Obama's Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestinian Positions
Where's Obama on Israel and the Palestinians? On both sides.
Since running for President, he's become an outspoken supporter of Israel. While in the Illinois legislature, he was a friend, supporter and beneficiary of Palestinians whose organizations trashed Israel.
Yesterday, when asked on the campaign trail about why he didn't denounce Louis Farakahn before he became an issue in the campaign, Obama said:
Obama reminded the crowd that he'd denounced his church’s praise of Farrakhan, saying, "I’ve been very clear about saying that was wrong. And nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti- Semitism than I have."
Jake Tapper of ABC News responds:
Really? No one? Elie Wiesel? Simon Wiesenthal? Alan Dershowitz? No one? Wow.
From the LA Times article linked above:
It was a celebration of Palestinian culture -- a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.
A special tribute came from Khalidi's friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi's wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.
....Today, five years later, Obama is a U.S. senator from Illinois who expresses a firmly pro-Israel view of Middle East politics, pleasing many of the Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel whom he is courting in his presidential campaign. The dinner conversations he had envisioned with his Palestinian American friend have ended. He and Khalidi have seen each other only fleetingly in recent years.
...And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor's going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.
Their belief is not drawn from Obama's speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.
Then there's this:
Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian rights activist in Chicago who helps run Electronic Intifada, said that he met Obama several times at Palestinian and Arab American community events. At one, a 2000 fundraiser at a private home, Obama called for the U.S. to take an "even-handed" approach toward Israel, Abunimah wrote in an article on the website last year. He did not cite Obama's specific criticisms.
Abunimah, in a Times interview and on his website, said Obama seemed sympathetic to the Palestinian cause but more circumspect as he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. At a dinner gathering that year, Abunimah said, Obama greeted him warmly and said privately that he needed to speak cautiously about the Middle East.
Abunimah quoted Obama as saying that he was sorry he wasn't talking more about the Palestinian cause, but that his primary campaign had constrained what he could say.
Obama denies saying "those words" to Abunimah. David Axlerod explains:
"He always had expressed solicitude for the Palestinian people, who have been ill-served and have suffered greatly from the refusal of their leaders to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist."
One more example:
In 2000, the Khalidis held a fundraiser for Obama's unsuccessful congressional bid. The next year, a social service group whose board was headed by Mona Khalidi received a $40,000 grant from a local charity, the Woods Fund of Chicago, when Obama served on the fund's board of directors.
At Khalidi's going-away party in 2003, the scholar lavished praise on Obama, telling the mostly Palestinian American crowd that the state senator deserved their help in winning a U.S. Senate seat. "You will not have a better senator under any circumstances," Khalidi said.
The event was videotaped, and a copy of the tape was obtained by The Times.
While some members of the Jewish community have praised Obama, others, as well as some Jewish leaders, are skeptical:
"In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated, . . . that's what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director for the Anti-Defamation League.
To be fair, Obama has repudiated Wright's anti-Israel remarks.
In Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, Marcel Groen, the chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party had this to say at a "gathering of Jewish communal and organizational leaders in Philadelphia."
Jews "don't have the luxury to decide if someone may be OK down the road...We have one candidate we know, the other we don't," Groen said, referring to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
The highest ranking Jewish leader in PA is Governor Ed Rendell, who supports Hillary, as does Rep. Allyson Schwartz.
The way I see it: It's true that Obama has been a supporter of Israel since becoming Senator and especially since running for President. But, as a state legislator in Illinois, he more often expressed his support for Palestinian rights and opposition to Israel's militarism.
What will he do as President? Will he support one at the expense of the other or be committed to a two-state solution? Toss a coin, you have a 50% chance of being right.
Related: One reporter complains of the "tight rein" Obama's campaign is keeping on its staffers and surrogates when it comes to speaking about the issue. She asks,
Who else are the Obama powers hiding while there are still so many serious questions floating out there among Jews about the man who would be president?
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