Senator Obama's Coming Out Party in Cleveland

There has been a great deal of controversy generated over Senator Barack Obama's views towards Israel and the America-Israel relationship. The arguments  have revolved around his close associations with people who harbor problematic views toward Israel, his list of foreign policy advisers, and some of his own views on the course of America's foreign policy. American Thinker has run a series of articles on this topic. Supporters have rallied to Barack Obama's defense.

As we have said before, we hope these supporters are correct, but we have our doubts. These doubts have increased in the wake of comments the Senator made this past Sunday to Jewish leaders in Cleveland.


The speech was meant to reassure pro-Israel supporters, but should also raise concerns about Senator Obama. He did make a series of comforting comments regarding Israel (e.g., a commitment to the security of Israel, his goal to work towards peace while recognizing Israel has its enemies, and that our relationship is based on shared values and shared history).  The reliably pro-Obama JTA website provides a rundown of his speech.

He calls for talks with Iran and aggressive diplomacy, and he said that he would not take the military option off the table (but would remove our forces from Iraq). These and other comments he made are often made by other politicians appearing before groups of Israel supporters. Senator Obama's comments are thus most welcome.

Nevertheless, other parts of his speech were far from reassuring, and once again cast substantial doubt on his views not just toward Israel but also specifically toward supporters of the America-Israel relationship here at home. Senator Obama believes words matter; it is a mantra of his candidacy. Therefore, it is only fair to look at the words he used in Cleveland to divine his views.

He seems to be adressing many supporters of Israel in America who have questions regarding his views and his plans. He finds fault with them:

"I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel".

Senator Obama characterizes those who have concerns about policies he might follow as President as being Likud-supporters. This has been a charge propagated by the fiercest opponents of Israel, who have often slipped into conspiracy theories regarding American supporters of Israel. (Try googling Likudnik and "dual loyalty" or "conspiracy theory"; Likudnik has become a term of opprobrium. As David Berstein notes, "Likudnik has gradually become a general anti-Semitic term for Jews whose opinions one does not like."

One wishes Senator Obama would be bit more sensitive going forward when he uses such a term. After all, the Likud Party has not been in power for years, and Americans should feel free to express their concerns without being characterized as that party's supporters, with its suggestion of dual loyalty. The suggestion that supporters of Israel who express their concerns are subscribers to the view of the Likud Party of Israel is simply not grounded.  After all, supporters of Hillary Clinton have also expressed qualms regarding Senator Obama's views of Israel. Are they supporters of Likud, too?

Haaretz columnist  Shmuel Rosner raises an additional reason to have qualms. Will a President Obama be supportive of an Israel headed by a Prime Minster who hails from the Likud party? Does this statement by Senator Obama risk interfering with Israeli politics? 

It is important to note that Likud did give up the Sinai and that Ariel Sharon -- a former Likud leader -- did remove all the settlements from the Gaza Strip. So one wonders why Senator Obama is so anti-Likud to begin with? Does he not know the history of this volatile region? Who has he been his counsel when he chooses to use such a term?

Senator Obama also sought to distance himself from Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose anti-Israel views are well known.  However, he made no mention of two other advisors with a long record of hostility toward Israel: Robert Malley and Samantha Power. Power, in particular, is very close to the Senator and is a key foreign policy adviser . Why the omission of any mention of both?

But in trying to disentangle himself from Brzezinski, Senator Obama engaged in some rhetoric that is unsettling:

"Frankly some of the commentary that I've seen which suggests guilt by association or the notion that unless we are never ever going to ask any difficult questions about how we move peace forward or secure Israel that is non military or non belligerent or doesn't talk about just crushing the opposition that that somehow is being soft or anti-Israel, I think we're going to have problems moving forward.

