Is Obama an Israel appeaser?

The rationale behind the senator’s Israel/Palestine visit and what it means for his presidential campaign.


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In part three of his analysis of the Middle East tour of Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, Al Jazeera’s Marwan Bishara debates the rationale behind the senator’s visit to Israel/Palestine and what it means for his presidential campaign.

Barack Obama’s visits to the Israeli town of Sderot, which was struck by Palestinian rocket attacks, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial are smart moves. They underline that he stands, beyond any doubt, in solidarity with Israel against “terrorism”.

You assume that it is smart to exploit the suffering and death of millions of Jews in the Holocaust for Israeli and/or American political goals.

But how does his visit to Sderot square with any solidarity with the decades-long dispossessed, oppressed and occupied Palestinians?

Well, that is why he visited Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister.

They are the president and prime minister of the occupied and illegally settled Palestinian territories. Obama did not bother mentioning the occupation or illegal settlements; not even once in all his speeches.

But he does call for a two-state solution …

So did Ariel Sharon, the comatose former prime minister of Israel, and George Bush, the US president, as well as every other denier of Palestinian rights.

But Obama promises to be more engaged in the actual negotiations and help the parties reach comprehensive solutions.

Oh, and that is why he brought along Dennis Ross, a former Middle East envoy, on the visit to the region. Ross is responsible for the failure of the “peace process” and previously blamed the Palestinians for his failures.

His associates, Aaron David Miller and Robert Malley, have been accused of siding with the Israelis during his tenure as special envoy to the so-called peace process.

Look, these are the US political boundaries … Obama can try to reinvent US diplomacy, but not US diplomats.

That is an unacceptable whitewashing of the issue. There are enough US diplomats to go around. The State Department employs some 30,000 individuals, and I am sure there are more fair and professional people.

Ross is the head of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the think-tank arm of the Israeli lobby.

Perhaps, but Ross is a seasoned diplomat and is acceptable to the Washington political establishment and to the pro-Israeli lobby, making it easier for Obama to spell out his Middle East policy with little fear from a domestic backlash.

Clinton tried that approach when he hired the diplomat from the Bush Sr administration and allowed him to discredit US efforts with the Palestinians and the Syrians. It is said Ross even lied to Clinton about what to expect from Hafez Assad, the late Syrian president, in the Geneva meeting back in the mid-90s.

No, I do not remember such an incident you are simply nit-picking from history whatever suits you. Ross could be the implementer of an Obama policy, not the other way around. The senator said he would not take directions even from the generals in Iraq, so what makes you think he will dictated to by a junior diplomat?

Look, bringing Ross on board is not the problem, nor is the visit to Sderot or the Wailing Wall or Yad Vashem. These are the symptoms of an Obama campaign that will do all anything to appease Israel and the Israeli lobby in an elections year.

So what is wrong with that? The guy is running for president and must do what it takes.

Why should that include “schmoozing” discredited Israeli officials, their lobbyists and justifying Israeli oppression?

The ends justify the means …

Hey, in politics the means are the end …

What I mean to say is there is nothing wrong with pleasing Jews if it gets you the presidency.

You see, believing that this approach is inevitable is a symptom of racism. This mistaken approach holds that Jews can all be grouped into one basket of pro-Israeli maniacs or that they vote according to the wishes of Israel; that the “Jewish lobby” makes or breaks US politicians.

Well, more and more Americans are making the claim.

These are mere claims made by misinformed outsiders or bitter and failed so-called “Arabists” (US diplomats who think US policy should care more for Arab than Israeli interests) or worse. The position that stipulates Jews control America is bred of outright ignorance or racism.

No US president in the last 40 years was elected without pandering to the Israel lobby with all its components. That’s not racism; it is Jewish power versus US politics in the Middle East.

First or all, there is a difference between Israel lobby and Jewish lobby. The Israel lobby could include many Evangelical Christians, Cold war ideologues, anti-Muslim racists, militaristic lobbyists as well as active Jewish organisations on behalf of Israel.

These will not vote for Obama no matter how much he wails at the Wailing Wall.

As for the US Jews contrary to the Israeli Jews, more than three to one have generally voted in favour of the Democratic Party regardless of the Israel angle, with the exception of certain Reagan years.

Perhaps, but Obama needs Jewish support within the Democratic Party and there is no way he will get it by angering pro-Israeli segments or alienating those influential Jews who belonged to Hillary Clinton’s camp.

That could have been done and still be minimally fair or objective from a guy who is known to have befriended the likes of the late Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said.

Telling the Israeli lobby Aipac that Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel (even when retracted half-heartedly) is going beyond the call of the campaign duty. The same goes for visiting Sderot.

He will do what it takes to assure Israel and its US supporters of his support.

I do not think he will make people forget his middle name – Hussein – by appeasing Israel, or forget that his father was Muslim by underlining his Christianity. That approach underestimates Israel and the intelligence of its supporters.

But if it “ain’t broke, why fix it”?

Perhaps, if you are a cynic, but how could someone claim moral high ground on Iraq, political change and the ability to lead, when he is bound by racial fear, political intimidation and lobbying influence.

This is politics in America and it is paramount for eventually making policy. American politics 101 is for another day.

(To be continued)

Source : Al Jazeera


Al Jazeera’s Marwan Bishara on why the two Democrats have so much in common.

3 Jun 2008
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