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Opinion - Exclusive to JPost.com
By the time this item hits the press, the Indiana and North Carolina primaries will be history, but it is a fairly good bet that we will be no closer to learning the identity of the Democratic Party's candidate for President. Chances are that Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will be neck-and-neck in their pursuit of their party's nomination to challenge Republican Senator John McCain for the Presidency in November.
Obama is the current front-runner despite a downturn in his polling following revelations about the toxic views his mentor and pastor, Jeremiah Wright. But neither candidate can realistically win the nomination outright in the primaries, leaving the nomination in the hands of the Democrats "superdelegates."
We have commented in a previous column about the risk an Obama candidacy poses for the Jewish People and Israel. These concerns have been echoed by commentators and readers alike from across the political spectrum over the past several months and they boil down to this: while Obama says all the right things about Israel, his legislative record both in Washington and Illinois is so sparse on general issues of foreign policy, and the Middle East in particular, that one has to look closely at the views of his close advisors in the field.
And that close look is not reassuring. A disturbing number of his advisors espouse views that are decidedly pro-Arab. The latest of the lot, Joseph Cirincione, Obama's nuclear proliferation advisor, has called for Israel to relinquish its nuclear arsenal, while calling reports on the Israeli bombing of Syria's nuclear reactor in September 2007, "the most overblown story I've seen since before the build up to the war in Iraq." Commentary magazine's blog compared Cirincione's remarks to that of the Syrian UN ambassador, Bashar Ja' afari.
Of course, several of the spokespeople and backers of the Obama campaign are themselves Jewish. But who are these people and why are they supporting a candidate whose views/or those of his advisors do not appear to vary significantly from those hostile-to-Israel views of former President Jimmy Carter?
First, there are several who are only nominally Jewish, but are viscerally anti-Israel. One example is George Soros, the multi-billionaire, who said that America must undergo a "certain de-Nazification process" because of its policy on Iraq, and accused AIPAC of directing American policy in the Middle East.
For Soros, who, although the world's 28th richest man, has never been involved in any specifically Jewish project or charity, supporting Israel results from "tribal sectarianism" which is "unappealingly chauvinistic."
Obama and Clinton both attempted to distance themselves from Soros's anti-AIPAC remarks but did not hesitate to accept his multi-million dollar contributions to further "progressive American values" and "political change in America."
Another example is Princeton emeritus Professor Richard Falk who endorses Obama for President. Falk recently stood by his statements that it would not be "an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with the criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity". Falk, who was appointed by the unabashedly anti-Israel United Nations Human Rights Council as its special investigator on Israeli actions in Judea and Samaria, was actually denied entry to Israel by the Olmert Government on the grounds that his views were so grossly biased and unfair.
Falk has also declared that the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was the result of the fact that "the mass of humanityâ€¦ finds itself under the heels of US economic, military, cultural and economic power."
And take, Obama's official blogger, Sam Graham-Felsen, a former writer for left-wing, Nation, and Socialist Viewpoint, he credits his political awakening to another infamous Jew, linguist and pop-philosopher, and extremist critic of America and Israel, Noam Chomsky. Interestingly, Chomsky has also been "credited" as a major influence on none other than Obama's lightning rod pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Here is what official Obama blogger Graham-Felsen says about Chomsky:
"For me, hearing Chomsky speak for the first time was a life-changing experience. His ability to take preconceptions and destroy them-to completely remodel one's understanding of reality with cold, hard facts-blew me away. When I left what was then the ARCO Forum last fall, I felt as though I had been through the Matrix and back. Chomsky really has this effect because he bombards you with evidence and logic, not empty rhetoric. It is nearly impossible to hear him or read him-once you've actually checked his facts yourself (he even cites page numbers in public addresses)-and deny what he's saying." (That must have been some well-grounded world view that could be completely remodeled by 30 minutes of Chomsky.)