Senator Obama apparently views Israel as a "belligerent" and perhaps wants to see America's support for Israel's military reduced. This is hardly reassuring. Israel is not a belligerent, it only defends itself.  It is a tiny sliver of a nation of a few million people surrounded by 300 million people who have made quite clear over the past 60 years that they desire its destruction.  Few supporters of Israel indeed think that the only way to bring peace to the region is for Israel to crush all the opposition. Israel herself, since her founding, sought -- and sometimes fought -- for peace. These steps did not involve crushing all the opposition. Israel has taken great risks in it steps towards peace (leaving Lebanon -- which led to the rise of Hezbollah; leaving Gaza -- which led to the rise of Hamas; allowing Yasser Arafat to come to the West bank, where he set up a terrorist regime and brainwashed Palestinian children to hate.  A leading Presidential candidate all but accuses Israel of being "belligerent" -- is that unsettling to anyone?

Also unsettling is the implication that may lie behind his statement that we are going to have "problems moving forward" if critics raise questions about his views. Is this a statement meant to forestall discussion? If so, it would be similar to the views expressed by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who abhor the role that pro-Israel Americans (including Christians) sometimes play in the foreign policy discussion.

These statements are difficult to square with his position that he has a long record of support for Israel. If he is perturbed by critics and indicates questions may cause problems in the future regarding his policies and actions, then perhaps people have legitimate reasons to be concerned about the depth of his support for the America-Israel relationship and the role of Americans in the foreign policy discussion.

Senator Obama also said that supporting the view that only by defeating its Islamic foes can Israel enjoy any semblance of peace and security "can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel.". This is disconcerting. How firm and deep will President Obama's support for Israel be when it comes to dealing with terrorists? Israel needs to defeat its Islamic foes who seek its destruction and who celebrate martyrdom for peace to reign. Even Palestinian moderates will feel constrained in making peace deals with Israel until these Islamic extremists are defeated. Wouldn't Israel be justified in stopping Islamic foes that are calling for another Holocaust?

Would President Obama feel the same towards Islamic foes who target America?

Senator Obama also indicated that siding with those who seek the dividing of Israel does not make him anti-Israel.  This is true. Most supporters of Israel now understand there will need to be a viable Palestinian state and that Israel will need to make territorial concessions. He stated that backing the Jews' biblical, historical and legal claim to all of the land in question also can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel. Of course, Israel has already made such concessions: the result is Hamasstan in the Gaza, which has become a center for terror directed daily against Israel. As Israel moved its forces out of the West Bank, those areas became centers of terrorist activity. 

Senator Obama has already telegraphed his views regarding land, which seemed to prejudge the final outcome . But it might be wiser from a diplomatic point of view if he does not signal to opponents of negotiations his position if he becomes President. Also, violence has ensued when Israel voluntarily withdrew from lands; the world has remained silent and expresses very little sympathy for Israeli victims. Is counseling the division of land now something a friend would do?

Notably, the word "Jerusalem" is entirely absent from Senator Obama's remarks. Surely that is not inadvertent. Does Senator Obama support or oppose the division of Jerusalem? Is Senator Obama aware of the destruction of Jewish and Christian religious sites when Jerusalem had been divided previously? Is he aware of how Jews were denied access to their religious sites when the city was divided? If Senator Obama does support the division of Jerusalem, how would it be divided? American Jews certainly cannot evaluate the Senator's views on Israel when in a lengthy speech to Jewish leaders he keeps his views on Jerusalem to himself.  

Senator Obama also stated that a full withdrawal from Iraq would strengthen America's ability to deal with Iran. This logic is difficult to see. How would that happen? A precipitous withdrawal would embolden Iran. There would be no fear of American forces near its borders and its Shiite allies within Iraq would be strengthened. If anything, Iran would be empowered by such a retreat. How leaving would help us deal with Iran is opaque.

Senator Obama also sought to dispel rumors of anti-Semitism within his church (American Thinker has never made this accusation; nor do we support this allegation). Within the speech was this nugget:

But I have never heard an anti-Semitic comment made inside of our church.

And I suspect there are some of the people in this room who have heard relatives say some things that they don't agree with. Including, on occasion, directed at African-Americans -- that's maybe a possibility that's just, I am not suggesting that's definitive."  

