Barack Obama is a phenomenon of popular culture as egregious and overpowering as the Beatles. I wrote previously that I was surprised by the unquestioning and naive allegiance that some pro-Israel commentators offer Obama. I am no longer surprised. I understand. Obama is not an ordinary politician. He is a unique personality with a special gift.
Barack Obama is in the politician business, and he is very good at what he does. That is an understatement. People faint at Obama rallies. He is more than a superstar. He is a megastar. He has even entranced relatively staid Israeli commentators like Shmuel Rosner and Yossi Sarid. It would not be surprising, indeed, if there were not soon rumors that he cures lepers by laying on of hands. We may hear that at a support dinner, he fed a multitude from a single tuna sandwich when the caterers failed to show up.
Who can withstand this overpowering presence? Who is so tone deaf to human emotion, who is such a pedantic nerd, that they would quibble with one who is inspired, who is, in Biblical language, possessed of the Holy Ghost? If only we believe, then "Yes We Can!"
To deny the wonders of Obama is to risk hellfire and damnation on earth. Among Jews, this has been reinforced by the spate of attacks on Barack Obama by the wrong sort of Jews. A man is known by his enemies. People who are pure of heart do not doubt Obama. Barack Obama's enemies, some of whom I described previously, include a flock of neoconservative and paleoconservative bloggers who put up a picture of Obama with his hand on the shoulder of demagogue Al Sharpton, and implied falsely that Obama was involved in the Tawana Brawley riots.
But when I last wrote about Obama, there were serious charges to be considered, and they had not been answered. Ed Lasky and others had charged that Obama has two advisers: Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley, both of whom are inimical to Israel. Their records are fairly clear. Malley may not be everything that Lasky charges, but he is certainly not a friend of Israel, and he and his father have been consistent friends of the PLO. The first answer to these charges was given by Martin Peretz in the New Republic:
There are all kinds of spooky rumors that a man named Robert Malley is one of Obama's advisers, specifically his Middle East adviser. His name comes up mysteriously and intrusively on the web, like the ads for Viagra. Malley, who has written several deceitful articles in The New York Review of Books, is a rabid hater of Israel. No question about it. But Malley is not and has never been a Middle East adviser to Barack Obama.
Zbigniew Brzezinski endorsed Mearsheimer and Walt's Israel Lobby book and is featured favorably on anti-"Zionist" Web sites of the same level as Stormfront. Brzezinski, we are told, like Obama, is not an adviser on Middle East policy.
Shmuel Rosner, in Ha'aretz, spins a bit more, and spins the whole show into trouble. Ha'aretz or Rosner headlined the story, The row over Obama's stance on Israel is a dispute between Jews. And Rosner writes, "This specific showdon [sic] over Obama's candidacy is a dispute between Jews."
It is not a dispute between Jews. The religion or ethnic origin of the disputants is not relevant. It is a dispute about facts. Is Malley an adviser of Obama, is Brzezinski? Yes or No. It is a matter of truth. Did Malley write malicious fiction about Israel and the peace negotiations in the New York Review of Books? Did Malley write a book glorifying "national liberation movements"? Yes or No. (Lasky, for some reason, cited a relatively harmless article by Malley in the New York Times, rather than the New York Review of Books articles).
Rosner spins and spins and spins until we are all dizzy, and have forgotten what it is all about hopefully. Yes, Malley is an Obama adviser about Israel, he tells us, but Obama isn't listening to Malley. OK, but he IS an adviser. One fact in the dispute between Jews is decided apparently. Why take on an adviser, whose only field of expertise is the Middle East, if you aren't going to listen to him??
Not surprisingly, Obama is not listening to Malley in the campaign. He does want the Jewish vote. But he will obviously be listening to him if elected, otherwise, why is he an adviser? Rosner notes that ex-Clinton aides say Lasky was "unfair" to Malley. Why unfair? Malley's views are a matter of record. Does he stand by those views? There is no indication that he has changed them. He didn't worry about being "fair' when he wrote articles falsifying history and justifying the murder of Israelis and of the peace process, so who really cares if Lasky aimed his shots a bit broadly? As for Brzezinski, Rosner spins away merrily on both sides, revealing in the process that it is not just a dispute between Jews.
