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March 3, 2008

Nonsense Aside, Barack Obama Strongly Supports Israel


In the past week, for some reason, the idea has emerged – everywhere from newspaper op-ed pages to e-mail lists – that voters who strongly support Israel have something to fear from Barack Obama.


The candidate would be a “disaster for Israel,” we’re told, mostly because he’s got some advisors around him who have said and written certain skeptical things about the Jewish state. Based on the claims coming from both Jews and non-Jews, there are doubts raised because Obama is “close to” Louis Farrakhan, and because – after all – he’s got that third-world pedigree, his grandfather was a Muslim and his middle name is Hussein.


As with all smears directed at Barack Obama, it is wise to apply what I like to call the “SWV Test.” Is the position Obama is accused of holding consistent with everything he’s ever Said, Written and Voted For? In this case, the record makes clear that, just as Obama is not a black separatist, a Madrassah alum, a radical leftist or any of the other outlandish things he has been accused of, he is not a hater of Jews or an opponent of Israel.


The truth is this: Obama has been clear from the beginning of his career that he is a strong supporter of Israel. His voting record in Congress in regard to the Jewish state is sterling and spotless – not a common thing among the Congressional Black Caucus – and he has always been strongly supported, in contested campaigns for both the Illinois legislature and U.S. Senate, by Chicago’s large Jewish community.


On his campaign web site, under the “foreign policy” section, Obama lists three positions under “On Israel”: The idea that “our first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel, America's strongest ally in the Middle East”; support of Israel’s right to self-defense – including a defense of the Jewish State’s war against Hezbollah and support of continued U.S. aid to Israel. If Obama believes in pure evenhandedness, or subscribes to the Mearsheimer/Walt “Israel Lobby” view of things, he has a funny way of showing it.


As for all those anti-Israel people around Obama? He has about 10 foreign-policy advisors, and only one or two of them have ever said anything critical of Israel. Obama, for instance, has made it clear that former Carter advisor and frequent Israel-basher Zbigniew Brezinski has only tangential connection to the campaign and is not, as Clinton surrogates described him, Obama’s chief adviser.


As for Louis Farrakhan, now that Tim Russert has borrowed the “will you condemn this” game from Sean Hannity in the presidential campaign, Obama has now denounced and rejected Farrakhan as much as one man can publicly denounce and reject another.


Obama’s quote from the spring of last year that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people” has also been oft-cited – except for the omission of the rest of the quote, in which Obama blamed that suffering squarely on the Palestinians’ corrupt and criminal leadership.


What’s causing this? Dirty politics, of course, are the norm these days. As the Swift Boat business in 2004 taught us, accusations no longer need truth or validity to gain currency.


But there’s something else at work here. The truth is that relations between Jews and African-Americans in this country are not anywhere close to where they should be, with much distrust running in both directions. And there are many Jewish voters, especially those of the older generation, who think of black politicians as anti-Semites. Having heard the likes of Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson and Cynthia McKinney make anti-Jewish slurs and worse, these Jews simply believe that Obama must be just like them.


Like other Jewish Obama supporters, I have tried to knock this down as often as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rebutted these claims in arguments with friends or relatives, yet the B.S. persists. But it’s clear from the record that, as with most baseless accusations against Obama and other politicians, the “Israel hater” accusation is completely refuted by the candidate’s entire paper trail of writings, speeches and votes.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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