Rev. Wright's Middle East Views

Pastor Jeremiah Wright's harsh jeremiads against America and Israel have roiled the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. Senator Obama tried to explain Wright's views towards America in a Philadelphia speech to address the controversy, by blaming Wright's bitterness on a legacy of racism that Wright's generation experienced.

A related question might be asked: Why does Wright have such harsh feelings towards Israel? After all, American Jews have been in the forefront of the civil rights struggle and have had a history of working with African-Americans to advance their rights. Israel is not perfect and has a conflict with Palestinians, but has opened its borders to Sudanese and to Ethiopians. Arab nations, by contrast, have a long history of prejudice towards black Africans (a history of Arab slavery, not to mention genocide in Sudan). Why the animus towards Israel? 

We may now have an answer. Monday, during his press conference  at the National Press Club, Rev. Wright's response to a question from a reporter yielded a buried nugget:

"You have likened Israeli policies to apartheid and its treatment of Palestinians with Native Americans. Can you explain your views on Israel?"

Wright replied:

"Where did I liken them to that? Whoever wrote the question, tell me where I likened them.

"Jimmy Carter called it apartheid. Jeremiah Wright didn't liken anything to anything. My position on Israel is that Israel has a right to exist, that Israelis have a right to exist, as I said, reconciled one to another.

"Have you read The Link? Do you read The Link, Americans for Middle Eastern Understanding, where Palestinians and Israelis need to sit down and talk to each other and work out a solution where their children can grow in a world together, and not be talking about killing each other, that that is not God's will?

Americans for Middle East Understanding (AMEU) is an innocuous-sounding group that is actually a harshly anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian organization that has existed for over 30 years  . Edward Peck, the former Ambassador to Iraq to whom Wright attributes his "chickens have come home to roost" comment about 9/11 is a member of its Board of Directors.

The group publishes an "educational tool" (euphemism alert) called The Link -- a periodical that is distributed to 2500 churches, 2000 academicians, and 1900 public and school libraries. Teacher packets are provided for free; tours of the Middle East are also sponsored by AMEU.

On its list of books for sale at the group's online store one will find a Who's Who of fierce critics of Israel and apologists for and promoters of militant Islam. These include books by Richard Falk, who most recently speculated about his desire to prosecute neocons for being behind the 9/11 attacks, and who recently accepted a position on the UN Human Right Council where he has the Israel file; Noam Chomsky, a critic of America and Israel; James Bamford, who has alluded to the alleged dual loyalty of American Jews and blames Israel for problems in the Middle East; Paul Findley, who has written a book (They Dare Speak Out: People and Institutions confront Israel's Lobby) that presaged the publication of the Israel lobby book by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, and who attacks Americans who support the American-Israel relationship (Findley now heads up a group called the Council of National Interest that lobbies against Israel and publishes full-page ads in newspapers replete with anti-Semitic imagery; Norman Finkelstein, a failed academic and Holocaust denier; Edward Said, who, as a  professor at Columbia University and author of books on the Arab world, corrupted the field of Middle Eastern Studies with an anti-Israel and anti-Western perspective; and a roster of Arab authors who promote anti-Israel views. Controversial Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who blames Israel for "The Ethnic Cleansing of Israel" (the name of his book for sale) also is represented.

Another author has two books for sale through the AMEU who might strike a bell in people who have been covering Senator Obama's campaign: Rashid Khalidi. Khalidi is a historian and professor of the Middle East who came to know Barack Obama well when Khalidi taught at the University of Chicago. Obama and Khalidi were friends and dinner companions. (Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama). Khalidi is also a well-known and very visible Palestinian activist who once worked for the Palestinian Liberation Organization. He now teaches at Columbia University. His pro-Palestinian advocacy continues since he left Chicago.

At times, Khalidi's activities have been the subject of controversy. For example, he had been a participant in the New York City teacher training program, but in 1995 his participation was ended by the city's School Chancellor who issued this statement:

"Considering his past statements, Rashid Khalidi should not have been included in a program that provided professional development for [Department of Education] teachers and he won't be participating in the future."

When Barack Obama served on the nonprofit Woods Foundation board, the foundation gave a large grant to a social services group whose board was headed by Mona Khaldi, Rashid Khalidi's wife.

The videos for sale at the website also reveals a certain point of view that comports well with the list of authors whose books are on sale through the group's website.  A sample of the titles for sale:

Life in Occupied Palestine

Imagine . . .  The state of Palestinian education under Israeli occupation. Excellent for discussion groups.

Beyond the Mirage: The Face of the Occupation  Israeli and Palestinian human rights advocates challenge the misconceptions most Americans have about the occupation and Palestinian resistance to it

Dispatches: The Killing Zone  British report on Israeli violence in Gaza against international aid volunteers and foreign reporters

Disabled for Palestine  A Palestinian doctor shows cases of Palestinian civilians who have been maimed for life by Israeli bullets, beatings, and tear gas

Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land  Excellent analysis of how the U.S. media slants its coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Provides comparisons with European media

The Iron Wall  Called by President Carter "the best description of the barrier, its routing and impact. (2006, DVD, 52 minutes.)

This is the material from which Pastor Jeremiah Wright has drawn his knowledge and conclusions regarding the Middle East. Barack Obama has described Jeremiah Wright not just as his "sounding board" and "moral compass" but also has described him as a "scholar".

Pastor Wright has had decades to learn the facts about the Middle East. He enjoyed a close relationship with his famous parishioner for 20 years. During Barack Obama's campaign The Senator has held himself out as being a friend of Israel and a supporter of the American-Israel relationship. He has stated that "no one's been a more stalwart ally of Israel." He has asserted that "nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti-Semitism than I have" (scant evidence of this assertion exists) which was ridiculed by ABC News Jake Tapper and others.

Did Senator Obama, a graduate of Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School (and a favorite of academics across the nation) ever consider exposing Jeremiah Wright to other points of view of the Middle East over his 20 year close relationship?  Barack Obama has said on the campaign trial that he has had a long and solid relationship with Chicago's Jewish community. Did he ever suggest that Pastor Wright sit down with members of this community, or with Middle East scholars (who abound in Chicago) to learn more about the region and the conflicts that beset it?  Instead of educating Wright about the complexities of the Middle East, he was content to have Wright take his information from a group that promotes the views of anti-Israel propagandists and Holocaust-deniers.

Is that leadership or courage? Is this a man who believes in change?

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.