As for Brzezinski, Obama's circle is saying he does not advise the candidate about Israel-related issues. But Brzezinski could not have placed such a restriction on himself. A few months ago, he associated himself with a group that is calling for dialogue with Hamas.
Even if he's no big expert of the Middle East, Brzezinski served as Jimmy Carter's advisor. He is suspected of fostering a chilly attitude toward Israel since his days with Carter, as all of the former president's advisors.
Obama's detractors were only too happy to find an article in the New York Sun recently which said Brzezinski went to visit Damascus to head a delegation from the RAND Corporation. The timing of the publication was somewhat embarrassing, as it coincided with the news of the assassination of Imad Mughniyah in Damascus.
But the people who informed the paper of the trip forgot to mention just one small detail: Brzezinski was scheduled to visit Israel, too, and not only Damascus.
By this time, you forgot the assertion that Brzezinski doesn't advise about the Middle East, didn't you? Watch the hand of the magician all the time. Look where the hand is, not where the magician wants you to look. But Rosner, who was all too happy to inform people of Brzezinski's trip, forgot to mention just one small detail: Brzezinski never showed up in Israel. Rosner doesn't tell us this in this article, but he does admit it here. D'OH!
Malley really is an adviser to Obama, it seems:
An Obama spokesman, Tommy Vietor, says, "Rob Malley has no day-to-day advisory role in the Obama campaign. He is among many people who has given his advice to the campaign. The actual day-to-day Middle East advisor is Dan Shapiro."
Funny thing. That sounds quite a bit like what they said about Zbig, doesn't it? There you go. Neither Malley nor Brzezinski are "day-to-day" Middle East advisers. Does this mean that Malley, whose expertise is on the Middle East, was taken on to give advice about global warming and gay marriage, or does it mean that while he is not the "day-to-day" adviser, he is the "Sunday best" adviser? If he is not an adviser about the Middle East, then what is Malley's role in the Obama campaign? And if Brzezinski is an adviser about foreign affairs, how could this role NOT involve the Middle East? Isn't the Middle East the central challenge of US foreign policy right now?
Rosner is not the only one who makes believe the problem is a dispute between Jews. Dan Fleshler wrote
Rob Malley: the Willy Horton of right wing Jewish nut jobs. Now who is being "unfair?" Suppose a right wingnut blogger were to write that "Barack Obama is the Shabettai Tzvi of Left Wing Jewish Nut Jobs." Would that be "fair?" Actually, Willie Horton was a rank amateur psychopath who only hurt a few people. His exploits were used to unjustly smear the Dukakis presidential bid. Malley is part of a team that helped sustain and justify a small war in the Middle East - over a thousand Israeli dead, thousands of Arab Palestinian dead, a peace process in shambles, Hamas ruling in Gaza.
Willie Horton doesn't hold a candle to Malley and his friends.
Malley smeared that notorious "right wing nut job," Ehud Barak, and by implication he smeared Bill Clinton, another "right wing nut job." Here's what Dan Fleshler has to say about anyone who dares to criticize Malley:
Ed Laskyís character assassination of Malley in American Thinker spews accusations that are being echoed all over the right wing Zionist blogosphere...someone needs to address the current, vile frenzy to use Malley as the Willy Horton of Likud sympathizers and those much further to the right.
Mr Fleshler, I never voted for the Likud or anyone much further to the right. I am not a fan of American Thinker. I am constantly attacked as a "self-hating Jew" and a "leftist." I am not a wingnut, not a right wing nut anyhow. I am very unhappy to admit that in substance, Lasky was right. Malley is not a friend of Israel. No amount of spin can change that. No amount of vile frenzy about right wing Jewish nut jobs can change it.