This is a Clintonesque statement if there ever were one.  Senator Obama has never heard anti-Semitic statements "inside his church." How about members who may have made such comments outside the church?  How about his pastor's relatively recent written anti-Israel statements that he excuses on the ground of Israel's former relationship with South Africa. This also conveniently elides the fact that his Church's magazine very recently gave an award to Louis Farrakhan, one of the most infamous anti-Semites in America.

In an attempt at self-justification, Senator Obama relegates his pastor, who is his spiritual mentor, and who inspired the title of his book The Audacity of Hope, as something like a crazy old uncle in the attic. Worse, he suggests that Jewish leaders may themselves have relatives who have made remarks that might be considered anti-African American.  That is entirely irrelevant. There is a substantial difference between relatives who make private (or even public) comments that are disagreeable, and a relationship with a pastor that was sought out and supported, praised, and regarded as a mentor for two decades.  Although one can distance oneself from relatives, it's not so easy to resign from them. The same is not true of a pastoral affiliation.

Undoubtedly, the Jewish community would expect a presidential candidate to resign from a church whose pastor publicly supported David Duke and whose magazine gave him an award. The community would hope that Senator Obama would have taken such a step many years ago. Some may consider it disingenuous of the Senator to excuse his own voluntary association on the ground those Jewish listeners might have family members who harbor private prejudices.

Senator Obama's speech occurred in the wake of comments made by Ralph Nader on Meet The Press. Nader claims that Senator Obama is too pro-Israel these days and remarked that the Senator was pro-Palestinian for years before he began his campaign for higher office. While some may view this as a reflection of Senator Obama's evolving views (certainly his supporters will), others might question the coincidence  of changing his views when he sought to garner support for his campaign.

Now that he has racked up a string of victories and vast amounts of financial support, he apparently feels comfortable in articulating some views regarding Israel and supporters of Israel in America that may give comfort to Ralph Nader but might leave others with even more questions than before.

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.
There has been a great deal of controversy generated over Senator Barack Obama's views towards Israel and the America-Israel relationship. The arguments  have revolved around his close associations with people who harbor problematic views toward Israel, his list of foreign policy advisers, and some of his own views on the course of America's foreign policy. American Thinker has run a series of articles on this topic. Supporters have rallied to Barack Obama's defense.

As we have said before, we hope these supporters are correct, but we have our doubts. These doubts have increased in the wake of comments the Senator made this past Sunday to Jewish leaders in Cleveland.


The speech was meant to reassure pro-Israel supporters, but should also raise concerns about Senator Obama. He did make a series of comforting comments regarding Israel (e.g., a commitment to the security of Israel, his goal to work towards peace while recognizing Israel has its enemies, and that our relationship is based on shared values and shared history).  The reliably pro-Obama JTA website provides a rundown of his speech.

He calls for talks with Iran and aggressive diplomacy, and he said that he would not take the military option off the table (but would remove our forces from Iraq). These and other comments he made are often made by other politicians appearing before groups of Israel supporters. Senator Obama's comments are thus most welcome.

Nevertheless, other parts of his speech were far from reassuring, and once again cast substantial doubt on his views not just toward Israel but also specifically toward supporters of the America-Israel relationship here at home. Senator Obama believes words matter; it is a mantra of his candidacy. Therefore, it is only fair to look at the words he used in Cleveland to divine his views.

He seems to be adressing many supporters of Israel in America who have questions regarding his views and his plans. He finds fault with them:

"I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel".

Senator Obama characterizes those who have concerns about policies he might follow as President as being Likud-supporters. This has been a charge propagated by the fiercest opponents of Israel, who have often slipped into conspiracy theories regarding American supporters of Israel. (Try googling Likudnik and "dual loyalty" or "conspiracy theory"; Likudnik has become a term of opprobrium. As David Berstein notes, "Likudnik has gradually become a general anti-Semitic term for Jews whose opinions one does not like."

