Read Stephen's bio and previous columns
May 19, 2008
that Obama is Anti-Israel: Its Not Spin, Its a Lie
Sen. Barack Obama
has had some pretty outrageously false things said about him in this
campaign. He's been called a Muslim, a terrorist, a Communist and black
separatist. He's been accused of everything from hating white people to
lying about his background to being personally responsible for unrest in
Most of those
things, outrageous as they are, have come in the relative fever swamps
of e-mail forwards, message boards and particularly out-there comments
sections. Sure, opposing politicians may frequently horribly
misrepresent Obama's positions like President Bush before the Knesset
on Thursday, for instance but they don't usually resort to bald-faced
That changed early
last week, when none other than the House Republican leadership jumped
into the lying-about-Obama fray.
It all began Monday,
when the candidate gave an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, a respected
journalist who had only weeks earlier launched a blog on The Atlantic
Monthly's web site.
In the interview,
Obama gave glowing praise to the State of Israel, calling Israel "a
fundamentally just idea," and speaking about how he was shaped, both in
his youth and early in his political career, by Jewish philosophy. He
spoke of the deep bonds he had formed with Chicago's Jewish community,
and how he had even run into opposition, when he first ran for Congress,
from those who considered him too close to the Jews.
Toward the end of
his talk with Goldberg, Obama stated that "what I think is that this
constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign
policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for
anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions."
It is abundantly
clear to anyone reading that sentence that Obama was speaking not about
Israel itself, but about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Were Obama to call
Israel itself a "constant sore," it would have been newsworthy,
especially since it was the exact opposite of what he had been saying
throughout the interview and, indeed, what he has communicated
throughout the campaign.
the Republican leadership in Congress decided to pounce on this and
pretend that Obama had said something that he hadn't. House Minority
Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor both reacted to the
quote they wish they'd read, rather than the one actually said. In
addition to the "constant sore" smear, Boehner accused Obama of wishing
to "open a dialogue with sponsors of terrorism," while Kantor attributed
"a deep misunderstanding of the Middle East and an innate distrust of
Israel" to the likely Democratic nominee.
This isn't "spin.
It is pure lies. To question Obama's experience in world affairs is one
thing. But to somehow argue that he's openly hostile to Israel is both
counterfactual and nothing short of libelous. Especially when you're
attributing statements to a candidate whose actual statement was the
Despite an outcry
from Goldberg himself, among others as of five days later Boehner and
Kantor had, shamefully, still not retracted the accusation.
Leon Wieseltier had
an excellent piece in the New Republic in February, making the
rarely stated yet undeniable argument that "every president in my
lifetime has pursued more or less the same policy toward Israel"
belief that Israeli security and existence as a Jewish state is
sacrosanct, and that the Israelis and Palestinians should be pushed
towards a two-state solution to the conflict. Different presidents have
gone about this in different ways, but all have pursued it. That is
exactly consistent, again, with everything Obama has ever said about the
subject. Outside of segments of the far left and far right, that is the
The idea that
candidates and political parties are "for" or "against" Israel is
simplistic. It plays into the right-wing notion that unrestrained
hawkishness is "pro-Israel" and anything less than that is
"anti-Israel." Because for the past seven years, the U.S. administration
has pursued a Mideast policy at the outer perimeter on the hawkish side,
and a lot of good that has done Israel.
There is no reason
at all to question Sen. Obama's commitment to the Jewish state, or to
attribute false statements to him. Boehner and Cantor, and everyone who
spread their misinformation, should retract and apologize immediately.
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