There is no way Malley could be characterized as a friend of Israel. Never mind what Lasky wrote, and never mind Malley if you like. What Rosner admitted, however reluctantly, about Brzezinski is sufficient. Does Dan Fleshler think Shmuel Rosner is a right wingnut and Ha'aretz is a newspaper of Likud voters?
Here's what it all sounds like to me: "Not an adviser, Yes an adviser, but not an adviser on Israel. Yes he is an adviser but nobody listens to him. No he is not anti-Israel, just because he is quoted favorably in neo-Nazi Web sites. Just because he favors the PLO and lied about the peace negotiations, it doesn't mean he is anti-Israel. He didn't lie, he just has an 'alternative narrative.' Just because he liked Mearsheimer and Walt's book about the Israel lobby, that doesn't mean he is anti-Israel. He is not a "day to day" adviser about the Middle East, even though he has no other field of expertise. He advises us about interior decoration instead. He is not an adviser about the Middle East, but he is coming to Syria. So what? He is coming to Israel too. Oops, he didn't come to Israel. Well anyhow, all the people who are saying these things are wingnuts and Likud supporters and we don't listen to wingnuts and Likud supporters, because we are RIGHT THINKING PEOPLE, RIGHT??"
Every excuse we have heard about Obama and his two advisers is all a bunch of malarkey. Spin and cheap ad hominem attacks and shoddy alibis by people who ran out of facts to back their position. "In the first place I never borrowed the cart. In the second place, I returned it, and in the third place, it was not your damn cart in the first place. And anyhow, anyone who says different is a wingnut and a Likud supporter." Get serious Mr. Fleshler and Mr Rosner and Mr. Peretz and the rest of the Obaminators. If there are good reasons to support Obama and if Malley and Brzezinski are on their way out as advisers tell us. But if they are advisers, don't tell us they are not advisers, or that they have no input on the Middle East, or that they are not anti-Israel. That is frankly not credible. It is not character assassination to say they are not friends of Israel. It is their position. And don't try to intimidate critics by calling everyone a wingnut and a Likud supporter if they dare to claim that Robert Malley and Zbigniew Brzezinsky are not eligible to be president of AIPAC. Some of them might be wingnuts, but it is not relevant. What matters is whether or not what they say is true. it is more to the point to ask why Dan Fleshler, a Zionist, is trying to wash the sins of Malley in the blood of the lamb, and why Rosner seems to think that if Zbigniew had shown up in Israel, he could bathe in the Jordan river and have his anti-Israel bias washed away.
In addition to his two advisers, Obama has yet to explain his long standing friendship and support of Pastor Jeremiah Wright, who traveled to Libya with Louis Farakhan. Obama also has yet to explain why he only reminded himself to repudiate Farakhan after all the "wingnuts" made sure people knew about the association between Farakhan and Obama's church.
Why are certain people so desperate to cover for Barack Obama? Why are they ready to believe anything and everything good about him, however improbable, as well as to exclude any shadow of doubt? Obama has to be a tough and realistic politician, since he has won elections. He must know that the DC insider cliques and the pork barrel manipulators can't be overcome just by having people chant "Yes we can" in different languages. He knows it, and much of his well educated following know it too. Faith alone can't really move mountains, though it helps. People believe what they know is not true for the same reason that terminally ill people believe faith healers: they want to believe. They have to believe.
For Democrats, Barack Obama is a major asset. There has not been anyone like him in US politics since John F. Kennedy, or perhaps since F.D.R. Everyone wants their party to win. We can understand their enthusiasm. Among some Jews and Israel watchers, there are also some who are so fed up with the occupation and all that it stands for, that they feel the ends justify the means. They want to end the occupation any way possible, even by using people who want to end Israel. Then there are those who follow the crowd. You don't want to be accused of being a wingnut or a Likudnik, do you? I wonder if Dan Fleshler will have the temerity to accuse me of being a "right wing nut."
