Obama's Controversial Views on Israel

For those of us with access to the Internet, it’s been difficult to miss the circulating e-mails claiming that Barack Obama attended a Madrassa (an Islamic school) as a child in Indonesia. Or perhaps the one informing us that Obama’s middle name is Hussein. Then there’s the Internet allegation that Obama is really a “secret Muslim.” 

Innuendo about Barack Obama’s faith and upbringing often dominate discussions regarding how the likely Democratic presidential nominee might conduct his foreign policy. That’s a shame, because it distracts us from more legitimate and far deeper concerns over Obama’s relationship not with Islam but with Israel, the principal rhetorical and military target of that religion’s most extreme adherents. 

Of course, as with Obama’s remarks on many issues, it’s easy to cherry-pick a few of his statements about Israel that make it seem as if a President Obama would be a loyal friend of the beleaguered state. Such as when he says, “peace through security is the only way for Israel” and “when I am president, the United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.” 

What’s not to like, right? Well, a more thorough examination of Obama’s statements, his background and previous associations and, most importantly, his would-be foreign policy team reveals a far different reality — one that has caused many supporters of Israel, including me, to worry about what an Obama presidency might do to the long-term support for the Jewish State.

First off, Obama demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of the Middle East when he calls for the immediate removal of American forces from Iraq, which would expose Iraq to worse ethnic bloodshed and embolden the enemies of Israel and the United States. Senator Obama also voted against legislation to place the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on the list of terrorist organizations and criticizes Hillary Clinton for voting in favor of the legislation, which passed with the support of over three-quarters of the Senate. He has also pledged to meet without preconditions with Iran’s Holocaust-denying leader, Ahmadinejad. 

Just as disturbing are Obama’s statements about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which include: “Nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people” and the clueless remark that “the Israeli government must make difficult concessions for the peace process to restart.” 

These troubling statements caused my friend and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon to ask in a recent op-ed, “Who are you, Barack Obama?” Ayalon wrote that after meeting with Obama on two occasions, he was “left with the impression that [Obama] was not entirely forthright with his thinking [about Israel].”

Ayalon’s skepticism no doubt stems from the fact that Obama’s more recent pro-Israel statements do not square with his past sympathy for Palestinian radicals. Anti-Israel activist Ali Abunimah claims to know Obama well and to have met him at several pro-Palestinian events in Chicago when Obama was an Illinois state senator. In an article, Abunimah lamented that “Obama used to be very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation.” “Obama’s about-face is not surprising,” Abunimah insisted, “He is merely doing what he think is necessary to get elected and he will continue doing it as long as it keeps him in power.”

Then there’s Obama’s church, Trinity United Church of Christ, whose anti-Semitism is now well known. Among many anti-Semitic documents that the church has published on its website is a letter that alleges Israeli “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians and claims that Israelis “worked on an ethnic bomb that kills blacks and Arabs.” Trinity’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who Obama has described as a “spiritual mentor,” gave anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan an award for being a leader who “truly epitomized greatness.” 

Wright even traveled to meet with Libyan terrorist leader Muammar al-Gaddafi and has compared conditions in Israel to the apartheid of South Africa. Of course, you won’t hear much from Wright these days. As Wright told PBS last year, he understands that Obama must keep his distance because “he can’t afford the Jewish support to wane or start questioning his allegiance to Israel.”

But nothing should concern Israel supporters as much as Obama’s foreign policy team, which consists of the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski, a remnant of the administration of President Jimmy Carter, who, like Rev. Wright, calls Israel an apartheid state. Brzezinski, Carter’s national security advisor, has long held anti-Israel views and supports open dialogue with the terrorist group Hamas. Other top foreign policy advisors with avowed hostility toward Israel include Susan Rice and Robert Malley. 

Most recently, it was revealed that Obama military advisor and national campaign co-chairman Merrill “Tony” McPeak has a long history of criticizing Israel and in 2003 alleged that American Middle East policy is being controlled by Jews at the expense of American interests in the Middle East. During the interviewer with the Oregonian, McPeak was asked why there was a lack of action in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He responded, “New York City. Miami. We have a large vote — vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it.”

What’s most worrying about Obama’s foreign policy team is that given the candidate’s extreme lack of foreign policy experience (he once declared that the four years he spent living in Indonesia as a child give him credibility on the world stage), one would expect Obama to lean heavily on it for advice. That’s something that should concern anyone who understands the value of supporting America’s only reliable ally from a region in which we are engaged in two wars.