he stands on Israel. In doing so, they should expect detailed answers instead of being brushed off – accused of being racist or Islamophobic – and therefore not worthy of real answers. This fear-of-racism-charges shielded protected Senator Obama from his opponents during the primaries, but that same fear shouldn’t protect him from answering the questions of very real potential supporters, friends of Israel who have a legitimate “need-to-know” before they vote on the next President of the United States.

A fact that often gets obscured in the push-and-pull of American politics is this: The Democratic Party has always been seen as a friend of Israel, dating from the time when Harry Truman boldly recognized the fledgling state of Israel in 1948 all the way to Bill Clinton's nearly as bold attempts to broker a lasting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In addition, Democrats – as individuals – generally support Israel. Most recognize that Israel must co-exist with – and cooperate with – the Palestinians, but they know that this cooperation cannot come at the cost of Israel's security or long-term future as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East.

With that in mind, consider for yourself the following mosaic – put together these pieces of seemingly disconnected facts, then decide for yourself what this picture says about Senator Obama.

1. Senator Obama is the member of a church led by a black-separatist minister who has published a twelve-point program of separatism – the "Black Values System" – one that many commentators suggest includes a strong anti-Israeli bias. Does that – at least potentially – color Senator Obama’s personal and political views on Israel?

2. Senator Obama, though he didn't ask for it and has publicly repudiated it, has been strongly endorsed by notorious anti-Semite black separatist and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Something must have attracted Farrakhan to Obama, even if the attraction isn’t mutual. Does that “something” – at least potentially – color Senator Obama’s personal and political views on Israel?

3. Senator Obama has a Muslim father and, though he was registered as a Christian, for a time attended a Muslim madrassa school in Indonesia. And while it is true that not all Muslims oppose Israel and not all madrassas train anti-Israel extremists, at least some do, and it is possible that some of that doctrinal anti-Semitism may have rubbed off on the young Barack Obama, long before he was old enough to form his own conclusions. Does that early experience – at least potentially – color Senator Obama’s personal and political views on Israel?

4. Reports have also recently surfaced in the press – some based on Ralph Nader’s comments, but others based on original research – that, earlier in his career and while he was serving as an Illinois State Senator, Senator Obama took a strong pro-Palestinian position. How do these reports “square with” his more recent pro-forma statements made in support of Israel – and which of these views more accurately reflect the Senator’s personal and political views on Israel?

5. Senator Obama has repeatedly pledged to meet – without precondition – with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a notorious anti-Semite who is building nuclear weapons technology and who has pledged to destroy Israel. How does this “square with” Senator Obama’s more recent statements – made after he’d decided to run for President – in support of Israel? Is there an essential conflict here, or are the two views compatible?

6. Senator Obama has repeatedly pledged to very quickly pull all American troops out of Iraq, and reduce our “footprint” and “commitment” to peace in the middle east. How does this position “square with” Senator Obama’s stated support for Israel? In a region turned upside-down – in part because of American intervention in Iraq, along with its ongoing war against al Qaeda – how can America support Israel from 6,000 miles away? Perhaps there is a way – and if so, can Senator Obama articulate how that will work?

7. Senator Obama has received campaign contributions from a Chicago area college professor, who also served as the leader of the pro-PLO organization AAAN; he also served as head of the media wing of the PLO in Lebanon, at a time when the US government still designated the PLO a terrorist organization. The professor also had Senator Obama speak at several events. Related to this, the World Net Daily online news organization reported: The board of a nonprofit organization on which Senator Barack Obama served as a paid director serving alongside a confessed domestic terrorist, this organization granted funding to a controversial Arab group that mourns the establishment of Israel as a "catastrophe" and the group also supports intense immigration reform, including providing drivers licenses and education to illegal aliens.”

Each of these items, taken by themselves, may appear to be trivial – although the final news report, if validated, could prove to be a bombshell in the general election – but taken as individual items, perhaps they are trivial. However, when put together, these items seem to paint a potentially troubling picture that – especially if you support Israel – suggests that a President Obama might well be no friend of Israel. But consider these facts carefully and dispassionately, and look at his more recent positions taken after he knew he’d be running for President, then draw your own conclusions.

Remember, you heard it here first!