One wishes Senator Obama would be bit more sensitive going forward when he uses such a term. After all, the Likud Party has not been in power for years, and Americans should feel free to express their concerns without being characterized as that party's supporters, with its suggestion of dual loyalty. The suggestion that supporters of Israel who express their concerns are subscribers to the view of the Likud Party of Israel is simply not grounded.  After all, supporters of Hillary Clinton have also expressed qualms regarding Senator Obama's views of Israel. Are they supporters of Likud, too?

Haaretz columnist  Shmuel Rosner raises an additional reason to have qualms. Will a President Obama be supportive of an Israel headed by a Prime Minster who hails from the Likud party? Does this statement by Senator Obama risk interfering with Israeli politics? 

It is important to note that Likud did give up the Sinai and that Ariel Sharon -- a former Likud leader -- did remove all the settlements from the Gaza Strip. So one wonders why Senator Obama is so anti-Likud to begin with? Does he not know the history of this volatile region? Who has he been his counsel when he chooses to use such a term?

Senator Obama also sought to distance himself from Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose anti-Israel views are well known.  However, he made no mention of two other advisors with a long record of hostility toward Israel: Robert Malley and Samantha Power. Power, in particular, is very close to the Senator and is a key foreign policy adviser . Why the omission of any mention of both?

But in trying to disentangle himself from Brzezinski, Senator Obama engaged in some rhetoric that is unsettling:

"Frankly some of the commentary that I've seen which suggests guilt by association or the notion that unless we are never ever going to ask any difficult questions about how we move peace forward or secure Israel that is non military or non belligerent or doesn't talk about just crushing the opposition that that somehow is being soft or anti-Israel, I think we're going to have problems moving forward.

Senator Obama apparently views Israel as a "belligerent" and perhaps wants to see America's support for Israel's military reduced. This is hardly reassuring. Israel is not a belligerent, it only defends itself.  It is a tiny sliver of a nation of a few million people surrounded by 300 million people who have made quite clear over the past 60 years that they desire its destruction.  Few supporters of Israel indeed think that the only way to bring peace to the region is for Israel to crush all the opposition. Israel herself, since her founding, sought -- and sometimes fought -- for peace. These steps did not involve crushing all the opposition. Israel has taken great risks in it steps towards peace (leaving Lebanon -- which led to the rise of Hezbollah; leaving Gaza -- which led to the rise of Hamas; allowing Yasser Arafat to come to the West bank, where he set up a terrorist regime and brainwashed Palestinian children to hate.  A leading Presidential candidate all but accuses Israel of being "belligerent" -- is that unsettling to anyone?

Also unsettling is the implication that may lie behind his statement that we are going to have "problems moving forward" if critics raise questions about his views. Is this a statement meant to forestall discussion? If so, it would be similar to the views expressed by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who abhor the role that pro-Israel Americans (including Christians) sometimes play in the foreign policy discussion.

These statements are difficult to square with his position that he has a long record of support for Israel. If he is perturbed by critics and indicates questions may cause problems in the future regarding his policies and actions, then perhaps people have legitimate reasons to be concerned about the depth of his support for the America-Israel relationship and the role of Americans in the foreign policy discussion.

Senator Obama also said that supporting the view that only by defeating its Islamic foes can Israel enjoy any semblance of peace and security "can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel.". This is disconcerting. How firm and deep will President Obama's support for Israel be when it comes to dealing with terrorists? Israel needs to defeat its Islamic foes who seek its destruction and who celebrate martyrdom for peace to reign. Even Palestinian moderates will feel constrained in making peace deals with Israel until these Islamic extremists are defeated. Wouldn't Israel be justified in stopping Islamic foes that are calling for another Holocaust?

Would President Obama feel the same towards Islamic foes who target America?

