Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama on Israel and Jews

There is a lot of trash and slime circulating on the internet regarding Obama's attitudes toward Islam, Israel, and Jews. In the past couple of days, I have received a couple of personally addressed emails, of the form "I saw this on the internet and wondered if it were accurate/ if it were fair/ what you think about this...", followed by what seems to be to constitute hate speech insinuating that Obama is some kind of Manchurian candidate who will do various dastardly things. The claims are so preposterous on their face, and so easy to disprove with a minimum of research, that it is hard not to suspect the motives of those who send such crap around.

I am saddened that some of these hate messages have been attributed to various Jewish groups, including some kind of Republican Jewish group. I am in the process of trying to track this down, and cannot at this point know whether these attributions are correct.

In response, various collections of Obama's statements on Israel are also circulating. Some of these follow the formulaic AIPAC line to a degree that I, as an ally of Israel's peace camp (Peace Now, New Israel Fund, etc.) find them rather unsatisfying both politically and intellectually. However, there is some evidence of more thoughtful views on Obama's part. Here is an excerpt from a recent Obama speech before a Jewish audience, quoted on Nick Kristof's NYT blog:

" of the things that struck me when I went to Israel was how much more open the debate was around these issues in Israel than they are sometimes here in the United States. It’s very ironic. I sat down with the head of Israeli security forces and his view of the Palestinians was incredibly nuanced because he’s dealing with these people every day. There’s good and there’s bad, and he was willing to say sometimes we make mistakes and we made this miscalculation and if we are just pressing down on these folks constantly without giving them some prospects for hope, that’s not good for our security situation. There was a very honest, thoughtful debate taking place inside Israel. All of you, I’m sure, have experienced this when you travel there. Understandably, because of the pressure that Israel is under, I think the U.S. pro-Israel community is sometimes a little more protective or concerned about opening up that conversation. But all I’m saying though is that actually ultimately should be our goal, to have that same clear eyed view about how we approach these issues...."

This is very true, and suggests that Obama's understanding is considerably more subtle and nuanced than the uncritical blather that he and most high level American politics are forced to regurgitate on most occasions. I think such an understanding, and the courage to speak it before a Jewish audience, are conducive to effective American intermediation if peace between Israel and her neighbors is ever to come. I am highly aware of the arguments against, but I have come to the conviction that the risks for Israel in seeking peace are less daunting, and less dangerous in the mid-to-long run, than those of not doing so.

And for what it is worth, whether he rejects or denounces Farrakhan, Obama's comments on rebuilding relationships between Jews and African-Americans (and his willingness to denounce anti-Semitism within the black community in speeches to African-American audiences) touch me deeply.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope that when Obama gets to be president, if he does, he willcontinue with a truly fair approach to the Israel-Palestine crisis. But he should look into the history of the Jews wanting a state and it DID NOT START WITH THE NEED OF JEWS AFTER THE HOLOCAUST b ut rather long before. And he should demand that those who claim the entire area as their own recognize the State of Israel, legally established. But read history, Obama and see how the land allocated to Israel has been whittled down.