Obama's promises fail at the AIPAC conference

Man we hoped to see as 1st global president kowtowed to pro-Israel lobby.

us special 224 (photo credit: )
us special 224
(photo credit: )
It was so sad to see a tower of a man come to his knees. The presumptive Democratic candidate followed in the steps of all US political leaders before him and bowed at the feet of the pro-Israel lobby. What happened to the anti-lobby nominee? On the day his nomination was sealed, at a time when his chances of being elected were all but ensured, Barack Obama failed the test. What happened to the nominee who was going to change the way Washington was run? What happened to the promise of "I will tell you what you have to hear, not what you love to hear"? Speaking at the pro-Israel lobby, the first black presidential nominee - seen worldwide as a potentially global president - turned away from every promise he ever made during the run-up to the nomination. It wasn't as if Obama needed Jewish money or votes. This was the first presidential run which succeeded in circumventing large donors, priding itself on a million donors, each giving less than $100. But then suddenly he was kowtowing to a sector of America whose major source of power has been its ability to raise large funds. On the day he succeeded in getting the Democratic National Committee to announce that it would not accept lobbyist money, Obama pandered to the most powerful of all lobbies. How can we believe that lobbyists will not run Obama's administration? Content-wise, Barack Obama contradicted himself and every foreign policy rule he has espoused. Yes, there was talk of the Palestinians needing a state "that is contiguous and cohesive." But Obama also promised to give Israel $30 billion in military funding over the next decade. Yes, he spoke of "aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions" on Iran. But there was also saber-rattling in the form of declaring a military option in defense of Israel, and the repetition of Bush's claim about Iran's nuclear military program, an assertion that has been disproved by 16 American intelligence agencies. THE PANDERING to Israel at the AIPAC conference even produced criticism from the Daily Show's John Stewart. The unabashedly Jewish comedian tore apart Obama's twin flag - Israel and US - pin, and made fun of the gushing attempts to woe the pro-Israeli audience, and of the lack of a single word of criticism by any of the three candidates. The pro-Israel love fest was so sad that Obama even felt it necessary to call on Hillary Clinton - who had yet to concede the nomination - to vouch for his pro-Israel credentials. Earlier in the campaign, while speaking to a group of American Jewish leaders in Cleveland, Obama noted that he was impressed with how the debate inside Israel was more vigorous than in the US. He was also honest enough to say that his policies would not be similar to that of Israel's right-wing Likud party. I read and reread his AIPAC speech, and couldn't find anything in it that current Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu would find problematic. Obama repeated, verbatim, Bush's position regarding the two-state solution, calling Israel a Jewish state, the need to stop new settlements, and even his prejudging the results of negotiations by his support for Israeli sovereignty over a united Jerusalem. His call on the illegal Israeli occupiers to ease travel restrictions was conditioned with the caveat "consistent with its security." Unlike Bush, Obama promises us that he will begin efforts for peace from the beginning of his term and not in its waning days. Why should we believe this particular promise when all previous ones have been reversed? DURING THE '03 Democratic convention, Obama excited Americans of all backgrounds with his unity speech. I remember the pride I and many others felt when he legitimized Arab Americans by including them in the new America he was advocating. The term "Arab American" has since disappeared from Obama's stomp speech. America's black nominee, who would have supported divestment on racist South Africa, blasted international divestment calls on Israel and libeled Arab oil-producing countries by saying that "petrodollars are responsible for the killing of American soldiers and Israeli citizens." How pathetic. If there was ever a time when a presidential candidate should have had the courage to change course on the way Washington is run, this was that time. If there was ever a group that deserved a more honest speech, this was the group. Obama failed both tests. That is a shame. The writer, an award-winning Arab journalist, is a Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University.