Above all, there are those who want to live the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. in our lifetimes. An African-American, a 'Black man' as we used to say, would achieve the highest office in the most powerful nation on earth, and heal the wounds and injustices of nearly half a century. I am among those people. I can feel in my heart much better than I can explain, the need to make Barack Obama president, and the will to believe that this man who talks about change and has captured the imagination of the American people can really make it happen. I also want to believe that Barack Obama is the American leader who will finally have the stature to somehow make peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. That would truly be a wondrous miracle.
However, I am not willing to sacrifice Israel in order to realize the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. Whatever my heart tells me, my head tells me that Wright, Malley and Brzezinsky can't be good for Israel, and if they are Obama's associates, whether day-to-day or only on Sundays, he can't be good for Israel. And my head also tells me that the villains of Washington DC or those in Tehran for that matter, cannot be defeated just by chanting "Yes we can."
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Replies: 3 Comments
Thank you Michael Brenner - you are 100% right. The thing that is being ignored in the post above is that Obama has much less incentive to get involved in pushing Israel to do anything at this point. It would be an unwelcome quagmire for him and distract from his ability to make critical rapid moves on health care and other domestic initiatives. If Obama is elected he will be judged on his success on the domestic economy front - that is clear from this election. Americans are completely fed up with expensive foreign adventures and want their leaders to focus on kitchen table issues. McCain and his advisors are older gentlemen who are looking to make their mark on history and the whole focus of McCain's campaign is on victory in Iraq and keeping Americans safe from terrorists with suitcase bombs - they have nothing to offer on the kitchen table front except make the Bush tax cuts permanent (good luck with that in November). Scowcroft has argued that a Palestinian state must be imposed on Israel which will take the wind out of Iranian hatred for the West. The Scowcroft/Baker camp have a very strong incentive to be the ones who finally solve the Israel/"Pales" problem and are thus more likely to push Israel to move ahead with establishing a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria. I would like to encourage all of you to send a copy of Senator Brownback's recent speech at the Jerusalem Conference with a personal letter to all of our representatives in the US and to both Obama and McCain (link below). We cannot expect American politicians to be more dedicated to Israel than we are. We have to provide some alternative to giving the Arabs Judea and Samaria and lobby for that alternative. The Elon Israel Initiative supported by Brownback is not perfect but it is the best thing on the table and it is already being promoted by a serious Senator. Let's get to work people because the message for us from the Obama phenom is to get involved, think out of the box and push for real Jewish leadership now.
, Wednesday, February 20th
Birds of a feather... Barak Obama's membership at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ is troublesome. Obama hangs with MA Gov Deval Patrick, a member of Boston's UCC Old South Church. Last October, Old South Church hosted the Sabeel conference "The Apartheid Paradigm in Israel-Palestine." Last year, Cambridge MA's UCC First Church hosted the Somerville Divestment Project's offices (to their credit, C's FCh disinvited the SDP after Israel advocates educated FCh parishioners about the SDP). To accuse Israel of apartheidism, either literally, figuratively, or by divestment inuendo, is to blame Israel and Jews for the problems in the Middle East and the world. That is anti-Semitism. Obama's Trinity UCC gave the anti-Semite Farrakan a life time achievement award and his homey Patrick is silent about his home Old South Church's hosting of an Isael-apartheid conference. Patrick's campaign slogan was "Together we can." Obama's is "Yes we can." ...flock together. Imagine a future Pres Obama and Sec of State Patrick overseeing Palestinian/Israel negotiations and the War on Terror. OMG. And 90% of American Jews will vote for whoever the Dems nominate. mega-ditto OMG.
, Tuesday, February 19th
I don't understand your point. The guy has done nothing but make pro-Israel statements and vote pro-Israel at every opportunity since he was elected to the Senate. The real question is why so many Jews are trying to take Obama down using guilt-by-association. John McCain told Ha'aretz that he would use guys like James Baker and Brent Scowcroft as envoys to the Middle East. That is more scary to me than anything Obama has said or done.
, Tuesday, February 19th
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