The Jews supporting Obama are not all of this ilk. There are many for whom the Jewish/Israeli concerns may or may not be important but in any event are secondary to Obama's major appeal: change.
For these Jews, like Obama campaign strategist and media advisor, David Axelrod, Dennis Ross, Congressman Robert Wexler, and foreign policy advisor, The New Republic publisher, Martin Peretz, Obama's persona and call for sweeping changes in the way America formulates and implements its policy both at home and abroad outweighs all other concerns, be it the influence of Jeremiah Wright, Obama's (at best) murky approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, or his appeasement approach to Iran.
To the best of this writer's knowledge, David Axelrod has never played a role or taken an active interest in Jewish or Israeli affairs, even though he has been used recently as a spokesman on these issues for the Obama campaign.
For other Jewish advisors Obama's appeal would appear to be the prospect of returning to the "glory days of the Kennedy Administration" or the resurrection of the spirit that many felt during Bobby Kennedy's run for the Presidency in 1968 that motivates them to support a candidate with virtually no meaningful experience in national politics, defense, security or foreign affairs.
As wonderful and glamorous as President Kennedy's Camelot White House may seem in retrospect to Democratic liberals, that Administration was not known for its pro-Israel perspective. Indeed, while Kennedy presided over one of the quietest periods of Middle East events, his Administration made especial efforts to woo Egypt's Nasser into the American orbit. Israel, for Kennedy, was an electoral asset to be used to garner the Jewish vote.
Indeed, a Jewish War Veterans Report in 1960 complained that while Lyndon Johnson had backed Israel with actions, JFK had only rhetoric to offer. According to Steven Spiegel, author The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America's Middle East Policy from Truman to Reagan, during the 1960 election campaign against Richard Nixon, JFK said all the right things when it came to Israel and Zionism.
But when Kennedy became President, it was another story altogether. As historian Michael Oren points out in Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present, US-Israeli relations during the Kennedy Administration were no cake-walk.
Although JFK enjoyed excellent relations with the American Jewish community, whose support was credited with helping him win the 1960 election and who were well-represented among his Administration's advisors, the Kennedy Administration worked assiduously to deprive Israel of its nuclear option and railed at Ben-Gurion's refusal to allow American inspectors into the reactor at Dimona. Shortly before his assassination, Kennedy warned the Israelis that their relations with the US were liable to be "seriously jeopardized" by their intransigence on the nuclear issue.
Many of Kennedy's Jewish supporters (like those of Franklin Roosevelt before him and Bill/Hillary Clinton after him and Obama today) could not see beyond the glitter of Camelot and the excitement of the Kennedy image. But there was a darker side to Kennedy's background that was simply not polite to discuss: JFK and his brothers were the sons of Joseph P. Kennedy, the firey, savvy, Boston pol, who had some very strong and hostile views about the Jews of his own.
JFK's father openly sided with Hitler's Germany prior to World War II when he served as US ambassador to England. These views were not lost on his children. This author had the opportunity to speak with one of JFK's siblings shortly before making aliyah to Israel. In the privacy of a taxicab in Washington, D.C., the sibling who did not know this author was Jewish began ranting and raving about how those "damn Jews" had tried to pressure JFK and his brother Bobby into supporting Israel at every turn. She never forgave them for it.
Today, Obama's Jews are working tirelessly to see their candidate win the Presidency. For them, the radiant prospect of Obamalot is too tempting to resist. They have convinced themselves that there is nothing problematic for the Jewish People or for Israel in supporting Obama's candidacy, and that the return to Camelot is worth the risk.
But is it, really? There are huge risks, and even the Camelot messianists don't have a clear idea what an Obama presidency will actually mean for Israel. Speaking of the Kennedy Administration's Michael Oren, writes: "[i]n the Middle East, perhaps more flagrantly than in any other realm, Camelot's magic had failed." That prospect is at least as troubling today, with Israel facing a newer, more complex, and wider variety of existential threats than ever.
The writer is Republicans Abroad Israel, Co-Chairman
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