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TEL AVIV – Amid the Obama administration’s repeated attempts to broker a cease-fire that will end Israel’s military operations against Hamas, it may be instructive to recall that prior to his presidency, Barack Obama made several remarks some have interpreted as expressions of sympathy for terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, arguing they have “legitimate” claims.
In largely unnoticed remarks to the New York Times in May 2008, then-Sen. Obama argued the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations have “legitimate claims” that are being “weakened” by the violence they carry out.
The remarks echo an assertion Obama made eight days after the Sept. 11 Islamic terrorist attacks.
The politician contended the Sept. 11 attacks were carried out because al-Qaida lacked “empathy” for the suffering of others and embraces an ideology that “grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.”
Obama made his remarks regarding Hamas and Hezbollah in a May 2008 interview with Times columnist David Brooks in which he contended the U.S. needed a foreign policy that “looks at the root causes of problems and dangers.”
The future president compared the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group to Hamas, stating they both need to be compelled to understand that “they’re going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims.”
Brooks had contacted Obama for clarification of an earlier statement the Illinois senator had made implying Lebanese militias should be tempered with enticements.
‘Whiff of appeasement’
Regarding Hezbollah, Obama earlier had declared: “It’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment.”
Brooks took issue with the statement, writing it has the “whiff” of “appeasement.”
“Is Obama naïve enough to think that an extremist ideological organization like Hezbollah can be mollified with a less corrupt patronage system and some electoral reform?” asked Brooks, who wrote in his May 16, 2008, column he called Obama to clarify his remarks.
Obama immediately stated Hezbollah is “not a legitimate political party.” Instead, it is “a destabilizing organization by any common-sense standard.”
“This wouldn’t happen without the support of Iran and Syria,” he said.
Obama continued, nevertheless, by stating Hamas and Hezbollah violence weakens the groups’ “legitimate claims.”
The official Hamas charter calls for the murder of Jews and destruction of the Jewish state. It also calls for Muslims to “pursue the cause of the Movement (Hamas), all over the globe.”
The terror group has carried out scores of deadly suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks against Israelis.
Hezbollah claims it is fighting to liberate its “lands.” The group regularly makes threats against Israel and has carried out numerous terror attacks targeting Israel and the West, including the U.S.
Obama repeatedly has condemned Hamas as a terrorist organization that should be isolated until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel.
In the interview with Brooks, Obama went on to defend his policy of engaging with Iran.
Obama ties Sept. 11 to U.S. policy
Meanwhile, in his remark eight days after Sept. 11 that al-Qaida’s whose terrorist ideology “grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair,” Obama went on to imply the attacks were, in part, a result of U.S. policy.
Obama lectured the American military to minimize civilian casualties in the Middle East and urged action opposing “bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle-Eastern descent.”
“Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we, as a nation, draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy,” Obama wrote in a piece about Sept. 11 published Sept. 19, 2001, in Chicago’s Hyde Park Herald.
The senator continued: “Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must re-examine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks, and we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.
“We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness,” he said.
“The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity or suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, it may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics.
“Most often, though, it grows out a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.
“We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad,” Obama wrote. “We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle-Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe – children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.”