Thursday, April 03, 2008

Barack Obama and Israel, Part 2

In Part 1 I acknowledged that Barack Obama's record supporting Israel during his brief tenure in the U.S. Senate has been excellent. Despite that I am extremely worried about what an Obama administration would mean for Israel because he has surrounded himself with a foreign policy team that is openly hostile towards Israel.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter. The ex-President has famously written a book equating Israeli policy to South African apartheid. As I frequently point out accusing Israel of apartheid is reserved for people who are either totally ignorant both about Israel and what apartheid in South Africa meant or else simply want to spread propaganda with no regard for facts. President Carter certainly isn't ignorant and neither is Brzezinski. In addition to serving as a senior foreign policy to Senator Obama, Brzezinski has made a career of writing scathing attacks on Israel and making the rounds of the talk show circuit eloquently explaining to Americans why Israel is at the root of all evil in the Middle East and probably beyond. I cringe every time I see him on TV.

Brzezinski is the only senior American official, past or present, who has openly supported John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's claim that the "Israel lobby" has shaped American foreign policy to the detriment of the United States. Alan Dershowitz cited Brzezinski's views as damaging to the Obama campaign:
It is a tremendous mistake for Barack Obama to select as a foreign policy adviser the one person in public life who has chosen to support a bigoted book.

More recently, in response to the Annapolis peace conference Brzezinski signed a letter calling on the Bush administration to open a dialogue with Hamas terrorists, the same people who daily fire rockets and mortars into southern Israel, in part to scuttle any chance for peace. Brzezinski also blamed American and Israeli foreign policy rather than Hizbullah for the 2006 Lebanon War.

Brzezinski's quickness to attack any Israeli government as an obstacle to peace was demonstrated in 1996 appearance on PBS's The Newshour With Jim Lehrer when he had signed a letter urging pressure on the then new government of Binyamin Netanyahu. Brzezinski gave this assessment of the Israeli Prime Minister:
In my view, there is the real danger that Netanyahu is pursuing a policy not of peace with security, which is what he was elected to pursue, but of peace with territory, which is what the Likud has stood for, for a long time--peace with territory, which really means security with territory, and peace being sloughed off.

Prime Minister Netanyahu went on to negotiate, sign, and implement the Wye River Agreement and pulled out of most of Hebron in an attempt to push the Oslo peace process forward. We may have already seen some of Brzezinski's antagonism toward Netanyahu expressed by Senator Obama in his statement that supporting Israel doesn't mean supporting Likud.

How damaging is Brzezinski to Obama with supporters of Israel? Just ask Mark Siegel, who served as Jewish liason for President Carter until 1978:
Brzezinski was a major obstacle to bridging the divisions between the president and the Jewish community. I’m very, very surprised that someone would have him directly involved in a presidential campaign.

Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to fail to capture a majority of the Jewish vote. With foreign policy advisers like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley I think it is very likely that Obama will follow in Carter's footsteps. The loss of supporters of Israel, Jewish, Christian, and other, could easily cost Obama a close election is he is the Democratic nominee.

In Part 3 of this four part series I'll introduce one more adviser that's even more worrisome than Brzezinski.

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Lorenzo said...

In 1960 I began to take an interest in politics. This was mainly because of my father, who was a lifelong Democrat, a dedicated Stevenson supporter, and distrustful of the Kennedys. He had an intense antipathy toward them because their patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, Sr., was an anti-Semite who, as U.S. Ambassador to Britain in the late 1930s’s, advocated a policy of appeasement toward Hitler. My father was convinced that John Kennedy, whose campaign was financed by his father, and who had sat at his father’s dinner table all those years, held the same views as old Joe when it came to the Jewish people. After Kennedy became president, my father softened toward him somewhat, but he could never stand Robert Kennedy, mainly because Joe, Sr. had remarked that of all his children, Bobby was the most like him.

All this said, it is worth remembering that John Kennedy was the first U.S. President to supply arms to Israel, providing them with HAWK anti-aircraft missiles to counter the arms being sold to the Arabs by the Russians, British and French. It is also worth noting that Sirhan Bishara Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy because of Kennedy’s support for Israel in the Six-Day War.

We, as Jews, should keep these historical facts in mind as we consider the candidacy of Barack Obama. When we worry over his relationship with the Rev. Wright and become uneasy over the fact that he sat in Rev. Wright’s church all those years, let’s think back to John, Robert and Ted Kennedy, who loved their father despite, not because of, his political views. Let’s judge Obama for what he says and what he has done and the potential we see in him. It would be wrong to judge him for his associations. Moreover, as Jews, it would be a deeply shameful thing were we, against our traditions, to judge him out of ignorance or prejudice.

Let’s think carefully about our votes this fall. Great leaders do not come around very often—and we have seen what can happen to the world for the lack of them.

Caitlyn said...

Lorenzo: First, Obama is no Jack Kennedy. I don't think he is a great leader. A great orator, yes. That isn't the same as leadership. I should also point out that he doesn't have a fraction of the experience that Kennedy had before becoming President. We;ve had seven years of a foreign policy novice in the White House. That hasn't worked out well, has it? I fear the consequences of another foreign policy novice, and that is precisely what Obama is. His mistakes will be very different from Bush's mistakes, but it is clear that he is naive and seriously misguided on the foreign policy front.

Never once did I mention Rev. Jeremiah Wright, nor did I intend to. Pastor John Hagee, a McCain supporter, is far more objectionable.

My main objection to Obama is that he has surrounded himself with anti-Israel advisers. The same could not be said for John F. Kennedy. It is a very worrying sign.

I also do consider Senator Obama's own words and some are also worrisome. That will be covered in Part 4.

Once it became clear that Senator Clinton will not win the Democratic nomination I decided to put this series on hold. I am, at the moment, an undecided voter. If I vote for Senator McCain it will be the first time since 1984 that I vote Republican at the top of the ticket. Israel, for me, is a litmus test issue. Walter Mondale failed that test. I'm not sure Obama passes it either. We'll see.

In any case, Part 3 and Part 4 will be posted soon, as will some stinging criticism of John McCain. You see, in this election both candidates get foreign policy terribly wrong. I have to decide between the lesser of two evils once again. I have to decide who will do the most damage, both to Israel and to the United States, and then vote for the other guy.