Neocons Are Smearing Obama for a Reason

US Politics
on 6 Comments

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.   

6 Responses

  1. jonathan ekman
    March 17, 2008, 12:20 pm

    I do not believe that the Obamessiah, if elected, will do anything to change the
    direction of U.S. foreign policy in Israel/
    Palestine; the Zionist forces in this country
    are far too strong. In any event, no rational person can consider a two-state
    solution to be any longer a real possibility
    (too many settlements, Israel's need for water from the West Bank, the power of the
    religious fanatics in Israeli politics,etc).

  2. Jim Haygood
    March 17, 2008, 2:00 pm


    An even more elemental point can be derived. Zionism requires depersonalizing Arabs, and Muslims in general, with memes such as "Islamofascism," "the war of civilizations," "modernity vs. medievalism," and the like.

    As relatively parochial Americans, McShame and Hillary have no trouble swallowing this line, with a tall chaser of campaign cash.

    But Obama presents a severe difficulty: having actually lived for several years in a Muslim country, he is not capable of depersonalizing all Muslims. Zionists correctly interpret this as an intrinsic threat, since zionism's end game requires depersonalizing Muslims as a prelude to brutalizing them. If they are evil, then they deserve it. That's the "logic" of zionism.

  3. Leila Abu-Saba
    March 17, 2008, 3:25 pm

    My mother, who has been actively involved in working for justice for the Palestinians for years, thinks that Obama is no better than Hilary on this issue. She is not voting for either of them. I think she's delusional (I'm not going to say who she's voting for) but that's the view of a person who is really, really pro-Palestinian.

    BTW, since our Lebanese family was beaten up pretty badly by Palestinian militants during the civil war in Lebanon, we are not "right-or-wrong" pro-Palestinians. It's a question of justice. Lebanese won't have any peace until the Palestinians have a just solution. Nor will anybody else in the region.

    Anyway – I am personally more hopeful about Obama, as is my 40-something brother. We'll just have to see.

  4. Ed
    March 17, 2008, 3:38 pm

    The Berman article traces the genesis of much of the smear campaign to “a filmmaker in Tel Aviv,” and to Debbie Schlussel, Ed Lasky, Caroline Glick, Marc Zell, and Aaron Klein, all of whom are contributors to various media outlets, and Jewish Zionists .

    In 2006, Lasky wrote a detailed article in which he argued: “Developments in the Democratic Party bode ill for the Jewish people and for the state of Israel — home of up to 40% of the world's remaining Jewish population. The rank and file of the Party has become increasingly anti-Semitic and support for Israel has noticeably fallen.”
    link to

    His closing paragraph: “In an era when over half the world's Jews face the prospect of annihilation, it is time to reconsider old habits and political alignments. The ability of Jews to survive over the ages has depended on the ability to recognize that situations change and people have to adapt. At times, such changes have compelled Jews to move on to 'greener pastures' — to more welcoming and supportive places. This is now such a time–a time for the Jews to reconsider the other side of the aisle.”

    Basically American politics are fracturing between two positions: 1) staunch Zionists (Jewish Zionists, Christian Zionists, Neocons, Neolibs and what one commentator labeled on another site “the Military-Industrial-Zionist-Alliance” [MIZA]), and 2) everyone else. The former have a lot of money and power, but don’t have the numbers. But even when they are shifted towards the margins (as in, for example, the last election) they are able to leverage their money and power to attain their will.

    Jewish Zionists (Jewish nationalists) are the glue that holds the entire alliance together. Jewish nationalists belong in Israel, not America, because Israel is their primary loyalty. Until they go, the problems will never end.

  5. Jim Haygood
    March 17, 2008, 6:40 pm

    I'm not voting for Obama, after his appalling endorsement of Israel's targeted assassinations before a group of "Jewish community leaders" in Cleveland. But damn, I love this comment from an Obama supporter:


    WASHINGTON (AP) – Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the lone Republican senator to vote against the Iraq war, calls Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton one of the "Democratic Bush enablers" who failed to stand up to the president. In a new book, Chafee, who is backing Clinton rival Sen. Barack Obama, skewers Clinton and other Democratic White House hopefuls who said they were duped by Bush into voting for the war.

    "Being wrong about sending Americans to kill and be killed, maim and be maimed, is not like making a punctuation mistake in a highway bill," Chafee writes. "They argue that the president duped them into war, but getting duped does not exactly recommend their leadership. Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career- ending lapse of judgment, in my view."

    Chafee says top Democrats put their political ambitions first in the fall of 2002. "They were afraid that Republicans would label them soft in the post- September 11 world, and when they acted on that political self- interest, they helped the president send thousands of Americans and uncounted innocent Iraqis to their doom," he writes.

    link to


    When my family was attending a peace demonstration five years ago last night, we knew perfectly well that Bush's case for attacking Iraq was a heap of lies. Hillary was not fooled either. She's merely a lying ho.

  6. Ed.
    March 18, 2008, 12:28 am

    Berman: "…As for Obama's past statements, at least in Chicago, being pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian is not a contradiction in terms."

    Phil: "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…I sense that Berman is holding our parents' generation's Jewish hands and saying, Everything is going to be fine. But will it?"

    Phil is intuiting his way towards a fundamental iron law that is biblical in its fundamentalism: No man can serve two masters.

    The Left, on the one hand, likes to believe that multi-culturalism is the answer to the world's problems. But the Left, which was a big fan of Judaism so long as Jews were bashing Christians, is seeing multi-culturalism taken to its ultimate destination: a reversion to tribalism. Jewish Zionist tribalists are turning American policy into a tribalist grudge. Multi-culturalism put them in a position to do so. The Left put them in a position to do so.

    America is the culmination of the Christian ethos: welcoming, inclusive, tolerant, earnest and well-intentioned. That WAS America. The new, multi-cultural America is a strictly tribalist affair.

    Multi-culturalism can only survive/thrive on an explicitly Christian-ethos foundation. This necessitates the subordination of Jews, Muslims, government worshiping Leftists, money-worshipping right-wingers, Christian Zionist Jew-wannabees and all other tribalists and worldly utopianists. If America is to survive, there is no alternative.

    Iron laws are harsh realities to which adults must subscribe.

    "We learn. Slowly, we learn." — Joseph Stalin

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