Where does Obama stand on Israel/Palestine conflict? Well, today he is markedly pro-Israel.
In February 2007, Obama gave a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, in Chicago to woo pro-Israel campaign donors. In his speech, he expressed his support and dedication to the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. “My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction,” were Obama’s words to Ha’aretz last week.
Reviewing his speech, Ha’aretz Washington correspondent Shmuel Rosner concluded that Obama “sounded as strong as Clinton, as supportive as Bush, as friendly as Giuliani. At least rhetorically, Obama passed any test anyone might have wanted him to pass. So, he is pro-Israel. Period.”
Addressing AIPAC Forum on Foreign Policy in Chicago in March 2007, Sen. Obama denounced Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of 20 years who is known for his anti American rhetoric and said, Wright “expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”
Well, the senator seems to understand the root of the problem. I could not have said this better. So what is the problem? Why shouldn’t everyone rally behind him and make America Obama country? The problem is that truth is a bit more complicated.
A decade earlier, Obama’s views on this issue were very different from what he expresses today. The pro-Palestine activist and the co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah writes:
Over the years since I first saw Obama speak I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago ‘s Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.
As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.” He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, “Keep up the good work!”
Ali Abunimah laments that Obama has gradually shifted into AIPAC camp as he has moved from small time Illinois politics to the national scene and is “courting the pro-Israel constituency.”
Methinks Mr. Abumimah is a bit impatient. Who knows? Maybe Obama is just playing the political game of deception to get elected – after which, he will be “more upfront.” Such a dramatic change must be taken with a grain of suspicion. In fact, Abumimah himself concludes, “He is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected.”
When was it exactly that the senator saw the light and realized the problem in the Middle East is not rooted in the actions of America’s stalwart allies like Israel, but it emanates from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam? Why has he never expressed these views before?
As a rule of thumb, I am a bit wary of candidates whose views on vital issues shift 180 degrees on the wake of elections and in conjunction with their new political ambition.
Everything Obama says now is music to our ears. The problem is whether he can be trusted. Obama listened to the hateful sermons of Jeremiah Wright for 20 years and made a donation of more than $20,000 to his church. When the scandal about Wright’s hate speeches erupted, at first Obama claimed he never heard those speeches. But when the political potato became too hot to handle, he dumped his old pal and pastor under the bus.
What if Ali Abunimah is right and the senator is merely doing what he thinks is necessary to get elected? What if after winning the election, he becomes “more upfront” and surprises everyone with his hidden agenda? Obama is an enigma. He has virtually emerged from under the rock. He has no political past and Americans know nothing about him. Today, now that he needs everybody’s vote, he talks the talk. However, there is nothing in his past showing that he ever walked the walk.
There are positive things to say about him, too. The senator speaks well, he is charismatic and he is black. I am sure there must be some more. Are these enough to hand him over the rudder of the most powerful country of the world and play with the destiny of mankind? That is a question Americans must consider when they go to vote.
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