The estimable Ari Berman has an interesting piece in the Nation on the rightwing and neocon smears of Obama as a Muslim (which he isn’t) and as a critic of Israel (which he might be). Berman is outraged by the rightwing storyline. Here is an example of his critique:
[Aaron] Klein‘s story goes something like this:
Obama sat on the board of a foundation in Chicago that gave a grant to
the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), run by [Rashid] Khalidi’s wife, which
supposedly rejects Israel’s existence; and Khalidi directed the PLO’s
Beirut press office and is a supporter "for Palestinian terror." (In
fact, the AAAN focuses solely on social service work in Chicago and
takes no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Khalidi says he
was never employed by the PLO; he has been a harsh critic of Palestinian
suicide bombings and a longtime supporter of a two-state solution, and
he has never been an adviser to Obama.) As for Obama’s past statements,
at least in Chicago, being pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian is not
a contradiction in terms.
There seems to me something naive or self-deceptive about Berman’s point of view. The right is smearing Obama for a real reason: because they fear he will change our policy re Israel/Palestine. And leftwingers are embracing Obama for the same reason: we think he will change our policy re Israel/Palestine. We were gratified by his veiled comments about the Israel lobby and apartheid in Cleveland. We see a kindred spirit. We regard it as revolutionary that a presidential candidate would have a real connection to Rashid Khalidi, and Ali Abunimah. I think it is meaningful that when I search the FEC listings for Obama, I see many Arab-sounding names. Ahmads out the wazoo.
Berman’s article offers reassurance: Obama has said the right things to AIPAC and to leading Jews. This is where I feel he is naive or self-deceptive. Yes, Obama has cultivated the rightwing pro-Israel community, assiduously, at times with nuance. And let us be clear, that community blends into the Nation readership, of liberal Democrats, including many older Jews. I sense that Berman is holding our parents’ generation’s Jewish hands and saying, Everything is going to be fine. But will it? This is one place where the neocons and the left agree: Obama is a true change agent. And maybe we are right.