Senator Obama also indicated that siding with those who seek the dividing of Israel does not make him anti-Israel.  This is true. Most supporters of Israel now understand there will need to be a viable Palestinian state and that Israel will need to make territorial concessions. He stated that backing the Jews' biblical, historical and legal claim to all of the land in question also can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel. Of course, Israel has already made such concessions: the result is Hamasstan in the Gaza, which has become a center for terror directed daily against Israel. As Israel moved its forces out of the West Bank, those areas became centers of terrorist activity. 

Senator Obama has already telegraphed his views regarding land, which seemed to prejudge the final outcome . But it might be wiser from a diplomatic point of view if he does not signal to opponents of negotiations his position if he becomes President. Also, violence has ensued when Israel voluntarily withdrew from lands; the world has remained silent and expresses very little sympathy for Israeli victims. Is counseling the division of land now something a friend would do?

Notably, the word "Jerusalem" is entirely absent from Senator Obama's remarks. Surely that is not inadvertent. Does Senator Obama support or oppose the division of Jerusalem? Is Senator Obama aware of the destruction of Jewish and Christian religious sites when Jerusalem had been divided previously? Is he aware of how Jews were denied access to their religious sites when the city was divided? If Senator Obama does support the division of Jerusalem, how would it be divided? American Jews certainly cannot evaluate the Senator's views on Israel when in a lengthy speech to Jewish leaders he keeps his views on Jerusalem to himself.  

Senator Obama also stated that a full withdrawal from Iraq would strengthen America's ability to deal with Iran. This logic is difficult to see. How would that happen? A precipitous withdrawal would embolden Iran. There would be no fear of American forces near its borders and its Shiite allies within Iraq would be strengthened. If anything, Iran would be empowered by such a retreat. How leaving would help us deal with Iran is opaque.

Senator Obama also sought to dispel rumors of anti-Semitism within his church (American Thinker has never made this accusation; nor do we support this allegation). Within the speech was this nugget:

But I have never heard an anti-Semitic comment made inside of our church.

And I suspect there are some of the people in this room who have heard relatives say some things that they don't agree with. Including, on occasion, directed at African-Americans -- that's maybe a possibility that's just, I am not suggesting that's definitive."  

This is a Clintonesque statement if there ever were one.  Senator Obama has never heard anti-Semitic statements "inside his church." How about members who may have made such comments outside the church?  How about his pastor's relatively recent written anti-Israel statements that he excuses on the ground of Israel's former relationship with South Africa. This also conveniently elides the fact that his Church's magazine very recently gave an award to Louis Farrakhan, one of the most infamous anti-Semites in America.

In an attempt at self-justification, Senator Obama relegates his pastor, who is his spiritual mentor, and who inspired the title of his book The Audacity of Hope, as something like a crazy old uncle in the attic. Worse, he suggests that Jewish leaders may themselves have relatives who have made remarks that might be considered anti-African American.  That is entirely irrelevant. There is a substantial difference between relatives who make private (or even public) comments that are disagreeable, and a relationship with a pastor that was sought out and supported, praised, and regarded as a mentor for two decades.  Although one can distance oneself from relatives, it's not so easy to resign from them. The same is not true of a pastoral affiliation.

Undoubtedly, the Jewish community would expect a presidential candidate to resign from a church whose pastor publicly supported David Duke and whose magazine gave him an award. The community would hope that Senator Obama would have taken such a step many years ago. Some may consider it disingenuous of the Senator to excuse his own voluntary association on the ground those Jewish listeners might have family members who harbor private prejudices.

Senator Obama's speech occurred in the wake of comments made by Ralph Nader on Meet The Press. Nader claims that Senator Obama is too pro-Israel these days and remarked that the Senator was pro-Palestinian for years before he began his campaign for higher office. While some may view this as a reflection of Senator Obama's evolving views (certainly his supporters will), others might question the coincidence  of changing his views when he sought to garner support for his campaign.

Now that he has racked up a string of victories and vast amounts of financial support, he apparently feels comfortable in articulating some views regarding Israel and supporters of Israel in America that may give comfort to Ralph Nader but might leave others with even more questions than before.

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.